BOOT CAMP 156 (04/01/01)




In the last episode of Boot Camp we looked at the powerful Customize feature in Microsoft Word (versions 97 and 2000), this week it’s the turn of Keyboard Shortcuts, another equally useful facility that lets you assign frequently used commands and text entries to a simple sequence of key presses.


Word already has scores of keyboard commands and shortcuts programmed in but you won't find more than a handful of them mentioned in Word Help or the manual ( if you were lucky enough to get one). Your first task, theregore is to create a set of crib-sheets, which you can keep by your PC. From the Tools menu select Macro then Macros and in the 'Macros in' drop down menu click on Word COmmands. Scroll down the Macro Name list to find ListCommands, highlighting the entry then click Run, select Current Menu and Keyboard Settings then OK and a document appears, which you can name, save and print out.


Even that list isn’t as comprehensive as it could be and there seems to be a fair few undocumented commands. For example, if you type ‘+-+’ (plus minus plus) without the quote marks, and press Return, a table cell opens, with another cell for every extra plus sign that you add.  But I digress; the aim this week to is to create a small number of easily remembered keyboard shortcuts that will hopefully make Word more manageable and your life a little bit easier.


It’s a good idea to jot down a list of functions that you use frequently whilst entering text, which increase your workload or slow you down by taking your fingers away from the keyboard, to click on icons or make menu selection. Try not to be too ambitious, in any case you’ll probably only be able to remember three or four of them, you can always add more as you go along. Examples you might like to consider are word count, text formatting (underline, italics, bold etc.), backup saves, justify copy etc. Check your crib sheet, some of them may already have a keyboard shortcut assigned but it may not be convenient, or memorable, in which case you can easily change it to something more to your liking.


Next, right-click into an empty area of a toolbar then select Customize from the drop down menu and a dialogue box appears with three tabbed options. It doesn’t matter which one is selected, they all contain the feature we’re interested in, which is the Keyboard button. Click on it and the Customize Keyboard dialogue box is displayed. It’s all fairly intuitive but it’s worth spending a couple of minutes familiarising yourself with the main features. The left hand Categories window details all of Word’s many features, the right hand windows shows the Commands specific to each category. Below that are two smaller windows, the one on the left is where you enter your keyboard shortcut, the one on the right shows if any shortcuts have already been assigned.


To see how it all works make sure File is highlighted in the left windows, then select each entry in the right window one at a time, a brief explanation of what each command does appears in the Description field towards the bottom of the dialogue box. Usually you will find that the first three functions are unassigned, but when you click on FileCloseOrExit ‘Alt + F4’ should appear in the Current Keys window.


We’ll begin with Word Count, scroll down the Categories list and highlight Tools then go to the Commands window and go down the list (quite a long way down) to find ToolsWordCount. Click into the ‘Press New Shortcut’ field and enter your shortcut. A shortcut can be either one Function key (F key), or two or more keystrokes with the first one either Ctrl, Alt, AltGr or an arrow key, and followed by an alphanumeric character, a symbol of one of the numbered ‘F’ keys along the top of the keyboard. You can specify upper or lowercase symbols by holding down the Shift key after the first key.


The trick is to keep it short and memorable. For a command like Word Count Ctrl + C is a logical choice, however, you will probably find that it has already been assigned to the EditCopy function. There’s nothing to stop you using Ctrl + C, and reassigning EditCopy to another combination, or simply not bothering if it’s not a function you use regularly but if you want to leave things as they are try Alt + C, which is usually unassigned. Enter the two key presses and click the Assign button. When you close the dialogue box the shortcut becomes active and that’s really all there is to it.


Other useful shortcuts you might want to try are FileExit, which closes Word, but prompts you to save any unsaved documents before it does so. A shortcut to the spell checker is well worth having, this can be found in the Tools Categories and the command is ‘ToolsSpellSelection’. You might also want to have a look at the Fonts and Common Symbols at the bottom of the Categories list, which can be very handy if you routinely switch between typefaces in your documents or need to use foreign or accented characters. Our last exercise is to create a keyboard shortcut to an AutoText entry, such as a salutation – i.e. ‘Yours sincerely, A.N. Other’ etc., for letter writing. Write and highlight the entry then press Alt + F3 (another shortcut that’s well worth remembering), to store the text as an AutoText entry. Open the Customize Keyboard dialogue box, scroll down the Categories list to AutoText, select your newly created entry from the right hand pane, enter your shortcut and click Assign. That’s just a taste of the customisation features in Word and what can be done, try it, it’s a very good way to get to know and assert control over this large and powerful program.


Next week – sending email attachments





A frequently used block of text – an address, salutation etc., -- that can be inserted into a document



The row of keys along the top of the keyboard, which can be assigned to various function in an open application, (F1 traditionally calls up Help)



Simple programming function in Word (and many other programs) used to automate frequently used commands and functions



Did Santa bring you any new software or toys for your PC? Maybe you’re planning to buy a new application or peripheral in the sales? It’s tempting to rip off the packaging and load or install it straight away but before you do, just ask yourself when was it made, and how long has that box been sitting around in warehouses or on dealer’s shelves? The chances are whatever it is will be at least several months old and in the time between it being manufactured and you loading it into your PC all sorts of problems may have come to light, and you could end up spending the rest of the holidays trying to get hold of helpline support. Save yourself the inevitable headaches by visiting the manufacturer’s web site first, and make sure there are no compatibility issues or bugs or updates needed that you should know about… 

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