Reassigning Ctrl O to “File Open” in Word 2013 and Word 2016

November 26, 2015 at 1:23 am 1 comment

In a recent blog post, I provided instructions for bypassing the so-called Backstage view (i.e., the File tab’s Open screen / menu) when opening a file with Word 2013 or Word 2016.  I suggested using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl F12, which takes you directly to the Open dialog in Windows.  That keyboard shortcut comes in handy because in the latest versions of Word, Ctrl O, the once-standard keyboard shortcut for “Open File,” doesn’t work the same way as in previous versions. Rather than producing the Windows Open dialog, it takes a detour through the Backstage view.  (But note:  If you click File, Options, click the “Save” category, and uncheck “Don’t show the backstage when opening or saving Files,” then click OK, Word automatically reassigns Ctrl O to “Open File.”  That step also changes how the Open icon on the Quick Access Toolbar works so that it, too, goes directly to the Open dialog in Windows.)

I thought it might be useful to write a follow-up post that walks people through the process of reassigning the Ctrl O keyboard shortcut in Word 2013 / Word 2016 so that it behaves as it did (does) in older versions.  Here are the steps:

  • Click the File tabOptions, and when the Word dialog opens, click the Customize Ribbon category at left.
  • Toward the bottom left side of the Word dialog, you’ll see an item labeled “Keyboard shortcuts:  Customize…”  Click the “Customize… button.  The Customize Keyboard dialog will open.
  • At the left side of the Customize Keyboard dialog, under “Categories,” File Tab should be highlighted.
  • Navigate to the right side of the dialog, under “Commands.” Scroll down to FileOpen and click it. [1]   When you click FileOpen, you might notice that some keyboard shortcuts already have been assigned to the command.  (If so, they appear in the “Current keys: box at left.)
  • Click in the “Press new shortcut key” box and press and hold the Ctrl key, then tap the letter O.  (Be careful to press the letter O, not a zero.)
  • Note the message below the “Current keys” box: “Currently assigned to:  FileOpenUsingBackstage.” (This is essentially a warning in case you didn’t realize that the key combination you chose is already assigned to another feature or function.  If you want to retain the original assignment to that other feature or function, you can select a different key combination.)
  • OPTIONAL STEP: Note the “Save changes in” drop-down at the lower left side of the dialog box.  By default, Word will save your keyboard reassignment to the NORMAL template (the one that affects the formatting of a new blank document).  If you have created your own templates and wish to reassign keyboard shortcuts within one of your own templates, you can click the “Save changes in” drop-down and choose a different template.
  • The “Assign” button is now active (no longer grayed out). To proceed with the key reassignment, click the button.
  • Click Close, then be sure to click OK to save your new shortcut.  CAUTION:  If you click the red “X” in the upper right corner to close the Word Options dialog, Word will not save your configuration changes!

Now Ctrl O should bypass the Backstage view and go directly to the Open dialog in Windows.  And now you know how to create your own custom keyboard shortcuts![2]


[1] The item immediately below FileOpen, which is labeled FileOpenUsingBackstage, is the command to which the keyboard shortcut Ctrl O is assigned by default in Word 2013 and 2016.  If you click that command, you will see Ctrl O listed in the “Current keys” box at left.

[2] The trickiest aspect of customizing keyboard shortcuts in Word is figuring out the command names that Microsoft uses for features and functions.  “FileOpen” is pretty straightforward, but for many other commands, intensive brainstorming and/or the patience for seemingly endless scrolling will be required.

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