Archive for the ‘Word’ Category


Word: Modern Comments means the price goes up as productivity takes a massive hit

May 4, 2021

Modern Comments (horrible name!) haven’t rolled out to my Word 365 (Windows) version as yet, so today I turned off Updates to prevent them from being installed (File > Account > Update Options button). Of course, I won’t get any other updates either, but at the moment I certainly don’t want the hit to my productivity (or to quotes I’ve already had accepted for upcoming work) that these Modern Comments seem to guarantee. Unfortunately, I can’t stop updates on my anchor client’s laptop, so me turning them off on my own computer may only be a temporary measure.

Hopefully the screams from the writing and editing community, education sector, legal sector etc. will be heard and an option will be given to revert to traditional comments. For details on the changes, see this article and then read the very polite comments below it (polite considering the underlying anger about this change):

For me, the main issues with Modern Comments will be:

  • Autocorrect not working
  • Formatting (other than very basic) not working, so no sub/superscripts in comments or highlight colours
  • Spellcheck not working?
  • Interface and page layout issues—way too much screen real estate is used; comment icons aren’t attached by a line to the commented on text and float and jump around, etc.
  • Extra keystrokes to add a comment—it seems you can still insert a comment using Ctrl+Alt+M, but you can’t just click out and the comment automatically saves. Instead, you have to click a button to save the comment, otherwise you lose it.

One of the long documents I edited was a technical safety case for an oil platform. It was 370 pages and once I was finished I’d added more than 11,000 tracked changes, of which 700+ were comments. Many of those comments were added using AutoCorrect shortcuts, whereby I type a few keystrokes which then automatically expand into a sentence or two. In addition to saving time, these AutoCorrects also mean that my comments are consistent every time, something we ask of our authors. (See:

Editing this document with Modern Comments would have added at least 10 to 20 hours to the time. I charge by the hour, so yes, I make more money the more hours I work, but I aim to be as efficient as possible and work within budgeted time frames and deadlines.

I can’t take this hit to my productivity, not to mention the tediousness of typing the same comment over and over, nor the extra hours required to edit a document. Extra hours means the client has to pay more, and I have to factor in that extra time if I’m doing a quote (and I can’t increase the estimated hours for quotes already accepted). For those who charge by the word or the job, they’ll have to increase their rates to allow for the extra time that they’ll need to add and edit their comments, otherwise they’ll be losing income.

Microsoft needs to fix this!

More information:

[Links last checked May 2021]


My writing technology journey

April 21, 2021

A post on Twitter got me thinking about how much the writing technology I’ve used since I learned to write at school has changed. And how much it hasn’t changed in the past 30 years!

Here’s a summary of my writing technology journey:

  1. Crayons (before I went to school)
  2. ‘Black Prince’ pencil (brand of thick pencil for the early school years)
  3. Pencil (including my favourite—the ‘indelible ink’ pencil)
  4. Ink pen with replaceable nib (wooden stylus; ink in an ink pot in the school desk, and later my own bottle of Quink ink)
  5. Fountain pen with refillable cartridge, and later with ink cartridges you could swap out (oh, they were wondrous things—no more messy ink to deal with!)
  6. Ballpoint pen
  7. Manual typewriter
  8. Electric typewriter (IBM Selectric, I think)
  9. Typewriter with a tiny LCD display
  10. MicroBee something-or-other word processing software, and a few others I’ve long forgotten
  11. WordStar (an incredibly useful piece of software when it later came to writing HTML code as many of the tags were similar)
  12. Microsoft Word.

My Word journey started in the very early 1990s, and I’ve used various Help authoring programs in the intervening years, but ultimately, Word has been my main writing tool for the past 30 years. It has changed a lot, yet still remains much the same in its basic functions.

See also:

[Links last checked April 2021]


Word: Reformat text inside quote marks using wildcards

April 16, 2021

A user on an editors’ Facebook group wanted to know if they could use a wildcard find and replace to reformat (perhaps by using different coloured text, highlighting, bold, italics etc.) the text in between quote marks to distinguish the quotations from other text in the document.

