[Microsoft Word] Use AutoText to quickly insert text entries to documents



In a previous tutorial, we looked at how you can create text shortcuts in Windows and OS X, something which is incredibly useful when you find yourself typing the same things over and over again. But if you do not want to install a third-party application and you only use Microsoft’s Word for your documents then you might be interested in the AutoText feature instead.

What is AutoText?

As the name suggests, AutoText is a simple feature that lets you enter blocks of text instantly by typing out certain characters or words. For example, you can instantly enter your address, create entire cover pages with a few keystrokes, and more. The feature resides in Word so it is limited to documents that you edit in Microsoft’s word processor. It is incredibly easy to configure and use and requires no extra software other than Word.

AutoText entries, also known as blocks or building blocks, are saved in the Normal.dotm template by default so that you can use them in any document. This also means that any entries you create can only be used in that particular machine, unless you share the file with another PC. The file is located at “C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates”.

Creating AutoText entries

The process is fairly simple but there quite a lot of optional settings that you can configure as well.

  1. Start by typing or pasting text into a Word document. Then, highlight that text and click on the Insert tab.
  2. The “Text” sub-section of the Insert tab has an “Explore Quick Parts” button. Click on it, expand the “AutoText” menu and then click on “Save Selection to AutoText Gallery”.
  3. This will bring up a new dialog box called ‘Create New Building Block’. All of the settings here are optional as the default choices work just as well. The only section that is of particular interest is the “Options” one. The default setting is to “Insert content only”, which is fantastic for simple text entries. However, you can choose to insert content in its own paragraph or even its own page. Both options are perfectly suited to things like cover pages so make sure to choose the appropriate method for your highlighted text.
  4. When you are done, click on the “OK” button and your first custom AutoText entry will be created instantly.

AutoText Add Entry

Changes made to the aforementioned Normal.dotm template are saved by default so you do not need to do anything else. From here on out and until you delete them, your AutoText entries will be available in all of your documents.

I should note that AutoText automatically includes the formatting of your highlighted text including things like spaces and paragraph breaks. Clicking on the reversed P icon of the paragraph mark in Word’s Home tab will let you view formatting characters. This way you can be certain that what you are copying includes every possible detail. And now that we are on this subject, failing to highlight the very last paragraph mark when you are adding an entry to AutoText, that particular item will be re-formatted once you insert it in a document, using the style of the surrounding text. This can be useful but you may want to keep a certain paragraph style for things like cover pages.

Inserting AutoText entries normally

There are two ways to add AutoText blocks into your documents. The fastest method is to type out the first few letters of the text block and allow Word to suggest an AutoText entry for you. When it does, simply press the Enter key and the block will be inserted instantly. This is brilliant when you only have a few items because you can save dozens of keystrokes in every document. In case Word does not offer AutoText suggestions, the featur7e may be turned off. Click on the File menu, open the Options window and go to the Advanced tab. Find the “Show AutoComplete suggestions” setting in the Editing options section and make sure its box is checked.

AutoText Press Enter To Insert

The other way is to click on the Insert tab, click on the AutoText icon and select one of the items you had previously included to the Gallery. This menu can hold quite a lot of entries so it is certainly a viable method, especially in the beginning. Remember that you can also right-click on the AutoText icon and select the “Add to Quick Access Toolbar” to make it available at the top toolbar of Word. In fact, you can do this in menu Windows apps and locations as you can see in our guide here. The tutorial focuses on File Explorer but it holds true for virtually any program that supports Quick Toolbars, including third-party apps like Foxit Reader.

Assign keyboard shortcuts to AutoText entries

Not to be outdone by the likes of PhraseExpress and SecondKey, Word also lets you set keyboard shortcuts for all of your AutoText entries. This feature is hidden in the Options menu so do not be surprised if you have not seen it so far.

Open the Options menu and head over to the “Customize Ribbon” tab. Click on the “Keyboard shortcuts” button located at the bottom of the window. Scroll down the list until you see the “Building Blocks” item.

AutoText Keyboard Shortcut

Click on it and you will see all of your AutoText entries on the right side. Select any entry from the list, click on the “Press new shortcut key” field and press the key combination that you want. In case the keyboard shortcut you are trying to assign already exists for another function, Word will let you know about it but it will not stop you. Be careful not to reassign any shortcuts that you might want to use in the future but if it is something you never use, feel free to replace it. After all, Word has dozens of keyboard shortcuts that most people never use anyway.

Editing and removing AutoText entries

You can edit the contents of an AutoText block whenever you want. However, any entries that you have already inserted in a document will not be changed when you edit a block. You will have to use Word’s Find and Replace feature for that. To edit an AutoText entry, highlight the new text and try to add it in the Gallery like before. The most important part is that you enter the exact same name as the previous entry. Once you click on OK, Word will ask whether you want to “Redefine the building block entry”. Confirm your choice by clicking on Yes and you are done.

AutoText Building Blocks Organizer

You can also edit the properties of AutoText entries including their name, and where they are stored in. To do that, click on the AutoText icon and select the “Building Blocks Organizer” option. You can open any entry in the window that opens by double-clicking on it or by selecting it from the list and then clicking on the “Edit Properties” button. You will be taken to a dialogue box that it exactly the same as the one you get when adding a new entry, only this time it will be called “Modify Building Block”. When you are done with the changes, click on OK and confirm the changes once again by clicking on the Yes button.

To remove entries completely, go back to the “Building Blocks Organizer”, select an item from the list and click on the “Delete” button. Click on Yes in the confirmation dialog and the entry will be removed. Because changes are saved automatically, there is no way to revert this so be careful when you are selecting items.