Keeping your hands on the keyboard is a prime way to speed up work. The less you are hunting around ribbons and menus for the tool you need, the more efficient (and less frustrated) you’ll be. Learning existing shortcuts for navigating a document, cutting and pasting, etc. is an obvious way to keep your hands away from the mouse. Adding shortcuts for the things you do most is the productivity hack.
You can add a keyboard shortcut for almost any command, without creating a macro. Below you’ll find instructions for Windows users and Mac users. The core of the method is customizing the keyboard, and finding the command you want within the huge list of commands that are available.
Create a Keyboard Shortcut
- Open the keyboard dialog:
- On a Windows computer, right-click on a blank grey area of Word’s ribbon, then select Customize The Ribbon… from the context menu that pops up. Then, click the Customize… button beside Keyboard Shortcuts: at the bottom of the left-hand list.
- On a Mac, select the Customize Keyboard… option at the bottom of the Tools menu.
- In the keyboard dialog box that opens, scroll down the left-hand list of Categories: and click a category to look in. Figure 1 shows the Mac and Figure 2 shows Windows.
- Next, scroll until you find the desired command in the right-hand list of commands, then select it.
- Click in the Press new keyboard shortcut field, then press the combination of keys you want to assign to this command.*
- When you find a suitable key combination, click the Assign button, then OK.
List Your Shortcuts
Remembering shortcuts can be challenging. If you go back into that keyboard dialog (Step 1 above), you can always look up a command (Step 2 and 3) and see what shortcut you assigned to it. It will be listed in the Current Shortcut field. Even better, keep a list in your work area. Periodically print out a list:
In any document, click Print to open the Print dialog. Select Word settings, and in the Print What drop-down, select Key assignments (Fig. 3 shows the Mac interface, Fig. 4 shows Windows, though these dialog boxes vary depending on your OS and your printer).
This only prints a list of the shortcuts you created, not those in the system already, such as those for Select All or Save.
*Note the text beneath the Press new keyboard shortcut field; it shows whether that key combination is already assigned. There are several dozen existing shortcuts and no online list seems to be thorough. You just have to try one. You can overwrite an existing shortcut just by doing the last two steps above. You might decide to “reassign” the shortcut for Close File since you always use Close Window, for example.