An American Editor

July 4, 2022

Keyboard movement shortcuts for writers and editors, Part 3 of 3

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 12:51 pm
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Tips for customizing your keyboard

By Geoffrey Hart

In my previous article about automatic text (https://americaneditor.wordpress.com/?s=Geoff+Hart+%2B+automatic+), I discussed how paying attention to what we type most often can help us create typing shortcuts that make our writing and editing work go much faster. That’s all very well, but if you pay attention while you’re editing a manuscript (including revising your own manuscripts), you’ll notice that moving around a manuscript probably consumes more time than repeatedly retyping certain words or phrases. If you’re reaching for the mouse each time you want to move the cursor to a new position or holding down an arrow key, you’re wasting significant amounts of time.

In my article “Save time by mastering the basics: efficient movement within a file,” I showed how mastering only three keyboard shortcuts saved me up to 20 minutes per day compared with using the mouse or just holding down the arrow keys to move the cursor. In this article, I’ll go much further and show you all the keyboard shortcuts I currently use to move around a document.

Note: Although I’ve emphasized the time savings permitted by these shortcuts, I also want to remind you of the “repetitive” part of “repetitive stress injury.” As we grow older, our bodies take longer to recover from hours of clicking the mouse and pressing the keyboard’s movement keys. Anything we can do to limit that repetition reduces the stress on our bodies and improves our recovery times.

In Effective Onscreen Editing and Write Faster With Your Word Processor, I provide a high-level overview of how these customizations work, supported by examples. However, given space constraints, I provided only a few examples. To remedy that lack, I’ve written this article to provide a comprehensive list of the movement shortcuts I use most frequently every time I sit down to write or revise a manuscript.

Because most writers and editors use Microsoft Word, I’ll focus on how Word implements these movement shortcuts. Most other word processors should offer similar features, although you’ll have to do a bit of research to learn how.

Customizing the keyboard

To use the movement shortcuts in this article, you’ll first need to learn how customize your keyboard shortcuts in Word:

· Mac: Open the “Tools” menu and select “Customize keyboard.”

· Windows: Open the “File” menu, select “Options,” select the “Customize Ribbon” tab, and click the “Customize keyboard” button.

For built-in Word commands, select the category of command at the left of the dialog box (e.g., “Home tab” for commands that appear in the Ribbon’s Home tab), and the specific command at the right side of the dialog box. You can scroll down through the list of commands, or click inside the list and start typing the first letters of a command’s name to move directly to that command. At the bottom of the dialog box, choose which template or document should store the shortcut. If you choose “Normal.dotm,” the shortcut will be available in any document on your computer. However, you could also create customized shortcuts for specific purposes, such as if you need to move to HTML < > tags so you can edit them, and store those shortcuts in a separate template or document. Another interesting example: If you’re writing or editing a novel and need to move to each instance of a character’s name to ensure that your physical description of the character is correct, you could use the instructions later in this article to create a search shortcut (e.g., press the F1 key) that moves to the next instance of the character’s name.

To assign a keyboard shortcut, click to position the cursor in the “Press new keyboard shortcut” field and type the new shortcut. If that shortcut has already been assigned to a command, Word will display the command that is currently associated with that shortcut. If you don’t want to replace that command, press the Backspace key to delete the keyboard shortcut and try again with a new shortcut. If you don’t use that particular command and want to use the shortcut for your own purposes, click the “Assign” button.

Note: Keyboard shortcuts are stored in the Normal.dotm template unless you specify another destination, so if you’ve done a lot of work customizing Word, be sure to include that template in your backups. To find the template’s location:

· Mac: Open the “Word” menu, select “Preferences,” then select the “File Locations” tab.

· Windows: Open the “File” menu, select “Options,” select the “Advanced” tab, and then scroll down towards the bottom of the dialog until you see the “File Locations” button. Click the button.

If you select the category “User templates,” the path to your templates appears at the right side of the dialog box. You won’t be able to see the whole path, so click the “Modify” button. Word then displays a standard “File Open” dialog box that you can navigate to learn the whole path to your templates. Because this folder is buried annoyingly deep in your computer’s file system, move to that folder only once, but create a shortcut (Windows) or alias (Mac) that points to this directory and move that alias to your desktop or Documents folder. You can now reach your custom templates in a single step.

