Archive for October, 2015

Clear paragraph and font formatting in Word

Even if you have been using Word for a long time, you might not realize how easy it is to remove paragraph and/or font formatting from text. This post highlights a few different methods for stripping formatting, all of which work in recent versions up through and including Word 2016.

You can clear paragraph and/or font formatting with the mouse or with keyboard shortcuts.

Using the Mouse

The techniques outlined in this section require just a mouse click or two.

The “Clear Formatting” Icon in the Font Group (Home Tab)

Did you ever notice the icon in the top row of the Font group on the Home tab that looks like a little eraser?  Most people probably don’t even see it, especially in versions prior to Word 2013, where the icon is so pale that it blends in with the background of the Ribbon.  (In the two most recent versions, the eraser has a reddish tint, so it stands out slightly.)  In any case, despite its location in the Font group, that icon – labeled “Clear Formatting” in some versions and “Clear All Formatting” in others – actually can be used to remove both font formatting and paragraph formatting from text.

If you have applied a paragraph style, such as a heading style or block quote, you can strip the style by placing your cursor anywhere in the paragraph and then clicking the “Clear Formatting” icon.  This method won’t clear any font formatting that you have applied directly to text after you’ve applied a paragraph style.  However, if the paragraph style itself incorporates font attributes (e.g., bolding, italics, a size or font face other than the default, etc.), clicking the icon clears those font attributes as well – even if you don’t select / highlight the entire paragraph first.

If you have manually applied a font attribute to some text, you can strip the font formatting by selecting / highlighting the affected text, then clicking the “Clear Formatting” icon.  (If you want to remove font formatting from a single word, just place your cursor somewhere within the word and click the icon.)

What’s particularly useful about this tool is that you can use it to remove both the paragraph style and any “direct” font formatting within a paragraph by selecting / highlighting the entire paragraph, then clicking the icon.  And yes, you can clear formatting from multiple paragraphs by selecting all of them and then clicking “Clear Formatting.”

By the way, it’s super-easy to add “Clear Formatting” to your Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).  Just right-click the icon and choose “Add to Quick Access Toolbar.”  The icon will appear at the right side of your QAT.

The “Clear All” Style in Styles Pane

Another item you might never have noticed is the “Clear All” style at the very top of the Styles Pane.  (To open the Styles Pane, either click the dialog launcher – the small gray square with a diagonal arrow at the right side of the Styles group on the Home tab – or press the key combination Ctrl Alt Shift S.)  This style works exactly the same way as the “Clear Formatting” icon in the Font group on the Home tab.

Incidentally, there’s also a “Clear Formatting” icon on the Quick Styles Gallery drop-down.  (To open the gallery, navigate to the right side and click the arrow with a horizontal line above it – the “More” menu.  The “Clear Formatting” icon appears near the bottom of the menu.)

Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Ctrl Shift N – Apply the Normal Paragraph Style

You might know that positioning your cursor within a paragraph to which a style has been applied and pressing Ctrl Shift N strips out the style and reverts to your Normal (default) paragraph style.  Like the “Clear Formatting” icon, Ctrl Shift N will not strip font formatting unless the font attributes are part of the paragraph style.[1]

Ctrl Q – Clear Manually Applied Paragraph Formatting

The keyboard shortcut Ctrl Q clears direct (manually applied) paragraph formatting.  Typically, that means any attributes applied via the Paragraph dialog, such as indents, line spacing, before or after spacing, widow/orphan control, and the like.  It also applies to justification applied via the Paragraph dialog, the icons in the Paragraph group on the Home tab, or keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl E (Center) or Ctrl R (Right).  And it applies to tab stops applied from either the Ruler or the Tabs dialog (opened by clicking the button at the lower left side of the Paragraph dialog or by double-clicking the Ruler).

Ctrl Q does not remove paragraph styles (heading styles, block quotes, body text styles, etc.) or font formatting.

Ctrl Spacebar – Clear Font Formatting

Ctrl Spacebar is a handy keyboard shortcut to clear direct (manually applied) font formatting. You can remove font formatting from a single word by placing your cursor somewhere within the word and then pressing Ctrl Spacebar, but more often you’ll select / highlight a larger block of text to which you’ve applied font formatting, and then press the key combination to remove that formatting.

