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WilsonMicrosoft Word is an essential tool in any lawyer’s toolbox. But, many of us don’t get the most out of this word processor. This article offers three things to change the next time you open Word to make it work better for you.

Set up your key defaults (fonts and line spacing)

If you have Word 2010, the default font is Calibri (Body), size 11. This tip shows you how to change the default font so that all documents you create from now on have your preferred starting font.

First, some background information. Word stores all its file information in a file called “Normal.dot” or “Normal.dotm” for more recent versions. This is the default file that loads when you open a blank Word document. To tell Word to load something different, you need to change the default font style.

Normally, you would click on the dropdown arrow next to the font name to change the font. Instead, press the Control and D keys at the same time (Ctrl D). This opens the font option box where you can set up your default font options.

In the font option box, select your favorite font, set the font style to regular (not bold or italics), and set the default size (typically 12). Finally, click Set as Default in the lower left-hand side of the font option box.

You will be prompted to choose if you want the changes to apply to the open document or “all documents based on the Normal template.” Choose the “all documents” option since you want your new default font to appear each time you start Word. This will not change anything on your existing documents, just new ones created after you make these changes.

Next, you will want to change the default line spacing. Press “Alt O P” to open the paragraph option box. Set the Spacing to 0 (both before and after) and the Line Spacing to single. Find the Set as Default box and click. Choose the same option as you did above to change the font to apply the changes to all newly created documents.

By the way, this tip will work with any version of Word.

Define your style

Styles are one of the most important, and most underused, options in Word. Most of us format each sentence or paragraph as we go. For example, we type in a heading to an argument section in a brief, and then choose the font size, bold, all caps, etc. Needless to say, this can be a time consuming process to remember what formatting options you applied three pages earlier. Instead, define your styles and let Word do the work for you.

Open Word and look for the “Styles” section of the toolbar. You should see a box that contains the words “Normal,” “No Spacing,” or “Heading 1.” Next, type the word “Argument” in the body of your document. Click on “Heading 1” in the Styles box and watch how the Style automatically changes the word Argument to match the pre-set style Heading 1.

Since you want to make Word work smarter, right click on Heading 1 and choose Modify. The Modify Styles options box appears. There are many options you can change, including adding automatic numbering (great for arguments and sub-arguments). Make a change or two and see what happens when you click OK. Repeat until you have the format the way you like. You can choose to have your changes apply only to the document you are working on or to “New documents based on this template” for future documents.

Teach Word to write for you with AutoText

AutoText in Word is like your smart phone autocorrecting for you. Word has many AutoText entries by default. But, you will want to create your own.

To create your first AutoText entry, type your firm or company name. Select the name with your cursor. Then, on Word’s toolbar, click Insert, Quick Parts, Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery. Write the name of the entry (i.e., what you will type when you want the full phrase to appear) and select any other options.

To use the AutoText entry, start typing the name of the entry you created and Word does the rest, auto-completing the full text of your entry. Alternatively, you can type the short name and press the F3 key to have the full entry appear.

Need more AutoText ideas? Try creating signature lines for pleadings/letters, standard opening paragraphs for pleadings and discovery, or standard response emails. Basically anything that you would normally copy and paste you can add to your AutoText library and have Word type for you with just a few keystrokes.

Word is a powerful tool. Make it work harder for you.•

Seth Wilson is a partner at Hume Smith Geddes Green & Simmons LLP in Indianapolis. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm, and frequently speaks and advises on legal technology issues. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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