This is an ideal job for using wildcards in Word’s find and replace.

But some warnings apply:

  • There are several types of quote marks—single, double, with straight or curly variations for these, and some people may even type two single quote marks to represent a double quote mark, or use prime and double prime characters to represent a quote mark. The only SURE way to identify the marks used by the author are to copy them from the document and paste them into the Find field.
  • This Find/Replace DOES NOT WORK with single straight quotes—the character used for an apostrophe and to start and end a quotation is the same, so you won’t get the results you expect. Any string of text between one apostrophe and another will also be captured.
  • Make sure the quoted passage has both a starting and ending quote mark. If the end quote mark is missing, the change will occur to ALL text from the beginning quote mark to the next end quote mark found, which could be some pages away.
  • Beware of apostrophes used within a quotation when the quotation is surrounded by single curly quote marks—the Find will find up to the apostrophe, NOT to the ending single curly quote mark. This is because the symbol for an apostrophe and the ending single curly quote mark is the same character.
  • The safest practice is to check what’s found and click Replace if it matches, NOT Replace All.
  • ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS test this on a copy of the document before you use it on the original document.

So, if you’re using double quotes (straight or curly), or single curly quotes, you can use this Find/Replace. I explain what the settings mean after these steps, if you’re interested. Meantime, here’s my solution, which works in all versions of Word:

  1. If you want to identify the quoted sections with a highlight colour, choose it first. Ignore this step if you want to change the font colour or styling.
  2. Select the text you want to change (e.g. entire document, selected paragraphs, selected columns or rows of a table).
  3. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace dialog box.
  4. Click the More button.
  5. Select the Use wildcards check box.
  6. Put your cursor into the Find what field—what you do next depends on the type of quote mark used in the document:
    • Straight double quotes: type the quote mark, followed immediately by an asterisk, then another quote mark.
    • Curly quotes (single or double): copy an opening quote mark from the document and paste it into the Find field, then type an asterisk immediately after it, then copy/paste the ending quote mark immediately after the asterisk.
  7. In the Replace with field, type: ^&
  8. Click the Format button.
  9. If you want to apply highlighting to the found text, select Highlight. If you want to apply character formatting (colour, bold, italics, etc.), select Font, select the character styling you want, then click OK.
  10. Your Find and Replace dialog box should look something like this, with the highlighting or character styling choice shown below the Replace with field:
  11. Click Find. Check the text found is what you expect—if so, click Replace, then click Find Next. Avoid clicking Replace All unless you are absolutely certain all quotes have a starting and ending quote mark and that there are no apostrophes within a quote.

What it all means

The quotes in the Find are self-explanatory. The asterisk between them says to find any number of characters (including spaces, punctuation marks, letters, numbers, etc.) between the first quote mark found and the next one found. NOTE: If the find/replace doesn’t match anything, check the type of quote marks you’re using and make sure you copy/paste the opening and closing ones into their correct position in the Find.

The ^& in the Replace says to replace whatever is found with itself (in other words, make no changes to the characters), and the font styling/highlighting below the Replace field tells word to make the replaced text that colour or style.

See also:

[Links last checked April 2021]


Word: Subscript and superscript weirdness

March 30, 2021

I received a document to edit last week and noticed that a word, which was spelt correctly, had a red squiggly line underneath it.

I checked the spelling language set for the word and it was English, as I expected. I tried retyping the word, and inserting the correct variation from the spelling options. All to no avail. The red squiggly stayed. Eventually, I retyped the whole thing, from CO2 onwards and the red squiggly went away.

I started to notice that some other words weren’t behaving correctly, particularly those with superscripts and subscripts. I couldn’t identify what was causing the weirdness, but then I noticed a TINY speck on the screen. Was it a speck of dust on my screen (memo to self: clean screens more often!) or something in the document? I increased the zoom on the page to 400% and the specks didn’t change size, but they did remain in the same position, so I knew they were IN the doc, and not on the screen.

