Assign shortcut keys to your favorite Word features

By Tonya Wishart

Applies to
Microsoft Word 2002

Some things in life are uncontrollable; thank goodness how you work isn't one of them. You can make Word easier to use by assigning shortcut keys to features that don't already have them assigned. And you can print a list of shortcut keys to use as a reference.

We're working on potty training with my three-year-old son. This is a challenging situation that often feels out of my control. Thank goodness I have some control over the way I work, namely using Microsoft Word. One of the great things about Word is that it is so customizable. A lot of user feedback was used in the design of this word processor; however, not every feature works exactly the way I expect or want it to. But that's OK, because with a little time and knowledge of the right trick, I can make some of the design changes myself.

Take revisions, for example. I actually enjoy using the revision tools in Word to keep track of changes I make in a document and to review feedback others have given me. But wouldn't it be great if I could access these tools using my keyboard, since I'm using my keyboard to revise my document? By using the Customize Keyboard dialog box and knowing a few hints, I can assign a shortcut key, or a combination of keystrokes, to an action I want to perform in Word. I can even choose the key combinations I want to use.

Customizing the keyboard

To get to the Customize Keyboard dialog box in Word, on the Tools menu, click Customize, and then click the Keyboard button at the bottom of the dialog box.

To make your own keyboard shortcuts, all you need to know is:

  • The name of the command you want to make a shortcut for. A command is a choice on a menu. For example, on the Format menu, some commands are Font, Paragraph, and Bullets and Numbering.
  • A key combination that you can remember, and that isn't already being used in Word. (Some key combinations are already assigned as shortcuts—see the hints below).

Finding the name of the command you want can be tricky, but the command names usually follow the menu structure names. For example, the FormatFont command name in the Format category represents the Font command on the Format menu.

A few hints about keyboard shortcuts

Before you get started making life easier for yourself (like the luxury of not having to buy diapers anymore), here's what you should know about Word before you assign any keyboard shortcuts:

  • Some key combinations are already assigned     Many key combinations are already assigned in Word, such as CTRL+S to save a file (this is called the FileSave command). You can override an assigned shortcut key if you really want to. However, if you reassign a shortcut key, you will not be able to use the key combination for the original purpose unless you reset all your shortcut keys to their original settings (or "factory design").

Tip     If you don't want to reassign any of Word's preset shortcut keys, here's a little hint: the key combinations CTRL+[number keypad key] are usually unassigned.

  • Shortcut key combinations are stored in individual files     Before you assign a shortcut key combination, you may need to think about which documents you want to use the shortcut in. Shortcut keys can be added to a template (such as the default template Normal.dot) or to a document. Be sure to open the template or document you want to assign the shortcut key combination to first, or you may find that the keys do not work in the document you wanted to review.
  • You can assign shortcut keys to other things     In addition to a Word command, you can also assign a shortcut key to a macro, font, Autotext entry, style, or commonly used symbol.

Now that you know these things, let's try it using the Accept Change and Reject Change commands from the Tools menu as examples.

To assign a shortcut key

  1. Open the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  2. In the Category list, click Tools.
  3. In the Commands box, click ToolsRevisionMarksAccept.
  4. In the Press new shortcut key box, enter the keystroke you want, and then click Assign.
  5. Repeat this process for the ToolsRevisionMarksReject command.

Now, to use these shortcut keys, the cursor should be active in a revision that you want to accept or reject. You may want to assign a keyboard shortcut for the Next and Previous buttons as well (NextChangeOrComment and PreviousChangeorComment commands in the Tools category).

Remembering your new shortcut keys

With this newfound method of making your work easier in Word, you may be wondering how you will remember all these new shortcut keys you're assigning. To aid your memory, you can print a list of the shortcut keys you've assigned.

To print a list of shortcut keys

  1. Open a Word document that the shortcut keys work in.
  2. On the File menu, click Print.
  3. In the Print What list, click Key assignments.

Whew, that wasn't so hard. Now if only there was a shortcut key for potty training...


Tonya Wishart is a technical writer for the Office User Assistance team. She has enjoyed her "relationship" with Microsoft Word (and its relatives), which has been an adventure in learning, documenting, and supporting other users, for the past 11 years.