If you’re constantly looking for that killer contract clause you’ve used or some other snippet of boilerplate text to pop into your latest magnum opus, let me introduce you to two time-saving Microsoft Word 2007-2010 features: Quick Parts and AutoText.

Instant access

Both features provide instant access to those texts you love to recycle. While neither constitutes a full-blown document assembly system, Quick Parts and AutoText can, with either a couple of mouse clicks or a few keystrokes, save you from mumbling to yourself, “Where did I use that last?” while doing futile searches in your online folders.

Which feature to use

Depending on how you work, you’ll prefer to store a particular snippet of text in either Quick Parts or AutoText. And you may want to experiment a bit with both features to see which is more comfortable for you.

Generally, though, if you’re more of a “the less mouse, the better” typist, choose AutoText. Why? One of the great features of AutoText is that, once you set an entry up, if you start typing that phrase in your document, AutoText will prompt you to see if you would like it to finish the phrase for you:

AutoText prompt

If you’re on good terms with your mouse and like to work more visually, Quick Parts allows you to access your text building blocks with two mouse clicks:

Quick Parts Menu

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from using both, depending on the context.

Setting them up

Using either feature, however, requires a little setup on your part. You can save snippets here and there as you come across them in your daily work, gradually building a library of Building Blocks (the official Microsoft term for these features) over time. Both types are easy to set up.

Setting up and using AutoText entries

Let’s say you have a standard phrase you use for objecting to discovery requests. The next time you type the complete phrase, select it with your mouse:

(A quick tip here: if you don’t want the hard return to be included in the text you save, simply back your selection up one space with the SHIFT-LEFT key combination. That way, you don’t have to do a backspace every time to continue the same paragraph, which can get annoying pretty quickly.)

Now, either press ALT-F3 or go to the Insert tab, click on the drop-down arrow next to Quick Parts, then select AutoText, then Save Selection to AutoText Gallery:

Once that’s saved, the next time you start to type the phrase, Word will prompt you like I showed you earlier. Simply hit Enter, and the rest of the phrase pops in. (If you don’t want AutoComplete to engage, simply keep typing—the prompt will go away.)

Not seeing the prompt? Go to Word Options (on the File tab in Word 2010 or accessible via the Office Button in version 2007) and make sure the “Show AutoComplete suggestions” box is checked in the Advanced section, Editing options:

Show AutoComplete prompt

Saving and accessing text in Quick Parts

The process here is similar to AutoText. Select the text, go to the Insert tab, click on the drop-down arrow next to Quick Parts, then select Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery:

Save Quick Part menu

You’ll get a dialog box that looks like this:

Quick Parts dialog box

Word is going to try to guess what you want to name it. You can rename it anything you want. And while you can get all fancy with placing Quick Parts entries in other Galleries or in custom Categories, the only option I’d recommend is choosing among these three in the bottom drop-down box:

  • Insert content only
  • Insert content in its own paragraph
  • Insert content in its own page

Usually, “insert content only” is fine for phrases and smaller snippets. If you’re saving something that’s meant to be in a block by itself (a Certificate of Service, etc.), you may wish to choose “insert content in its own paragraph” instead.

To re-use that snippet, simply go back to that menu and select that entry:

Outlook uses Quick Parts, too

Here’s a bonus for Outlook users: you can save Quick Parts entries for emails as well. Simply start a new email, type (or paste in) the boilerplate text you want to re-use and select the text, go to the Insert tab, click on the drop-down arrow next to Quick Parts, then click Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery:

Using Quick Parts in Outlook

Making sure you’ve saved your entries

Anytime you save text to either of these Building Blocks features, the text is actually stored temporarily. The next time you exit Word, be sure you click Save at the prompt:

Save Building Blocks on Exit from Word

This ensures you have access to these snippets the next time you use Word. Otherwise, they’re discarded.

A few minutes a day can pay off

Save a snippet here and there every day. And the next time you or your assistant or paralegal are putting together a document under a tight deadline, you’ll be thankful for Quick Parts and AutoText.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/5644838033/)