Here’s an example of these tiny dots. In the first image, the zoom is 100% and the dots are either side of the ‘8’ but at the bottom of the letter forms. These are NOT the periods surrounding ‘min’, but the tiny dots surrounding the subscripted 8. The second and third images are of the same thing, but at much higher zoom percentages—notice that the size of the dots hardly changes. And that they are almost impossible to see.

My first step in trying to identify these dots was to select some text that contained the superscript and the dots and press Ctrl+[spacebar] to remove the manual formatting and take that selected text back to the base style of the paragraph. And that’s when I was able to unmask the weirdness!

Look at what this passage looked like when the manual formatting was removed.

Those tiny dots were actually text—in this case ‘PPP’ surrounding a superscript character. I did a search for PPP and found 37 instances. Each instance surrounded a superscripted number.

Was this the cause of the spelling error for the word after CO2 I’d first discovered and couldn’t fix easily? I went to one of the CO2 instances and selected the tiny dot—it was set to a weird font and was 1 pt in size. A 1 pt font that’s super or subscripted? You’re never going to see that easily!

Then I removed the manual formatting for some text around ‘CO2’ and found that the subscripted ‘2’ was surrounded by the letter ‘R’. I did a search for COR2R and found 854 instances! Find and replace took care of those for me, then I did another search for R2R as this document included H2S, NO2, etc. as well, and cleaned up some more.

The final oddity I found wasn’t surrounding a superscript or subscript at all—instead it was near a semicolon. In the image below, look for the tiny dot on the first line after the space and before the ‘M’, and immediately after the semicolon on the third line.

When I took the manual formatting off, another string of strange characters appeared—’65T’ repeated several times. Again, find and replace sorted those out too.

What had caused them? I contacted the author to find out if parts of this document had been copied from a PDF (the ZWAdobeF font was a clue). They said it hadn’t. Besides, what I found wasn’t indicative of the usual errors you’d find when copying or converting from a PDF. I also asked if anyone had used Word for Mac or worked on this document in Google Docs. ‘No’ on both accounts, as far as they knew. They said it had only been worked on in the corporate environment, but there are things like SharePoint, OneDrive etc. that may be at play here. Not likely, but possible.

So it’s a mystery as to how these things occurred in the first place. And it’s only by good luck and some sleuthing that I was able to identify them and correct them.


Word: Keyboard shortcuts for macros are not working

March 24, 2021

Whoa! I just discovered this one. All of a sudden my keyboard shortcuts to apply specific macros weren’t working. I’d been using them extensively on a 300p document, but suddenly they stopped working. I closed the document and reopened it, but that didn’t make any difference. I tried a couple of other things, but nope, they still didn’t work. I checked that the keyboard shortcuts were still assigned to those macros, and they were. And the macros worked fine if I ran them from the Macros window. So, there was nothing wrong with the macros or the keyboard assignments.

And then I spotted it—the light for CAPS LOCK was on. Could that be it? It was! When I turned it off, my keyboard shortcuts worked fine. To test it, I turned CAPS LOCK back on and the keyboard shortcuts didn’t work. Turned it off, and they did.

What this means is that keyboard shortcuts you assign to Word macros seem to be case sensitive.


Office 2021 standalone version announced

February 20, 2021

For those not on an Office 365 subscription who wish to stay with a standalone version, Microsoft has just announced that there will be an Office 2021 available to purchase.


[Link last checked February 2021]


Word: Find a special character written as text

February 15, 2021

When you want to find a special character, such as a paragraph mark, in Microsoft Word, you have to use a special character (in this case, ^p to search for all paragraph marks). And for most situations this works as you’d expect.

But if you’ve written ^p as text in a document, as I did for a document I’m writing on Word’s find and replace functions, where I need to type the characters used to find the special character, then you can’t search for that text string by typing ^p as the search term. Instead of finding what you wrote, you get results that list ALL paragraph marks in the document, and nothing matching what you wrote.

