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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ingleby

Getting the most out of MS Office

Updated: Apr 13

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always enjoyed learning new things.

Take Microsoft Office for instance; I’ve been using various programmes such as Word and Excel for so long that most of what I do is pretty much on auto-pilot, but I love to find new hints and tips. The same with keyboard buttons.

A few days ago, I learned a neat little trick for those times you’ve copied a whole bunch of text and then got distracted before pasting it where it needed to go – if you hold the windows key on your keyboard, and press ‘V’ at the same time, it brings up your clipboard with your recent ‘copies’ in it! How did I not know that one before?

This morning I explained to someone how to compress a file to send via email; that’s something I do regularly and thought everyone knew.

That got me thinking – there must be dozens (hundreds?) of little tips to make life easier when dealing with emails, documents or spreadsheets, that often don’t find their way into the training courses, but can save you so much time (and hair pulling!)

Keyboard Shortcuts

There are many shortcuts you can access, right from your keyboard, that can save you time as you work. For example:

  • We all know we can type :) to bring up a smiley face, but the windows key + full stop brings up an emoji board to quickly add a variety of other emojis to your document or email.

  • If you have a number of documents or web pages open, Alt and Tab allows you to quickly scroll through them and switch to the one you want.

  • Ctrl and one of the 4 arrow buttons will jump your cursor by word or paragraph, Shift, Ctrl and arrow will highlight a whole word or paragraph for formatting, and Shift and Delete will delete a whole word.


Of course, not every user needs to know all of the tricks and shortcuts. Excel, for example, is a huge programme with so many options, most of which the average user wouldn't need, but wouldn’t you like to feel you are getting the most out the functions you do use?

  • Print settings: If you don’t get to grips with these, your single page spreadsheet will either print in the corner of your page, spread over 4 pages where you want to read it on one, or print on a single page…but ‘print’ an extra 20 blank pages after it.

  • Number formatting: You want Excel to know what the numbers are you are inputting, so use formatting to tell it you are typing in dates, currency, percentages or simple text. By using the correct formatting you open up a world of additional functions, such as auto-fill, flash-fill and sorting (alphabetical, oldest to newest, smallest to largest for example)


Most people have used Word to type a letter (or a blog post) but do you know how to access all the options?

  • Review: Spell-checking is vital for any written work, and Word will helpfully underline any possible spelling errors with a nice red wavy line, but don’t forget to let your version of the programme know which language it should be looking for. You can also add words to the dictionary – your business name, for example, may be unique and not recognised by Word, but you don’t want it to be highlighted every single time as an error, so right click the wavy line and go to ‘Add to Dictionary’. While you are at it, click ‘Add to Autocorrect’ – a handy tip for words you regularly mis-type too!

  • Mail Merge: If you want to send out a letter or email to all your clients - maybe to advise them of a new service you are offering, a new address or phone number, or changes to your working hours - you can write your letter once and personalise it automatically with all your customers' details ready to send out.


There are plenty of email clients available to use, but I swear by Outlook. It's useful for accessing your generic Microsoft emails (,, etc) - but it can do so much more.

  • POP3 and iMAP: You can add various email accounts to your desktop Outlook programme, regardless of the provider, as long as you have your server details. I currently have eight email accounts listed, letting me view and respond to any of them from a single programme. If your email provider is Microsoft -,, etc - you can simply enter your email address and Outlook will find the server settings for you.

  • Calendar: Outlook can record details of meetings and tasks, but did you know you can drag an email directly to your calendar? Just click on the email, and drag it to the calendar icon at the bottom of the folder pane on the left, and this will open an appointment window for you to update.

  • Contacts: Outlook is useful for keeping a record of contact information over and above an email address. You can add in relevant telephone numbers, details of the contact's company, and even set reminders for birthdays so you can send those funky e-cards. You can also use drag and drop here as well - click an email, drag it to the contacts icon, and the contact window will open for you to add in any extra information.

What are your favourite shortcuts or hints? Is it one I've listed here, or something else you've picked up along the way?

If you want to get the most out of your Office programmes, message me on Chat, or drop me an email to let me know what you would like help with.

Alternatively book yourself a power hour directly by clicking here

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