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Top seven most underutilized Microsoft Office features

by Danielle DavisRoe, Affinity Consulting

Most of us use Microsoft Office products every day. Whether you’re checking emails with Outlook, writing a brief in Word, or wrestling with a report in Excel, chances are high that Microsoft has hidden features you can benefit from learning how to use.  

1. Microsoft Word – spell check words in all caps 

By default, Word does not spell check words that are in all caps. If you have headings or pleading titles in all caps, it’s possible to end up with typos in your document despite using spell check. You can easily fix this setting in Word’s proofing options. 

2. Microsoft Word – set new default fonts 

Every Word document has a default font. But if you simply adjust a document’s font using the dropdown on the home ribbon or font dialog, you haven’t actually changed the default font. When a document’s standard font and the font you want to use aren’t in agreement, the default will continue popping up throughout the document. Fix this problem by clicking on the default font button from the font dialog, then set a new default to the one you want to use. 

3. Microsoft Word – keep text together with the ‘Keep with Next’ feature 

Signature blocks breaking across pages, as well as headings falling at the bottom of a page, have irritated Word users for decades. A common solution is using the enter key to get the text lined up. By doing so, however, you can end up with annoying gaps that require you to adjust the number of returns for each heading and signature block when you attempt to edit the document. Instead, use Word’s ‘Keep with Next’ setting to glue headings to a paragraph and keep lines in a signature block together. You’ll find this feature in the paragraph dialog on the line and page breaks tab.  

4. Outlook – use the ‘Quick Steps’ shortcut to save time 

Outlook ‘Quick Steps’ consolidates several actions into a single click. For example, if you frequently forward emails to someone else to handle and then move the original email into a folder for delegated emails, that can take a lot of time. Instead, use ‘Quick Steps’ to turn a series of actions (such as forwarding an email to a specific recipient, entering specified text into the body of the email, automatically sending an email, marking the original email as read, and moving the original email into a folder) into a single click. Get started from the Quick Step gallery on the home ribbon. Once your Quick Step is set up, you only need to select which email to forward, and then click on the name of your Quick Step on the home ribbon.  

5. Outlook – set up ‘Rules’ 

Outlook ‘Rules’ scans your incoming (or outgoing) emails. When specified criteria are met, the rule activates, automatically handling emails for you. If, for example, you want to move all emails from a client into a specific  Outlook folder, you can set a rule to do that automatically. To get started, click on ‘rules’ from the home ribbon. Once a rule is specified and turned on, it runs in the background, helping you process emails 24/7.  

6. Excel – use ‘AutoFill’ 

Whether you’re entering data or creating formulas, the work you do in Excel can often be redundant. ‘AutoFill’ replicates formulas or sequences (such as dates or numbers) across columns and rows with ease. Drag and drop the bottom right-hand corner (the “Fill Handle”) of a cell to replicate a formula. Select two cells in a sequence, then drag and drop the Fill Handle to continue the series.  

7. Excel – take advantage of ‘AutoSum’ 

When totaling rows or columns in Excel, take advantage of the ‘AutoSum’ button to let Excel write the formula for you. Click in the cell where you want the total to appear, then click on the AutoSum button on the home ribbon. Excel will analyze the data around the cell and write the formula for you. You just need to hit enter to finish it.  

If you’re not taking advantage of all these features, it might be time for training to get more out of what you use every day. Affinity Insight provides you and your team with access to in-depth, self-guided legal tech training. This includes more than 150 hours of content, covering over 30 different software products (including those mentioned in this blog), and access to the entire library of Affinity Consulting software manuals for legal professionals. Missouri Bar members can subscribe to an Affinity Insight Standard Plan at no cost with code MOBARMEMBER.