I tried all sorts of things with wildcards, escape characters etc. before asking a specialist editors’ group on Facebook, where one of the members pointed me in the right direction—you have to add another caret before the ^p, so ^^p.

Easy when you know how!


Clipboard popup in system tray area

January 5, 2021

Here’s a weird one. J was copy/pasting from Firefox into Notepad. He had Word open in the background but wasn’t using Word. All of a sudden, he started getting a popup in the system tray area for ‘1 of 24 items on the clipboard’ every time he copied something from Firefox (text, URL, etc.). He’d never seen it before, and nor had I. Because the popup showed from the system tray, and because he wasn’t using Word at the time (although Word was open), I assumed it was Windows 10 was creating this popup, but it wasn’t—it was Office.

My first check was the Windows 10 system settings. However, the clipboard history option was already turned off (Settings > System > Clipboard). A bit more Googling and I found another possible solution that didn’t involve modifying the Registry (last resort option!). I tried it—and it worked! But it certainly wasn’t an intuitive place to look.

  1. Open Word (if not already open). (Note: These steps may work in any Office program, not just Word).
  2. On the Home tab, click the small dialog launcher arrow at the bottom right of the Clipboard group. This opens the Clipboard panel.
  3. At the bottom of the Clipboard panel, click Options.
  4. Check the settings—if Show Status Near Taskbar When Copying is checked, click it to clear the check mark.
  5. Check the other option settings as well and turn off those you don’t want.

After turning it off, J did another copy/paste and the popup had gone. Problem solved!


Word: How to make popups in Word, using Word

November 26, 2020

Add another to my list of ‘I didn’t know you could do this!’ Did you know you can add tooltip-style popups for certain text when you hover over it? However, my testing since I posted this video link shows there are several issues with this (I’ve documented these results after the second video).

Here’s a 90-second YouTube video that explains how:

Having now tested this method (above), which uses the AutoTextList field code (results below the next video), I can’t recommend it.

Instead, I found another method that uses bookmarks and hyperlinks and that seems to work much better and give you more options for adding quite an amount of text (about 1800 characters, instead of the 255 character limit of the field code method above). And it seems to work every time. The bookmark/hyperlink method I recommend is shown in this 9.5 minute YouTube video (

For those interested, here are the results from my testing of the field code method (first video above). I wanted to see if the popup text:

  • retains the style of the paragraph it is in — no, but the keyword does
  • has a word or character limit — yes, 255 characters, including spaces
  • works on a phrase, not just a keyword — couldn’t test as it deleted my next attempts and left a blank space
  • can be used several times — couldn’t test as stuff kept disappearing
  • translates into popup text when you save the Word doc as PDF — no
  • translates into popup text when you save the Word doc as HTML — no
  • prints — no (and the option to print AutoText entries only prints the AutoText entries you’ve defined using the AutoText function, NOT the tooltip AutoTextList field entries)
  • adds items to your AutoText entries — no.

I also wanted to know what the \s, \t, and NoStyle items in the field code represent and if their order matters:

  • \s — ‘defines the content for the field’; this is the keyword you put into the ‘word seen’ bit of the field. It MUST go after AutoTetxtList and can either go before or after the keyword
  • \t — ‘defines the tip for the field’; this is the text you want to popup when you hover over the keyword. The order matters — this MUST go in front of the tooltip text
  • NoStyle — sets the style for the tooltip text to ‘NoStyle’. I changed this to Emphasis (a character style) and nothing happened to either the word or the tooltip text (I expected it to be styled with italics). I then set up a character style for red text and a para style for green text and tried those—nothing worked, so it looks like no matter what you set for the style, it will still be formatted as per the underlying text of the paragraph it is in. The order doesn’t matter, except that thiis MUST go after AutoTextList; I tried it in front of the ‘word seen’ bit, at the end of the field code, and the tooltip still worked.

