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The fast, free way to clean up text in MS Word

Clean Up Text (and Formatting) makes it easy to remove unwanted leading and trailing characters as well as unwanted text formatting in a Microsoft Word document.

There's nothing easy about reformatting text in a Microsoft Word document. You can use the Format Painter to apply the formatting of one paragraph to others with a single click, and Word's Find and Replace features let you remove unwanted characters (or strings of characters), but these tools make their changes one at a time and often require additional cleanup.

I wish I had discovered Greg Maxey's free Clean Up Text add-on for Word years ago. The retired U.S. Navy submarine ordnance officer and former Microsoft Word MVP has created a Word DOT template that removes unwanted leading, trailing spaces and characters, carriage returns, and empty paragraphs. The add-on also applies the default formatting to all or part of the document, applies Normal formatting, and replaces line breaks with paragraph formatting--all with a single click.

Clean Up Text doesn't have to be a permanent addition to Word. After you download the add-on, you can open its ZIP file to access its DOT template file. Double-click the template to open Word with the Add-in enabled. When you close Word, the add-in will disappear.

To add the template permanently, open Word's Templates and Add-ins dialog box, click the Add button, and navigate to and select the Clean Up Text DOT file. To open Templates and Add-ins in Word 2003, click Tools > Templates and Add-ins. In Word 2007 and 2010, click the Add-ins button on the Developer tab.

Microsoft Word Templates and Add-ins dialog
Install the Clean Up Text add-in in Word via the Templates and Add-ins dialog box. Microsoft

(If the Developer tab isn't visible in Word 2007, click the Office button > Word Options > Popular and check the Show Developer tab in the Ribbon. In Word 2010, make the Developer tab appear by clicking File > Options > Customize Ribbon and check Developer in the right pane.)

Although designed for Word 97 through Word 2003, the add-on worked flawlessly with Word 2010. Simply select the Display Cleaner Panel button in Word's list of add-ons to open the Clean Up Text & Formatting dialog box. Nearly all of the add-on's options are check boxes or radio buttons, but to remove unwanted characters at the beginning or ending of lines, enter them in the "Remove leading/trailing characters" text box separated by the pipe character (|).

Clean Up Text add-on for Microsoft Word
The Clean Up Text add-on for Microsoft Word makes it easy to remove unwanted characters at the beginning and ending of lines and to apply or remove formatting to an entire document. Greg Maxey

Clean Up Text's plain-vanilla interface won't win many style points, but as a plain-and-simple time-saver, the program is off the charts. If you'd like to spend more of your time in Word writing and less time reformatting, take Clean Up Text for a spin.