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80,259 News Articles

Office tips for the rest of us

10 ways to get the most from your programs

Microsoft Office is so enormous that most people use less than 15 percent of the features packed into the 245MB of hard disk real estate it occupies.

And even in the bit we do use, most of us don't know many of the great built-ins, short cuts, navigational speed tricks and other documented and undocumented tips for getting the most out of Word, Excel and Outlook.

These handy speed-up tips and shortcuts work in Office 2003, XP and 2000. They're certain to help you work more productively on Word documents, Excel worksheets and Outlook emails and contact lists.

  • Zooming with Office: If you have a scrollwheel mouse, you can use the wheel to enlarge or shrink the screen size of your document or worksheet. Hold down the key and spin the wheel toward yourself to zoom out or away from yourself (forward) to zoom back in. You may need to enable this feature to make it work properly; to do so, in Word or Excel, choose Tools, Options, click the General tab, and check the Zoom on Roll with Intellimouse box (a scroll mouse of any brand will work).

  • The shortcut to shortcuts: Not sure of a keyboard shortcut, or just want to learn more of them? Let Office help you by turning on the keyboard shortcut display. Select Tools, Customize, click the Options tab, and check the Show shortcut keys in ScreenTips box. Now when you hover the cursor over something such as a toolbar icon, no only will a description of the icon function pop up, but so will its keyboard shortcut (if available).

  • Automate with AutoText: Word has a surfeit of built-in boilerplate phrases ready to be summoned with a mouse click instead of requiring you to manually type them. To access AutoText phrases instantly, right-click anywhere on the toolbar area and select AutoText. You'll find a menu of phrases (such as "To Whom it May Concern") as well as a button for adding your own AutoText entries.

  • Return to where you left off: Wouldn't it be nice to quickly return to the place in your document where you left off when you last saved? Press - and you're there. In fact, you can repeat the key combo to go to the last three places you made changes.

  • Two windows, one screen: When you're editing a document or just want to compare parts of one, it's particular handy to have two independently scrollable window panes of the same document. Select Window, Split and a split bar will appear. Using your mouse, move the line to where you want the split to appear and then click the mouse. Any changes you make in one pane will be made in the other because only the number of viewing/editing panes has doubled, not the number of copies of the document. To return to a single-window view, double-click on the split bar.

  • Changing directions: With so many places (or cells) to go to in Excel, navigation expertise is essential to productivity. One of the simplest, but often overlooked, forms of navigation is the Enter key. By default, when you press Enter, the cursor goes to the next cell down. But it doesn't have to be that way. To change the default direction to right, left or up, select Tools, Options, click the Edit tab, check the Move selection after Enter box, and then select your direction choice from the pull-down menu. Then click ok.

    Moving from one worksheet to another is as simple as clicking the Sheet tabs at the bottom of the screen. But if you want to keep your hands on the keyboard, press and and and to toggle through each sheet.

  • Time for a page break: In Excel, breaking up is not hard to do – but clean page breaks are essential. Have you ever printed a worksheet only to find a few stray columns or rows orphaned on a separate page? To avoid this problem, preview where the page breaks are set to fall. Select View, Page Break Preview. Check the box offering not to show it again. Use the vertical and horizontal scroll bars to view the breaks. Pages will be marked with large labels and page breaks with bold lines. You can then adjust the break lines with your mouse.

  • Fill 'er up with AutoFill: Excel can remove the drudgery of entering sequences of numbers, dates, days of the week, months or years, among other boilerplate items. All you need to do is enter one or two items of a sequence in succeeding cells (rows or columns) and AutoFill can do the rest.

    To fill in a series of numbers, enter the number 1 in one cell and 2 in the next, then highlight both of those cells. Now hover your cursor over the small black square in the lower right of the selection until the cursor turns into a plus sign (not the plus sign with arrows). Next, drag the corner down or across and in each succeeding cell, Excel will fill the cells with increments of 1 (3, 4, 5, and so forth). If you originally entered 100 and 200, the cells would be AutoFilled with 300, 400, and so on.

    Similarly, you can enter a single day of the week or month of the year, and Excel will AutoFill each succeeding day or month. When it reaches the end of a series of named days, it will repeat them again in order until the end of your selection. At the end of a month's worth of dates, it will automatically go into the next month. Excel will even fill in a sequence of years or quarters beginning with the one you start with such as 2004, 2005, 2006 or Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4.

  • Faster contacts with nicknames: Every contact record in Outlook includes a field called Nickname. While you could actually enter a friend's nickname there (which is what most users think it is for and therefore don't use it), it is a great way to make name matching more precise when sending emails.

    To use this field, go to a contact's record, click the Details tab, and enter a name that you'll use as a shortcut for calling up the person's info. It can also be useful for differentiating similar close names. For instance, if you have a series of Smiths you could enter a nickname for each, such as AS, BS or Chuck. You don't have to type the full name, or choose the right Smith from a pop-up list, to pinpoint the Smith you're addressing: you simply type their nickname into the "To:" field of your email message.

  • Find a contact's address on a map: If your PC is connected to the internet, you can get a map and driving instructions of a contact's address. Click Contacts on the Outlook bar, and then select the contact. From the File menu, select Open, Selected Items. Under the Address button, click the down arrow, then click the address you want mapped: Business, Home, or Other. Now go to the Actions menu and click Display Map of Address. Outlook now goes to the MSN Maps website to pinpoint the address on a map. Use the controls on that page to further customise your exact directional needs.


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