Keep in mind that Ctrl Spacebar does not remove font formatting that is incorporated within a paragraph style.  So, for example, if you are using heading styles that apply boldface and underlining as part of the paragraph style, you can’t strip out the bolding and underlining with Ctrl Spacebar.[2]



[1] In my tests, Ctrl Shift N sometimes did remove manually applied font formatting if I selected the entire paragraph first – but sometimes it didn’t do so.  Therefore, I would say that this keyboard shortcut is not a dependable way to clear both paragraph and (manually applied) font formatting.

[2] You can, however, use Ctrl B / Ctrl U or the icons for bold and underlining to remove those font attributes, then right-click the icon for the style in the Quick Styles Gallery and choose “Update style to match selection,” which will clear those attributes from the style within the current document.  But that’s a topic for a different blog post…

October 26, 2015 at 2:38 pm 1 comment

Three features to customize in Windows 10

When I received my new Windows 10 laptop, the first thing I did was customize it.  My goal in so doing was to increase productivity, and also to make the computer look and feel more like the venerable Windows 7 that remains on my everyday laptop.  (As a software trainer, I need Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 machines in order to emulate my clients’ systems.  My primary laptop runs on Windows 7, in part because that’s the operating system most of my clients have and in part because – as most people probably would agree – Win 7 is a user-friendly, highly stable workhorse.)

Some of the customizations I undertook were quick and easy.  A few required a little ingenuity and/or digging.

What follows is a list of three of the features I customized – some in multiple ways.

Sign In

By default, Windows 10 prompts users to sign in (log in) to the computer with a Microsoft account.[1]   The advantage of doing so is that whatever you do in Windows can be synced with the Web, with OneDrive (Microsoft’s cloud), with the Microsoft Store, and with social media.  In addition, you can take full advantage of the features of Cortana, the new voice-capable search assistant (similar to Apple’s Siri, Android’s Google Now, and Samsung’s S Voice).  And you can use Microsoft’s “lite” mail and calendar apps.[2]

However, even though I have a OneDrive account, I chose to sign in with a local account.   I’d rather not have my entire computer be Web-enabled; I’m not a heavy user of social media; and if I want to search using a personal assistant, I can do so via my cell phone.  Furthermore, if / when I decide to save a document to OneDrive, I have the option of doing so directly from within the application I’m using, such as Microsoft Word or Excel.

You should be able to choose Local Account during the sign-in process, but if you do set up a Windows account and then decide, later on, that you prefer to use a local account, click the Start Menu, Settings, click Your account, and click “Sign in with a local account instead.”  Then follow the instructions for setting up a local account.

Start Menu

Adding, Deleting, Moving, and Resizing Apps / Tiles

By popular demand from Windows 8 users, Microsoft reinstated the much-loved Start Menu in Windows 10.  However, the Win 10 Start Menu differs in significant ways from the one in Windows 7.  For one thing, you can’t change the order of the items on the left side (the most used apps / settings and what I think of as the “core features” – Documents,  File Explorer, Settings, Power, and All Apps).

You can, however, remove items from the “Most used” list by right-clicking any of them, and you can move, delete, and resize the icons (called “tiles”) on the right side of the menu.  To delete a tile, just right-click it and choose “Unpin from Start.”  To move a tile, just drag and drop it.  After deleting tiles for programs or utilities that I probably won’t ever use, I dragged and dropped a bunch of tiles so as to line them up in only two columns – I prefer a narrow, if somewhat long, Start Menu.

I also resized some of the tiles, another right-click option.  “Resize” typically offers at least three choices:  Small, Medium, and Wide.  (Depending on the app, there’s sometimes a fourth choice:  Large.)

Turning Off “Live” Tiles

Because I’m easily distracted, I turned off most of the “live” tiles – the apps, such as Weather, that are linked to the Web and are animated.  To do so, right-click a tile and choose the option to “Turn live tile off.”

Pinning Items to the Start Menu (and/or the Taskbar)

You can add tiles for your favorite programs and utilities to the right side of the Start Menu and/or add icons to the Taskbar.  In fact, you can do so for most of the core features on the left side of the menu, including Settings and File Explorer.  But if you don’t find the item you want to pin to Start or to the Taskbar, click “All apps,” and then either scroll down through the alphabet OR click any of the numbered / lettered headings (0-9, A, C, etc.) to view a sort of index, then click any letter, such as “W,” to take you to the features that start with that letter.

