top of page

5 most underutilised MS Word features

I have yet to come across a résumé that does not flaunt proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel. And yet, most people use MS Word like they would use a typewriter – only to type and with little formatting.

Regardless of which stage of their career people are at, they are often unfamiliar with some of the most basic MS Word tools that can significantly increase their efficiency and improve the quality of their work. I truly believe that one of the reasons why so many people hate typing documents is because they get stuck with or spend a lot of time on things that can easily be done if one is proficient with MS Word.

Here, I am sharing 5 MS Word features and tools that I think are underutilised given their immense utility, and encourage you to start using them.

Document templates

When creating a new file, you can choose from tonnes of pre-designed templates for reports, résumés, memos, flyers, cards and more. Some of these are really good and customisable. Not only does it reduce the amount of time you have to spend on the document, your document also looks much more presentable.

Next time you begin to work on a new document, don’t forget to try and search for related templates. If you find one, chances are you will end up impressing your supervisor or colleagues.

Table of contents

It is ridiculous the amount of time people waste making a table of contents and then continually updating it every time they make changes to a document.

You know how long it takes to create a table of contents or even change it after you have made significant edits to your document? One click. MS Word’s automatic table of contents detects all the headings in your document and automatically adds them to your table of contents with the relevant page numbers. To update the table of contents after you have made edits, all you have to do is right click on the automatic table of contents and click update.

Format painter

When you go to each subheading in your document to change the font, increase size or apply any kind of formatting one by one, you are only wasting precious time and doing a repetitive task that the format painter can do for you.

The format painter is the little yellow brush to the left of where you can find all the fonts and just below the options to cut and copy. All you have to do is select the text that has the formatting you need, click on the format painter and then select text you want to apply the formatting to. If you double click the format painter, you can apply the same formatting at multiple places.

Find and replace

When working on longer documents, you may just want to replace a word or phrase once or several times. For example, you may have a proposal template and wish to change the name of the client wherever it has been used or maybe you have just misspelt someone’s name repeatedly and want to correct it. Instead of going through the entire document manually at the risk of omitting an instance and facing embarrassment, just use the find and replace tool [shortcut key Ctrl+H].

Recover unsaved documents

Did MS Word hang and restart or did you accidently close a file without saving it? This feature has been a lifesaver so many times that I find it hard to believe that there are people in the world who have never used it.

To recover an unsaved document, go to backstage view [by clicking File], click on Open, and scroll down the list of ‘recent’ documents. You will see an option to recover unsaved documents. This may not work all the time but can often keep you from having to work on a document from scratch. I still suggest saving your work frequently, though.

I have tonnes of resources to help you improve your MS Office skills. Sign-up and I'll send you regular cheat sheets, access to webinars and updates on upcoming training events so you never miss out on a chance to become a pro at MS Office!

bottom of page