How to assign a keyboard shortcut
Word comes with a long list of built-in keyboard shortcuts. In most versions of Word, you can find a list by searching Word’s Help for “keyboard shortcuts.” An online list for Word 2010 and above (but mostly applicable to older versions) can be found here.
There are, however, many commands in Word to which keyboard shortcuts have not been assigned. If you use these commands frequently, you may want to assign a shortcut key. You can also assign keyboard shortcuts to styles, font characters, and macros.
When you create a style or macro, you are given the option of assigning a shortcut key. If you don’t do this at the outset, you still have a chance with styles in the Modify Style dialog.
For other applications, you need to use the Customize Keyboard dialog.
The Customize Keyboard dialog
Access the dialog as follows:
You will see that the Categories list in each version mirrors the main menus in toolbar versions and the Ribbon tabs (including contextual ones) in Ribbon versions (in Word 2013, the Design tab is added to the list). This list ends with All Commands. Below the divider are entries for Macros, Fonts, AutoText, Styles, and Common Symbols. In Word 2010 and above, AutoText is replaced with Building Blocks.
If you know the location of the command to which you want to assign a shortcut, you can select the appropriate menu or Ribbon tab in the Categories list. Ribbon versions also include a Commands Not in the Ribbon category. The most exhaustive category, however, is of course the All Commands list, which lists all the available commands (note that some commands that are available for menus or toolbars are not available for keyboard shortcuts) Although they are listed alphabetically, you may have to use some ingenuity to find them because some, such as EditFind and DrawCallout, are listed by the menu or toolbar on which they originally appeared.
By default, shortcut key assignments are saved in the global template, Normal.dot. Because this template is available to all documents (even if a specific document template is attached to the document), your keyboard shortcuts will be available in all documents.
But you may want to add shortcuts to just a specific document template or even a specific document or to a different global template. If you are working in a blank document based on the Normal template, the options available in the Save in dropdown will be limited to Normal.dot and the current document. If you are working in a document based on a different template, that template will also be one of the choices. If you are working in a template, that template will be available.
Because the recommended solution to many problems in Word is to rename the Normal template (thus potentially losing customizations such as keyboard shortcuts), it is often recommended that these customizations be made in another template. If you save that template in Word’s Startup folder, it will be loaded at startup and will be “global” as well, meaning that your customizations will be available to all documents. To save customizations in this global “add-in” template, you must first create and save the template, then open the Customize dialog, select the template in the Save in dropdown, and then make your customizations. Whenever you need to make more customizations to this global template, you must open it for editing.
Assigning the shortcut
Once you have located the command to which you wish to assign a keyboard shortcut, look at the Current Keys box to make sure there is not already a shortcut assigned. If there is, your work is done!
If not, then place the insertion point in the Press new shortcut key box and do exactly that: press the keys you want to use for a shortcut. They will appear in the box. Sometimes users try to type out what they see in a screen shot such as the one below; that doesn’t work: you have to just press the actual keys.
There are some limitations to what key combinations can be used as shortcuts.
When you have entered the desired key sequence, look to see whether Currently assigned to: shows [unassigned] or displays a command (as in the screen shot above). If it is the latter, the shortcut you have selected already has an assignment. If you assign a shortcut that is already assigned to another command, that shortcut is removed from the existing assignment. If the existing assignment was a built-in one, it will be restored if you remove your new assignment. For example, if you assign Ctrl+Shift+F to the DeleteAllCommentsInDoc command, it will be removed from the Font command. If you then remove it from the DeleteAllCommentsInDoc command, that will return the assignment to the Font command.) So, if you persevere with your selection, your choice will override the built-in shortcut. Alternatively, you can choose a different shortcut.
When you have settled on a shortcut that works for you and is not assigned to any other command, click Assign.
Sometimes you may wish to unassign a keyboard shortcut because it is causing a problem, perhaps because it is executing an unknown command. There are two ways to find out what key a command is assigned to:
Once you have found the problem command, navigate to that command, select the shortcut key under Current keys, and click Remove.
Sometimes commands have more than one shortcut. If there is one you never use (such as Ctrl+Shift+B for Bold), you could remove it and reassign it to a different command.
How to add a command or macro to a toolbar (Word 2003 and earlier)
How to add a command or macro to a menu (Word 2003 and earlier)
How to add a command or macro to the Quick Access Toolbar (Word 2007 and above)
This article copyright © 2016, 2023 by Suzanne S. Barnhill. I am indebted to fellow MVP Jay Freedman for several helpful suggestions that greatly improved this article.