10 Hidden Features of Microsoft Word That’ll Make Your Life Easier

Saikat Basu Updated 15-12-2019

Everyone knows Clippy. But are you friends with Pilcrow? If you are, then you know more about Microsoft Word than most people do. Do you know about “widow lines”? The extended clipboard?


There are plenty of lesser-known features that you should know about if you want to be truly proficient with Microsoft Word. Here are several important Microsoft Word features 5 Microsoft Word Settings You Should Definitely Customize There are many Microsoft Word default settings you can customize. Here are a few important ones that can make you more productive. Read More that are slightly “hidden” but can make your work easier.

1. Be Distraction Free

Writers want peace. The visual clutter of MS Word features gave rise to a legion of distraction-free editors and undisturbed peace. But if you love Word, you can use a quick shortcut to hide the visual clutter of the Ribbon. Press Ctrl + F1 to toggle the Ribbon from view.

Hide the Microsoft Word Ribbon with a shortcut key

Tweak it by clicking on Ribbon Display Option and selecting Auto-hide Ribbon. That’s the little arrow next to the minimize button on top.

Microsoft Word's Ribbon Display Option


Distraction free reading is a more specialized feature in Word from version 2013 onwards. Though, it was there in Word 2010, too. Designed for touch-enabled tablets, the Read Mode works well on an everyday laptop as well. Access it just as quickly with an ALT + W-F (Press W & F simultaneously).

Use Microsoft Word's Read Mode for distraction free reading

Optionally, use the default buttons:

  • (On the Ribbon menu) View > Read Mode.
  • (On the Status Bar)  The Read Mode button on the right.

Double-tap with your finger or double-click with your mouse to zoom in and make graphics like tables, charts and images fill the screen.


2. Reorganize with the Outline View

Outlining your main ideas and completing that first draft quickly is the surefire tip for writing productivity. If used well, the Outline View can increase your productivity with large documents by 50%.

Go to View > click the Outline button on the Ribbon.

Outline View helps you fine-tune the organization of complex documents by reordering text blocks and nine levels of headings. Outline View brings up a special toolbar called Outlining with controls for promoting or demoting selected text. Use the controls to hide or display selected text.

The Outlining toolbar in Microsoft Word

  • Want to get to a specific point in a long document? Switch to Outline View and jump to a specific heading level.
  • Want to draft quickly? Plan out the main sections on Outline View and then switch to the other layouts to write the body.
  • Want to reorganize a report by moving huge blocks of text? Drag and drop a heading to move not only that heading but all the sub-levels under it and the body text. Use the upward-downward arrows to work them.
  • Want to quickly format headings? Use Headlines 1, 2, and 3 instead of changing the size and using uppercase.

3. Use Word as a Quick Brainstorming Tool

Double-click anywhere and begin typing. You don’t need to bother with positioning a cursor if you don’t want to. This is the closest MS Word comes to freestyle writing. Click and Type has existed since Word 2002. The feature works only in the Print Layout view or in Web Layout view.

Word 2013 - Click and Type

Though this is very useful for inserting text and graphics, you can also use it for impromptu brainstorming as a freeform mindmapping tool 8 MS Word Templates That Help You Brainstorm & Mind Map Your Ideas Quickly Free Word templates are not just about beautiful documents, perfect resumes, and cover pages. They can be vital for brainstorming and mind maps too. Here are eight Word templates for your ideation needs. Read More .

4. Convert Tables to Graphs in 3-Steps

Take your pick—a neatly formatted table with lots of data OR a nicely done chart visualizing that data for you?


Being visual creatures, it is often a no-brainer to opt for the latter. Word makes it easy to convert tabular information into a chart. When you don’t have too much of tabular data, create a chart in Word instead of over-killing with Excel. Select the table with the data and follow three steps…

1. Click on the Insert tab on the Ribbon.

2. Click the Object tool within the Text group and open the Object dialog box.

Insert Object

3. From the list of Object Types, choose Microsoft Graph Chart. Click OK.

Insert a graph chart in Microsoft Word

Word displays the tabular data as a neat column chart. Modify the datasheet that appears.

You can also format this graph with a different chart type. Double-click your chart. Right-click in the white space that’s within the bounding box of the graphic and select Chart Type.

You can also use Microsoft Word to create stunning flowcharts How to Create Flowcharts With Microsoft Word The Easy Way Want to learn how to make a flowchart in Word? It's easy with the right technique. This introductory article explains how. Read More with the shapes feature.