Most of the keyboard shortcuts I’ve proposed in this article will work equally well in Macintosh and Windows versions of Word, although some have already been assigned to a specific commands that I never use; if you use them, you’ll need to choose a different shortcut. Choosing shortcuts is easier for Mac users because the Mac operating system doesn’t use the Control key for most functions, unlike in Windows. Thus, the Control key on a Mac is available for all shortcuts, whereas you may not want to override certain Windows keyboard shortcuts based on the Control key (e.g., Control+C to copy text).

Note: Mac keyboards have an “Option” key that occupies the same position as the “Alt” key in a Windows keyboard. I use “Alt/Option” to indicate that your shortcut should use whichever of these two keys appears on your keyboard.

If you’ve set Word to warn you if the Normal.dotm template changes, you’ll receive this warning once you finish customizing your keyboard shortcuts and quit Word for the day. Always confirm that you want to save the changes; otherwise, you’ll have to recreate all the customizations. To ensure that I don’t get busy with other things and forget, I’ll often quit Word as soon as I finish a batch of customizations, and save those changes when Word asks me to confirm that I really want to update the template.

How to use this article

This article contains a great many shortcuts, and it would be unwise (and probably discouraging) to try memorizing them all in a single go. You’ll find it much more effective to pick a few of the shortcuts that seem likely to save you the most time, and practice them until they become part of your muscle memory and you can use them without thinking. In the time you save once you’ve learned these shortcuts, pick a few new shortcuts and practice them too. Soon, you’ll find that you’re using most of these commands (possibly with a quick glance back at this article for a refresher) without much thought and zipping around documents like a honeybee who drank too much espresso.

Note: The shortcuts I’ve chosen make perfect sense to me. They may be meaningless and confusing to you. Choose shortcuts that make sense to you, since you’re the one who will be using them.

I recommend that you record your keystroke definitions in a simple table created in Word. This way, you can periodically consult the table to see which ones you’ve forgotten to use or should be using more often. It also lets you easily implement your shortcuts on another computer, if necessary. Although you could copy the Normal.dotm template to your new computer, I’ve found that moving a template from Mac Word to Windows Word sometimes creates problems, such as a loss of certain customizations. Your mileage may vary, but I’ve found fewer problems when I recreated customizations under both operating systems.

The movement shortcuts I’ll describe in this article can be divided into three categories:

· Based on built-in Microsoft Word commands that don’t, “out of the box,” have keyboard shortcuts associated with them.

· Based on macros that record a series of movements so you can perform those movements again with a single keystroke.

· Created using the Search (Find) function to move to a specific pattern of text, and implemented using a recorded macro.

Built-in commands

As noted in the previous section, you’ll use the Customize Keyboard dialog box to find the commands you need. Once you’ve found them, try using the following shortcuts:

MovementBuilt-in commandSuggested keyboard shortcutExplanation
Start of current sentenceSentLeftControl+Alt/Option+HomeSentLeft should also move to the start of a sentence in right-to-left languages.
End of current sentenceSentRightControl+Alt/Option+EndSentRight should also move to the end of a sentence in right-to-left languages.
Next tracked changeToolsRevisionMarksNextControl+Alt/Option+[down arrow] 
Previous tracked changeToolsRevisionMarksPrevControl+Alt/Option+[up arrow] 

Shortcuts based on macros

Once again, you’ll use the “Customize Keyboard” dialog box to find the commands you need. However, for this category of commands, you’ll first need to create a macro — which isn’t nearly as intimidating as it seems. Once you’ve recorded the macro and confirmed that it works by running it a couple times, open the “Customize Keyboard” dialog box and scroll through the “Category” list until you reach “Macros.” You can then select your new macro from the list at the right side of the dialog box and assign a keyboard shortcut.

To record a macro:

· Select the Ribbon’s “View” tab, open the menu beside the “Macros” icon, and select “Record macro.”

· Name the macro and specify which file it should be stored in (usually Normal.dotm so it will be available in all files on your computer).

