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: Selective Undo.

Selective Undo

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 12, 2015)

It's happened to all of us—you are editing your document, and you delete an object. You then type a bit more, make a few more changes, and then realize that you should not have deleted the object. You take a look at the undo list in Word (by clicking on the down arrow next to the Undo tool above the ribbon), and you see that the delete action you want to undo is buried down five or six layers in the Undo list. If you choose that delete action, then all the changes since that time are also undone. Wouldn't it be great if you could be selective about the "undos" that you want to choose? Wouldn't it be great if you could choose to undo just the delete action and leave everything else alone?

It would be great, but you can't do it in Word. You cannot select a single item from the undo list without also undoing everything since that point. Why is this? Quite simply it is because being selective in undoing actions can cause instability in your document. It is much easier to simply "roll back" the document state to when a particular edit was made than it is to pick and choose which edits to undo.

Let me provide an example. Let's say that you have a text box that includes some text. You delete some text in the middle of the text box, then you type some more text in the box. You then type some text in the regular document, outside the text box. Finally, you decide to simply delete the text box. In this process, at least four actions have been recorded in the undo list: the first text deletion, the typing in the text box, the typing outside the text box, and the deletion of the text box.

If you try to undo just the first item on the undo list (the first text deletion), how should Word behave? The context in which the text existed—the text box—is no longer in the document. The text cannot be restored to a place that no longer exists. Word, to get around the problem, simply "rolls back" the document to just before the first edit. In this case, the document stability is maintained because the text can be restored in the same context from which it was originally deleted.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10687) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Selective Undo.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Getting Rid of the Ctrl+Click Message

When you add a hyperlink to a document, you can later click that link to display whatever is linked to. Beginning in Word ...

Discover More

Underlining Text in Cells

Want a quick way to add some underlines to your cell values? It's easy using the shortcuts provided in this tip.

Discover More

Multiple Data Points in a Chart Column

Excel provides lots of ways you can create charts. This tip provides some pointers on how you can combine stacked column ...

Discover More

Learning Made Easy! Quickly teach yourself how to format, publish, and share your content using Word 2013. With Step by Step, you set the pace, building and practicing the skills you need, just when you need them! Check out Microsoft Word 2013 Step by Step today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Talking to Yourself

Need to keep notes about a document, but you don't want others to see those notes either on-screen or on-paper? Here's an ...

Discover More

Checking for a List of Phrases in a Document

Once you start amassing quite a few documents, it is not uncommon to want to change phrases commonly used in those ...

Discover More

Checking for Words and Phrases

You may want to determine if a document contains a certain set of words or phrases. There are a couple of ways you can ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is six more than 9?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

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.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.