Navigating a Word document

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How to get around your Word document.

Once a document gets past a few pages, you need options for moving around that document quickly. Jumping from place to place as you refine your prose into something worth your name. Here’s some tips and shortcuts for moving quickly around a document – large or small.

Word has several ways to navigate a document, most of which are hidden away and not obvious to the casual users.


Hold down the Ctrl key

Simply holding down the control key while using the arrow keys will speed up cursor movements.

When you press the left / right arrows you move a single character – we all know that. Hold down the Ctrl key then a left/right arrow moves a whole word at a time.

Ctrl and the up/down arrows move a paragraph at a time. Alt + up/down arrow also jumps a paragraph at a time.

Ctrl + Home jumps to the start of the document.

Ctrl + End jumps to the end of the document.


Go Back

Always useful is the ‘Go Back’ shortcut – Ctrl + Alt + Z or Command + Z on a Mac.

This takes you to the last edited point in the document. Press again to jump to the next to last edit point.

It’s useful when you’ve skipped to look at some other place in the document and want to jump back to the last place you were typing.


Last Edit Points

Similar to ‘Go Back’ is Shift + F5 which takes you through the last three edit points in the document.


Vertical scroll bar

If you drag the Vertical scroll block up and down, recent version of Word will show the page number and headings in a tooltip as you move down the page.

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By Headings, Word means using the ‘Heading’ styles or a style with an outline level.


Navigation pane

For a ‘tree’ view of your document by headings switch on View | Show | Navigation Pane or in Word 2007 and before View | Document Map

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Click on a heading to move to that heading in the document. Click on the wedges to the left of headings to expand/collapse the sub-headings. It’s also possible to select a heading and move it up/down the list which will move that heading and content in the document itself.

Right-click on a navigation pane heading to see various options like Promote/Demote to adjust heading levels.

For viewing and navigation note the ‘Show Heading Levels’ at the bottom which lets you see which heading levels appear in the Navigation Pane.

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Open where you left off

In Word 2013 will prompt you to ‘Pick up where you left off’, in other words where you were last looking or editing the document before saving.

On the right-side is a prompt like this to click on:

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As you move your mouse away from the vertical scroll bar the prompt changes to something smaller.

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Find | Find Next

There’s always the Find command. Enter the search terms and they’ll appear as a list on the left. The list can appear as Results, highlighted Headings or Pages.

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That’s for recent versions of Word. All versions have the Find dialog box which can remain open while you move through the document. Press Ctrl + F to open the Find window. In recent versions of Word that opens the Navigation Pane and you have to choose Advanced Find to get the familiar Find dialog with all the options. Home | Editing | Find | Advanced Find.

The Find dialog box looks like this.

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Reading highlight is a handy innovation in the latest releases of Word. It will highlight all the Find results in the document itself.

Find Next is an old favorite. It lets you jump to each Find result without closing the Find dialog box. For example, use it to make changes that a Replace command can’t cope with. Click on ‘Find Next’, click in the document and make the necessary changes then ‘Find Next’ again to jump to the next location.


Find highlighted text

It’s very common for people to highlight some text that they need to return to later … a link to be fixed, fact to be checked or sentence to be refined.

In a Word savvy world we’d all use Comments for these situations but in practice it’s often highlighting instead.

You can scroll through a document looking for highlighted text or use Find to jump between each highlighted item.

Go to Advanced Find, click More then Format | Highlight. Leave ‘Find What’ blank (i.e. find all text) then Find Next.

Word will move to the next highlighted text. You can click in the document (leaving the Find dialog open on the side)

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Move between comments

If there are comments in a document you can move between them from the Review tab | Comments | Previous or Next.

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Move between changes

Similarly, you can skip between shared edits in a document if ‘Track Changes’ has been set on while editing.

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A reminder that while Track Changes and Comments is designed for document collaboration among many people, it can be very useful for individuals working on a document.


Jump between Word documents

The only reliable way to jump between Word documents is Ctrl + F6 or Ctrl + Shift + F6 in reverse order.

For reasons passing human understanding, Microsoft has disabled the Ctrl + Tab option for moving between documents.

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