· Perform the series of actions you want to record. Don’t feel pressured: Word doesn’t monitor how long it takes for you to finish the actions and will wait patiently until you’re done.

· Open the menu beside the “Macros” icon and click “Stop Recording.”

If you’re uncomfortable with recording macros, you can instead create them by copying the macro instructions someone else has created. I’ve provided the macro instructions I use later in this article. To copy the instructions I’ve provided:

· Open the menu beside the “Macros” icon.

· Select “View Macros.”

· Select any macro (it doesn’t matter which) and click the “Edit” button.

· You’ll now see Word’s macro editor, which looks intimidating. Don’t be intimidated: you can ignore all of the interface except the window at the right side of the screen that shows the macro instructions.

· Click to position the cursor before the word “Sub” that precedes the macro name you selected, and then press Enter to create a new blank line. Alternatively, click to position the cursor after the words “End Sub” and then press enter to create a new blank line.

· Copy the macro instructions from this article.

· Paste them into the blank line you created in the macro editor.

· Press Control+S (Windows) or Command+S (Mac) to save your changes.

· Press Command+Q (Mac) or Alt+F4 (Windows) to close the macro editor. Don’t worry: you won’t be closing Word itself!

Movement to recordSuggested keyboard shortcutExplanation or macro instructions
5 words/positions to the rightControl+5Sub MoveFiveWordsRight() Selection.MoveRight Unit:=wdWord, Count:=5 End Sub
5 words/positions to the leftControl+Alt/Option+5Sub MoveFiveWordsLeft() Selection.MoveLeft Unit:=wdWord, Count:=5 End Sub

I chose five because that seems to be the most common large within-sentence move I make in the manuscripts I edit. If five doesn’t fit the way you work, it’s easy to change that: Simply edit the macro, and replace the “5” with whatever number of spaces you want to use. Here and for subsequent macros, you can also copy the macro instructions (starting with the “Sub” line that contains its name and ending with the “End Sub” line and paste the instructions into the macro editor. Change the name and the details. For example, to move only four words left, change the name to MoveFourWordsLeft() and change the “count” to 4.

Combine the search function with macros

For this category of movement shortcut, you’ll use the same method described in the previous section to record a macro. This time, however, the macro uses the Search (Find) function to move to the next or previous instance of the thing you’re searching for. To record macros in this category:

· Select the Ribbon’s “View” tab, open the menu beside the “Macros” icon, and select “Record macro.”

· Name the macro and specify which file it should be stored in (usually Normal.dotm so it will be available in all files on your computer).

· Start the action you’ll record by opening the search dialog box.

· Type the search term you’re looking for, and apply any additional characteristics that are relevant (e.g., a specific font, boldface format). The search string can include any characteristics specified under the “Format” menu and any characters listed under the “Special” menu at the bottom of the dialog box.

· Click the “Find” button, then close the dialog box.

· Select the Ribbon’s “View” tab, open the menu beside the “Macros” icon, and select “Stop Recording.”

The macro you’ve just recorded will find what you’re looking for and politely close the dialog box to get it out of your way. In the following table, I’ve provided shortcuts for most searches to move to the previous instance and the next instance of the search string. However, if (like me) you find yourself running out of memory space to remember all these shortcuts, it’s not necessary to do this. You could instead use your macro to move to the next or previous instance of the search term. You can then press the Control+PageDown (Windows) or Command+PageDown (Mac) shortcut once to move to the next instance, then press Control+PageUp (Windows) or Command+PageUp (Mac) shortcut twice to move to the previous instance. These shortcuts are worth learning because you can also use them in searches that are not recorded as macros.

Note: These macros can be revised or copied and revised easily to use new search patterns. For example, if you want to find only whole words, change the “MatchWholeWord” text to “True” (without the quotes). For movements such as “next comma,” you could also create a macro for “previous comma” simply by changing the “Forward” text to “False” (without the quotes).

