If you’re often working sans assistant (whether you’re a solo attorney or not), you may feel like you’re spinning your wheels trying to be both attorney and staff. Save time and get out of busywork mode faster with these five essential Microsoft Office tricks:

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

Format with One Click Using Styles

Knowing how to manipulate Microsoft Word Styles (essentially, collections of text formatting instructions for normal text, headings, etc.) can save you a ton of time in formatting your text, particularly in longer documents that need consistent formatting of headers, etc., for structure. Bonus: using Styles also allows you to move entire sections of your document from one spot to another with the Navigation pane, accessible by checking the box “Navigation Pane” on the View tab.

Hands Off the Mouse! Learn Shortcut Keys for Speed Typing

Microsoft Word has hundreds of key combinations that allow you to skip the menus and perform functions directly. Fortunately, you only need to memorize (or keep a list of) a few to help keep your hands on the keyboard and off the mouse (good for speed) and speed up formatting and editing:

CTRL-B, CTRL-I, CTRL-U – Bold/Italics/Underline
CTRL-Space – Clear character formatting (italics, fonts, etc.)
SHIFT-F3 – Change case (UPPERCASE, lowercase, Title Case, etc.)
CTRL-SHIFT-N – apply Normal style
CTRL-L, CTRL-J, CTRL-C, CTRL-R — Justify paragraph left/full/center/right
CTRL-Q – Clear paragraph formatting (indents, justification, etc.)
CTRL-C – Copy
CTRL-X – Cut
CTRL-V – Paste
CTRL-A – Select all text
CTRL-S – Save document
CTRL-K – Create hyperlink

To find out what keyboard shortcuts are available on your own installation of Microsoft Word, run the ListCommands macro and keep the list handy for easy reference.

Another quick tip: want to find out what the keyboard shortcut for your favorite feature is? If it has one, it’ll probably be displayed when you hover your mouse over it, assuming you have “show ToolTips on hover” turned on. Make a note for future reference!

Employ Templates to Create Common Documents Faster

The few minutes you’ll spend “genericizing” a document for future use now and saving it as a template file (with the extension .dotx) will pay off in time you’ll save in drafting future versions. The next time you need a substantially similar document, you just create a new document with the template you’ve saved and modify from there. Faster than cutting, pasting and cleaning up text from old client files, yes?

Access Boilerplate Text Instantly With Quick Parts and AutoText

If you’ve got text snippets you use a lot (discovery objections, form email replies, standard headers/footers, etc.), you’d be crazy not to store them in Quick Parts or AutoText. Available in both Word and Outlook, these snippets can make short work of otherwise repetitive typing and/or pasting.

Get Single-Click Access to Commands via the Quick Access Toolbar

Sure, it might not take you that much longer to click a couple of menus on the Office Ribbon to get to your favorite commands. But those extra clicks add up, robbing you of valuable time. Get direct access to your most-used commands and dialog boxes by placing them on the Quick Access Toolbar (located just above or below your Ribbon, depending on your settings). Just click the down-arrow at the end of the QAT and choose More Commands to add your own.



  1. Dave S. says:

    Deborah, this is great stuff, thanks.

  2. Sanjay Singh says:

    Very useful tips.

    I am always suprised by how few people know and use an old feature like templates. I frequently come across people who open old copies of documents, make changes and then save (to a new filename… hopefully).


  3. Miscellaneous Lawyer says:

    You can also create print macros, which can do all sorts of things, for example;

    Print/Copy. Prints the first page on letterhead, subsequent pages on plain paper (IE if your letterhead only goes on the first page), AND THEN prints a copy all on plain for your file.
    PrintDuplex: Prints your document duplex, so you don’t have to fiddle around with printer settings.
    Print to Fax: if you have a fancy fax/copy/everything machine, you can set it up to fax straight from your computer. Just print to fax, and put in the number/s.
    PDF: you can convert letters to pdf with one click, with the right programs.

    The macros can also bring up your templates. We have ‘Letter’, ‘Fax Cover’ ‘File Note’ and a few others at the click of a button. We also use the F9 key to jump between ‘*’s. If you need to leave something blank and come back to it, put a * in place, and jump between them with f9. We set up all our templates that way, so that the first thing you get to is ‘reply to * Office’. Then f9s to ‘our ref: *’ then ‘your ref: *’ and then address, etc.

    Full disclosure: My firm had these enabled before I started with them, and I have NO IDEA how to set them up. But getting an IT expert to do it for you might be a solid investment, especially if you have multiple people working from them.

    • Getting macros and templates programmed (and distributed among workstations) professionally can be a really good investment if they’re well thought out. It sounds like yours are working out great.

  4. Kurt says:

    Just a note to add on the Quick Access Toolbar – you can add items to it by right clicking on a button or group on any ribbon and select “Add to Quick Access Toolbar”.

  5. Muy Bueno!!
    I will have to get some assistants at the office to read this!!

  6. Naama Shcain says:

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve found it useful to have my most used “Review” and “Insert” commands and other useful commendson on the “Home” tag on the Ribbon, saves time switching between the tags on the Ribbon (and remembering what goes in which tag). To do so, just right click anywhere on the ribbon and choose “Customize the Ribbon” and click on “New Group” at the bottom of the right column. Once you made a “New Group” (which you can name as you please) add commends therein from the “All Commands” list (which can be found on top of the left column).

  7. Kevin Smith says:

    It can be helpful to organize various templates into folders, and having them easily accessible. If you set up a shared folder as the Workgroup Templates folder, and have various sub-folders for different templates (e.g. – letters, affidavits, contracts, pleadings, etc…) when you click on File, New the various folders, and the templates in those folders, will be icons available to click on and open. This can ensure the templates are easily accessible get used. If you have different legal departments in a firm, they can each be a different Workgroup, with their own Workgroup templates folders.

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