Microsoft Word – 15 Overlooked Features, Which Can Simplify Your Work

Last Updated on 28-Mar-2023 by Charles Maxwell

Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor, Cambodia

Are you overlooking features of Microsoft Word that could save you time and avoid frustration? 

MS Word has lots of features—it can be like exploring an ancient temple in Angkor. The detail and complexity can be overwhelming.

If you are like many people, you know just enough to get by.  After all, it is easy to get started using Word without learning every little detail.  The rub is you are making your life more difficult.

Here are 15 of Word’s most commonly overlooked, time-saving features.

1. Ruler

Microsoft Word’s ruler is an easy-to-use tool for adjusting page margins, indents, and tabs.  To show the ruler, go to the Ribbon, View tab, Show group, Ruler selection box.  (With Word 2010 and prior versions, you also can click on the tiny View Ruler icon at the right of the document above the vertical scroll bar.)  Clicking the Ruler selection box places one ruler at the top and another ruler along the left of the document window.

In the following video, Nancy Dugan explains how to use the ruler.

2. Tabs and Indents

Tabs and indents make it easier to arrange text horizontally.  The easiest approach to setting tabs is to use the Ruler (as discussed above).  

In the following video, Nancy Dugan provides more information on using tabs.  She shows how to use both the Ruler and the Tabs window.  She also illustrates how to add leaders.

In the following video, Scott Hanselman offers more advice regarding tabs and indents.

3. Line and Paragraph Spacing

Microsoft Word provides flexibility controlling vertical spacing between lines and paragraphs. In the following video, explains how to adjust line and paragraph spacing.

4. Line Breaks

There are times when lines of text break at the wrong place.  To control line breaks, go to the Ribbon, Home tab, Paragraph group, Line and Page Breaks window.  Available controls include:

  • Window/Orphan control – This prevents a single line of a paragraph from being left alone at the bottom or top of a page
  • Keep with next – This eliminates the need to add multiple paragraph marks, section breaks, or other cumbersome controls to keep text together on the same page
  • Keep lines together –  This prevents lines from separating
  • Page break before – This adds a page break directly before the cursor

In the following video, Nancy Dugan shows how to use the “Keep with next” command.

5. Enter and Shift-Enter Keys

Word makes a distinction between line breaks and paragraph breaks.  In the following video, Nancy Dugan discusses the difference between the two. You use the Enter key to create paragraph breaks, while you use the Shift + Enter keys to create line breaks.

6. Page Breaks

In addition to line breaks, Word provides other ways to control where pages begin and end. The following video, by, shows how to control page and section breaks.

7. Keep Words and Numbers Together

There are times when you need to keep words or numbers together on the same line.  Microsoft Word uses the following special characters to do this:

Ctrl + Shift + SpaceAdds no-break space
Ctrl + Shift + HyphenAdds no-break hyphen

In the following video, Nancy Dugan shows how to use the nonbreaking space and nonbreaking hyphen.

You can find more information on the no-break space at:,
while information on the no-break hyphen is at:

8. Cursor Movement Keys

It is always possible to use your mouse to move around in a Word document, but keyboard controls usually are faster and more accurate.  Here are some of the most useful ways to move your cursor.

KeysMove Cursor
Ctrl + Left ArrowTo the left one word
Ctrl + Right ArrowTo the right one word
Ctrl + Up ArrowUp one paragraph
Ctrl + Down ArrowDown one paragraph
EndTo the end of the current line
HomeTo the beginning the current line
Page UpUp one screen
Page DownDown one screen
Ctrl + Page DownDown one page
Ctrl + Page UpUp one page
Ctrl + EndTo the end of the document
Ctrl + HomeTo the beginning of the document

In the following video, Nancy Dugan discusses some of these shortcut keys, as well as the Delete, Ctrl + Delete, Backspace, and Ctrl + Delete keys.

The following table provides less frequently used cursor movement keys.

KeysMove Cursor
Ctrl + Alt + Page UpTo the top of the screen
Ctrl + Alt + Page DownTo the bottom of the screen
Shift + F5To the location of the previous revision
Shift + F5, immediately
after opening document
To the location of the last revision made before the document was last closed

9. Find and Go To Commands

You also can move around a document by using the Find dialog boxes.  Press Ctrl + F or go to Ribbon, View tab, Show group, Navigation Pane selection box.  Then type the desired search text.

Another way to move around is to use the Go To window.  Access it by using the Ctrl + G shortcut. From the window you can jump to a specific page, section, line, footnote, endnote, table, graphic, or other location.

10. Using the Keyboard to Select Text

Another way to save time is to use your keyboard to select text. In the following video, Nancy Dugan shows how to use your keyboard to efficiently select text in Microsoft Word.

11. Special Characters

When needing to type special characters, you can use the Ribbon, Insert tab, Symbols group, Symbol window, but a faster method to access commonly used special characters is through shortcut keys.  Nancy Dugan discusses these shortcuts in the following video.

12. Headers and Footers

Headers and Footers add a professional touch to your document.  In the following video, Scott Hanselman discusses how to add and control them.

13. Sections

Microsoft Word provides the means to break complex documents into sections.  The controls are rather difficult, but Scott Hanselman does a good job discussing sections in the following video, which uses the example of changing from portrait to landscape layout midway through a document.  You also can use sections to change the page size, margins, headers, footers, page numbering, and more.

14. Cross-references

Word makes it easy to add cross references to a document.  On the Ribbon, go to the References tab, Captions group, Cross‑reference window or to the Insert tab, Links group, Cross‑reference window.

In the following video, Bill Kulterman shows how to add cross references.

15. Styles

Understanding the styles feature is essential to using Microsoft Word efficiently.  For the many ins and outs of Styles, see my article at:

More Information

For more information on Microsoft Word see the following resources by the Goodwill Community Foundation Learn Free site :

Another resource is Microsoft’s training at:

Photo Credit

Ta Prohm Temple, Angkor, Cambodia, photographer kolibri5, Pixabay, 603359.