Word Tips: Customize Your Workspace

Tailoring your workspace to meet your needs makes you more productive, relaxed, and even more confident. This doesn’t only apply to your desk drawers, or desktop icons. It also works with the programs you use on a regular basis. I always customize my workspaces no matter what program I’m working in. Some programs make it easier than others. Microsoft Word comes with many preset features, but don’t feel you have to leave them that way.

I’m working in Word 2007. Older versions are similar in instruction.

White and Black v. Black and White

The first thing I do in Word is invert my screen. Staring at a white screen gives me a horrible tension headache. By changing the page color to black, you’ll automatically write in white. Not only does it save on painkillers, it conserves energy use as well.

To invert colors:

  1. Go to the Page Layout tab.
  2. In the Page Background column (3rd from right), choose Page Color.
  3. Click on black (or whatever color is easy on your eyes).

There, now that’s better. The only problem is that this isn’t a permanent change unlike in older version of Word where you can change this option in the program preferences. Shame on Microsoft for removing this feature in the most recent version.

Hidden Characters

The next thing I do is to always show spaces and tabs. You can always choose Show All in the Paragraph menu, but I don’t care about returns or optional hyphens. As a graphic designer, all I want to know is whether or not I have more than one space or tab in a row.

Let’s go to the Word Options menu. We’ll be there for the rest of the article. To get there, first click on the Office Button on the top, left. Then, on the bottom of the menu click on Word Options.


To show only the hidden characters you care about:

  1. Click on Display on the left.
  2. Under “Always show these formatting marks on the screen,” choose only those marks you care about.


Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are your best friend. They save time and are less distracting than using your mouse to scroll through menus. Not everything in Word has a shortcut right out of the box. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could change paragraph styles just by pressing CTRL+j (or Apple+j for you Mac users)?

You can change or invent any shortcut you can think of. The key to doing this quickly is to know which tab your commands are found under. For instance, if I want to convert text to a table, I would have to click on the Insert tab, then the Table button, and then choose Convert Text to Table. Or, I would hit the Alt key, then type N, T, V, in that order. That’s too much clicking or typing or whatever. When you have no more than 20 minutes to get a draft done and off to the next department for editing, every second counts. So I made a shortcut.


  1. Go back to the Word Options menu as shown above.
  2. Click on Customize on the left
  3. Click the Customize button on the bottom next to Keyboard Shortcuts.
  4. Specify your command. For Convert Text to Table, my category would be the Insert Tab and the command would be TextToTable.
  5. If there is already a shortcut assigned, it will appear in the Current Keys box. Otherwise, click once in the Press New Shortcut Key box and push the buttons on the keyboard you would like to use. I pressed Ctrl+Shift+T.
  6. Click Close and then OK. Voila!

Some commands are hard to find because they aren’t labeled the same in the tabs as they are in the list of commands in the customize menu, so you may have to do some searching.

There you have it, some simple techniques for making Microsoft Word truly your own. If you have your own customizing tips of questions, let us know. Until next time!

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Stephanie is a graphic designer who has managed art departments in the non-profit and corporate worlds. She is currently Work(ing)Awesome(ly) at home with her company Studio Lewis Graphic Design.


  1. Jay S on the 12th November

    I didn’t think inverting the background color would look pleasant but I’m surprised to say that I loove it! 😀 I spend quite some time in word with drafts and documentations so this was a great tip!


  2. Frans Gerber on the 12th November

    Very interesting post Stephanie. Certainly change the way we will do things in the future.

  3. andrew on the 12th November

    Unless you’re using a CRT screen writing in white on black does not save any energy. The florescent tube (or LEDs) still light up just as bright behind the LCD screen for black or white.

    And if you’re using a CRT and worried about energy do yourself a favor and switch over to a newer LCD, it’s way more efficient.

  4. RadicalxEdward on the 13th November

    I’m surprised you say you want it to show spaces and such because you’re a designer, and yet you want the colors to be inverted (so nothing looks to you like it will to anyone else) I guess that’s ok for basic formating of text but anything beyond black and white is gonna get a little crazy.

    • Stephanie Lewis on the 13th November

      Well, I don’t do anything beyond black and white in Word. Word is just for the text. The text goes into Dreamweaver or InDesign files. I NEVER EVER design in Word. I prefer to see the spaces and tabs because I need to know if there are double spaces when there shouldn’t be or more than one tab. I’ll discuss tab formatting in another Word Tips article.

  5. Rachel Burgess on the 10th January

    Some really useful tips. Thank you Stephanie.

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