5. Write Equations in Word

And you think that only Excel formulas are amazing 3 Crazy Excel Formulas That Do Amazing Things Excel formulas have a powerful tool in conditional formatting. This article covers three ways to boost productivity with MS Excel. Read More . The Equation Editor has always been an important feature of MS Word. In the latest versions of Word, it is simply known as Equation (available from Insert > Symbols Group > Equation).

Choose Insert > Equation > Insert New Equation.

Insert a new equation in Microsoft Word

Use the Equation Toolbar to design your own advanced equations for mathematics, physics, or chemistry. Word gives you many well-known equations to insert with just a click.

Microsoft Word's Equation Toolbar

6. Hold 24 Items in the Clipboard

The Office clipboard can hold 24 items and it inter-operable between all Office files. In the Home tab, click the little drop-down arrow next to Clipboard to reveal the panel on the left. For the shortcut, press Ctrl+C twice to open the Clipboard Panel.

This holding capacity enables you to cut and copy multiple elements and move them anywhere within the document or between open Office programs.

Office Clipboard in Microsoft Word

Use the clipboard’s Options to control its functions. For instance, you can disable the Show Status Near Taskbar When Copying that displays the number of items you’ve copied in the bottom-right corner of the Word window. It is on by default.

7. Translate Languages on the Go

Microsoft Office uses Microsoft Translator to handle all translations. Use the Translate feature from the Review tab. Translate a word or a sentence. Or, translate the entire document and display it in a separate Word document.

The Translator tab appears on the right and you can choose and change languages. Use this sidebar to highlight each word and explore their meaning in full.

Microsoft Translate in Word

8. Beautify Fonts with Kerning

Kerning adjusts the space between two individual letters for a better visual look. When designing a document, each typeface requires its own specific kerning. Kerning becomes important when you are designing with large fonts on Word, e.g. an ebook cover.

Word has kerning switched off by default, and normally you don’t need to bother with it. But let’s say you need to submit a five-page homework. Save effort by increasing the width between the letters instead of writing fluff!

Click the little pop-out arrow on Font (on the Home tab). Alternatively: click Ctrl+D.  Go to the Advanced tab. Select the checkbox for Kerning for fonts. Experiment by entering a small point size in the box. Remember some typefaces and font sizes don’t look good with kerning.

Use kerning in Microsoft Word

If you really want to get better with kerning and fonts, try out the Kern Type game we mentioned in a previous article on Font Games.

9. Inspect Your Document

Today, an important MS Word feature is collaboration but you have to pay attention to security too. The Document Inspector in Word helps you check your document for any information you want to keep private.

Whenever you create or even edit a document, some user information gets added to the file automatically. The Document Inspector helps you erase this kind of information before sharing a document.

To access the Document Inspector:

Go to File > Info > Inspect Document > Check for Issues > Inspect Document.

Check for issues with the Inspect Document feature in Microsoft Word

Inspect hidden content by selecting the checkboxes. After the inspection, any categories with sensitive data gets an exclamation mark. A Remove All button for each category removes the data and finalizes the document.

Document Inspector report in Microsoft Word

Office Support takes you step by step on how to use the Document Inspector.

10. Take the Benefits of Hidden Text

Oh yes. This feature is truly hidden. Hidden Text is a non-printing character attribute that has its usefulness. Hiding text can be useful in many situations:

  • Create a simple quiz by hiding the answers.
  • Control the layout for some specific printing job by inserting hidden text.
  • Print two versions of a document. In one, hide portions of text. You don’t need to create two copies or delete any part of the document.
  • Temporarily hide confidential information that you don’t want others to see.

On the flipside, we’ve shown how to add a watermark in Word How to Insert a Watermark in Microsoft Word (Or Remove One) A watermark is an important part of any document, and it's so easy to insert a watermark in Microsoft Word. Here's what you do. Read More for text that people can’t remove.

Hide or Unhide Text

Enable Hidden Text in Microsoft Word

  1. Select the text you want to hide or the hidden text.
  2. Click Home > Font Dialog box > Font > Select or clear the Hidden check box.
  3. Print Hidden Text: Go to the File tab > Options > Display > Select the Hidden text check box > Select the Print hidden text check box > Click Ok.

Non-printing characters are “formatting marks” which enables the user to troubleshoot and finetune the layout of a document.

