Little-known keyboard shortcuts boost Word productivity

Reformat text, apply bullets or a numbered list, hang-indent a paragraph, and make other formatting changes from via keystroke combinations.

Tech Culture

Whenever two or more people work on the same Microsoft Word document, there are bound to be formatting conflicts. This is especially true in organizations attempting to apply singular style conventions. Most of us rely on a mouse to make format changes in Word, but we can reformat Word docs just as easily using some of the program's more obscure keyboard shortcuts.

Back in 2008, I described how to copy and paste only a paragraph's formatting, not its text. Allen Wyatt's WordTips site provides a great list of keyboard shortcuts for altering a paragraph's spacing (Ctrl+1 for single space, Ctrl+2 for double space), alignment (Ctrl+L aligns left, Ctrl+R right, Ctrl+E centered, Ctrl+J justified), and indents (Ctrl+M one tab space, Shift+Ctrl+M minus one tab space). You can even apply a hanging indent by pressing Ctrl+T or remove it by pressing Shift+Ctrl+T.

Keep your keystroke-combo list handy
Just what you need, a dozen more keystroke combinations to try to remember. About two years ago, I explained how to create an easy-to-open text file listing all the keyboard shortcuts you're ever likely to need. The most recent addition to my shortcuts.txt file is Microsoft's extensive list of keystroke commands for Word 2002, 2003, and 2007.

Popular Word formatting shortcuts include Shift+Enter to add a line break, Ctrl+Enter to add a page break, and Shift+Ctrl+Spacebar to add a non-breaking space. Here are a few more-obscure keystroke combinations for formatting Word docs:

Subscript — Ctrl+=
Superscript — Ctrl+Shift+=
Toggle revision marks — Ctrl+Shift+E
Split the document window — Alt+Ctrl+S
Remove the split window — Alt+Shift+C
Add a date field — Alt+Shift+D
Apply Normal style — Ctrl+Shift+N
Apply a bullet list — Ctrl+Shift+L
Apply Heading 1 — Alt+Ctrl+1
Apply Heading 2 — Alt+Ctrl+2
Apply small caps — Ctrl+Shift+K

Even more MS Word shortcut tricks
Microsoft lays out the keyboard route to toolbars, task panes, menus, and dialog boxes on the Word 2003 Help & How-to Site. You can also create a keyboard shortcut that runs a Word command, as described on the Productivity Portfolio site. And for what may be the ultimate list of keyboard shortcuts for all programs and operating systems, check out Wikipedia's Table of keyboard shortcuts.

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