Tag Archives: MS Word

IT tips #24: How to make time-saving templates in Word


A real template in Word is a thing of beauty and magic that can be used to save you a lot of time and make your computer do what it does best:  quickly and painlessly automate repetitive tasks.  I say real templates, because a lot of people use the word ‘template’ to mean nothing more than a Word document that just provides an example of what a document should look like. A real template ends in the file extension .dot, and when you click on it, will automatically create a new blank document based on the template.  so if someone says ‘I’m attaching a template’ and the file ends in .doc, it’s not a template. Here’s how to do it properly:

  1. Think of a document type that has that you use a lot, like a letter or invoice
  2. Start a new document in Word.
  3. Spend time creating all the fancy elements that are particular to you such as
    – Your name and address and other contact details
    – An automated field for today’s date (see instructions below)
    – Page numbers, footers, headers
    – A scan of your signature, with your name and title underneath it
    – Bank details (if it’s an invoice)
  4.  Now go to the file menu, and select ‘Save As’
  5. From the dialog box that appears, look down to the ‘Format’ field, and change the Format to one of the Template (.dot) options.  Choose Word 97-2004 Template if you’re sending it to someone else (just to be safe), Word Template (.dotx) if it’s only you that’s going to be using it.
  6. Give the template a memorable and useful name, and press OK to save the document (which is now not strictly a document anymore, but a template)

To use the template (these instructions are for Word for Mac 2008 – in Word for Windows, you go to File>New and then select ‘from template’ ).

1. Go to the File>Project Gallery

2. From the menu that appears, select ‘My Templates’ and the template you created will be there.

3. Click on the template. A new blank document will be created with all the features that you specified. If you inserted an automatic date field, today’s date will be inserted (see instructions below).

4. Save this new document as something meaningful on your computer.


How to insert the date automatically every time you create a new document based on a template

1. Go to the Insert menu, and select Insert>Field 

2. Select ‘Date and Time’ and use the ‘Create Date’ option

3. Press’ Options’ and select the format that the date should have, and remember to press ‘Add to field’ and ‘OK’ afterwards

  • Templates can be very complex things: for example, I’ve got one that I use for creating units in module study guides that have to have a cover page with the company logo on, page numbering, particular heading and text styles, and so on. Clicking on ‘Template’ creates a whole new document with a cover page including all the graphics.
  • Used in conjunction with forms (see earlier post on forms), templates can be doubly powerful: you could for example create an invoice template with form  fields for all the variable data like the name of the job and the unit price and so on.
  • Another way to use templates is to drag a shortcut to the template to your desktop. That way, you click on the template shortcut and kerplang! Word starts up automatically with a shiny new document ready for you to type into. To do this, you need to know where the template it stored (see below).
  • If you need to edit the template, you need to know where templates are stored on your computer. Once you know, you then select File>Open and locate the template in question to edit it
  • To find out where your computer stores templates, on a Mac go to Preferences pane in Word and select File locations. (it’s under Tools>Options on a PC) Make a note of where the  ‘templates’ are stored. You can press ‘modify’ to put them somewhere else. Frankly, I wouldn’t though. 




IT tips #22: In MS Word, how to put a landscape page into a portrait document


NB: Please read the 26/1/2016 update at the end of this page before you try the method below!

This is the problem: you need to insert a large table in landscape format into a document that is portrait the rest of the time. You don’t want to make the whole document landscape for the sake of one page, so you need a way of putting one landscape page into a portrait document. This is how you do it. Although the instructions here are for Word for Mac 2008, the over-riding principle is the same in any version of Word – create a section break, then apply the ‘landscape’ instruction to that section only.

Instructions for putting one landscape page into a portrait document in Word

1.  At the point where you want to create the landscape page, go to Insert>Break>Section Break (Next page)

Putting a landscape page into a portrait document in Word: use a Section Break

The Section Break menu

2. Now go to File>Page setup and change the page orientation to landscape, and if you’re using a Mac, after you’ve done that, change the settings to ‘Microsoft Word’ as shown below.

