MS Word Building Blocks outshine AutoText

Create Word documents faster by cobbling together prebuilt components that include images, formatting, tables, and pages in addition to text--all insertable with only a few clicks.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
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.
Dennis O'Reilly
3 min read

Microsoft Word's AutoText feature got a serious face-lift with the debut of Building Blocks in Word 2007 and 2010. (The Microsoft Office Support site offers a basic primer on creating and using Word 2003's AutoText feature.)

In a nutshell, you create AutoText entries by selecting the material you want to reuse and clicking Insert > AutoText > New (or simply press Alt-F3). You then enter a name for the entry that's between 4 and 32 characters long and press Enter. This adds the entry to the Normal.dot template and makes it available to all documents. To add AutoText for a specific template, click Insert > AutoText > AutoText and select the template in the "Look in" drop-down menu.

You can insert AutoText by clicking Insert > AutoText > AutoText to open the AutoCorrect dialog box with the AutoText tab selected. All AutoText entries are listed; select one and click Insert. You can also use the AutoComplete feature to enter AutoText by typing the first few letters and pressing Enter when the entry appears in a pop-up window (the AutoComplete option must be checked in the AutoText dialog, and you need to press F3 to activate this feature).

Other options for inserting AutoText entries are via the AutoText toolbar (View > Toolbars > AutoText) or by clicking the Insert AutoText drop-down button on the Header and Footer toolbar. To place an AutoText entry on a different toolbar, click Tools > Customize > Commands, select AutoText in the Categories list on the left, and drag the desired AutoText entry from the list of commands in the right window to whichever toolbar you prefer.

For keyboard-shortcut aficionados, assign the AutoText entry a keystroke combination by clicking Tools > Customize > Keyboard, choosing AutoText in the Categories list in the left pane, selecting the AutoText entry in the right pane, and entering your preferred keystroke combination in the text box below the AutoText list.

Building Blocks put new, useful spins on AutoText
Even simple Word documents are likely to include reusable elements, such as page numbers and other header and footer material, cover and title pages, addresses, salutations, logos, and other graphics. Saving and re-entering such material is easier in Word 2007 and 2010 via the use of Building Blocks.

To create a Building Block in Word 2007 or 2010, simply select it and press Alt-F3 to open the Create New Building Block dialog. Give the entry a name or accept Word's default name, choose the Gallery to save the entry in, assign it a Category and a description if you wish, choose to save it in the Normal template or with other Building Blocks, and add it with its own paragraph and on its own page if desired.

Microsoft Word 2010 Create New Building Block dialog box
Microsoft Word 2010 gives you more options when creating an AutoText entry, which it calls a Building Block. Microsoft

You can also add a Building Block by selecting the material, clicking the Quick Parts button on the Insert tab, and choosing Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery. But you've got a wealth of prebuilt components at your disposal without having to create any yourself. To view the Building Blocks available by default in Word 2007 and 2010, click Insert > Quick Parts > Building Blocks Organizer.

Microsoft Word 2010 Building Blocks Organizer dialog box
The Building Blocks built into Word 2007 and 2010 let you add predesigned cover pages, bibliographies, headers, footers, and text boxes with a few clicks. Microsoft

Your custom AutoText entries will be stored in the aptly named AutoText gallery in the Building Blocks Organizer. To add an AutoText or a custom Building Block gallery to the Quick Access Toolbar, right-click the toolbar and choose Customize Quick Access Toolbar. Select Commands Not in the Ribbon in the "Choose commands from" drop-down menu, select AutoText or a custom gallery entry, and click Add and OK.

Cindy Meister, Jay Freedman, and Beth Melton provide a great primer on Word AutoText and Building Blocks on the Word MVPS FAQ site.

On the Microsoft Developer Network blog, Jodie Boyer offers a series of tutorials on using Building Blocks in Word 2010. The series is intended for system administrators, but experienced Word 2010 users may find some material of interest in the post on managing and administering Building Blocks.