Use Macros to Automate Tasks in Microsoft Word

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Use Macros to Automate Tasks in Microsoft Word

It's said that Ben Franklin came up with the oft-quoted line that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If he were around today, he'd amend that to declare that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again when Microsoft Word macros can do it for you more easily and much, much faster.


Macros automate a series of tasks that you perform on a document or type of document on a regular basis. For example, at Mac|Life we regularly receive Word documents from contributors that need to be converted into our basic in-house style. We could, of course, reformat each document by hand, but that would be the aforementioned insanity. Instead, we use a Word macro that sets margins, reformats and styles text, ensures that smart quotes (also called curly quotes) are used, removes extraneous return characters, and performs a variety of other housekeeping chores - all in the blink of an eye. It's a great time-saver.


Word's macro fu is strong, but to unleash all of it you'd need to dig into the comparatively gnarly worlds of Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications or REALbasic. Fear not, however - there's plenty that Word macros can do even if you limit yourself to its built-in macro recorder. The macro recorder does have one annoying limitation, however: It can't see mouse movements or clicks in your document - one more reason for you to learn the navigation keystrokes.


Using the recorder is simplicity itself. To access it, choose Tools > Macro > Record New Macro. In the Record Macro dialog that appears, give your macro a one-word alphanumeric name and - if you want - a description, then in the Store Macro In pop-up menu, indicate whether you want that macro to be applicable to only your currently open document or to all documents. You can also assign your macro to a keyboard shortcut or to a toolbar.


If a keyboard shortcut is already assigned to the combination you choose for your macro, it will appear in the "Currently assigned to" field.


All you need to do now is click the OK button; a miniscule Stop Recording toolbar-ette will appear, and your recording will begin. Word will keep track of every task you perform and every keystroke you make until you click the square (stop) button on the Stop Recording toolbar. When you do, the toolbar vanishes and Word saves your macro. (If you need to do something in the middle of recording your macro, press the Pause button, which is a circle next to the pause symbol.)


To run your new macro, open the document you want to
apply it to, then choose Tools > Macro > Macros. Find your macro in the list, select it, click Run, and sit back as you marvel at how much faster Word is on its own without your pokey paws to slow it down. However, if you assigned a keyboard shortcut to your macro, all you need to do is press that key combination.


There is, of course, one heck of a lot more that Word macros can accomplish; to get a taste of the wide, wonderful world of macros, select Help > Word Help, type macro in the What Are You Searching For? field, click Search, and start reading. Oh, and if you decide to make macros part of your life, choose Word >
Preferences > Security, and click the check box in the Macro Security section that's labeled Warn Before Opening A File That Contains Macros. Some macros transmitted by third-party documents - even unbeknownst to their senders - can be nasty fellows. Better safe than sorry.




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