Putting a landscape page into a portrait document: the Page Setup menu in Mac OS

3.  From the menu that appears, select the option to apply the changes to ‘this section’ 
Putting a landscape page into a portrait document: use "This Section" when prompted in the page setup

4. Press OK. You will now have a landscape page at the point where you made the section break

5. Make your table or whatever it is on this page.

6. When you get to the bottom of the landscape page, repeat steps 1-4 above but change the orientation back to portrait and apply it to ‘this section’. 
  • If  you know that this is going to be the only landscape page in the whole document, you can select ‘from this point forward’ when you change the orientation back to portrait in (6) above
  • Even though they’re invisible in print-layout view, Section Breaks can be deleted. If you’re not careful, you can backspace over the section break and put your landscape page back into portrait, or vice versa. If this happens, scream and press ‘Undo’ (CTRL+Z or ⌘Z)
  • To avoid deleting section breaks accidentally, put the document temporarily in to outline view (View>Outline). This will allow you to see where the section breaks are. Once you’ve finished, go back to View>Print layout)

Update on 26th January 2016

A recent visitor to this page has pointed out that when she tries to print the resulting document, the page immediately after the landscape page has its margins corrupted, and is shifted 2.5 inches to the right, and bleeds off the page. I’ve checked this and looked on a number of forums, and sadly, it seems that this may be an intractable problem with Word and page orientation changes.  To be honest, I don’t know what the problem is, and I have no idea whether it’s all versions of Word, all tables, all documents or whatever, but be warned.

In this particular case, the table had been created with tab stops rather than a table grid, which meant there was a nice workaround. If you have tabulated data (rather than a “table”) you can try this:

  1. Select the “table”  (scare quotes are vital here: I mean  “tabulated text” not a “table” in the sense of a grid with data in it)
  2. Click on the Insert menu, and select “text Box” – this will put a text box around the selected text
  3. Click on the + handle on the top LH corner of the resulting text box
  4. Click on the “layout tab” (see below)layout grid
  5. Select “Text Direction” and choose “Rotate all text 270º (or 90º if you prefer)
  6. The text will rotate (rather than the page) – this means that the page numbers will stay in the same position (one of the unfortunate hazards of the other method, is that the page numbers end up relative to the new page orientation – i.e. in the wrong place. It is then a real pain to put them in the right place using text boxes etc.
  7. I guess if you were really keen, you could create a table with the page in portrait mode, but with columns and rows how you’d like them to be when you type in text at 90 or 270 degrees (i.e. long rows, and narrow columns). I don’t like the sound of that, but in theory, it could work if you can (ha ha) get your head round it.
  8. If you have a better way of dealing with this let me know.


Be aware that you can’t flip a Word table around like this: it only changes the direction of the text, not the table grid. I’m thinking that the only real workaround if you have a complex table that has to have a grid, and can’t be done with tabs alone, is to export the table as a graphic, and then import the graphic and rotate it into the portrait page as required.

IT tips #13: Make a form in Word that you can *really* fill in


One of the annoyances of 21st century life is when you get sent what is called a ‘form’ to be filled in ‘electronically’ which is in fact just a Word document with some lines in it to mark where you would write on the form if you were filling it in by hand (e.g. Name ___________). When you go to type in it, the lines move, and you have to either give up or delete the lines.  Or there’s a tick box, but you can’t put an X in it. Aargh indeed.

MS Word is actually very good at making graceful, useable forms once you know how. Here’s a quick guide to the basics:

  1. Start a new document in Word.
  2. When you get to the point where the recipient has to fill something in, go to View>Toolbars>Forms
  3. You’ll see this:
  4.  Place the cursor where you want the recipient to write something, then from the forms toolbar (see above), select the kind of field that you want – text field, check-box or drop-down menu (there are other options, but the first three buttons are the ones you’ll use most often)
  5. A greyed-out box will appear wherever you’ve placed one of these fields. Don’t worry that it looks small – it will expand as the user fills them in.
  6. When you’ve finished making the form – and this is the most important part – press the ‘padlock’ sign at the end of the forms toolbar (‘Protect form’)
  7. Now go back to view>toolbars> and deselect ‘forms’.
  8. Save the form with a meaningful name, and send it to the people who should fill it in. It’s a good idea to tell them to put their name or some identifier in the filename when they’ve finished, otherwise you’ll get a whole load of forms back with the same filename.

How it works

Because you’ve pressed the ‘protect form’ (padlock) button, when the recipient opens the form, they will only have the option to fill in the grey fields, which will expand automatically to fit the text that they write, leaving the rest of the form intact. And because you’ve removed the ‘forms’ toolbar, they can’t unlock the form to edit the bits that are nothing to do with them. As with an online form, they can use the TAB key to move between fields.

If you want to make changes to the form, you have to turn the ‘Forms’ toolbar back on and unprotect the form (by clicking the padlock again),  and then re-protect it and remove the forms toolbar again before you save your changes.

Yes, there’s a risk that a savvy form-filler will know how to turn on the forms toolbar and wreak havoc with the form, but the chances are that if they know how to do this, they’ll be a sane human being that just wants to fill in the form for you, and won’t use their powers inappropriately.


