All our days are full of work, no matter whether we work for a corporation, ourselves, raise children, or are a student. For me, whether I am at home or on the road, one constant is that I always have session notes, client reports, or blog posts ideas. This means that I use Microsoft on a daily basis and I am not the only one.

A lot of us use Microsoft applications, even on iPads (thank you, MS Office for iOS!) so I thought it may be helpful to write about some of my favorite shortcuts and efficiency tricks for several MS applications – Word, OneNote, Outlook, and Excel. These only scratch the surface, but I hope you find something new. In addition to a good night sleep, my beloved coffee and a regular workout, these tips help me get more done in less time and I hope they do the same for you!


These short cuts can make typing and formatting your Word doc much faster.

  • Create a horizontal line – Type 3 hyphens and then, press Enter.
  • Select entire sentence – Click anywhere in a sentence while pressing the Ctrl key to select that entire sentence.
  • Generate random text (used for testing layouts) – Type =rand(8,10) and then, press Enter.
  • Delete preceding word – Press backspace while holding the Ctrl key down.
  • Subscript a word – Press Ctrl+
  • Superscript a word – Ctrl Shift +
  • To select an entire paragraph – Make three rapid clicks anywhere in the paragraph.
  • Use the Format Painter feature to quickly apply a particular format to a new area.
    • Bonus tip – You can double-click the icon to keep Format Painter turned on when you need to format multiple sections and then, double click it to deactivate the feature.



  1. In OneNote, select the words from which you wish to create your task.
  2. In the menu that appears, click the arrow by the Outlook Tasks button and choose a reminder.
    • A flag appears next to your task in OneNote and your task is added to Outlook.

Tip: You can use this menu to add note tags. Note tags are handy for things like creating to-do lists or marking items as important. Since note tags are a feature of OneNote, they won’t show up in Outlook.


  1. On the Home tab in OneNote, choose Find Tags.
  2. Your Outlook tasks will be in the Tags Summary pane on the right.

Note: Outlook tasks are the ones with the flags or check marks. You will also see OneNote tags here (things you’ve marked for follow-up or tagged as a question).


  1. In the Tags Summary pane in OneNote, check the flag next to an Outlook task.
    • The task is marked as completed in both the OneNote Tags Summary pane and in Outlook.
  2. If you’d like to add the task back into Outlook, check the box again.

Tip: When you mark a task as complete in Outlook, the task is marked as complete in OneNote when Outlook and OneNote sync. If you check the task as complete in OneNote, it gets marked as complete in Outlook and is removed from your tasks list.


If you decide you don’t need a task, you can remove it in one of two ways:

  • Delete the task from Outlook, which also removes the tag (flag) from OneNote
  • Remove the tag from OneNote and keep the task in Outlook.

To remove the task from Outlook:

  1. Right-click the tag in your notes, and choose Delete Outlook Task.
    • The text remains in OneNote and the task is removed from Outlook.

To keep the task in Outlook and remove the flag from OneNote:

  1. Right-click the tag in your notes, and choose Remove Tag.
    • The tag (flag) is removed from OneNote and the task remains in Outlook.


Have you ever sent an email a bit too early? Maybe you forgot to include important details or used language you’d like to take back? You can fix it with a message recall by following these steps:

  1. Locate the Sent Items folder.
  2. Open the message that you want to recall or replace.
  3. Click Actions on the ribbon or menu and then, click Recall This Message.
  4. Enable the Delete unread copies of this message option to recall the message.
  5. To receive a notification about the success of the recall or replacement, click Tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient option.
  6. Click OK. If you chose the replace option, type your new message and send it.

NOTE: Message recall will not work if one, or more, of the following conditions are true:

  • The recipient is not using Outlook.
  • The recipient is not logged on to the mail service provider.
  • The recipient is using Cached Exchange Mode and is working offline.
  • The original message is moved from the Inbox (this can occur when rules are used).
  • The original message is opened first and marked as read (this can occur when the message is displayed in the Preview Pane or Reading Pane).


When it comes to using Excel, most of us fall into one of two camps – those that can leverage all the power of the application to create complex documents and those who can, maybe, use Format Painter and AutoSum. These lesser known but useful tips will benefit both types of user.

To populate repetitive text in multiple cells:

  1. Press the Ctrl key while clicking the cells you wish to populate.
  2. Next, release the Ctrl key and type your desired text.
  3. Finally, press Ctrl while you hit the Enter key and your text populates in each cell.

To make the Format Painter icon even more powerful:

  1. Double-click the Format Painter icon to activate it for multiple uses.
  2. Then, click anywhere you want to use the target formatting.
  3. When you finish, double click the icon to deactivate.

Here are some powerful shortcuts:

  • Control+Down/Up Arrow = Moves to the top or bottom cell of the current column
  • Control+Left/Right Arrow = Moves to the cell furthest left or right in the current row
  • Control+Shift+Down/Up Arrow = Selects all the cells above/below the current cell
  • Control+Home = Navigates to cell A1
  • Control+End = Navigates to the last cell that contains data


What do you think? Will these help you be more productive? Did I miss your favorite time saving tip? Let me know in the comments!

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