Quick Access to Microsoft Word Commands

If you’re using Microsoft Word 2007 or 2010, you’ve probably gotten lost in the menus looking for a favorite command. Don’t despair! The new Quick Access Toolbar and ever-popular shortcut keys give you faster access to those commands you use most frequently.

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

One-click access to any command (without programming a macro)

Too few Word users take advantage of versions 2007 and 2010’s Quick Access Toolbar (or QAT), which sits above the Ribbon (but can be moved beneath if you prefer):

Usually, only a handful of essential buttons are on the Quick Access Toolbar by default—New Document, Open Document, Save Document, Print and Undo/Redo. But anything you need one-click access to can be placed up there with just one click of your mouse.

The next time you run across a command in the menu system you’d like QAT access to, just right-click on it with your mouse. For instance, if you use the Labels command often, go to the Mailings tab and right-click on Labels for a contextual menu:

Select Add to Quick Access Toolbar, and the icon for that command pops into the QAT. No more hunting through the menu system looking for the Labels command!

Shortcut keys for favorite commands

If you’re more of a speed typist than mouse enthusiast, you should be aware of the various shortcut keys (key combinations pressed simultaneously) that invoke commands you use often.

Microsoft Word has default lists of keyboard shortcuts for Word 2010 and for versions 2002-2007. But a lot of users don’t know that these can be overwritten, so what’s standard for Word may not work the same on your PC.

How can you tell what shortcut keys are active on your installation? You can print a custom list for your PC by running a built-in macro.

First, make sure your Developer tab is active (it should be sitting between View and Add-ins). If it’s not, click on the Office button (in version 2007) or on the File tab (in 2010), click on Options, then go to Customize Ribbon and click the check box next to Developer:

Now that you’ve got the Developer tab, click on Macros:

Type “ListCommands” (no spaces) into the Macro name field in the dialog box:

Click Run. The macro will ask you which Command list you want. Choose “Current keyboard settings” to see what’s active for your PC:

The macro composes a new document listing all your active shortcut keys. Take a look at the document and memorize a handful of frequently-used commands to use sans mouse. And be sure to save and/or print the list for future reference.

But what if your favorite command isn’t on the list? You can make your own keyboard shortcut keys. Just go back to the Customize Ribbon section in Word Options as shown above. You’ll see a button that says “Customize” next to “Keyboard shortcuts” on the bottom left. Click that button, and you’ll get this dialog box:

Find the command you want a shortcut key for, first by selecting the correct tab from the Categories list on the left, then finding the command (listed in alphabetical order) on the right. Once you’ve selected the command, click into the “Press new shortcut key” field, then press the key combination you’d like to assign. If that shortcut key is already assigned to another command, you’ll see it next to “Currently assigned to” on the left. If there’s nothing there you don’t mind overwriting, click the Assign button, then Close.

Shortcut key access to frequently-used symbols

If your particular legal specialty requires use of some special symbols (§ for code citations, ° for property descriptions, etc.), you don’t want to go to the Insert Symbols menu every single time. Fortunately, you can assign a shortcut key combination (like CNTRL-SHIFT-S for §) to insert these symbols straight from the keyboard.

On the Insert tab, click on Symbol near the far right end of the ribbon, then choose More Symbols:

Scroll down the list until you find the symbol you need. Click on it, then click on Shortcut Key:

In the Customize Keyboard dialog box, you can see whether a shortcut key combination has already been assigned to that symbol. If there’s not one, or if you want to change it, just press the key combination you want. If that particular key combination is already assigned to another command, you can either overwrite it (for instance, I deliberately did not pick CNTRL-S below because that’s the shortcut key for Save Document, and I want to keep that) or you can try another key combination.

To lock in that shortcut key, click Assign, then Close. Using the above example, the next time I want a § in my document, I can press CNTRL-SHIFT-S (all three keys simultaneously), and a section symbol appears without my having to use the Word menus.

Making Word work for you, not against you

Tricks like these are all about making Word (and the other Microsoft Office applications) compatible with your work style. Shortcut keys and the Quick Access Toolbar can help reduce your frustration with Office and increase your productivity.



  1. Avatar David G says:

    Thanks for this article… a great help for those of us who’ve stayed w/ WordPerfect but are needing to know how to create and navigate around Word documents because our numbers are dwindling. Question: WP makes it easy to insert a file (i.e. a proof of service form) in a document, but I can find no way to do this in Word, but surely it’s there. Can someone give me a clue?


    David Grabill
    Santa Rosa, CA

  2. This is good info- thank you.
    To David G: Not sure what you mean by insert a form– why couldn’t you just edit & paste it into Word? Or, you could insert as a text box.

  3. Avatar Virtis says:

    How do I turn on Track Changes?

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