MS Office User Tips: Blank Word Documents and Conditional Formatting in Excel

Ladies and Gents! It is with much excitement that I announce I will be adding MS Office Tips & Tricks to my blog roll. I mean, it’s all fine and good for me to wax on philosophically on a weekly basis about the legal industry’s big challenges (security, efficiency…) but I wouldn’t be a good trainer if I didn’t also try to make the world a better place by providing useful MS Office tips and tricks! (Ok, it’s not like negotiating for world peace or better coffee in the lunch room, but it’s what I do.)

Below you will find two tips:

  • MS Word: How to start with a blank document every time, rather than seeing all the templates available.
  • MS Excel: How to use conditional formatting

Tip #1: Always Starting with a Blank Document in MS Word

When you open Word, you typically see a number of choices for either creating a blank document or using various templates as a basis for a new document. If you’re like me, you always choose to create a blank document. Is there is a way to skip this opening palette of choices and simply go to a blank document from the get-go? YES!

The following tip works for both Word 2013 and Word 2016. Microsoft calls this new “feature” the Start screen, and you can fortunately control whether it is displayed or not. Here’s how:

1. Display the File tab of the ribbon.

2. Click the Options button. Word displays the Word Options dialog box.

3. At the left side of the dialog box, make sure General is selected. (It should be selected by default.)

4. Scroll down, if necessary, until you see the Start Up Options section. (See Figure 1.)

5. Clear the Show Start Screen when this Application Starts check box.

6. Click on OK.

Now, the next time you start Word, you won’t be shown the Start screen. Instead, you’ll see a blank document, the same as in earlier versions of Word.

Tip #2: Shading Rows with Conditional Formatting in Excel

If you haven’t tried the conditional formatting features of Excel before, they can be quite handy. One way to use this feature is to cause Excel to shade every other row in your data. This is great when your data uses a lot of columns and you want to make it a bit easier to read on printouts. Simply follow these steps:

1. Select the data whose alternating rows you want to shade.

2. Make sure the Home tab of the ribbon is displayed.

3. Click the Conditional Formatting tool. Excel displays a series of choices.

4. Click New Rule. Excel displays the New Formatting Rule dialog box.

5. In the Select a Rule Type area at the top of the dialog box, choose Use a Formula to Determine Which Cells to Format. (See Figure 1.)

6. In the formula space, enter the following formula: =MOD(ROW(),2)=0

7. Click on the Format button. Excel displays the Format Cells dialog box.

8. Make sure the Fill tab is selected. (See Figure 2.)

9. Select the color you want used for the row shading.

10. Click on OK to close the Format Cells dialog box.

11. Click on OK to close the New Formatting Rule dialog box.

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