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I’ve just got just two points to make in this section:

  • You should be using Word styles.
  • Smart tags are sitting there in your way for a reason. Use them.

Built-in Word Styles

Using the built-in Word styles not only automates your formatting chores, but also allows you to use Word features that otherwise aren’t available.

Here’s the usual method for applying styles to text:

  1. Open the Styles and Formatting pane by clicking Format > Styles and Formatting.
  2. Select your target text.
  3. In the Styles and Formatting pane, click the style you want to apply (for example, Heading 1 or Body Text).

Here are a few speed-ups:

  • By default, styles are applied to whole paragraphs in Word. So don’t waste time selecting text, just position the cursor in the right paragraph.
  • Use these keyboard shortcuts to apply heading styles:
    • Heading 1: Ctrl+Alt+1
    • Heading 2: Ctrl+Alt+2
    • Heading 3: Ctrl+Alt+3

Just using the three basic heading styles allows you to implement features of Word that otherwise won’t do you any good at all. Here are a few:

  • Build (or rebuild) a table of contents in seconds.
  • Restructure documents by using Outline mode. Display only the headings; then drag a heading to a new location. The text under that heading will move along with the heading.
  • Navigate using the Document Map.

AutoCorrect Smart Tags

Smart tags are little buttons that appear when you format or paste text. They contain drop-down menus that make your life easier—if you use them.

Consider pasted text—specifically, text copied from one document and pasted into another, a place where Word has long shown a fine disregard for the Do What I Mean (DWIM) principle. The default has always been to let pasted text retain the formatting of the source document so that, with suitable grumbling, this text had to be reformatted to match the destination doc.

Word 2002/2003, however, inserts a Paste Options smart tag right below the pasted text (see Figure 6). Click that smart tag and you get a drop-down menu with formatting options. Select Match Destination Formatting to make the just-pasted text match the formatting of its new home.

Figure 6

Figure 6 A smart tag hides a drop-down menu.

If for some reason the text doesn’t pop into shape like it should, there’s also an Apply Style or Formatting option in the drop-down menu to let you fix the problem. (If the smart tag doesn’t show up at all, click Tools > AutoCorrect Options and select the Show AutoCorrect Options Buttons check box.)

Smart tags are also useful in numbered lists, which have long been inclined to behave strangely in Word, frequently deciding to continue numbering from a previous procedure or to restart in the middle of a current one. As far as I can tell, the 2003 version is as quirky in that regard as its forebears, but the smart tags help curb this errant behavior. The smart tag appears whenever you click the Numbering button on the Formatting toolbar, and the drop-down menu gives you the choice of continuing or restarting numbering.

If you use these options frequently, they probably seem obvious to you. Yet I use Word all the time, and a couple of these features were news to me. I recently mentioned the smart tags to a colleague, a longtime Word user who’d been having a spot of trouble with the formatting of text pasted in from a second doc. "Did you know," said I, "that the little button that appears when you paste something in hides a drop-down menu that allows you select formatting—old or new?"

"Get outta here," he said, giving it a try.

"It’s true," I assured him.

"Get outta here," he said, clicking the menu.

Realizing that nobody likes a know-it-all, I took his advice and tiptoed away.

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