Word: Repeat immediate past action

April 12, 2010

Another neat Word keyboard shortcut that many non power users of Word don’t know about, but that can save heaps of time is the F4 key (or the Ctrl+Y key combination).

What it does is apply your immediate last command to the text where you are now.

Some examples:

  • Apply background shading to a table header row, go to the next table’s header row, then press F4. Voila! The same shading is applied to this new row. (See this blog post on jumping to the next table: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/word-jumping-to-next-table-graphic-or-field/)
  • Put your cursor in a table and apply the ‘autofit to window’ command, go to the next table, put your cursor anywhere in it, then press F4. That table will also autofit to the window.
  • Apply a style to some text, select the next piece of text where you want to apply that same style, then press F4. The next piece of text gets the same style.

You can continue pressing F4 throughout the document to keep applying the same command to other pieces of text. However, there are traps, as listed in the caveats below.


  • If you format text with multiple formatting commands (e.g. set the height of a table row AND add shading AND add borders AND change the color of the border AND set the font to bold AND center the text), then only the last command will apply when you press F4 on the next piece of text.
  • Be careful– as soon as you use any other command (e.g. delete a character), F4 will now use that command as its behavior. Sometimes the deletion is hard to see, so you press F4 again thinking that applying the last command didn’t work, when it really did — you just forgot that you’d deleted something in the meantime. I’ve been caught out a few times with this one!


  1. The best way of avoiding the first caveat is to make formatting changes in batches so for example, do all the cell shading first, followed by text formatting. It’s quicker too!

  2. Have been using this shortcut for years and love it.

  3. I use Ctl-Y probably every day. But I never knew F4 did the same thing. Ctl-Y is a bit of a stretch for my small fingers so I’ll start using F4 today. Thanks! –Ruthie

  4. […] Repeat your last action: Press F4 […]

  5. […] the autofit action for the next table: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/word-repeat-immediate-past-action/ (combined with […]

  6. […] of my favorite time-saving functions of Word is the ‘repeat last action‘ function (Ctrl+Y or F4). It makes it really easy to do something like set Auto Fit to Window […]

  7. Thanks! It saved me a lot of time. Now I can sleep :)

  8. My f4 key does not work like in my old computer. If I hit it now it doesn’t do anything just gives me a drawing of a computer and says imput.

  9. Hi Shirley

    It sounds like the key has been reassigned to another program or action. Can you figure out what program opens when you press F4? If so, then you might be able to reassign the keyboard shortcut (see https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/change-the-keyboard-shortcut-for-an-application/ for details).

    Alternatively, F4 may be assigned to a Word macro. It’s not easy to check, but it can be done. IN Word 2007/2010, go to Word Options > Customize Ribbon. Click the Customize button at the bottom left of the screen. Scroll down the Categories list and select Macros. On the right is the list of macros available to you. Click on each one and see if any of them list F4 in the Current keys box — that will be your culprit.


  10. What a great tip, i became able to save a lot of my time. thanks so much

  11. One thing which seems to work in the newer version of Word is to save as a Word 2003 document, then you seem to get back the power of F4

  12. does anyone know how to do this in a Mac computer?

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