Word Processing

This article describes some options in setting up MS-Word to be more helpful and less annoying. Broadly, these options pertain to all versions of Word, but instructions here are specific to versions prior to Word 2007.

Fixing MS-Word

The way MS-Word comes set up "out of the box" can be extremely annoying at times. The good news is that Microsoft has provided ways of getting Word's behaviors under control by changing its options.

I Just Want to Do It MYSELF!

A fair number of the suggestions here are to disable certain Word automatic features. Some "auto" features, like AutoCorrect, are useful. Others are distracting (like Startup Task Pane and SmartTags), or counter-productive and even destructive (Define styles based on your formatting, Keep track of formatting).

You probably won't agree with all these suggestions - Hey, "different strokes for different folks", right? - but some of them might fix one of your Word annoyances.

Changes to options and defaults take place in one of three different places:

  • AutoCorrect Options
  • Customize
  • Options

All three places can be accessed by going to the Tools menu of the Menu Bar.

Show me the gold... ALL the gold!

  • On the Options tab of Customize, check Show Standard and Formatting Toolbars on two rows

  • On the Options tab of Customize, check Always show full menus

  • On the Options tab of Customize, check Show ScreenTips on toolbars

  • On the Options tab of Customize, check Show shortcuts in ScreenTips

Out of my face, Part I: Smart Tags

When Microsoft introduced Smart Tags many reviewers considered them quite useless and a complete disaster on the part of Microsoft. Nevertheless, they are probably very useful for a very small percentage of MS-Word's users. For the rest of us:
  • On View tab of Options in Show section, uncheck Smart Tags

  • On the Save tab of Options, in the Save options section, uncheck Embed smart tags

  • On the Smart Tags tab of AutoCorrect, uncheck Label text with smart tags

Out of my face, Part II: Paste Option Buttons

  • On the Edit tab of Options in the Editing options section, uncheck Show Paste Options buttons

Out of my face, Part III: Real-time spelling and grammar checking

While I find Spell Check essential, I find Word's Grammar check is not smart enough or sufficiently discerning to make it at all useful.

However you feel about them, you may not want them in your face all the time - they can be very distracting when you want to focus on a completely different aspect of your writing. You can turn them off and request their services when you're ready (F7).

  • On the Spelling & Grammar tab of Options in the Spelling section, uncheck Check spelling as you type

  • On the Spelling & Grammar tab of Options in the Grammar section, uncheck Check grammar as you type

  • On the Spelling & Grammar tab of Options in the Grammar section, uncheck Check grammar w spelling

Don't call me, I'll call you

The Startup Task Pane - Clippy's dipshit cousin.
  • On View tab of Options in Show section, uncheck Startup Task Pane

Formatting Marks, turn on your headlights!

Almost universally, uninformed users want these off all the time, but they are essential while applying formatting.
  • On View tab of Options in Formatting marks section, check All

  • On the Standard Toolbar, toggle the formatting marks on and off as appropriate

Recently used files

Recent is a convenient way to retrieve existing files, maximize it's utility by having Word show you more of them.
  • On the General tab of Options in the General options section, check Recently used file list and bump entries up to 9 (the max)

Beware of double-edged swords

Drag-and-Drop and Typing Replaces Selection are two features that can be very useful to some, and very frustrating to others. Have it the way you like:
  • On the Edit tab of Options in the Editing options section, uncheck (or check) Drag-and-Drop text editing

  • On the Edit tab of Options in the Editing options section, uncheck (or check) Typing Replaces Selection

Stop Word from trashing your Styles and bloating the Styles list

Styles are one of the most useful features found in any word processor, if you're not using them you really should find out how. In an effort to introduce more users to styles, Microsoft has implemented some features which, unfortunately, actually can make using styles more difficult and annoying.
  • On the Edit tab of Options in the Editing options section, uncheck Keep track of formatting

  • On the Edit tab of Options in the Editing options section, uncheck Prompt to update style

  • On the AutoFormat As You Type tab of AutoCorrect in the Automatically as you type section, uncheck Define styles based on your formatting



Bruce Miller, 2000, 2005

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