Work Faster with Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

By creating your own keyboard shortcuts you can quickly shift between different editing modes—or activate any other Word features that would make your work easier and faster.

When I’m editing, I live in Track Changes mode. But all that markup gets confusing sometimes, even for me. My previous blog explained how I use the Display for Review drop-down to switch back and forth between markup, Final view, and Original view. I do this a lot, to see the effect of my changes and make sure I havenʼt introduced an error or changed the authorʼs intent. So I’ve assigned custom keystrokes to help me work faster. You can too!

This blog will walk you through the process of finding the right command and setting up your own keyboard shortcut for it. Once you get comfortable with this, you can create custom keystrokes for all kinds of functions—no macros, no permission from IT, no muss, no fuss. Itʼs completely safe, and quite easy. You’ll be amazed how much more intuitive Word is when you can dictate your own shortcuts. Itʼs particularly helpful when youʼre reviewing an edited manuscript, because you can flip between your original text and the editorʼs changes to see which you like better.

If youʼre looking for a quick summary, hereʼs a very brief step-by-step:

  • Locate the command you want to use. This how-to uses DisplayFinalDoc, DisplayOriginalDoc, and ShowChangesAndComments.
  • Open the Customize Keyboard dialog. On PC, use File > Options > Customize Ribbon and click the [Customize…] button. On Mac, use Tools > Customize Keyboard.
  • Select the command in the Commands list (you may need to set Categories to “All Commands” to find it).
  • Click in the “Press new keyboard shortcut:” box and, predictably, press a new keyboard shortcut. Confirm that you wonʼt override a shortcut you care about, then click the [Assign] button.

If thatʼs enough for you, youʼre set! For chatty hand-holding, read on. And if you prefer a macro-based approach, check out this blog by Mike Pope (who is an excellent source for Word tutorials).

Display for Review (A Review)

Remember the “Display for Review” drop-down in the Review ribbon? It’s the circled widget in figure 1. When you change the selection in this drop-down box, you change what’s displayed in your document edits: Final or No Markup (all edits accepted), Original (all edits rejected), and Show Markup or All Markup (does what it says on the tin).

The Display for Review drop-down set to "Final."
Fig. 1—The Display for Review drop-down box, in the Review tab of Word 2010.

Even though there are four different commands in this drop-down, Word considers them three different functions: choosing the Final or Original document as a baseline, and showing or hiding changes and comments. (It’s probably much more complex than that, but this is precise enough for our needs.) This means that Word doesn’t give you a native keystroke or command for switching from Final to Original. But with custom keystrokes, we can create the same effect.

How to Find the Command Name

First we have to find the right command. Sometimes you can do this by hovering over the toolbar icon in the Customize Quick Access Toolbar dialog—for example, if you hover over the Bold button in that dialog, youʼll see that the command is called (appropriately enough) “Bold”. But the functions we want donʼt have individual buttons, so we have to do a little detective work.

I like using the Fixed Command lists on the Microsoft standards websites, but you will also find lists in several common reference books, or you can generate your own list directly from Word. With these lists, and a little bit of informed guesswork, you can find what you need.

Since we’re using the Display for Review function, we can start there. A text search on “Display” in the Microsoft command list leads us to the DisplayFinalDoc and DisplayOriginalDoc commands, which should do what we want. But how do we show and hide the changes? There are too many hits on “Changes,” but we know that hiding markup hides comments too. Searching on “Comments” brings up only five hits, and one is ShowChangesAndComments. Perfect. (Iʼm obviously cheating a bit here, because I know what this command is; if you arenʼt sure about a command, search for it online and see if it does what you want. Several power user websites and books provide reference lists. You should be able to find a reliable explanation just by scanning search results—probably without even clicking a link.)

The table below shows the views in different versions of Word, the associated commands, and the keystrokes I decided to assign.

