Such Happiness In Thought Happens

January 21, 2008

Simple Microsoft Word changes to make life easier

Filed under: MS Office, Tips & Tricks — Tags: , , — Duane @ 1:48 pm

There are a number of things that can tick people off when they work in Microsoft Word – trying to draw a line and you get this huge square appearing, opening a Word document from Outlook and it comes up as a side by side page, etc, etc. I would like to show you how you can easily change these options once and make life in Word so much easier.

* Reading Layout View
If you open Word documents from Outlook, you may or may not have seen that the document opens not like a normal Word document. To change this setting is very simple –

  1. Go to the Tools menu and then Options.
  2. Click on General.
  3. Untick the tickbox option of “Allow starting in Reading Layout”.
  4. Press OK.


* Drawing Canvas
Another problem that you may have had is when you go to draw a line, circle, etc and this huge box suddenly appears. You press the Delete button and no need to worry about it. What comes up is a thing called the Drawing Canvas. You draw on it what you want, and once finished it takes up just the space that it needs.
However it usually annoys most people who don’t understand what it is about. So let’s get rid of it, so it doesn’t come up anymore.

  1. Go to the Tools menu and then Options.
  2. Click on General.
  3. Untick the tick box “Automatically create drawing canvas when inserting AutoShapes”


* Recently Used File List
If you click on the File menu on any Microsoft program, at the bottom of the menu list it details the last four documents that you have opened. This can be changed to a maximum of nine in Microsoft Office 97 – 2003 (Microsoft 2007 starts at nine and keeps going up). So how do we change this?

  1. Go to the Tools menu and then Options.
  2. Click on General.
  3. In the middle change “Recently used file list:” to 9 entries.


* Startup Task Pane
In Word 2003 (and most Microsoft Office 2003 programs) when you open the program (not an actual file, just the program) your initial screen includes something on the right-hand side called Task Pane. A number of people I know just call it a Pain – they don’t see any value in it when it first opens and they take a moment to click on the x to close it. Guess What? You can get rid of it so that it never shows!

  1. Go to Tools menu and then Options.
  2. Make sure you stay on the View menu.
  3. Untick the tickbox “Startup Task Pane” from the Show area.


* Normal Style
I don’t know about you but I really don’t like the font Times New Roman. And seeing that the Normal Style starts with Times New Roman 12 point, I do not bother with changing the font each time. What I do instead is modify the Normal Style with what I want and then have it set to the default. Here’s how:

  1. Click on the AA symbol at the start of the Formatting toolbar (or go to the Format menu and then Styles).
  2. Hover over the Normal Style until you see a dropdown arrow on the right.
  3. Click on the dropdown arrow and choose Modify.
  4. Make the formatting changes you wish. Remember you can click on the Format button to do all formatting changes, but basic changes can be found in the dialog box you are currently in.
  5. Tick the tickbox “Add to template”.
  6. Press OK.

word-styles.jpg    styles-pane.jpg   modify-style.jpg   add-to-template.jpg

This will then change the Normal style for the current file and all future documents as well.

So there are a few Word tips that will hopefully make life a bit easier in future when you need to work with Microsoft Word. If you have any suggestions on other possible “Word annoyances” that you would like help with, leave a comment!


  1. How do you see the embedded format codes in a Word document? Sometimes I think it would be simpler if I could see the code for tab (as an example) and then I could just go in and delete it. Thanks.

    Comment by Deb — February 13, 2008 @ 12:55 am

  2. Hi Deb,
    There is an icon called Show/Hide – it looks like a capital P that is back to front. It should be found on the Standard toolbar towards the end.
    When this is turned on, all keyboard strokes are visible, for example the tab looks like an arrow, a paragraph mark like the Show/Hide icon, a space is a dot, etc.

    Comment by Duane — February 13, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  3. I’m one of the few who actually *wants* the Styles and Formatting Task Pane to appear every time I open a document (whether new or not). Is there any way for this to happen automatically?

    Comment by Nina — June 28, 2008 @ 6:49 am

  4. Hello,
    Out of the blue the Show/Hide Icon started appeared on my menu and it is always on ‘show’ in both Word & Outlook (use Word as my email editor). When I turn it off my signature disappears, if I am replying to a message in outlook the original message disappears also! I want it turned off permanently! Help please.

    Comment by Sally Kluin — July 24, 2008 @ 1:11 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: