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Seven Hidden Options that Make Word Fly

Word 2003 has plenty of features hidden in plain sight. Laurie Rowell ferrets out seven that can make your work go faster.
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Microsoft Word gets reborn bigger and more powerful with every version as new commands and options are added to the gazillions already there. Yet whenever I jump into a new version, I use the procedures I learned from the old one. The result is that I sometimes miss alternative approaches that could really speed up my work—particularly where the basics are concerned. In fact, it’s easy to overlook things that have been right there through several versions, because we get in the habit of just using whatever works—even if it isn’t the best or fastest tool available.

Tasks such as navigating, formatting, and changing text in Word are like household or yard chores, the kind of thing to be done quickly so you can get on to more creative and profitable business. What follows are a handful of options and features that you probably won’t notice when you first jump into Word 2003. In fact, a few of them are from earlier versions and haven’t been obvious for a very long time.


I’ve spent whole days in Word and not written a thing: editing, popping in graphics, formatting, and just moving around from one spot to another to check information. No matter what you’re doing in Word, however, you need to get quickly to the right spot to do it, and repeating the same process you’ve always used to get there might be costing you time. Consider these options.

Document Map

Here’s a feature that was introduced with Word 2002, but if you haven’t looked for it you might never have found it. It’s great for long documents, where it can really kick navigation into high speed.

To display the Document Map, click Document Map in the View menu. Word will pop a rudimentary table-of-contents-style navigation gizmo into a left pane, as shown in Figure 1. If you click any of the headings shown in this marvelous map, Word will bounce you to that location instantly.

Figure 1

Figure 1 Click headings on the Document Map to navigate.

The Document Map presents headings in a collapsible hierarchy. Plus (+) and minus (-) indicators to the left of some headings allow you to collapse or expand to see the subheadings beneath them. To change the number of levels on display, right-click anywhere on the map and select the desired level depth (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2 Right-click anywhere on the Document Map to make the menu appear.

The drawback is that the map only works reliably on documents using the built-in Word formatting styles: Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, and so on.

To close the Document Map, do any of the following:

  • Click View > Document Map.
  • Drag the right edge of the pane (the Resize bar) all the way to the left of the screen.
  • Right-click to display the menu and click Document Map.


That ruler has been sitting there at the top of your online page for years. Did you know you could launch dialog boxes by double-clicking it? First, make sure that the ruler is turned on by choosing View > Ruler. Then try the following tricks:

  • Double-click the margin area to open the Page Setup dialog box.
  • Double-click the indent marker (upper or lower) to open the Paragraph dialog box.
  • Double-click any tab stop to open the Tabs dialog box.

Status Bar

Here’s another bundle of easy double-click options. The status bar is the last strip of Word real estate before the bottom edge of the Word window drops into nothingness. It’s the gray bar with the page number shown in Figure 3. If this bar isn’t showing on your display, you’ll need to trigger the toggle to make it appear. (Choose Tools > Options, click the View tab in the Options dialog box, select the Status Bar option, and click OK.)

Figure 3

Figure 3 The status bar has six location designators (left) and five other toggles (right).

This useful bar lets you know where you are in your text at all times, by displaying the page, line, and column designations of your current cursor location. If you double-click any of these position indicators, Word presumes that you don’t like where you are in the text and want to go somewhere else. It opens the Go To box so you can do that.

The other items on the status bar are handy toggles. Double-click to turn them on or off. The first four options remain dimmed unless activated:

  • REC: Double-click to begin recording a macro.
  • TRK: Double-click to turn on tracking mode (revision marks).
  • EXT: Ignore this option unless you have Japanese enabled in your language settings. (If you do have Japanese enabled, this toggle will display or remove the Extended Formatting toolbar for Japanese text.)
  • OVR: Double-click to turn on Overtype mode.
  • Book icon: Double-click to run the spelling and grammar checker.


Did you know that there’s a button on the scrollbar that presents a hidden menu? Most people use the scrollbar to navigate because not only does the scroll box let you scroll pages up or down in the text, but it displays page number and header info to help you keep track of where you are as you merrily troll along. But between the double up arrow (Previous) and the double down arrow (Next) at the bottom of the scrollbar is a Select Browse Object button that presents another series of scroll options.

Click this button and up pops that hidden menu with all its options for navigation through the doc. Let your cursor hover over any choice in the pop-up to see the explanation of its purpose (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4 The Select Browse Object button on the scrollbar hides this Browse Object menu.

If you need to change a column header in 30 scattered tables or resize 50 graphics nestled at random spots in a long text, you’d click the appropriate button on this menu, and then use the double arrows to skip through the document from table to table or graphic to graphic.

Go To Box

Let’s finish with navigation by looking at the classic jump tool, the Go To box (see Figure 5), in my opinion still the best bet for dealing with fixes where you have to skip around among pages.

Here are the ways you can open it:

  • Double-click the Page number icon in the status bar.
  • Press Ctrl+G.
  • Press F5.
  • Click Edit > Go To.
Figure 5

Figure 5 The Go To options appear in the same box with the Find and Replace options.

In the Go to What list, make sure that Page is selected, then type a page number in the field, and press Enter (or click the Go To button). Immediately you’re at the specified page.

There are plenty of options here for skipping around.

My personal favorite is the Go to Comment feature that lets you specify whose comments you want to address first. Dealing with remarks from one reviewer at a time lets you accept all those from your boss before going back to consider more carefully the alarmed and alarming annotations from accounting about how much your brilliant proposal is going to cost.

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