October 23, 2012

Get the Most Out of Microsoft Word

Of all the applications attorneys use, Microsoft Word has to rank near the top of the list of things they just can’t live without. Well, OK, Angry Birds and then Microsoft Word. I don’t have many Angry Birds tricks for you—other than think about how to cause structural collapse rather than just aiming for the pigs—but I do have quite a few Word tricks for you.

Mark as Final

Want to pass your document to somebody for review, but discourage him or her from editing it? Mark it as Final. That will set the document to be read-only and marked for review only. Is it foolproof? No, not really. The other person can just click the Edit Anyway button that Word presents, but that’s affirmatively defeating your clearly stated desire that the document is Final.

Mark as Final is just a handy way to flag a document so that others know that it shouldn’t be edited anymore. It doesn’t prevent editing, however. There are other mechanisms for that if that’s what you’re after.

Note: I occasionally mark my own documents as Final as a reminder to myself that the document shouldn’t need to be edited any further.

How do you do it? In Word 2010, just click File>Protect Document and select Mark as Final. (Word 2007: Office Button>Prepare>Mark as Final)

Minimize the Ribbon

One of the first comments folks have when they see the Ribbon is that it takes up a fair bit of screen real estate at the top of the screen. If you’d like to minimize it to give yourself more room to work, just right-click any of the tabs and choose Minimize Ribbon. To get it back, repeat that process. Alternatively, you can double-click the current Ribbon tab label to minimize, and subsequently restore, the Ribbon. Or click the Minimize Ribbon button, which looks like a little up arrow next to the help button on the right end of the Ribbon. Or press CTRL+F1. (Anything worth doing in Word can be done several ways.)

Publishing to PDF

Attorneys love to save and send PDF files. There are some good reasons for that: PDF files are difficult to surreptitiously modify. Saving to PDF effectively finalizes the document.

PDF files contain only minor amounts of relatively harmless metadata, and thus are safer to send to clients or opposing counsel.

PDF is a nearly universal format. Virtually everybody has the ability to read and or print PDF files, even users who work on Macs or Linux machines.

Office 2007 and 2010 will let you save your documents as PDF files without having to purchase and install Adobe’s Acrobat program. Of course, the PDF files you can create with this are fairly basic—you don’t get the advanced features of Acrobat—but for most users, that’s perfectly sufficient.

Saving to PDF in Word is simplicity itself. With your document open, click File, choose Save and Send, and then Create PDF/XPS Document from the menu that appears. Note that for Word 2007, the first time you use it, you’ll have to download and install the free PDF add-in from Microsoft. You’ll see a single button on the right that reads Create PDF/XPS. Click that. If you just want to keep it simple, you can just click the Publish button on the next dialog box. There are a few options you can configure, if you like: 

Open File after Publishing: Checking this box will open your document in Adobe Reader after your save completes. Good if you want to give it a quick review to make sure it looks right.

Optimize for Standard: This creates a larger but better-quality PDF file.

Optimize for Online Publishing: This creates a smaller, tighter file, but sacrifices a bit of quality.

For extended options, click the Options button. Here you can select the page range (in case you only want certain pages), whether or not you want the markup (comments, track changes, etc.) to show and other such settings.

One setting here that may be important is the setting that lets you create this PDF file in PDF/A format, an international standard for archiving and preserving documents. That’s the format the federal courts prefer for e-filing, so if you’re preparing this document for filing, you will want to go into Options and check that box. Once you’ve set your options, just choose a file location to save to, give it a file name and save it. Voila! 

Navigation Pane

When you’re creating a lengthy and extensive document, like a book on Microsoft Word 2010, for example, it can often be handy to see all of your headings in the style of a table of contents so that you can make sure that your content is complete and in a logical order. The navigation pane shows you the headings in your document and provides an easy way to navigate up and down in the document. This is especially important when your document is more than 200 pages long and your Page Up button is getting a bit worn down.

You can also use it to reorganize your content. Grab a header in the navigation pane and drag it up or down. Word will reorder your text accordingly.