I chose “W” as an example partly because there are a lot of cool features under “W” that you can pin to Start (or the Taskbar).  To name just a few, under “Windows Accessories,” you will find such classic utilities as Sticky Notes, Paint, Notepad, and Wordpad.   Any / all of those features can be pinned by right-clicking.

Creating Desktop Shortcuts

Once you have pinned a program or utility to the Start Menu, it’s easy to create a Desktop shortcut for that program or utility.  Simply drag the tile to the desktop.[3]  The only item for which I was unable to create a Desktop shortcut with this method was the Documents folder (formerly known as My Documents).  I had to open the File Explorer (formerly known as Windows Explorer), then right-click Documents and choose Send to > Desktop (Create Shortcut).

Adding / Renaming Groups

After adding and moving tiles, I decided I wanted a couple of new groups for my tiles, and I wanted to rename the existing groups.  To create a new group, drag a tile up or down until you see a thick horizontal bar, then drop the tile below the bar.  When you point to the bar, you’ll see two thin horizontal lines at the right.  After you click them, you’ll be able to type a name for the group (press Enter to set the name).  To rename an existing group, click the two horizontal lines and type a new name (again, be sure to press Enter when you’ve finished typing).

Finally, I made the Start Menu narrower and slightly shorter by dragging the right border inward and the and top border down as far as possible.  I would have preferred to make the menu still narrower, but couldn’t figure out a way to do so.  Even resizing all of the tiles to “Small” and arranging them as compactly as possible didn’t help.  Oh well.

Launching Programs / Apps / Utilities from the Start Menu

One quick note about tiles while I think of it, mainly for people who have jumped straight from Windows 7 to Windows 10.  You can launch a program / app / utility from the Start Menu by single-clicking it.  The same is true for the icons in the Taskbar.  However, you still have to double-click icons on the Desktop to launch a program / app / utility.

Search / Cortana

Disabling Personalized Suggestions and Reminders

If you have signed in with a Microsoft account, Cortana, the new Search Assistant, can make suggestions based on personal information that you provide and other data that Windows gathers about you.  To disable this feature, click in the Search box or click the Cortana tile in the Start menu, then click the Settings icon – the cog – and click below “Cortana can give you suggestions, ideas, reminders, alerts and more” so that the virtual button is set to “Off.”

Disallowing Web Searching

By default, Cortana will show you search results from both your computer and the Web – even if you have signed in with a local account, rather than with a Windows account.[4]  To configure Cortana to search your computer only, click the Settings icon and click to turn “Search online and include web results” off.

Turning Off “Popular Now”

In addition, Cortana displays a live news feed called “Popular now” or “Popular news.” Again, both because I’m easily distracted and because I use my computer for work / productivity, I turned this feature off.  To do so, click in the Search box or click the Cortana tile in the Start menu, then click the three dots at the top right side of the resulting menu, and click “Hide popular news.”

Search Box vs. Search Icon

Another change I made with respect to searching was that I converted the Search box into a Search icon.  The Search box was taking up too much space on the Taskbar, especially after I pinned my favorite programs and utilities (including the Snipping Tool and the Calculator) to the Taskbar.  So I right-clicked in the Search box – you can get the same menu by right-clicking in any empty space on the Taskbar – pointed to Search, and chose “Show search icon.”  There’s also a “Hidden” option, which will hide the Search box / icon entirely, but I like having the icon on the Taskbar.

BTW, if you do choose to hide both the Search box and the icon, you can still perform a search either by clicking the Cortana tile in the Start Menu OR, as in Windows 8.X, by pressing the Windows key – the one that looks like a flag – and the letter S at the same time (Windows S).

* * * * *

I actually customized a number of additional features in Windows 10.  However, this post should get you off to a good start with the new operating system.  I’ll provide instructions for further Win 10 customizations in one or more future posts.



[1]  If you don’t have a Microsoft account, you’ll need to set one up – and link it to an e-mail address.  

[2]  As it turns out, you can use the “lite” calendar app even if you don’t sign in with a Microsoft account.  I haven’t tried to use the “lite” mail app, since I rely heavily on both Outlook and webmail.

[3]  Note that you don’t have to press Ctrl before dragging (as is necessary in Windows 7 to avoid moving the shortcut from the Start Menu to the Desktop).

[4]  Windows 10 relies on Microsoft’s web search engine, Bing, for its online searches.


October 21, 2015 at 11:56 am 1 comment

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