April 2, 2012

Little-known keyboard shortcuts in Microsoft Word

By Lynn Evans

I love keyboard shortcuts, but I have a tough time keeping the less common ones in my head. Microsoft Word alone has well over 200 documented shortcuts, so I'm sure I'm not alone.

Here is my list of some particularly useful Word shortcuts which I've either recently discovered or which I knew before but had forgotten. These work with all versions of Word going back to at least 2000. (I've only tested these with a US keyboard; they should work fine with other layouts, but I can't be sure of that.)

Moving paragraphs around

Place the insertion point anywhere in a paragraph, then hit Alt+Shift+Up Arrow to move the entire paragraph above the previous paragraph. Or press Alt+Shift+Down Arrow to move it below the following paragraph. This is much easier than cutting and pasting.

Cycle between heading styles

Pressing Alt+Shift+Right Arrow or Alt+Shift+Left Arrow will cycle the paragraph through the available heading styles. This is very useful if you want to quickly promote or demote a heading. I don't use outlining much in Microsoft Word, but I do like to keep the Document Map open so that I can quickly move between the main sections of a document. Being able to quickly change a heading level greatly helps with that.

You can also assign heading styles 1 - 3 by hitting Alt+Ctrl+1 to Alt+Ctrl+3 respectively. But that doesn't work for lower-level heading styles.

Change case

Ctrl+Shift+A toggles the selected text between all upper case and whatever case was in effect before. Similarly, Shift+F3 cycles between upper, lower and proper case.

Adjust the font size

Ctrl+Shift+. (that's Ctrl, Shift and a period) increases the size of the selected text. Each time you hit the shortcut, it sets the text size to the next available size on the font size drop down menu. Ctrl+Shift+, (Ctrl, Shift and a comma) decreases the size in the same way.

Ctrl+] and Ctrl+[ also increase and decrease the size of the selected text, but they do so by one point each time.

Return to the previous insertion point

When you open an existing document, press Shift+F5 to move the insertion point back to its position when you last closed the document. This is a great time-saver that I use every day (and one that goes all the way back to the DOS versions of Word).

Repeat the previous edit

And finally another one that I use every day is Ctrl+Y. This repeats the previous text entry or edit. You can use it to type the same text at different points in the document. It can also be used to apply the same formatting in different places. For example, you can apply a set of paragraph formatting options to a given paragraph, then select another paragraph and hit Ctrl+Y to apply the same options again.

What about you? If you have any favorite but little-known keyboard shortcuts, please share them in this post's comments.


  1. Thanks for these, Lynn. I knew most of them, but some were new to me.

    Regarding Shift+F5, it doesn't only take you back to where you were when you closed the document. During normal writing or editing, it takes you back to the previous edit. This is useful if you want to refer to some information in another part of the document, then jump straight back to where you were typing.

  2. Hi Constant,

    Thanks for the tip about other uses for Shift+F5. I guess that belongs in the category of something I knew, but which I had forgotten I knew.