Table 1—Word Display for Review settings and associated commands
Word 2010Word 2011 and LaterCommandMy Keystroke
Final: Show MarkupAll MarkupShowChangesAndCommentsAlt+8
Original: Show MarkupAll MarkupShowChangesAndCommentsAlt+8
FinalNo MarkupDisplayFinalDocCtrl+Alt+9
OriginalOriginalDisplayOriginalDocAlt+9

Later versions of Word also offer a “Simple Markup” option, which we’ll ignore for this exercise. Because the ShowChangesAndComments command toggles markup on and off, we only need one keystroke. You can choose any keystroke you like; there’s nothing magical about my choices here. That said, start with Alt+ combinations; they’re least likely to be in use already.

Assigning a Custom Keystroke

To create a custom keystroke on a PC, go to File > Options > Customize Ribbon. At the bottom of this box, you’ll see a [Customize…] button for Keyboard shortcuts. Click that button. If you’re on Mac, just go to Tools > Customize Keyboard. Much simpler!

Word 2010's Customize Ribbon dialog.
Fig. 2—Getting to the Customize Keyboard dialog on a PC.

In either case, you’ll see a dialog box like the one in figure 3. It may look a little different depending on your version of Word, but the core functions should all be recognizable.

The Customize Keyboard dialog in Word, with key elements indicated using pink numbers and arrows.
Fig. 3—To assign a custom keystroke, 1) choose the command category, 2) select the command, 3) click in the shortcut key box and press your custom keystroke, 4) click [Assign].

At the top of this box you can filter commands using the Categories list (1). But many of the most interesting commands, including the ones we’re using, aren’t in the filtered lists. So if you don’t see what you want, just scroll down until you see “All Commands” and click that. The Commands list (2) will change to show you all available commands.

You can’t search the Commands list on a PC, but you can narrow it down by typing the first letter of the command you want. So to find ShowChangesAndComments, click in this box and press S. Then scroll down until you see the command you want and click once to select it. (Mac users get a proper search box; once again you get the cool toys.) We researched our commands online so we know what they do, but the Description section in this box also reminds you that ShowChangesAndComments will “Show or hide markup balloons”. This is your double-check, so you can be sure you have selected the right command. (It also reminds you that this is a toggle command—show or hide.)

You will find a box labeled “Press new shortcut key:” (3) below the Commands list. Click in this box. Press the keystroke you want to use—I used Alt+8. Look for a nearby box labeled “Current keys:”—you should see a line of text near it that says “Currently assigned to: [unassigned]”. If so, you’re golden.

Sometimes you may find that the keystroke is already assigned, though. For example, if you try to apply the shortcut Ctrl+S Word informs you that this keystroke is “Currently assigned to: FileSave”. If you donʼt want to lose the existing keystroke assignment, backspace and try again until you find a keystroke you like that isn’t in use.

Once you’ve got the right keystroke, click the [Assign] button (4) at the bottom of the box. Now you can find more commands and assign more shortcuts, or click [Close] and back out of everything if you’re done.

Using Your Custom Keystrokes

With your spiffy new shortcuts, you can now easily toggle between different editing views without using your mouse. Assuming you start with Final: Show Markup selected, click your keystroke for ShowChangesAndComments (Alt+8 in my case) to turnoff markup and see your manuscript as if all remaining tracked changes were accepted. Click the keystroke for DisplayOriginalDoc (Alt+9) and you’ll see the manuscript as if all changes are rejected, and DisplayFinalDoc (Ctrl+Alt+9) will jump straight to the No Markup / Final view again, without showing you any messy markup.

An animated gif demonstrating custom keystrokes in action.
Fig. 4—Custom keystrokes help you switch seamlessly between different document views.

You’ve now got a simple way to toggle back and forth to see what would happen if you rejected or accepted a tracked change. Use your ShowChangesAndComments keystroke to turn the markup back on again.

Now that you know how to set up custom keystrokes and how to find the commands you need, you can create shortcuts for almost anything you want Word to do. If you find yourself using a toolbar button or ribbon command frequently, try assigning a custom shortcut to save time. I find this makes me vastly more productive. There’s nothing like bending Word to your will so you can work at your own pace, using keystrokes that are intuitive for you. You can even assign keystrokes that are easier for you to reach to deal with mobility issues or combat repetitive stress.

My next blog will discuss ways to work with comments more efficiently, along with a few tips for finding other commands you may want to create shortcut keys for.

Posted by DeAnna Burghart

Leave a Reply