Category Archives: Microsoft PowerPoint

Ctrl+F1: Switch off the task pane in Office

When you start up Excel or other Office programs, they often stick a “Task Pane” up on the right, usually with the “Getting Started” heading. Annoying, isn’t it?

Switch it off one time with Ctrl+F1.

Switch it off permanently by following these steps (which you have to repeat for Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc.): Hit Alt+T to open the Tools menu, O to select the Options command, then deselect the “Startup Task Pane” checkbox using Alt plus whatever is the underlined letter (which is different in different programs — nice consistency there, Microsoft), then press Enter for OK.

Alt+4, Alt+5, Alt+6, Alt+7: Other buttons in the file dialog box

By now you may have figured out the pattern: When using Word, Excel or PowerPoint, and at the moment when you have a file dialog box open, you can use the Alt key plus a number to select the buttons along the top right.

We’ve already seen three:

  • Alt+1: Back (a folder)
  • Alt+2: Up one level (of folders)
  • Alt+3: Search the Web

But there are several more:

  • Alt+4: Delete (if you have a file or folder selected)
  • Alt+5: Create New Folder
  • Alt+6: Views
  • Alt+7: Tools (pulls down the Tools menu)

Because the buttons are in the same order, 1 through 7, it actually becomes fairly easy to remember which button to press.

Several of these, such as Alt+5, are actually useful. Whether or not you use these shortcuts depends on how often you use the buttons. Practice!

Remember, the easiest way to see this dialog box is to press F12 when using Word, Excel or PowerPoint to get the Save As dialog box, or to press Ctrl+O for the Open dialog box.

Alt+3: Search the web instead of using the file dialog (Office)

I have to admit I never use this one.

But, just suppose: You’re in Word or Excel or PowerPoint. You’ve opened up a file dialog box. It could be an Open file dialog box (by pressing Ctrl+O or using the File | Open menu, or by pressing Ctrl+F12). Or it could be a Save As file dialog box (by pressing F12, or selecting File | Save As).

And then you change your mind, and want to search the web instead. Instead of hitting Esc to cancel the file dialog box, and then pressing Ctrl+Esc to get the Start menu and then running your web browser, and then opening up a search engine, you can do all of that with one button. You could just use your mouse to hit this button, the “Search the Web” button:

[Screenshot of Save As dialog box with Search the Web button circled]

Or, you could press Alt+3. When you do so, instantly the dialog box closes (with no action taken), and your web browser comes up, with a search engine displayed.

(Note to readers: If you know how to change the search engine used here from MSN Live to something else, please let me know. The standard methods don’t seem to work.)

It’s a pity this keyboard shortcut only works in Office apps and not all apps that use a file dialog box.

Alt+1: Go back a Folder when in file dialog box (Office)

Similarly to yesterday’s tip, suppose you’ve opened the Save As dialog box and have looked at one or more different folders or drives, and you want to go back to the one you were just looking at. You could click on that little green “Back” button up in the top center, next to the “Save in” or “Look in” drop-down list. But instead of clicking a button, you can just type Alt+1.

Each time you press Alt+1 you’ll go back another folder until you return to the one you started out looking at.

Alt+2: Go up one Folder when in file dialog box (Office)

Yesterday, I mentioned you can press the Backspace key to move up a folder when you’re working with files.

For Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), you can do the same thing with Alt+2.

Try it!

Suppose, for example, you’re viewing top-secret plans in Word, and want to save a copy of them on your Desktop. You’d do the following:

  1. Hit F12 to get the Save As dialog box.
  2. Alt+2 several times, until the Desktop is displayed. (Normally you’d instead hit Shift+Tab, then Backspace several times.)
  3. Type the file name you want and press Enter.

F12: Save As (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)

When working with Excel, Word, or PowerPoint, you can save the current document with a new name, or in a different directory, or on a floppy disk (remember those?), by tapping the F12 key. The “Save As” dialog box appears. Then you can enter your filename and press Enter.

Not the right folder? Remember, you can move up a folder with the Backspace key, once you’ve moved focus to the file list pane — so press Shift+Tab then Backspace a few times to get to the Desktop quickly. We’ll have more tips on what you can do from this dialog box for the rest of the week.

