Microsoft Word Features Everyone Should Use

Companies and people invest in useful tools yet barely use 2% of the features. Everyone should invest the time learning at least basic features. Effective use of software will improve your productivity. Microsoft Word is possibly the most commonly used software applications. While it has been in use for many years it is not uncommon to find users not using basic features. Features which will improve efficiency with co-workers since we often share documents for collaboration. The following are basic features drawn from my experience of the most common misuses of a word processor (Word).

  • Page Break. Hitting the return key until the text breaks to the next page is bad form. As soon as text is added or deleted it troughs off the paging. In Word use Control-Enter. It inserts a page break that maintains its position as text is added or deleted.
  • Bullets. Entering letters, numbers, or symbols manually as bullets will eventually lead to frustration and unnecessary work as the content develops. Applying bullet formatting automatically adjusts the bullets as content develops. Further, using the proper style of bullets such as outlining and then indenting the levels eases the editing.
  • Decimal Tabs. Using a left aligned tab and spaces to right align numbers will lead to madness. Use the ruler and select and set decimal tab when aligning numbers.
  • Thesaurus. The built-in thesaurus is a important feature for good writing. In Word position the cursor on the word and press Shift F7.
  • Styles. Using and applying styles versus changing fonts, sizes, paragraph settings, etc. is a big time saver since one change to a style changes the text in the entire document. It is painful watching a user change text formatting line by line in a document because styles were not used. Along the same lines, use Clear Formatting to strip the manual formatting applied to text before applying a style.
  • Track Changes. The use of track changes feature is essential for effective collaboration. Saving multiple version copies of a document or exchanging changes via email is cumbersome. Track changes identifies the editor and allows the owner to easily accept of reject changes.
  • Comments. It is painful to watch users highlight text, change colors, or use color to make inline "comments", when Word has commenting functionality that does not get in the way of the document content and flow. Then later removing the colors, text, etc. is very time consuming. In Word, simply highlight the text that is the subject of the comment and select comment under on the review ribbon. Comments can be removed easily and excluded when printing.
  • Tables. With a little effort understanding tables and column and row formatting simplifies many formatting and alignment needs.
  • Headers and Footers. Repeating a heading on each page by inserting it in the flow of the text is extra work when Word provides a header and footer feature that automatically places a header and footer on every page, every odd page, every even page, etc.
  • Watermarks. The watermark is a great way to indicate a document is in draft form. Imbedding draft in the title or footer tends to get lost and is more difficult to remove once a document reaches final form.

Microsoft provides free online training course for all of these basic features, which are found from the links above.