Recycle Text with Quick Parts and AutoText

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.



  1. Avatar Jack Roberts says:

    Very timely post – I’ve been looking for a way to replace my “where did I use that great non-assignment clause” scramble system. I wondered if there was a way to distribute and share Building Blocks or transfer them when I inevitably will need a new laptop. It can be done by sending a group of BBs via a template see:

    Great post – thanks for bringing this to our attention.


  2. I think QuickParts and Autotext are great – thanks for sharing these tips. I’ve also been playing with a neat tool called Active Words. They have a free version, and a very robust $50 version. It adds a toolbar to Windows that not only lets you save and drop in text based on a command word, but you can also open folders, launch websites, create new Outlook appointments, etc. by just typing in that word into the toolbar or wherever you happen to be (Word, Outlook, PPT, etc.). Sadly, it is Windows only (but apparently QuickSilver is the tool for Mac users).

  3. Avatar James Clarke says:

    Autotext is great but once you are into it, you want them in other programs as well. Also, organizing a larger number of snippets become uncomfortable in Word.

    I use a specialized program, called “Phrase Express” that can manage snippets in categories and allows to insert them in any Windows program.

    It is free for personal use and you can try it for business use:

    Another benefit is, that it allows you to share text snippets with others in the network. Our whole legal team is using a shared library of Autotexts.


  4. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    In addition to the other utilities mentioned, AutoHotkey has a large and devoted following. This post has prompted me to finally give it a try.

  5. Avatar James Clarke says:

    I tried AutoHotkey before but it doesn’t allow us to organize text snippets very well and Autotexts cannot be stored with text formatting in AutoHotkey. Which was a show stopper for us and that’s why we switched to Phrase Express.

  6. Avatar LoriM says:

    I’ve been wondering if there is a way to back up just my autotext file?
    I back up several times a week but I’m not sure if (or how) they are connected.
    And lately I seem to be losing some of my autotexts (maybe due to an ungraceful exit from Word?) Also I never see this “do you want to save building blocks” box when I exit. Maybe I’ll check my options for it.

    One thing I do is use simple numbers for phrases I can re-use quickly without thinking about it. If I know I’m just going to use this phrase today, I call it “1” in autotext. Then tomorrow when I have another common phrase, I can re-use “1” without checking to make sure it’s ok to copy over it. Guess I could do this with simple letters too but sometimes I do want to save those.

    • @LoriM – First, I’m guessing from the name of your Normal template (.dot rather than .dotx) that you’re using a pre-2007 version of Word, which is why you’re not seeing the prompt to save on exit. In these non-Ribbon versions, those kinds of building blocks are stored in the template file rather than in Building Blocks.dotx. I’m not in front of my Word 2003 PC, so I can’t verify why your AutoText entries sometimes don’t save, but according to this Microsoft Knowledge Base article, your method of copying the template should work as a backup.

      The use of “1” as your prompt for temporary entries is actually pretty creative – wish I’d thought of it!

  7. Avatar Brent says:

    It’s annoying to manage two lists (one in Word and one in Outlook) any way to combine the lists (or did I miss a point above)?

  8. Avatar Dan says:

    Where do these save to, so I can back them up to my dropbox and ensure that my autotext/quick parts are synced across multiple computers?

  9. Avatar Rocky says:

    Thanks for the helpful post. I should have set these up a long time ago!

  10. Avatar michae1803 says:

    I cannot find Quick Parts in my Word or Outlook for MAC:2011 program. Does this just apply to the Windows model?

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