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Tips and Tricks
Tips and Tricks

Microsoft Shortcuts You Forgot You Forgot

  by Deborah Zotian  

I love showing someone how to use a new product - once I've figured it out myself, that is. When I teach a class or do a demonstration of Office, it's usually a group of admins being show how to use the new version of a product. I figure everyone wants to know everything that’s new, and I'm usually wrong. What they want to know is the shortcuts, and tips and tricks which will make their lives easier. So here are a few of the things I've learned everyone wants:


EVERYONE wants shortcuts. Most everyone knows the standard ones- Ctrl - S, V, C, X, P. (Save, Paste, Copy, Cut, Print). Of course, there are the two we CAN’T do without – Ctrl - Z and Ctrl - Y (undo/redo). However, there are a so many more. I don't know anyone who knows them all, but here are a few I use frequently.


NOTE: I’ve capitalized the letters, but it isn’t necessary unless there is a Ctrl + Shift before the letter.

Microsoft will tell you if a shortcut is available. If you mouse over something on the ribbon, the callout will tell you what it is for and if there is a shortcut using keystrokes.


Ctrl + N will open something new. What will it open? Depends on where you are in and in what program.

Word: Will open a new document
Excel: Will open a new workbook
PowerPoint: Will open a new presentation
OneNote: New page within the current notebook
Outlook: I’ll discuss this separately

You can break a hyphen?

Sometimes, particularly when you have a phone number, you don’t want the text to break at the end of the line. You can add in a non-breaking hyphen. This will keep the items surrounding the hyphen together, even if they would otherwise break at the end of a line. For example 203 222 5200 might break at the end of the line at the 203, but by adding in non-breaking hyphens, it stays together. Do this by pressing Ctrl + Shift + hyphen. This is also helpful to know when you’re editing something and can’t figure out why you can’t get it to split. Maybe it’s a non-breaking hyphen or non-breaking space (Ctrl + Shift + spacebar).

These non-breaking hyphens and spaces will show up if you use the Show/Hide feature (the backwards P in the Paragraph group). The non-breaking hyphens still look like hyphens, but they’re thinner. The non-breaking space will show up as a small 0 –like a degree sign when showing a temperature (°). To delete them, get behind them and use backspace. Or you can do a Find and Replace. Select “More” under the Replace with bar and click on Special. You can select either of the nonbreaking items in Find and put a regular space or hyphen in the Replace with box.

non-breaking space

Repeat formatting/Redo

Until recently, I used F4 only in Excel to repeat cell formatting. (Changing the color of a cell, etc.) You could also use Ctrl + Y (Redo) for the same thing. Someone commenting on a previous post I did reminded me it could be used in Word and PowerPoint as well. See, we all learn from each other. After you change the formatting on something, put your cursor in another area and hit F4 or Ctrl + Y; the formatting will repeat. This is also mentioned in an Office webinar as well (10 great Office timesavers), and seeing it demonstrated is better than trying to describing it in text.

Why is there a paint brush in the ribbon?

Format Painter is the little paint brush in the first grouping on the home tab ribbon of all the products except Outlook. (It is there when you open a new email.) Say you have something where the formatting went funky. Put your cursor on another part of the document which is formatted correctly, and click on the paint brush. Then, move your cursor to the text you want to fix, and ‘paint’ with the brush which shows next to the cursor across the text to be corrected.

fix and paint with brush

It will change the formatting to match. Double click on the format painter and you’ll be able to format multiple lines of text throughout a document. When you’re done, click on the paint brush again in the ribbon to make it stop.


Earlier, I said I would tell you what Ctrl + N did in Outlook. The new item will depend on where you are in the program:

  • Inbox – new email
  • Calendar – new appointment
  • Task – new task
  • Contacts – new contact

This is one of my favorite shortcuts, and one I don’t always remember myself. When you’re in Outlook, you can move around the various functions using the Ctrl key plus a number

Ctrl + 1 will take you to Mailbox
Ctrl + 2 will take you to the Calendar
Ctrl + 3 will take you to People/contacts
Ctrl + 4 will take you to tasks
Ctrl + 5 will take you to notes

You can’t remember them all…

Because there are just so many shortcuts, Microsoft has provided a list of all the available shortcuts for the various products on support.office.com. Here are links to the 2013 versions.

For Word 2013 , click here .

For PowerPoint 2013, click here .

For Excel 2013, click here .

For Outlook 2013, click here .

If you’re using an earlier version, you can search the support.office.com site to find them. Type “shortcuts for (product and version)” in the search box, and several options will appear in the results.

How do I remember the ones I want?

You don't have to remember all of the shortcuts. I doubt anyone can. Find the ones you feel will be most useful to you and put them on a sticky note. I have a few on my monitor so I'll remember them. Once you use them for a while, you won't need the sticky anymore and you can put up a new one with more tricks.

Is there anything you use regularly? I learned about the F4 trick from someone commenting on one of my previous posts. I’m always happy to share.