Office hacks for lawyers #1 - power copy + paste

For good or bad, most lawyers will spend the majority of their working lives inside the Microsoft Office suite. And most of that time will be using Outlook and Word, possibly with the occasional switch to PowerPoint and - for power users - Excel.

I have certainly been one of those lawyers, and have managed to learn a trick or two along the way that has made my life a little less frustrating. This will hopefully be the first in a series of posts outlining some Office hacks, tips and tricks for lawyers. You may well already know some or all of these, but even if you're already a power user, there might be some hidden gems in here. If you've got a tip or trick you want to share, let me know on Twitter or LinkedIn.

All the demonstrations below use Office 2016. All the functions should be in the same place for Office 2013, and (with some variations) Office 2010. If you're still using an earlier version of Word, the functions (mostly) still exist, but you will have to go looking for them. The demonstrations below use Word, but the same functionality is present in Outlook, while the rest of the Outlook suite has variations depending on the particular application.

Power copy + paste

Everyone knows about cut, copy and paste. But Office also has a number of "power" versions of copying and pasting that can make life much easier.

Paste options

By default, whenever you hit paste, the formatting attached to what you copied will be carried across:

Default paste: source formatting is copied too.

Default paste: source formatting is copied too.

Only want the text without formatting? Or to use the destination formatting? Use the paste options instead (this is called "Paste Special" in early versions of Word). You can access this from Home > Paste Options. Hover (don't click) to see a preview of how the paste option will look, then click to select: 

Paste options: your choice of formatting.

Paste options: your choice of formatting.

You will see the same options if you right click:

Right click for paste options.

Right click for paste options.

Copy and paste formatting

Inserted some text with the wrong formatting? Or has Word mucked up your carefully numbered contract? You can also copy and paste formatting (the "format painter") from one section of a document to another. Highlight the section of text with the correct formatting, then select Home > Format Painter. Highlight the destination section of text to apply the formatting.

Copying formatting.

Copying formatting.

Power users: highlight a section of text with the correct formatting, then press ctrl+shift+c to copy the formatting, then ctrl+shift+v to paste the formatting to your new text selection:

Copying format keyboard shortcuts

Copying format keyboard shortcuts

Use the clipboard

Are you copying a selection of text into multiple places in a document? Great, copy once then paste in multiple locations as many times as you want. But what if you have two (or more) selections of text that need to be pasted throughout your document? Lots of scrolling and copying?

There is a better way! Use the clipboard. Select Home > Clipboard (the pop-out button). You will be presented with a new pane showing the clipboard:

Show the clipboard

Show the clipboard

Now each time you copy something (up to 24 items) it will appear in the clipboard. Just click the relevant item to paste where necessary:

Using the clipboard

Using the clipboard

Saved copies

The clipboard is great for storing selections of text you're working on right now. But it will be cleared when you close Word or shutdown your computer. Some text selections you use all the time. Most people open up a document that has the necessary text and copy and paste it into the new document.

But again, there is a better way! Use the "Quick Parts" (or "Building Blocks") Gallery. This is an awesome feature of Word that is massively under-utilised. The Quick Parts gallery will save your selections of text permanently. Is there are great confidentiality clause that you often use? The perfect signature block? Even an electronic copy of your signature for signed electronic documents? All of these are perfect candidates for the Quick Parts gallery. You can then paste them again wherever and whenever you need in only a few clicks.

First, select the text you want to add to the Quick Parts Gallery. Then select Insert > Quick Parts > Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery. You will be prompted to provide a name (and, optionally, some other details) to organise your new Quick Part:

Adding an item to the Quick Parts Gallery

Adding an item to the Quick Parts Gallery

Your Quick Part is now saved. If you want to use it again (in any document at any time), simply select Insert > Quick Part and click on your desired option in the gallery:

Inserting Quick Parts

Inserting Quick Parts