For instance, words need to be single-spaced; your paragraphs have to be spaced with correct line breaks; all tabs should be lined up; table cells have to be formatted neatly; pagination has to flow, etc.

Pilcrows, tab-markers, spaces, line breaks, page breaks, object anchors, and hidden text are just some of the non-printing elements that are handy for controlling the layout of a Word document. You can remove page breaks 2 Ways to Remove a Page Break in Microsoft Word Page breaks are part of well-designed Word documents. Let's see how to create them, and also quickly remove them with two methods. Read More when needed, or display the non-printing characters by clicking the Pilcrow button on the Home tab. Alternatively, press Ctrl + *.

Note: In Word 2013 and onwards you can also expand or collapse parts of a document to selectively display information.

Use These Productivity Secrets in Word

Did you know about the annual Microsoft Office Championship? The participants are the experts at using the suite—and you can bet they have found faster or more efficient ways to use tools like Word for their day to day jobs. Probably, there’s a champion inside you.

To go deeper, why not check out the hidden Developer tab on the Word ribbon How to Add the Developer Tab to the Ribbon in Microsoft Word and Excel Let's see how you can add the Developer tab to the Ribbon in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel and open advanced features. Read More which will open up more ways to use Word. And if you’re creating a professional document, be sure to learn about cover pages How to Make a Custom Cover Page in Microsoft Word A strong cover page design is a great way to stylize your document. We show you how to make your own cover page in Microsoft Word. Read More .

Related topics: Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Office 2019, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Word.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Ron MVP
    May 12, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    I was just looking at the article again and noticed another point.

    You mentioned using the Outline view. That is great. I use it daily. But going along with that is the "Navigation Pane (formerly Document Map) feature. It is like a permanent outline view, even when document is in the other views. You can click and drag heading in the Nav Pane to reorganize the document structure.

    As well you can click on any heading in the nav pane to jump to that location in the main editing window.

    In the Nav Pane you can right click to select options to expand all, collapse all (to show only heading 1), and to show specific levels

    I switch to and from the outline view all day long. I have setup a macro with a shortcut key to switch into outline view and immediately only show the heading, hiding all of the body text:

    Sub ViewOutline()
    ' Switch to Outline View
    ' Show all headings only to Heading Level 9, no body text
    ActiveWindow.ActivePane.View.Type = wdOutlineView
    ActiveWindow.View.ShowHeading 9
    End Sub

  2. Andrew
    May 2, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Thanks Saikat, I found this article very useful. Particularly the reading mode that I had not used before. It is perfect for working with Track Changes on without the distraction of all the markup.

    • Saikat Basu
      May 2, 2016 at 2:59 pm

      Great Andrew.
      Yeah. The reading mode makes a lot of difference. Combine it with the Sepia color and you have just the right reading environment.

      Reading on the monitor is a huge strain otherwise isn't it?

  3. Varun
    January 15, 2016 at 2:49 am

    How to create List of Maps in word 2013. I am writing thesis, In addition to list of figures, i want list of maps. After inserting maps captions, using insert caption option. after going to references , inset table of figures, there i select Map caption, after i click ok, it asks me whether i would like to replace list of figures. i want both List of Maps and list of figures. pls help

  4. joe
    January 5, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    When will they add the option to reorder pages from the Navigation pane -> pages? such as in Powertpoint or many other programs

  5. Anonymous
    October 22, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    Anyone know an easy way to add a question mark(?) that you click to get something explained in word 10? Kind of like "what is this". Say you have a phrase or a statement and you want a little ? ,that if clicked will give a short explanation of the meaning or instructions...I would appreciate any help.Tia GW

    • Saikat Basu
      October 26, 2015 at 10:03 am

      This tutorial might help you.

  6. Anonymous
    August 28, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Apart from encouraging students to be dishonest by kerning text to increase spacing, this was a very interesting article.

    • Saikat Basu
      August 31, 2015 at 2:48 am

      Ha..ha. Yes, I was debating about that too myself. But if you were in India, you would understand. Most of the school assignments are nonsensical anyway, and practically everyone cuts, copies, and pastes.

    • Anonymous
      October 24, 2015 at 6:36 pm

      The article has it wrong. Kerning does NOT increase letter spacing. It REDUCES space ONLY between specific letter pairs, ie AW LT. It works best with LARGE fonts size, so it has very little impact on body text.

