Repeat Previous Command (Word, recent versions)

October 1, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Prompted once again by search terms that someone used to find this blog, I decided to investigate a feature of Word that I haven’t explored previously: the “Repeat Previous Command” function, which is triggered by F4 (and by Ctrl Y, though that keyboard shortcut usually is labeled “Repeat Action”**).

Although I’m still experimenting and I can’t say I fully understand how this feature works, here’s what I’ve found so far:

If you type some text and press F4, Word inserts another copy of the text you’ve typed. If you type a few words, press Enter, type a few more words, press Enter again, and then press F4, Word repeats the entire sequence.

If you press the Enter key once and press F4, Word inserts a new blank line. If you press the Enter key three times and press F4, Word inserts three more blank lines (and so forth).

If you apply paragraph formatting, then click within another paragraph and press F4, word applies the same formatting to the second paragraph. (Used in this fashion, the feature can emulate the Format Painter, although the Repeat Previous command has many additional applications, as you will see if you do some testing of your own. The Format Painter, you will recall, is used to copy paragraph formatting — meaning all of the attributes available from the Paragraph dialog box — and/or styles from one paragraph to another paragraph or to multiple paragraphs.)

If you press Ctrl N to open a blank document, then press F4, Word opens another blank document. If you close the document and press F4, Word attempts to close the current document.

If you apply a font color to some text, then click within a word in another part of the document and press F4, Word adds that font color to the word your cursor is in. (If instead of simply clicking you select a couple of paragraphs and press F4, Word applies the font color to the selected paragraphs.)

If you insert a table and then press F4, Word inserts a second table within the first table. If you move the cursor out of the table before pressing F4, Word inserts another separate table in the document.

Note that you can reposition the cursor before repeating the previous command. So far in my testing, I haven’t encountered many limitations on moving the cursor and then repeating an action, although when I inserted a hard page break by pressing Ctrl Enter, Word assumed the hard page break was the “previous command” and began inserting additional page breaks when I pressed F4.

Just from my preliminary experimentation, I can tell that this feature is going to prove highly useful. I’ll post an addendum if I learn more about how this feature works, and about its limitations.

**I’m not certain exactly how F4 and Ctrl Y differ, except that Ctrl Y — unlike F4 — triggers Redo rather than Repeat if used immediately after you’ve clicked the Undo button or after you’ve pressed Ctrl Z to undo an action. (Note that the Repeat function definitely is not the same as Redo, an option that becomes available only after you have used the Undo command.)

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