I bet you have your share of old WordPerfect documents to either convert to Microsoft Word or retrieve snippets of text from when drafting new documents. When converting from WordPerfect to Microsoft Word, however, be aware of some of the common pitfalls.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

To Convert or Copy

The first question is whether to convert the WordPerfect file to Microsoft Word or to just copy a selection into a new Word document. Most of the time, it’s better to select and copy from the WordPerfect file into a new Word document. I’ve rarely seen WordPerfect convert to a .doc or .docx file format without some fairly significant problems, even using pricey conversion software. On the other hand, simply using Ctrl-C (copy) or Ctrl-V (paste) to move text from WordPerfect to Word usually captures the formatting pretty well.

That said, there is the occasional mishap. If you find that the selection you moved from WordPerfect to Word doesn’t format the way it should, there are a few techniques you can try.

Ctrl-Z / Paste Special

Thank heavens for Ctrl-Z (Undo)! That key combination can immediately get you out of most any fix. Once you “undone” the paste command, you can use the Paste Special command to re-paste without the original formatting, giving you the opportunity to fix it up.

To use Paste Special, click the Paste button on the Home tab, then choose Paste Special from the drop-down menu.

I usually prefer to choose Unformatted Text from the resulting dialog box, but try RTF to see if you might salvage some basic formatting, like bold and italics. You can always hit the Undo key and use Unformatted Text as a second choice.

Ctrl-Q / Ctrl-Shift-Space / Ctrl-Shift-N

If you’ve had something pasted in for a while and it’s too late for Undo, there’s still hope.

If you’re dealing with a case of funky paragraph formatting, like indentation or justification that doesn’t match the rest of your document, press Ctrl-Q to remove paragraph-level formatting. If it’s fonts that are giving you fits, select the offending words and press Ctrl-Shift-Space to remove font-level formatting like italics, etc. And if you just want to reformat it to match the Normal style, select the text with your mouse and press Ctrl-Shift-N.

Format Painter

If you pasted something into the middle of your document and want the formatting to match, say, the paragraph immediately above it, this is an ideal place to use the Format Painter. Simply place your cursor somewhere in the text you are copying formatting from, click the paintbrush icon in the Paste area of the Home tab, then select the text you want to reformatted.

If you want to reformat several selections in a row, double-click the paintbrush icon to make it persistent; once you’re finished reformatting, single-click the paintbrush icon to turn Format Painter off.

Hidden Sections

One persistent problem I see with text brought over from WordPerfect is hidden section breaks. Without getting too technical, these often occur when Block Protect is used in WordPerfect or when headers or footers exist.

As a standard practice, I like to wipe out WordPerfect section breaks to ensure there are no problems with awkward page breaks, spacing or other issues these can cause. These can be surprisingly difficult to find, even with Show/Hide and/or Reveal Formatting. To get rid of them, I use Find and Replace.

In Word 2010, click the Replace button on the very end of the Home tab:

In Word versions 2007 and earlier, press Ctrl-H. You will see the Find and Replace dialog box:

Just type the ^ (caret) character (Shift-6 on most PC keyboards) and a lowercase b (that combo’s the code for a Section Break), then click Replace All. (If you’ve already inserted some sections in Word to control headers or footers, you may want to click Find Next to selectively replace the Section Breaks.) Voilà! Problem solved.

Many Ways to Reuse Old Docs

In a law office, it’s virtually inevitable that old text will be used in new documents. Learning new ways to recycle boilerplate text is a great way to save time and effort in document drafting.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/toolstop/4420180838/)