Alt+Shift+F10: Open “Smart Tag” menu in Word, Excel & PowerPoint

When you’re using Excel 2003 or later, from time to time it’ll point out mistakes in your formulas or other observations by indicating a green triangle in the upper left of the cell, along with an exclamation point in a yellow diamond. The idea is you click on the diamond to see a menu with some options from Excel.

Clicking? Moi? Nope, instead of reaching for the mouse, just press Alt+Shift+F10, and the menu then opens. (Just have your cursor somewhere in the cell with the Smart Tag.) Once the menu appears, it’s just a regular menu, and you can use the Up Arrow or Down Arrow plus Enter to select an item, or press Esc to cancel.

Similarly, in Microsoft Word, sometimes you’ll be typing and Word will make a correction and show a blue double underline. Move your mouse to the underline and a yellow lightning bolt appears. Click on the lightning bolt and you’ll have some menu items to control the behavior of whatever automatic correction Word made.

Again, clicking? No need. The same Alt+Shift+F10 will open the Smart Tag menu in Word. Just have your cursor somewhere in the word with the double blue underline.

F6: Cycle through panes (Firefox, Outlook, PowerPoint)

Whenever you have an application screen with multiple sections, try pressing F6 to cycle between them.

In Firefox, it toggles between the address bar and the web page — unless you’re viewing a web page with frames, in which case each press of F6 moves you to a different frame.
In Outlook, you can switch between the header of an e-mail (where you type the To address, Subject, etc.) and the body of the e-mail.

In PowerPoint, you’ll move between the slide, the notes, and the outline on the left.

Ctrl+Shift+G: Group items in PowerPoint

Suppose you create a text box, and then an arrow, and move them together. Then suppose you need to move them a few times. It’s annoying to have to move each item separately, so you’ll usually want to “group” them into one object. Sure, you could find the menu commands to do that — but it’s much easier to select the two items you want, then press Ctrl+Shift+G.

Note: You can use Tab to select an object (just keep pressing Tab until the object you want is selected), but there’s no way that I know of to select multiple objects in PowerPoint via the keyboard.

Once an object is grouped, just use the arrow keys to move it around.

Shift+F3: Change Case in Word and PowerPoint

Select some text in Word or PowerPoint, then press Shift+F3. It’ll toggle between three possibilities for text capitalization:

  • Initial Letter Case
  • lower case

So, if you have selected some text like “siX MILlion Dollar mAn” each time you press Shift+F3 you’ll see it switch between “SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN” and “six million dollar man” and “Six Million Dollar Man”.

However! If you add some punctuation (like a period) at the end of what’s selected, instead of using Initial Letter Case, it’ll only capitalize the first letter of the sentence. So “I wiN!” will toggle between “I WIN!” and “i win!” and “I win!” (and not ever show “I Win!”).

Keystrokes during a PowerPoint Slideshow Presentation

We already covered pressing F5 to begin the presentation. Doubtless you know already that pressing space or page down or practically any key advances to the next slide, and that PageUp or P or Left Arrow or Up Arrow go the previous slide.

Did you know there were quite a few things you can do during a presentation too?

During the presentation, press F1 to see a list of the keystrokes available.

The most useful ones are:

  • Type a number and press Enter to go to that slide. For example, typing 15, Enter jumps to slide 15.
  • Press B or the period key to turn the screen black. Press it again to return to the current slide.
  • Press W or the comma key to turn the screen white. Press it again to return to the current slide.
  • Press Ctrl+P to get a Pen pointer, allowing you to use the mouse to draw on the slide. (These drawings are NOT saved.)
  • Press E to erase the drawings (or just go to the next slide).
  • Press Ctrl+A to return to the standard Arrow pointer
  • Press A to hide the arrow pointer (invisible cursor)
  • Press Shift+F10 for a menu of these and other options.

General PowerPoint tips: Tab to select objects, arrows to move them, Ctrl+M for new slide

In general in PowerPoint, you can get a lot done with the Tab key and the arrows keys.

If you’re entering text, first press Esc to cancel text entering mode. Then press the Tab key; every time you press Tab, you’ll select a different object. (This is invaluable to switch between the title and the text body, for example.) When an object is selected, the arrow keys will move it.

While moving an object, it will snap to the grid unless you hold down the Ctrl key.

