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Word's split personality with AutoText

Our extended coverage of Word’s AutoText feature uncovered some peculiarities and annoyances but mostly the yawning gap between the ribbon/menu options and the field code features.

What you see on the menu, drop down lists and options for AutoText aren’t reflected in the AUTOTEXTLIST field code.  AUTOTEXTLIST makes a little in-document menu of AutoText items.

In Word you can classify an AutoText entry in various ways from the properties menu.

There are various Galleries and customizable Categories as well as the template that the AutoText is saved in.

Any of these, but especially Category, would make sense for building an AUTOTEXTLIST menu.  But you can’t.

Instead, AUTOTEXTLIST makes a list of entries based on the Style used in an AutoText item!  That’s not even a property visible in the Building Block list, making it hard to figure out which AutoText items will appear on a menu.

AUTOTEXTLIST hasn’t been changed at all, despite all the improvements in the Building Blocks/Quick Parts feature in Word.

Why?   Most likely because field codes aren’t ‘visible’ in Word for demonstrations etc.  Microsoft is most interested in Office features that look good in demonstrations and gushing web pages.  Boring ‘nuts and bolts’ things like field codes don’t warrant development money.

Really, that’s just the start of our gripes about AutoText in Word.  Check out the Building Blocks Organizer which is barely ‘fit for purpose’.

This is a long list of items, even with just the Built-In choices.  This makes it difficult to deal with.

You can re-sort the list by clicking on the headings.  There’s no visual clue to this ability, you’re meant to know by long experience with Windows/Office or maybe mental telepathy.

Really this list, and many others in Office (eg Style lists) need some search and filtering options to make them manageable.

The preview pane for Building Blocks is often useless.  The block is very small or faint – if you squint your eyes really hard, you might make out the detail on header, footer or page number items.  Preview needs zoom and scroll options to make it effective.


By all means, use the AutoText feature.  While you do that, prepare for plenty of teeth grinding when you wish that Microsoft didn’t just settle for ‘good enough’ but do a proper and comprehensive job.

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