Finney: Top 5 Word tips every legal professional should know

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deanna finney Finney

Regardless of practice area, Microsoft Word is an application that most of us spend significant time utilizing. Unfortunately, it is often amidst looming deadlines, preventing us from having time to truly explore features that could ultimately make us more efficient. The following tips are effective for Word 2007, 2010 and 2013.

Changing defaults

With the onset of the ribbon bar also came new default settings which continue to drive many legal professionals crazy. These changes impact the margins, fonts and spacing which often require manual changes to every document. Rather than facing this daily battle, users can simply change their default settings.

The ribbon bar is broken into sections. For example, the Home tab has a Font section and just to the right of it a Paragraph section where line and paragraph spacing can be altered. There is a small icon in the bottom right corner of each section that opens a new window allowing setting changes for that specific section along with a Set As Default button.

Typically, changing the defaults will only impact newly created documents, not existing documents. However, when saving default font or paragraph settings, a prompt will appear providing an option for “this document only” which changes the defaults for the currently opened, active document. The advantage of this option over manually changing font and paragraph settings is that it will eliminate the old font or paragraph settings from creeping back in with future edits. Given that many legal professionals open old documents and use the Save As command to serve as somewhat of a template, this is a great option to ensure correct defaults are set.

Quick Access Toolbar

Finding buttons can sometimes feel like a game of “Let’s Make a Deal,” flipping between tabs in hopes of finding the desired command. Rather than continuously searching for frequently used commands, they can be placed on an ever-present toolbar called the Quick Access Toolbar. This toolbar either can be located above or below the main ribbon bar by clicking the arrow at the end and selecting the corresponding option.

The simplest method is to right-click on the desired command and select “Add To Quick Access Toolbar.” An alternate method is to click the arrow at the end of the toolbar and select more commands. From the window that appears, select the desired command(s) from the left side and click “Add.” By default, only popular commands are displayed, but other options are available from the dropdown including all commands, which provides a complete alphabetical list of every command in Word.

Clear All Formatting

Think of the Clear All Formatting button as a magic wand to clear out funky codes in a document. Whether it be alignment, font style or any other formatting issue, a single click of this will remove all formatting codes from the selected text resetting it to the default font size, font type and alignment. The Clear All Formatting button is located in the Font section of the Home tab and has an A with an eraser.

Format Painter

Whether revising a closing document or finalizing a brief, many document types require consistent formatting throughout. Just as Copy and Paste copies content from one location to another, Format Painter copies formatting from one location to another making reformatting a document a quick and easy task.

Start by selecting the data that is formatted properly, then click the Format Painter button from the Home tab. Once the Format Painter has been selected, drag the mouse over the text to be updated with new formatting. Remember that a single click of the Format Painter button will allow reformatting to one location, while double-clicking will allow reformatting to multiple locations.


Oftentimes new documents are created by performing a “Save As” from an existing similar document. However, locating similar documents can be time-consuming and incorporating old codes can increase the chance of corruption in new documents. QuickParts resolve these issues by allowing “clean” data to quickly be inserted into any document while retaining all formatting, making them a great option to insert standardized text, graphics, signatures and any other reusable objects.

To create a QuickPart, begin by highlighting the desired data to be reused, click “Insert,” then “QuickParts,” and choose “Save Selection to the QuickPart Gallery.” Provide a meaningful but concise name. The most important step to remember is to click “Save” when prompted to save changes for the building blocks template, otherwise they will not be available in future sessions.

By typing the name of the QuickPart and pressing F3 on the keyboard, the resulting QuickPart will replace the typed text. Alternately, clicking the QuickParts dropdown will display a list of available QuickParts which can be clicked and inserted.•

Deanna Finney ([email protected]) is a co-owner of the Indianapolis based legal technology company, Modern Information Solutions LLC. Areas of service include traditional IT services, software training and litigation support including trial presentation services. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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