Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Potential Shortcut Key Problems.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 14, 2015)
Many users, especially when they are first entering text (as opposed to subsequent editing and formatting), prefer to accomplish as many tasks as possible from the keyboard. Word provides a generous supply of built-in keyboard shortcuts (these are described in the on-line Help and in various issues of WordTips) and also allows users to create their own keyboard shortcuts.
Shortcut keys can be assigned to commands, macros, fonts, building blocks, styles, and some symbols. The keys can be any combination of Alt, Ctrl, Shift, and any character that can be entered from the keyboard, including a space. You can even duplicate the way Word uses prefix keys for some international characters.
Users are often advised to use Alt as part of a shortcut key because it is less used by Word's built-in shortcuts. This certainly applies to Alt+Ctrl and Alt+Shift combinations. But users should be very wary of using Alt alone. The reason is that ribbon tabs and commands are accessed from the keyboard with the Alt key. For example, Alt+N displays the Insert tab of the ribbon. If you assign Alt+N as a shortcut key, Word does not warn you that Alt+N is reserved for the ribbon tab. In fact, the dialog box describes Alt+N as 'unassigned.' This is true of all other Alt commands used by Word, as well.
Some people regard this shortcoming as a bug in Word, but it appears to have been done by design. (Why? Who knows!) Users should be aware of the potential problem, and be alert to possible conflicts when creating their own keyboard shortcuts.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8476) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Potential Shortcut Key Problems.
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Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.