Everyone is a writer. I can’t tell you how much this statement annoys people who actually write for a living, myself included. Yet it is true, to some extent.
Whether you are a developer, a founder, a support rep, a salesperson, a recruiter, or a marketer, you inevitably type quite a lot during the day. Emails, tickets, documents, memos, press releases, code snippets etc. all involve hitting your keyboard, sometimes over and over for typing the same thing.
Like many of you, MS Word happens to be one of my favorite typing tools. It’s so popular, in fact, that together with the rest of the MS Office 365 Suite, it dominates the market share at 48.08% of major office suite technologies worldwide (as of Feb 2022).
For everyone who writes, MS Word doubles up as productivity software too. There are many reasons for it. In this blog, we’ll explore one of the lesser known ones—custom text expansions in Word that enable you to automate your repetitive writing.
Why automate repetitive typing?
Mainly because it’s boring and mind-numbingly frustrating.
But if those aren’t reasons enough for you, you should also consider the sheer time-savings you can unlock by delegating typing to a tool. A minute saved on drafting each personalized candidate outreach email quickly becomes an hour saved if you target sending it to 60 people in one day.
You get to improve your productivity and use the time saved for better things. Taking back control of your time has never been easier, thanks to custom text expansion.
How to automate typing on MS Word?
MS Word has a few built-in capabilities for you to type faster.
You can create reusable text snippets using custom text expansion on MS Word versions 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and 2021. In addition, custom text expansion is also possible on Word for Microsoft 365.
What is custom text expansion on MS Word?
It’s not a magic trick, though it may seem like one.
Custom text expansion on MS Word allows you to create shortcuts of your choice for your content and invoke the content with far fewer mouse-clicks and keypresses than usual.
People prefer to create shortcuts for content they type out often, such as repetitive emails and messages, longer phrases that can be abbreviated, complex jargon or long-ish terms that are tiring to type out and easy to misspell etc.
Here is an example. You type out o/ty and it expands to thank you so much for your time. Or you add a product description to a press release by typing o/intro instead of copy-pasting it from your website for each new release.
In a nutshell, you type a few characters and have them automatically expand into a full-blown block of text.
There is no shortage of content that can become easier to type using text expansion. The only question is how.
How to create custom text expansions in MS Word?
You can avoid retyping frequent text in your documents with AutoText and AutoCorrect in MS Word.
In MS Office, the Quick Parts Gallery helps you create, store, and reuse pieces of content, including AutoText, document properties (such as title and author), and fields. All these are also called building blocks.
AutoText is a type of building block that can store text and graphics. According to Microsoft, AutoText handles large chunks of text, and is stored with your Word template. AutoCorrect can replace up to 255 characters of full text, and is available across all Office apps.
AutoCorrect is the same feature that acts as your standby proofreader and corrects each teh to the and recieve to receive.
Here are the step-by-step instructions to create your own custom text expansions in Word:
Creating and inserting an AutoText entry
- Go to your document and select the text that you want to make into a reusable snippet.
- Press Alt+F3.
- Fill out the details in the Create New Building Block dialog box. Your AutoText will be easier to find and use with the right name (shortcut) and description that you enter here.
- To use the snippet, go to Insert > Quick Parts > AutoText, and choose the suitable entry.
- If you don't want to have to always switch to the Insert tab and find Quick Parts, you can right click Quick Parts and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar. It will be made available right at the top of the window and you can access it with a single click.
Configuring and using an AutoCorrect entry
- Go to your document and select up to 255 characters that you want to make into a reusable snippet.
- Go to File > Options > Proofing, and select AutoCorrect Options.
- On the AutoCorrect tab, select the Replace text as you type check-box, if it's not already checked.
- Under Replace, type the shortcut of your choice to trigger the automatic text. The text that you selected in your document should appear under With.
- Select Add, and OK, and OK again.
Congratulations! Your shortcuts are now ready to be used. Here’s how they should work
You can set up hundreds of shorthand phrases for your commonly used text this way and type more speedily every day. However, that’s not all there is to text expansion in Word.
Custom text expansion—Tips and tricks for typing smarter and faster in MS Word
There are some points to remember before you can make the most of custom text expansion in Word. These tips and tricks will help you type even smarter and faster.
- AutoCorrect entries are not specific to a single Word document. This means ty will expand to thank you so much across all your Word documents, not just the one in which you configured the text. This means you cannot have bp expand to British Petroleum in one document and blood pressure in another. The only workaround? Remove the AutoCorrect entry once you’re done with the document you need it for and reconfigure it when needed.
- AutoCorrect entries will also be applied to other MS apps in the Office Suite, including Excel and PowerPoint. While the above workaround is still available, you can also backspace and retype the shortcut to prevent it from expanding again.
- To bypass accidentally triggering text expansion, you can define your shortcuts with delimiters (or special prefixes) that can set them apart from the words you normally type out. For example, you can type *name to insert your full name into the document and set it aside from the word name (which you can then type without fearing that it will expand unnecessarily in the wrong context).
- Lastly, to avoid cluttering your AutoCorrect entries, you will need to periodically review your snippets and delete/update them accordingly.
There you go! By using custom text expansion in Word, you should be able to type more with much less effort and in significantly less time.
That said, both AutoCorrect and AutoText have some big limitations including limited rich text expansion, character limits on snippets, and limited availability on the browser and mobile apps.
If you wish to overcome these, you can consider using a third-party text expander.
Does text expander work in MS Word?
There are a lot of text expanders that work in Windows and by extension on Microsoft Office apps including MS Word.
We have compiled a ready reckoner of 10 text expander for Windows for you to try out.
If you’re looking for the best text expander for MS Word on your Mac, though, we can confidently recommend our sleek and powerful OSlash app.
With a suite of features designed to skyrocket your productivity, OSlash text expander will auto-type your text not just on Word but also on Slack, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Gmail, Outlook—and everywhere else you work. You can even customize your snippets with dynamic variables, formatting, and images. Further, you can share them instantly with coworkers and friends.
Recommended reading: Embrace faster messaging and better user interactions with OSlash text expander
OSlash is also available for Chrome, Mozilla, Firefox, Safari, Edge, and Brave. And it’s free to get started. Makes it almost ridiculous to give it a miss, doesn’t it?
Go ahead! Download OSlash for your system here. We’ll be right here, cheering you on 🤩