Make Your Own Word Keyboard Shortcuts

Sometimes using Microsoft Word menus is slower. Granted, many built-in commands have keyboard shortcuts, but most do not. This was the case for me when I wanted to use Word’s Reading Mode. Instead of finding the correct tab and button each time, I decided to customize Word to access this mode with a custom keyboard shortcut. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create keyboard shortcuts in Word.

I suspect there are keyboard button commands that you frequently use that could be assigned to a key combination. My motivation was speed. I’m sure if you glance down the long list of Word commands, you’ll see plenty of ideas. Once you know how to customize keyboard shortcuts, you’ll find more ways to use them.

Which Word Commands to Customize

It’s hard for me to tell you which Microsoft Word commands to map to a key combination. I do have 2 criteria:

  • Is this command a common task I frequently use?
  • How easy is it to access the command?

For example, some commands like All Caps have a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl + Shift + A. You might want to remap it if the key combinations were cumbersome. Other commands don’t even show in the Word ribbon or have shortcut keys. These are prime candidates if you use them enough.

In my case, my frustration came from trying to figure out how to exit Read Mode. Once I clicked to enter Read Mode, the Word ribbon disappeared, and I lost my bearings. Yes, I know the buttons are in the lower right. Anyway, I just assigned a keyboard shortcut that toggles Reading mode on and off.

Complete List of Word Keyboard Shortcuts

Another approach to finding candidates is to list all the Microsoft Word commands and their keyboard shortcuts. This long list will get you thinking of possibilities. It includes everything from Save as HTML to Security. It will also show your current shortcuts.

  1. From the View menu, click Macros.
  2. From the drop-down menu, select View Macros.
  3. On the Macros dialog, click in the Macros in: box and select Word commands.
  4. In the Macro name: box above, delete the current macro name.
  5. Type lis to advance the macro name list.
  6. Click ListCommands.
Macros dialog with ListCommands. selected
ListCommands Macro
  1. Click the Run button on the right.
  2. On the List Commands dialog box, click Current keyboard settings.
  3. Click OK.

A long table appears showing the Command Name, Modifiers, and Key. A much longer list appears if you select All Word documents. A snapshot of the long table appears below. The “shortcut keys” are a combination of the Modifier and Key. For instance, the Cut command equates to Ctrl + X.

Table of all Word commands.
Shortcut Table with Modifiers & Keys

How to Create Keyboard Shortcuts in Word

For this example, I’ll assign a keyboard mapping to the Read Mode command.

  1. From the File menu, select Options. It’s on the bottom.
  2. On the Word Options dialog box, click Customize Ribbon.
  3. Click the Customize… button next to Keyboard shortcuts.
Word Options dialog with Customize button.
Customize Ribbon and Keyboard Shortcuts
  1. The Customize Keyboard dialog box opens. The left side shows Categories, which are your ribbon tabs. The right side shows Commands within the highlighted category.
  2. Scroll down the Categories list and select All Commands.
  3. Click into the Commands: section on the right side to set focus.
  4. Type R to advance the Commands list.
  5. Scroll down to ReadingMode.
  6. Click in the Press new shortcut key box.
  7. Press the key combinations you’d like to assign to the Command.
New shortcut assignment for Reading Mode.
New shortcut key for screen reading
  1. Press Assign.
  2. Press Close.
  3. Press OK.

Once you’ve saved your new shortcut key, it will appear in the Current keys: box.

It is possible to have multiple shortcuts display in the Specify keyboard sequence area and Current keys: box. For example, there could be several assignments for common shortcuts such as File | Save.

When I first did this exercise, I got confused because there were many reading modes and layout commands. To ensure you’re mapping the correct command, read the Description that shows on the Customize Keyboard dialog. For example, in the screen snap above, you can see it says Toggles full-screen reading. Lastly, make sure you test your new keyboard combos.

Remember Ribbon Shortcuts

Word has another feature that you’ll find useful. The Ribbon tabs also have common shortcuts assigned to them. From any Ribbon tab, press your Alt key. You should see a small black square appear under the tab name. These are the ribbon keyboard shortcuts. So, for example, you could press Alt + F from any tab and jump to the File Tab. No button clicking is needed.

Shortcut keys for Word ribbon tabs.
Shortcut Keys for Ribbon tabs

Building Block and Symbol Shortcuts

While many people will link commands, you can also assign keyboard shortcuts to building blocks or common symbols. For example, if you frequently used the DRAFT watermark in Word, you could speed up your process by mapping it to ALT + D or some key combo you prefer.

The process is very similar. Instead of selecting a command, we’ll select Building Blocks. From the right side, you’ll see a list of default building blocks such as the DRAFT 1. This is the slanted watermark.

Assigning ALT+D to draft watermark.
Draft watermark shortcut

In the Common Symbols category, you’ll see a long list of items ranging from accented letters to trademarks. While many of these have preassigned keyboard shortcuts, you can change them. For example, you can remap the trademark shortcut to something other than Ctrl + Alt + T

As you can see, Microsoft Word allows you many ways to map actions or things to some key combinations. Even if the shortcut has been defined, you can always delete the keyboard sequence and create your own.