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A few of my unfavourite things in Microsoft Word (Word 2003 and Word 2007)

by David Farbey, September 2008

I have enjoyed a long relationship with Microsoft Word for Windows, and I would describe myself as a reluctant admirer. As a heavy-duty user of Word, I understand that I am not using it in the way it was designed to be used, so I have modified my expectations accordingly. As well as my expectations, I have also learned to modify some of Word’s default settings so that I can have a little more control over its behaviour. As I have recently started working with Word 2007, I am going to describe some my my favourite tweaks – the adjustments that I make to disable my unfavourite features in Word 2003, and what the equivalent adjustments are in Word 2007.

Keep track of formatting

Word 2003 automatically keeps track of all the changes you make to your formatting styles. It does this by creating a new style every time you change something. It also gives each new style a default name, such as “Heading 1 char”, “Heading 1 char char” or “Heading 1 char char char”. If you are serious about using styles, then you will either want to save your changes as modifications to the original style in which case the style name remains unchanged, or as new styles, with names that make sense to you.

It’s easy to disable this feature in Word 2003. Go to the Tools menu and select Options. Then select the Edit tab and clear the checkbox for Keep track of formatting.

In Word 2007, lots of useful options have been relegated (or should that be “promoted”?) to the Word Options section, and don’t appear on the expanded menu bar known as the Ribbon. To disable this feature, select the Office Button (that’s the circle with the Office symbol at the top left of your document) and select Word Options. Next, select the Advanced section, and then clear checkbox for Keep track of formatting.

Prompt to update styles

Even after you switch off Keep track of formatting Word is likely to ask you if you want to apply manual changes to formatting to the style concerned. To hide this reminder in Word 2003, go to the Tools menu and select Options. Then select the Edit tab and clear the checkbox for Prompt to update style. In Word 2007, select the Office Button and select Word Options. Next, select the Advanced section, and then clear checkbox for Prompt to update style.

Startup Task Pane

The Startup Task Pane takes up a good deal of screen real estate in Word 2003 and is supposed to help you select the kind of document you wanted to write, but many heavy-duty users of Word don’t find it necessary or useful. Accessing templates for new documents is easy enough by using the New command from the File menu. It’s easy to stop this pane from appearing when you start Word 2003. Go to the Tools menu and select Options. Then select the View tab and clear the checkbox for Startup Task Pane. This pane doesn’t exist in the new layout of Word 2007. The template dialog that’s displayed when you select new from the Office Button menu has a new layout, conforming with the Office 2007 design.

Smart Tags

I have never understood the need for smart tags in Word documents. They are supposed to help you by accessing other applications directly from your Word document. However, when I type a person’s name, for example, I don’t need a hint from Microsoft Office to add that person’s name to my Contacts. If you don’t want that either, go to the Tools menu and select Options, and then select the View tab and clear the checkbox for Smart Tags. To disable Smart Tags in Word 2007, select the Office Button and select Word Options. Next, select the Advanced section and clear the checkbox for Smart Tags.

Drawing Canvas

When I insert drawing objects or AutoShapes in Word 2003 documents I usually want them to be placed inline alongside exisiting text or in a new paragraph of their own. I don’t want to skip into a picture editing sub-application that Microsoft Word calls the Drawing Canvas.

To stop the Drawing Canvas appearing each time you select an AutoShape in Word 2003 go to the Tools menu and select Options, and then select the General tab and clear the checkbox for Automatically create drawing canvas. In Word 2007, select the Office Button and select Word Options. Next, select the Advanced section and clear the checkbox for Automatically create drawing canvas when inserting AutoShapes.

Fast saves

Paradoxically, using fast saves make Word 2003 slow down and contributes to “file bloat”. Most Word experts agree that it is something to avoid. Apparently Microsoft agree as well, as this option doesn’t exist in Word 2007.

To disable fast saves in Word 2003, go to the Tools menu and select Options, and then select the Save tab and clear the checkbox for Allow fast saves.

More information

If you want to find out more information about how to get the most out of Microsoft Office products in your business, contact David Farbey by email at david@farbey.co.uk or by phone on 0844 561 0742.

Copyright ©David Farbey 2008. All rights reserved. Links to this article, and properly acknowledged quotations from this article which include a link, are welcomed.
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