Stop AutoFormat and Its Evil Cousins

contributed by Daiya Mitchell

Everyone complains about Word having a mind of its own. Before you start working, spend 5-10 minutes going through these three dialogs to turn off some of Word’s automation and set some controls the way you prefer.

  1. Tools>AutoCorrect, all tabs
  2. Word>Preferences, all tabs (on Windows: Tools>Options)
  3. Tools>Customize, Options tab

You’ll find more information below. Explore the dialogs and experiment with the settings. These three main locations are valid for all versions, although the exact settings that are available may change, and occasionally settings will move from one dialog to another across versions.

This page doesn't tell you what the "correct settings" are, because many of the settings are a matter of personal preference and dependent on the way you use Word. As long as you know the setting is there, you can usually control or undo any results. When Word does something that annoys you, check these dialogs to see if there is anything that fixes it, before getting frustrated. “Bend Word to Your Will”, a dictionary-style reference on using Word, covers such settings extensively, so there is no need to repeat the details here. Jump to page 17, then to page 32, for this topic, though the entire work is highly recommended.

Where webpages exist that give more information about these dialogs, I’ve added links below. If recommended settings exist, those webpages document them. (Mac users: if using Safari, you will need to hit refresh a few times for any of the links that begin with http://word.mvps.org. Sorry.)

1. Tools>AutoCorrect, all tabs

In particular, the AutoFormat As You Type tab is the source of the auto-numbering and the lines you can’t get rid of. You want to uncheck almost everything on that tab. The other tabs, however, offer features that can be quite helpful.

Any time Word flashes little yellow boxes at you while you are typing, and then types for you, those are AutoComplete boxes for AutoText, which is controlled from this dialog.

More Information:

2. Tools>Options, all tabs

Mac users: this dialog is the same as the Word>Preferences dialog.

This is the most important dialog, and it is very complex, but at least skim through it. Many of the controls here may not make sense at first, but if you have gone through the entire dialog, when you suddenly are wishing you could tell what was a field, you may remember that there was an option to shade all fields gray. Expect to return to this dialog and its sub-dialogs many times—as you do more with Word, it will become more useful.

You may also find that you need to change the settings depending on what you need Word to do that day. There are a number of predefined commands that toggle these settings hiding in Tools>Customize, and if a predefined command doesn’t exist, it’s very easy to record a macro that changes the setting.

More Information:

3. Tools>Customize, Options tab

There are just a few controls here, but can be quite useful. In some versions of Word, there is no Options tab, but the checkboxes available in that version have been shifted to the Toolbars tab.

More Information:

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