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Start Page: Automate Microsoft Word documents with built-in tools

December 13, 2017

WilsonIn the last article in this series, we discussed automating text entry for creating discovery with sequence fields. This article will expand on this process and others using Quick Parts/Auto Text to help you speed up document drafting.

Each new version of Microsoft Word seems to call this feature something different, but the concept is the same: type a portion of text, long or short, and ask Microsoft Word to “memorize” that text to be reused whenever you type a designated shortcut.

As an example, type your firm name, select that text, click “Insert,” “Quick Parts,” “Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery”. Change the name and add a description (to help you remember later) and click OK. The name is now stored in your Quick Parts for use later. To use the created Quick Part, click “Insert” and go to the Text area. Find “Quick Parts” and select the drop-down arrow. You will see a list of your previously defined Quick Parts. Click on your firm name and Word inserts it into your document. Note, this menu does not contain any AutoText entries you may have created (we’ll cover those in a minute).

Now, create another Quick Part for your name, but this time take a minute to look through the options in the create Quick Part menu. The name contains your selected text (or a part of it for longer selections). You can change the name to something you will remember and are not likely to type accidentally. A signature block could be named “sigblock” for example. Entries are sorted alphabetically, so use that to your advantage by following a consistent naming structure.

The Gallery allows you to organize your Quick Parts for use in the various sections of Microsoft Word. Here, you can choose between Quick Parts and AutoText, for example. You can further organize the Quick Parts by Category, which can be helpful as your collection grows. The Description can be used to remind yourself why you created the Quick Part. Answer the question “what problem does this Quick Part solve” as part of the description. This description shows up in the Building Blocks Organizer.

The Building Blocks Organizer menu shows you all the building blocks available for use in your document. Click “Insert” | “Quick Parts” | “Building Blocks Organizer”. A menu appears that allows you to sort and see the built in and custom “blocks” you have added to Microsoft Word. You can also edit, insert, or delete the entries from this screen. As you can see, this list is long and having good descriptions can help you find the appropriate entry quickly.

So, what’s the difference between AutoText and Quick Parts? Nothing, really. But, these tools do highlight a distinction. There are some sections of the document where a “part” or block of text is needed (e.g., signature line). There are some sections of a document where a word or phrase is needed. As you write, create AutoText entries for words or phrases that will speed up the drafting process without creating a distraction. Use Quick Parts for those “blocks” of text needed to finish the document. The key is using these tools in a way that keeps you focused on creating the content, not recreating the standard parts of a legal document.

Here are some examples of Quick Parts to create: signature lines; Certificate of Service language (consider a Date field); standard court order language; attorney appearance forms; discovery enclosure letters; discovery overdue letters; and/or request for deposition/mediation dates. Anything that you create on a routine basis can be “automated.”

Note, if your Quick Part contains a field, like the discovery sequence fields discussed in the prior article, return the fields to text before sending the document out of the office. Why? Because if a document contains a date field that updates automatically, you may open a document that was sent a year ago, wanting to know when the document was sent. The field shows today’s date. Select and update the field(s). Then, select them again and press “Control Shift F9”. Microsoft Word will change the fields back into text. Now, the document is ready to be submitted.

If you want to share a Quick Part, create a document and expand the Quick Parts and add suggested abbreviations. Share that document and have each person in your firm create those Quick Parts in their copy of Microsoft Word. Review your Quick Parts when you review your forms and update as appropriate.

I hope that combining the various tips that have been suggested throughout this series on Microsoft Word will add hours back to your life in the coming year. With all this extra time, visit https://typo-graphyforlawyers.com and buy the book. It will change how you look at putting words on screen or paper and make you a better lawyer.•

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Seth R. Wilson is an attorney with Adler Tesnar & Whalin in Noblesville. In addition to practicing law, he helps manage the day-to-day technology operations of the firm. Seth writes about legal technology at sethrwilson.com and is a frequent speaker on the subject. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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