If you use the Microsoft Office suite, read these quick tips from Sharon Sheppard the owner of OutofhoursAdmin.

The Microsoft Office suite has always tried to improve the productivity levels of its users by implementing tools that save us time. Below are my 3 top tips (for version 2007 onwards) that I find useful to help shave a few minutes off work each day.

1. Quick Access Toolbar

With the introduction of the ribbon on versions 2007 onwards, many of us found it difficult to locate our most used commands, e.g. print, save etc. Luckily Microsoft brought in the Quick Access Toolbar, known as QAT for short. Any commands that you use on a regular basis, for example Save, Print Preview, Spellcheck etc. should be kept on the QAT for ease of use (especially if you can never remember the keyboard shortcuts!).

The QAT is found at the very top of the screen (above the ribbon) on all MS Office applications. To add commands to the QAT click on the drop down arrow on the right of the bar.

Some of the most used commands are already listed here and can be inserted by clicking on them. If you use other commands that aren’t listed, click on More Commands and this will open the options for you to customise the QAT.

Any time you want to remove the commands from the QAT, right click on the icon and select Remove from Quick Access Toolbar.

2. Set defaults under the Options tab

Another way to save a bit of time is to set up the defaults in all MS Office applications. For instance if you know you always spell a certain word incorrectly you can set it so it will automatically format to the correct word. To set these defaults click on File in the top left corner of the ribbon…

For 2007 version Microsoft has the Office Button instead – this button is located in the top left corner of the screen and is visible the whole time an application is open.

This opens up a menu for you to go through and customise everything you want from the colour scheme of the actual ribbon to how often you want the auto-recover to save the document.

In the Proofing section you can customise how you want the spellcheck and autocorrect to work. If you click on AutoCorrect Options, it brings up a handy little menu where you can add words that you know you always spell incorrectly. For example, if you know that you always type wieght instead of weight, you can add this to the autocorrect so it will automatically change it to the correct spelling.

You can also change the formatting as you type. Fractions are a good example of this – when you type in 1/2 it will automatically change to the fraction half (½).

Taking the time to customise these options in each application at the beginning will ensure you save time in the long-run.

Note: Remember that everything you change will automatically apply to ALL files you open or create from now on within those applications.

3. Pin frequently used files to the list of recent documents

In all Microsoft applications the Recent Documents list is automatically generated based on the files you open. As you open more files the list updates to the most recent ones.

If you know you open specific files on a regular basis, you can “pin” the file to the top of the list so it is always there, meaning you save time by not having to search through your folders trying to locate it!

Click File in the top left corner (or the Office Button on 2007 version) and go down to Recent.

To select files you want to keep, simply click the pin icon to the side of the files you want to keep. This icon then changes to a push pin and moves the file to the top of the list.

Next time you want to open the document, go to the Recent list and click on the file you want.

You can also change the number of files displayed in the Recent files list. To do this click on File and go down to Options. Click Advanced on the menu and about halfway down is a section called Display. Next to where it says Show this number of Recent Documents, choose the number of files you want displayed in the list. Then click OK.

And that’s it… I hope you find these tips helpful!


Sharon Sheppard is the owner of OutofhoursAdmin, a virtual assistant service providing administrative support to businesses in Ireland and the UK.

Sharon has over 23 years experience in administration in a wide variety of industries, from family-run businesses to global corporations.

Sharon is Microsoft Office certified as a Specialist in Excel, Word & PowerPoint, and specialises in creating spreadsheets, formatting documents and proofreading. She posts regular tips and tutorials on her blog, and has produced a library of free ebooks to help with MS Office tasks.  She is constantly on the lookout for ways to help save time and be more productive which she then passes on to her clients.

Her business is now in its 7th year and some of her current clients include professionals in the insurance industry, executive management trainers and confidence coaches.

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