To insert a new slide and start typing without using the mouse, try these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+M to insert a new slide.
  2. Press F6 to select the slide. (Each time you press F6 it switches between the open panes on the interface.)
  3. Press Tab to select the title box. Type your title.
  4. Press Esc to cancel text entry.
  5. Press Tab to select the text box. Type your text.

The above keystrokes get easier with practice, and soon you can be in PowerPoint Power Typing mode!

Ctrl+T: Change Font (in PowerPoint)

It’s PowerPoint week this week at the Windows Keyboard Shortcut of the Day.

Today’s tip is quite handy when entering or editing text in PowerPoint: Press Ctrl+T to bring up the Font dialog box, where you can edit the font face, style, size, color, and special effects.

(One wonders why this eminently handly tip isn’t usable in Word, Excel, or Outlook. In Word, it’s useful for the hanging indent function — but how often do you use that? In Excel, it seems to do nothing at all. In Outlook, it functions just like the Tab key, so that’s a waste.)

F7: Spell Check (Microsoft Office)

In most Microsoft Office apps (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook), tap F7 to begin the spellcheck process.

In the spellecheck dialog box, don’t forget to use Alt plus an underlined letter to hit the button! Using Alt+A to Add a correct word (such as your last name) to your custom dictionary is smart because it saves time in two ways — now, by saving you from having to use your mouse to hit the button, and later, by preventing this correctly spelled word from ever wasting your time again.

Ctrl+[, Ctrl+]: Increase, decrease font size in Word, Outlook & PowerPoint

If you have selected text and want to change its point size, you can easily do so with a simple keystroke: Ctrl+[ (the square bracket key next to the letter P on most keyboards) will lower the selected text by 1 point. Tap it a few times to see the effect. Similarly, Ctrl+] increases the text size.

You can also use Ctrl+< and Ctrl+> — but while that may be easier to remember, you have to use the Shift key, so I prefer the square brackets. Also, that keystroke doesn’t work in Outlook.

(If you need to, you can review how to select text with the keyboard.)

Excel doesn’t allow any of these keystrokes. Excel is a bit of a fuddy-duddy that way, refusing to play along.

Ctrl+L: Left justify, Ctrl+R: Right justify, Ctrl+E: Center, Ctrl+J: Justify

If you’re using Word, Outlook or PowerPoint, you can change the justification of a paragraph using the following four keystrokes:

  • Ctrl+L: Left justify the current paragraph, but keep the right margin ragged
  • Ctrl+R: Right justify the current paragraph.
  • Ctrl+E: Center the current paragraph (since Ctrl+C is already taken with Copy, they had to use the second letter.)
  • Ctrl+J: Left justify the current paragraph, but keep the right margin justified

What does “justification” mean? Nothing to do with justice. I’m not sure why justification is called what it is. But that’s what it’s called; for more, check out wikipedia’s entry on justification.

This is left (Ctrl+L).

This is centered (Ctrl+E).

This is right (Ctrl+R).

This paragraph is fully justified, which means the right margin is in a straight line. The rest of this paragraph is just nonsense text. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

This paragraph is left-justified, which means the right margin is uneven, or “ragged.” The rest of this paragraph is just nonsense text. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum

Quite a few other applications alllow the use of these four keystrokes as well. But not Excel.

Ctrl+Shift+P: Select Point Size of Font (in Microsoft Office apps)

Similar to yesterday’s tip, Ctrl+Shift+P will jump your cursor in the font size (also known as “point size,” thus the letter P for the keyboard shortcut) box on the Formatting toolbar in Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.

Once there, type in a number such as 18 and press Enter. Whatever text is selected will change to the new size; if no text is selected, whatever you type next will be at the new size.

Ctrl+Shift+F: Select Font (in Microsoft Office apps)

Using Excel, Word, or PowerPoint? Have the Formatting toolbar visible? Good, don’t spend another second moving your mouse up to that font selection area. Instead, press Ctrl+Shift+F, and all of a sudden your cursor is in the Font selection button on the Formatting toolbar. From there you can type in the first few letters of a font name (such as ver to get “Verdana”) and press Enter, or you can press the Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys to select the fonts one at a time. Press Alt+Down Arrow to see the pulldown menu.

Does this work with Microsoft Outlook? Alas, no. That would imply a consistency of design that, sadly, does not exist.