Pick Up Where You Left Off

Back in the office to finish that long brief you were working on yesterday? Don’t waste time having to find the spot you stopped editing. Just open the document and press SHIFT+F5; Word 2010 will take you right back to the last place you edited.

This also works great if you’re in a document and you’ve paged up or down to reference something else. Just press SHIFT+F5 and Word will take you right back to where you were typing.


One of those features that many users didn’t realize Word has had for quite a while is the ability to add a watermark to your document. A watermark is a bit of text or image that is in the background, behind your text. It’s a fairly subtle effect—subtle enough that I can’t even screen-capture it and have it look decent. It can say or be just about anything you want, and is a really handy way to mark a printed document with an indication of the document status, such as “Draft” or “Confidential” or “Client Copy.” To use the Watermark feature, just go to the Page Layout tab and click the Watermark tool. You’ll get the Watermark gallery, which has 12 sample watermarks you can use. If you don’t like any of those, you can create your own by clicking the Custom Watermark command you see toward the bottom of the gallery. Clicking that will get you the Printed Watermark dialog box.

In the Printed Watermark dialog box, you can create a picture watermark by selecting that radio button, then selecting the image you want to use. Word will automatically scale the picture so that it aligns on the page properly, but you can customize that if you like.

If you don’t want to use a picture watermark, you can type your own custom text, complete with custom layout, color, font and everything. Watermarks can be a nice way to add a stylish and functional element to your printed or PDF’d documents.


Every now and then you may want to send out a document with parts of that document blacked out, to obscure particular facts the other party (or the public) shouldn’t read. As you probably know, that’s called “redaction,” and there are a couple of ways to do that in Word.

First off, it once again comes back to knowing the medium in which your document is going to be transmitted. If it’s going to be printed or sent as an image-only PDF file, then you could just select the text you want to redact, and use the highlighter tool in Word to redact those words you want hidden by highlighting the black text with black highlighter.

That works fine if you’re transmitting in a format where the end user can’t access the actual document data. Where you can’t use that is if you’re going to be transmitting the document as a Word document because the recipient could just turn off the highlighting. If you’re PDFing the document as an image (not a searchable file), then the recipient is only going to get a picture of the text and the redacted text will be obscured. If you’re going to print the document, then the printer will just print your redactions and that will work as well.

There are some other creative ways to redact text, but to ensure that it’s done right, you can find the Word 2007 Redaction tool at codeplex.com/redaction. Even though it’s made by the team at Microsoft, it is not officially supported by Microsoft. It works in Word 2010, too. Installation can take quite a while, so be sure to not wait until five minutes before the document is due. It adds a Redact group to the Review tab of the Ribbon.

Caution: The redaction can’t be undone. I strongly suggest that you save a copy of your document unredacted first, then do your redaction. That way if it turns out that you inadvertently redacted something, you can go back to the original copy.

To use the tool, you just go through your document, marking all text that you want redacted. Afterward, click the down arrow on the Mark button and have it redact the entire document. The redaction tool then goes through your entire document and replaces all marked text with black bars.

After you finish the redaction, the tool will suggest that you run Word’s metadata inspector, which is a good idea.

One other thing you’ll notice on the menu is a “Find and Mark” command. That lets you search the document for all instances of a string (a client’s name, for example), and have all of those instances marked for redaction automatically, eliminating the need to manually search.

Fancy Replacements

The Replace tool from the Editing group of the Home tab can do more than replace “Jerry” with “Gerry.” It can actually be used to make some more-sophisticated replacements—for example, font elements. Maybe you mistakenly used superscript throughout your document and you meant it to be subscript.

Click Replace, then the Format button. Choose Font from the list that appears and select Superscript. Then click the Replace With field and go back to Format>Font. Select Subscript. Click OK and have it replace all.

Of course, to save time and hassles, it would be best to apply that superscript with a style. Then you just have to change the style from superscript to subscript to instantly fix it throughout the document.


Microsoft Word is one of those applications that you will spend a lot of time in. If you know the tricks, though, you can make that time as productive as possible.