10 ways to simplify Microsoft Office

10 ways to simplify Microsoft Office

Set up Office to suit the way you work, with the help of our top customising tips

If you use your PC for work then it’s almost certain that you’ll be using Microsoft Office in some shape or form. Rather than try to adapt the way you work to Office, why not follow these tips and find out how to set up Office to suit your workflow and methods?

1. Restore classic menus 

Later versions of Microsoft Office drop the old menu system in favour of the stylish new Ribbon. If you’re struggling to adapt to this change – and you’re running Office 2010 Home and Student – you can restore the old menus for free with Classic Menu for Office 2010 Home and Student. It’s free for personal use but if you’re running a different version of Office 2010 or Office 2013, paid-for versions are also available.

Classic Menu restores familiar menus and toolbars to Office 2010 without restricting access to the Ribbon

2. Autocorrect errors 

Sort out your common typing errors by modifying Autocorrect. This feature automatically replaces errors on its list with corrected versions. Choose File > Options > Proofing > Autocorrect Options. Below Replace text as you type, you’ll find a list of default corrections. Enter the typo that you'd like to be fixed into the Replace box, and the correct version into the With box. Click Add to add it to the list.

3. Lazy Autocorrect 

You can also use Autocorrect to save yourself some typing time. First, pick a shortcut combination of letters or numbers that isn’t a real word or likely to be entered as a typo, and type it into the Replace box. Now type, or copy and paste, the full phrase that you want to use into the With box. From now on, every time you enter this key combination, it will be replaced with the full phrase.

4. Custom tab 

Why not customise the Ribbon by creating a tab containing some of your favourite commands. To do this, choose File > Options > Customize Ribbon. Click New Tab followed by Rename and enter a name for your tab. You can also create groups within this tab in a similar way, to help organise your commands logically. Select the tab and group you want to customise and pick a tool from the list on the left. Click Add to add this to the group.

Make your own tab to use in the Office Ribbon for quick and convenient access to your favourite tools

5. Create AutoText 

Save set blocks of text, including formatting, to use later with AutoText in Word. Enter the text as you'd like it to appear in the current document. Now select it and switch to Ribbon’s Insert tab. Choose Quick Parts in the Text group, then pick AutoText followed by Save Selection to AutoText Gallery. Complete the information in the Create New Building Block dialog, ensuring that the Normal template is selected if you want to use this block of text in future documents. Finally, click OK.

6. Insert AutoText 

When you've created several AutoText gallery entries, you can select and insert one into your text from the Ribbon’s Insert tab – choose Quick Parts followed by AutoText as before, but this time pick the entry from the gallery you wish to use.

7. Quick Access Toolbar  

The Quick Access Toolbar is found in the top left of each Office window, just above the Ribbon. It's a convenient place to put your most commonly used tools. To customise it, click the down arrow to the right of the toolbar and select the commands that you'd like to use. Click More Commands to see the full range of tools available. Select one on the left and click Add to add it to the toolbar .

Customise the Quick Access Toolbar so that your favourite tools are easily available for quick use

8. Default file format 

By default, Office saves documents in the most recent Microsoft Office format but you may need to save them in older formats so friends and colleagues can open them too. As a one-off this is easy to do by selecting Save As from the File tab. But if you need to do it repeatedly, try setting a new default. Choose File > Options > Save and pick your desired format (the older Office 97-2003 is usually the best) from the Save files in this format dropdown menu. Click OK to finish.

Set the default file format in each Office program to match that of colleagues or friends for maximum compatibility

9. Paste options 

When you paste an item from the clipboard , Office includes all the formatting too. That may not suit the way you work – particularly if you’re copying and pasting from different programs or sources. You can change this behaviour so only the plain text is pasted by choosing File > Options > Advanced. Under Cut, copy and paste, change Pasting from other programs and Pasting between documents to Keep text only. Click OK.

10. Office tabs 

Do you like the way your web browser displays different websites as a series of orderly tabs? You can do something similar in Office by downloading and installing Office Tab Free Edition. The free version only works with the core Office 2007 and 2010 apps – namely Word, PowerPoint and Excel – but paid-for versions are also available. Once installed, all your current open documents are accessible from a single tabbed window, making it easy to switch between them with a single click.

Office Tab Free Edition enables you to see open Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents as tabs under the Ribbon