IT tips #12: Select text in Word as a graphic block


Let’s say you’ve copied and pasted an enormous block of text from a document in such a way that you end up with bullet points or numbered lists or a column of data that you don’t want. For example, you might need to turn a manually entered numbered list into an automatic one, or remove the numbering all together.  To go through manually and delete them is slow and painful, particularly when you’ve got a list of nearly 100 items.  You can’t select just the numbers without selecting the rest of the paragraph.

But oh yes you can. In Word, you can in fact select an area of the screen graphically by holding down the ALT key while you select with the mouse, as in the example below  (the blue area has been selected this way).

IT tips #11: Use dummy text to help you write


Dummy text for dummies

This much I know – it’s much harder to write an article of 250 words than one of 2,500.  The word count of articles I’ve written for Dance Gazette over the last 12 years has gone from 1750, to 1,000, 750, to 500, to 400, and now 250, and it gets more difficult with every reduction. What I do now for anything under 1500 words is to block out the article using dummy text so that I can see how it’s going to look on the page, and decide how to arrange the paragraphs – a short opener, thick middle and brief conclusion? Five equal paragraphs? 4 of increasing size plus a one line ending? You get the idea.

For long articles, I use the Lorem ipsum generator (lorem ipsum are the first two words of standard dummy text used in publishing). Update on 16th January 2019: thank you to Victoria Mesber who recommended the lorem ipsum generator at Website Planet  which provides the same service, but free of ads. 

If it’s just a mini task in Word (‘write no more than 50 words of description’) I use Word’s in-built dummy-text generator, one of my favourite party-tricks

IT tips #10: Customise keyboard shortcuts to enter weird characters in Word


If there’s an off-beat symbol that you have to put in to documents regularly (in my case, it’s the  P in a circle that means ‘phonographic copyright’) you can cut out several steps by assigning the symbol to a keyboard shortcut. Here’s how to do it in Word for Mac 2008, but the process is fairly similar in other versions and platforms. Instructions below, or watch the video (make it full screen so you can see it properly).

  1. Go to Tools>Customize keyboard
  2. From the menu that appears, choose ‘Insert‘ on the left, and then ‘symbol‘ on the right (NB: Don’t choose ‘InsertSymbol’)
  3. When the character sets appear, choose the character set that contains the symbol you need (in my case, it’s Webdings)
  4. Pick the character that you need
  5. Press OK
  6. Place the cursor in the ‘Press new keyboard shortcut‘ field
  7. Now press any combination of keys – in my case, I pressed ctrl+alt+command+P (all three keys on the left of the space bar + the letter P, because it’s easy to remember)
  8. Press ‘Assign‘ (don’t forget this step, otherwise it won’t work)
  9. Press ‘OK”
  10. Try it out: in your Word document, press the key combination that you assigned to the special character, and watch it appear!


IT tips #2: Get rid of text-wrap when copying and pasting into Word


Most people know about search and replace, but fewer know that you can search & replace weird stuff like paragraph marks. This is a life-saver if you want to get rid of fixed line-breaks in text that you’ve copied and pasted into Word. It happens a lot with emails, but also with text copied from pdfs – resulting in a 25 page document that could easily be unwrapped into 4 pages.  You can’t see the paragraph marks unless you press the ‘show non-printing characters’ button (see left), but if you’ve got lines that won’t unwrap, they’re probably to blame.

Tip: If you’re faced with a load of annoying paragraph breaks on every line of pasted text

  1. Go to Edit>Replace (or Press Ctrl+H/Mac: ⌃⌘+H)
  2. Select the advanced options
  3. Press the ‘special’ menu button (see image below)
  4. Select ‘Paragraph Mark’
  5. This will put the sign for ^p in the ‘Find’ box
  6. In the ‘Replace’ box, press Spacebar once (i.e. so you’re replacing the paragraph mark with a space)
  7. Select ‘replace all’

And there you are – all back into normal text again. You can of course just type ^p instead of selecting the special menu – but it’s worth seeing what else you can search for to replace.

With emails, once you’ve done this, you may still need to  get rid of the chevrons (>) that sometimes get put on the beginning of every line of quoted text.

  1. Go to Edit>Replace
  2. Type > in the ‘Find’ box
  3. In the ‘replace’ box, press Spacebar once – i.e. you’re going to replace each > with a space
  4. Select ‘replace all’

Result: one clean piece of text. Oh I nearly forgot: you’ll need something to practise on, here you are:

>The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

  >The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

  >The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

  >The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

  >The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

  >The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

  >The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

  >The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

  >The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

† I originally had ‘put nothing in the replace box’ but two people have suggested that it’s better with a space, and I find this too, now, so I’ve changed it.