      Actually, the command they should have mentioned is in the same dialog, the "Spacing" option. You can use it to increase or decrease spacing between all letters by an amount of pts, or fractions of a point, that you specify. You can increase it a little, but if you do too much it becomes too obviously spaced out.

      But you can use that setting along with scale and some paragraph options, margins, headers and footers you can subtly massage the amount of space your document takes. I have actually documented something like 26 settings you can use. If you are interested, take a look at my document here:

      So yes, if you really need to, and the teacher is not on the ball, you can expand or compress your content a certain amount to meet a specified page limit.

      As well as using outline view to re-organize your document content, you can also do the same thing in the document map/navigation pane (depending on your version of Word). You can drag headings up/down in the navigation pane to re-organize the document.

      • Anonymous
        November 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

        This reminds me of a feature in WordPerfect 5.1 (DOS) that went the way of the Dodo when Windows and Word took over the desktop.

        WordPerfect was able to automatically adjust the spacing of a full-justified line of text to fit into the text width according to squeeze or expand limits you set, depending on the last couple of words in a line of text, to make the words fit on the line. You set the squeeze or expand limits using percentages. It also squeezed or expanded the spaces between words as required. It hyphenated words to make them fit (or did not hyphenate) as you specified, and used hidden hyphens if you had inserted them. And of course it did kerning of all font sizes.

        The end result was text that looked exactly like typeset printed text, beautiful to look at and to read. And this was way back in 1988 or so, long before Windows and well before Word became a usable word processor.

        I don't know whether WordPerfect for Windows was/is able to do this, because I left WordPerfect for Word with the advent of WordPerfect for Windows Version 6.1, which was too clunky and slow for me, and because all my clients were moving to Word.

        If Word could implement this today, it would be wonderful.

        • Anonymous
          November 5, 2015 at 4:55 am

          Jay, you got your wish. MS just hid it.

          Word actually did copy that feature from WP way back around Word for DOS 4 (or maybe a bit earlier). They implemented it using the "Justified" paragraph attribute. But they did a really carpy job of doing justification. They inserted extra full spaces between WORDS only. A very low budget way of doing it. Eventually, in WinWord 5 or 6 they added a "Compatibility Option" "Do justification like WP 5". When you turned on that Word Option, then Word did justification "properly". Finally, in Word 2013 they incorporated that option as the default.

          There are 4 JUSTIFICATION buttons on the Home tab > Paragraphs group. But there is also a 5th justification, "Distributed Justification", which can only be applied using the shortcut combo.

          Distributed Justification spreads everything on the line out to fill the line margin to margin. If the line is really short, the spacing between letters and words becomes unreasonably wide. It is intended for 1 line paragraphs, like posters or headings.

        • Anonymous
          November 6, 2015 at 3:53 am

          Ron, Thanks for following up.

          Distributed justification is nothing like what WordPerfect used to do in Version 5.1. To begin with, it justifies the last line, despite the hard return at the end. This negates the whole issue, and makes it unusable other than for a single-line of text.

          And of course, one cannot set the maximum and minimum squeezing and expansion limits.

          If WordPerfect could get it right 20 years ago, why is it that MicroSoft hasn't been able to get it right during all this time?

          Perhaps because, as we have suspected all along, the IT people who program Word are not writers. This is proved by yet another annoyance that I have been complaining about to MS for the past three years -- that the non-break hyphen character they use (Ctrl+Shift+_) is in fact the length of an en-dash, which screws up the text layout completely. This when I have been pointing out that there is a perfectly usable non-break hyphen character in Alt+0173.

        • Anonymous
          November 6, 2015 at 3:59 am

          Ron, RE my earlier Comment/Reply:

          Further to my comment about non-break hyphens, I checked to be sure, and find that they have introduced a shorter character in Word version 2016 (or whatever version is shipped with Office 2016). I was using Word 2010 up until last week, and that too had the grotesque en-dash sized non-break hyphen.

          So they appear to have finally taken my suggestion on board.

  7. PJ Parker
    May 9, 2015 at 9:45 am

    This was an interesting article. I have run into some of these features, and have poked around Word. I know they're there, and now I see how useful they can be for writers, bloggers and teachers.

    What I was looking for was help with tags and categories to help me organize thousands of documents stored on my computer.

    • Saikat
      May 9, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      Well, you can always fall back on Windows' tagging system for files and documents. From File Explorer -- Click or tap the file you want to add or modify properties. In the Details pane, click or tap the tag you want to change, and then type the new tag.