Movement to recordSuggested keyboard shortcutExplanation or macro instructions
Next periodControl+[period key]Sub MoveToPeriod()     Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “.”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindAsk         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next commaControl+[comma key]Sub MoveToComma()     Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “,”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next semicolonControl+[semicolon key]Sub MoveToSemicolon()     Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “;”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next colonControl+Shift+[semicolon key]Sub MoveToColon()     Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “:”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next punctuation (any)Control+Alt/Option+[right arrow]If you don’t want to record separate shortcuts for each punctuation symbol, you can use this shortcut instead.   Sub MoveRightToPunctuation() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “[.,;:\?\!]”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = True         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Previous punctuation (any)Control+Alt/Option+[left arrow]If you don’t want to record separate shortcuts for each punctuation symbol, you can use this shortcut instead.   Sub MoveLeftToPunctuation() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “[.,;:\?\!]”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = False         .Wrap = wdFindAsk         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = True         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next numberControl+3Mnemonic: The number sign (#) appears above the 3 on your keyboard.   Sub MoveToNumber() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “^#”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Previous numberControl+Alt/Option+3Sub MoveToPreviousNumber() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “^#”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = False         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next letterControl+4Mnemonic: Programmers use the $ to represent a letter rather than a number, and the $ appears above the 4 on your keyboard. Alternatively: The 4 appears beside the 3 that I used to search for numbers, so you can search for letters and numbers using adjacent keys.   Sub MoveToNextLetter()     Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “^$”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Previous letterControl+Alt/Option+4Mnemonic: Programmers use the $ to represent a letter rather than a number, and the $ appears above the 4 on your keyboard. Alternatively: The 4 appears beside the 3 that I used to search for numbers, so you can search for letters and numbers using adjacent keys.   Sub MoveToPreviousLetter()     Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “^$”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = False         .Wrap = wdFindAsk         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next left bracketControl+9Mnemonic: The left bracket appears above the 9 on your keyboard.   Sub MoveToLeftBracket() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “(”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Previous left bracketControl+Alt/Option+9Mnemonic: The left bracket appears above the 9 on your keyboard.   Sub MoveToPreviousLeftBracket() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “(”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = False         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next right bracketControl+0Mnemonic: The right bracket appears above the 0 on your keyboard.   Sub MoveToRightBracket() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “)”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Previous right bracketControl+Alt/Option+0Mnemonic: The right bracket appears above the 9 on your keyboard.   Sub MoveToPreviousRightBracket() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “)”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = False         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False         .MatchByte = False         .MatchFuzzy = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next left square bracketControl+[Sub MoveToNextLeftSquareBracket()     Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “[”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next right square bracketControl+]Sub MoveToNextRightSquareBracket()     Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “]”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next bookmarkControl+Shift+BI use [ ] as a bookmark because it’s short and won’t appear in most manuscripts. If you prefer, choose your own bookmark character!   Sub FindNextBookmark() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “[]”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Previous bookmarkControl+Alt+Option+ Shift+BI use [ ] as a bookmark because it’s short and won’t appear in most manuscripts. If you prefer, choose your own bookmark character!   Sub FindPrevBookmark() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “[]”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = False         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next instance of selected textControl+Alt/Option+FSelect the text you want to find before you run the macro. This macro then copies it to the clipboard and pastes it into the search dialog box.   Sub FindSelectedText()     Selection.Copy ‘ Define selection as variable     Dim MyFoundText$     MyFoundText$ = Selection     Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find        .Text = MyFoundText$         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindAsk         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Previous instance of selected textControl+Alt/Option+Shift+FSelect the text you want to find before you run the macro. This macro then copies it to the clipboard and pastes it into the search dialog box.   Sub FindSelectedTextPrevious() Selection.Copy ‘ Define selection as variable     Dim MyFoundText$     MyFoundText$ = Selection     Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find        .Text = MyFoundText$         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = False         .Wrap = wdFindAsk         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub
Next yearControl+YI use this for checking literature citations using the author/date system. Note that you can edit this macro to find any repeating pattern of characters (e.g., change ^# to ^$ to find a pattern with four consecutive letters).   Sub FindYear() Selection.Find.ClearFormatting     With Selection.Find         .Text = “^#^#^#^#”         .Replacement.Text = “”         .Forward = True         .Wrap = wdFindContinue         .Format = False         .MatchCase = False         .MatchWholeWord = False         .MatchWildcards = False         .MatchSoundsLike = False         .MatchAllWordForms = False     End With     Selection.Find.Execute End Sub

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