Fast fixes for five Word woes

Change the word processor's most enervating default settings to your liking.

You use your browser a lot. You use your e-mail program a lot. But the chances are better than even that you spend a big chunk of your workday in Microsoft Word. There's no way any application used by so many people for so many different tasks is going to be set up just right for you. Here are the five settings I changed to make Word work my way, more or less.

I say "more or less" because Word isn't quite the paragon of flexibility. You can make serious changes to the program's look and operation by editing its normal.dot template (it's called normal.dotx in Word 2007), or by creating a new template with the settings you prefer and telling Word to use that one by default. But I'm the impatient type, and this takes more time than I'm willing to spend on these tasks. I'd rather take the quick-and-dirty route. (I may describe the template-change approach in a future post, if I ever have the time to spare.)

Get rid of smart quotes
Many of the documents I create in Word end up on the Web. Word's curly quotes tear up HTML and make the text around them tough to read. To revert to good ol' straight quotes and apostrophes in Word 2003, click Tools*AutoCorrect Options*AutoFormat As You Type, uncheck "Straight quotes" with "Smart quotes", and click OK. In Word 2007, click the Office button in the top-left corner, and choose Word Options in the bottom right. Select Proofing in the left pane, and AutoCorrect Options in the right pane. Click AutoFormat As You Type, uncheck "Straight quotes" with Smart quotes", and click OK twice.

Microsoft Word 2007's AutoCorrect As You Type dialog box
Set Microsoft Word to use straight quotes instead of smart quotes, and not to convert Web addresses to hyperlinks.

Keep your Web addresses unlinked
Most of the Web addresses I put in Word docs are intended as notes to myself or someone I'll be sharing the file with. They will eventually be cut from the document and pasted into another program that needs the whole URL, including the "http://". But as soon as I type them, Word strips off the URL prefix and makes them live links (though you have to press the Ctrl key as you click). The program also makes any e-mail addresses you type Ctrl-clickable, which opens your e-mail program with the address in the To: field. To retain URLs, network paths, and e-mail addresses as plain text in Word 2003, click Tools*AutoCorrect Options*AutoCorrect As You Type, uncheck Internet and network paths with hyperlinks, and click OK. In Word 2007, click the Office button in the top-left corner, select Word Options, choose Proofing in the left pane, click the AutoCorrect Options button in the right pane, uncheck Internet and network paths with hyperlinks, and click OK twice.

Change your default font
Some people are satisfied with Times New Roman, Calibri, or whatever font Word chooses for them. Personally, I bounce between Arial and Book Antiqua, but you've probably got your own preference. To reset the default font in Word 2003 or 2007, press Ctrl-d to open the Font dialog box, select your preferred font, style, and size, click Default, and then Yes at the warning.

Change your default document folder
I'm forever moving from PC to PC, so I keep my Word documents and other files on a USB thumb drive that I bring with me and plug into whatever system I'm using. For backup, I zip the folder and e-mail it to myself about once a month. I'm sure I'm violating several security "rules," but the process works for me.

Even if you prefer to store your files on your hard drive, you may want to put them somewhere other than XP's My Documents or Vista's Documents folders. To change the folder Word 2003 stores documents in by default, click Tools*Options*File Locations, select Documents (it should be highlighted by default), and click Modify. Navigate to and select your preferred storage location, and click OK twice. In Word 2007, click the Office button and choose Word Options in the bottom-right corner. Choose Save in the left pane, click the Browse button to the right of Default file location, navigate to and select the folder you want to store your documents in, and click OK twice.

The Save settings in the Word Options dialog box.
Change the folder Word 2007 stores your documents in by default.

Get a new view
My eyesight isn't what it used to be, so I like viewing Word 2007 documents in Draft view (the equivalent of Word 2003's Normal view). Draft view does away with the blue borders on the left and right sides of Word 2007's default Print Layout view. To open Word files in Draft view, click the Office button and choose Word Options in the bottom-right corner. Click Advanced in the left pane, scroll down to the General section, check Allow opening a document in Draft view, and click OK. From now on, if you close Word in Draft view, your files should open in the same view when you restart the app and reopen them.

Microsoft Word 2007's Advanced Options dialog box
This option under Word 2007's Advanced Options dialog lets you open documents in Draft view.

Tomorrow: A simple solution for pasting plain text.

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.

     

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