While I got this to work a couple of times, I couldn’t get it to work consistently (I was testing with Word 365 for Windows). It has some severe limitations; for example:

  • If you change the ‘word seen’ bit at a later time, the original word you wrote remains and the new text doesn’t get recognised.
  • At times in my testing Word would delete my ‘word seen’ bit altogether and I don’t know why. I tried to add this as a field using the Quick Parts > Field options and entering the context work (keyword) and tooltip text there, but that disappeared too.
  • I found that using F9 would cause the keyword to disappear and therefore the popup didn’t work at all.
  • Without being able to style the keyword differently, this function isn’t very useful to the reader if they don’t have field shading turned on as they can’t tell which words have got tooltips associated with them except by hovering over every word.

Note: Alt+F9 toggles all the field codes on and off.

[Links last checked November 2020]


Word: Batch convert old DOC documents to DOCX

November 22, 2020

I was going through some folders and found quite a number of Word files in DOC format that I created before I started using Word 2007, which was when the DOCX format was introduced. While I can open each and save it as DOCX, that becomes very tedious if you have more than a few to do. Off to the internet to see if there was a macro or other way of batch converting DOC files to DOCX files.

The two that offered the most promise were a macro from the makers of Kutools ( and a converter program ( I thought I’d try the macro first, and as it worked fine for what I wanted, I didn’t download and test the converter program.

Notes about the macro:

  • When testing, put the DOC files into a temporary folder and run the macro on that folder. You can copy the resulting DOCX files to the correct folder later. Once you are confident it works as expected, you could run the macro on the original folder.
  • Subfolders are ignored. The macro only works on the selected folder.
  • All the DOC files are opened briefly, then saved as DOCX, without your intervention. Let the macro run until it finishes.
  • All the new DOCX files will have the current date as the date of creation. All original date creation and modification information will be lost, and also possibly original author information (I didn’t check this).
  • If there are already DOCX files of the same name in the folder, this process will overwrite them automatically. This isn’t usually an issue, but if at some point you manually saved a DOC file as DOCX, then modified it, the converted DOCX file will overwrite that modified file. This is why it’s advisable to do these conversions in a separate folder to the original, then copy back once done.
  • If some of the DOC files are quite old, you may get a message that it cannot save Word 95 binary files (or similar), and the macro will not run. To include these documents in the conversion, got to File > Options in Word, then select Trust Center. Click Trust Center Settings, then go to File Block Settings. Uncheck the boxes for relevant file types that the macro got hung up on. Don’t forget to change this back later!

And in case that macro ever goes missing from the website linked above, I’ve pasted it here, with some additional comments. If you use this one, copy it all—do not retype it as several lines go off the page:

Sub ConvertDocToDocx()
' Opens all DOC files in a folder and saves as DOCX files
' Asks for the folder location of the DOC files when you run the macro
' If DOCX files of the same name exist in the folder, it will overwrite them
' Recommendation: Put DOC files into a separate folder and run there
' NOTE: Converted files will have today's date---original file date is lost forever

' From: by ExtendOffice 20181128
' From (22 Nov 2020):

    Dim xDlg As FileDialog
    Dim xFolder As Variant
    Dim xFileName As String
    Application.ScreenUpdating = False
    Set xDlg = Application.FileDialog(msoFileDialogFolderPicker)
    If xDlg.Show <> -1 Then Exit Sub
    xFolder = xDlg.SelectedItems(1) + "\"
    xFileName = Dir(xFolder & "*.doc", vbNormal)
    While xFileName <> ""
        Documents.Open FileName:=xFolder & xFileName, _
            ConfirmConversions:=False, ReadOnly:=False, AddToRecentFiles:=False, _
            PasswordDocument:="", PasswordTemplate:="", Revert:=False, _
            WritePasswordDocument:="", WritePasswordTemplate:="", Format:= _
            wdOpenFormatAuto, XMLTransform:=""
        ActiveDocument.SaveAs xFolder & Replace(xFileName, "doc", "docx"), wdFormatDocumentDefault
        xFileName = Dir()
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub

[Links last checked 22 November 2020]