Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. 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: Switching between a Dialog Box and the Document.

Switching between a Dialog Box and the Document

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 17, 2021)

Albert creates envelopes often, which means changing information in a dialog box. He wonders if there is a simple way to switch back to the document then back to the dialog box. He knows he can use the mouse to click from the dialog box to the document, but he prefers to use the keyboard. What Albert wants to do is toggle between them to make it easy to copy and paste from the document to the dialog box.

Actually, we checked, and you can't switch between the Envelopes dialog box and the document; Word won't let you—even if you click with the mouse. The reason takes a bit of explaining.

From a programming perspective, there are two states that a dialog box can use—modal and modeless. The difference between the two states is how Windows treats the focus of the dialog box within the application of which the dialog box is part. If the dialog box is modal, then it always has focus and you cannot change focus to something else, such as the document in Word. If the dialog box is modeless, then the user can change focus from the dialog box, switching between it and other elements of the application, like the document.

Unfortunately, the Envelopes dialog box is modal; it always retains focus until you close it in some manner. Other dialog boxes in Word may be similarly modal or they may be modeless; the choice is up to the programmers entirely and mere users cannot change whether the dialog box is modal or modeless. If the dialog box happens to be modeless then you can use the Alt+Tab and Shift+Alt+Tab shortcuts to switch focus away from the dialog box.

That being said, you can fill in quite a bit of the information in the Envelopes dialog box by simply selecting an address before displaying the dialog box. When you do so, Word assumes that the selected address should be placed in the Delivery Address portion of the dialog box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10336) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Switching between a Dialog Box and the Document.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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