      Combining this with well structured folders and subfolders, should help you to organize all documents.

  8. chemutai leonard
    February 17, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    It's a nice summary for beginners like my students in form 1 & 2 thanks alot!!

    • Saikat
      February 18, 2015 at 2:24 am

      You are welcome. Hope it is as useful for them. Keep coming back...we have a number of 'tutorials' coming out.

  9. N
    February 8, 2015 at 6:13 am

    'I still keep discovering new ways to do something. And that’s just Word. Imagine what’s there in the depths of something like Excel.'
    Word--bow & arrow
    Excel--Sniper rifle
    Access--M1A2 Abrams tank.

    I really can't think of anything I'd want to do in Word or Excel that I wouldn't rather have as an Access report or a notepad file. Bring the full arsenal to bear, or don't bother with any of it.

    • Tina Sieber
      February 11, 2015 at 6:51 pm

      Fortunately, not everyone is going to war and needs a tank. Some people just need to keep the sparrows busy. ;)

      We'll have to look into more in-depth Access coverage, though. There's a much steeper learning curve and lots of lessons to cover. Any advice what an Access novice should start with?

  10. Mark
    January 19, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    The only hidden feature I might care about with MS Word is the secret auto-destruct macro. I spend many an hour cursing the code monkeys who assembled this thing, wishing them a horrifying end. But if I could make Word itself suffer and die, that would be a good 2nd. Wish I could run Word 5.1a on my MacBook Pro.... it was the last good version of Word...

    • Saikat
      January 19, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      Then, the obvious follow-up question is, which is your document editor of choice?

  11. John Mueller
    January 18, 2015 at 8:06 am

    Word's search and replace features are very powerful, especially when you use wildcards. I've written macros to repeat often-used search and replace steps, which include using wildcards to lots of time.

    • Saikat
      January 19, 2015 at 6:57 am

      Yes John. Macros are something I have to look into more deeply for a potential article. Thanks or the idea.

  12. Keith Collyer
    January 16, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    @dragonmouth err, what? They aren't exactly hidden, just (mostly) not on by default. That's because you don't want to use them all the time. But they are useful when you need them. Is that so hard to understand?

    • Saikat
      January 16, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      I still keep discovering new ways to do something. And that's just Word. Imagine what's there in the depths of something like Excel.

  13. James Howde
    January 16, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    By coincidence I actually did the hidden text thing on a quiz I did over Christmas to avoid having to have separate question and answer sheets.

    I found there was a problem in that printing treated the hidden text as being not there (rather than act as if it was white text on white paper) so I lost the spacing on the question sheets where the answer was the only thing on a line; and had to add some non hidden text spaces to those lines to sort it out.

    With hindsight it might have been easier to set up an Answer style and toggle the font colour to white for printing out the question sheets.

    • Saikat
      January 16, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      Yes. That I guess is one thing to keep in mind for printing quirkiness.

  14. dragonmouth
    January 15, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    If these features are hidden, then Microsoft obviously did not mean for them to be widely used. If they really are so great, M$ would have put them front & center so everybody would use them.

    • Saikat
      January 16, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      How many features do you think an average user knows about? :)

      In fact, there was a study that prompted the release of Ribbon Hero. The figure was within the low 20% if I remember correctly.

      The first part is knowing the features. The second is knowing how and when to use them.

      • Anonymous
        October 24, 2015 at 6:48 pm

        And the third part is being able to think "outside of the box" to combine features in unexpected ways to create effects that are not obvious. I am constantly surprised what people can come up with.

        For example, for a while I have seen questions about creating different color "strike through". Some professions depend on specific colors to indicate important concepts. For a long time I thought it was not possible. Until I recently saw the suggestion to use insert > shapes > line to create different color strike through's.

        Actually, I would be surprised if the 'average user' knew and used even 10% of the features in Word. How many people use mail merge, equation editor, any of the 50 or so new "text effects" options, any significant number of the picture editing features, WordArt, MACROS! etc.

        How many people know about how to use Compatibility mode to "trick" Word into giving you access to discontinued features, ie getting to the 2003 WordArt styles in Word 2010/13 ...

        • Saikat Basu
          October 26, 2015 at 9:25 am

          So true Ron. And your comment just gave the first fodder for a second look at more hidden features. Thanks :)