7 Microsoft Word productivity tips for iPad users

A short collection of useful tasks you can get done using Word on an iPad...

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Daniel Masaoka / IDG

If there is one app that’s used by almost every enterprise professional, it has to be Word, so I thought it might be useful to put together a short collection of productivity tips to help iPad users get more from the application.

Tap, Tap, double-tap

Most Word on iPad users know about tap. When working with text, tap once to place the cursor. Or, tap twice to select a word – or tap three times to select the entire paragraph. You’ll then be able to cut, copy, delete the text and apply text effects.

Place the cursor accurately

There are now two ways to place a cursor accurately when using Word, the Apple way and Microsoft’s alternative:

  • The Apple Way: Tap and hold the Space bar until the keyboard greys out. You can now use the keyboard area to precisely position the cursor.
  • The Microsoft Way: Tap in the document approximately where you want to place the cursor. A magnified text area should appear, move your finger to more accurately place it.

Copy formatting

Formatted a section of your document in a particular way and want to re-use the same formatting elsewhere in the piece? Good news – you can in Word on iPad. It’s easy:

  • Select the area of the document with the correct format.
  • Choose copy from the black contextual menu that appears.
  • Navigate to the part of the piece you want to apply this format too and select this.
  • Now choose Copy Format from the contextual menu.
  • Boom! The format will be applied to the selected text.

Use with different cloud services

Office will use your OneDrive for document storage by default, and you can integrate this into your Files on iPad set-up. Word will also let you directly integrate third-party services into your Places archiving setup.

It’s really easy to do. Launch Word and take a look in the Open pane.

You’ll see Recent Folders, One Drive and “Other Locations” all listed.

Most are self-explanatory – you can add folders to OneDrive and dig into the files you store there from this window, but you can also add support for other services, or explore files held in your iCloud Files menu.

  • To add support for other services, tap Add a Place and choose the cloud service you want to connect.
  • To explore documents and data in Files tap More. What’s great about this is that you can then also explore any other file storage services you’ve set-up to work with Files.
  • To open a file stored in one of these services in Word, tap the cloud icon on the document to download it and then (if necessary) tap the document.
  • When saving an item you can choose to use the default OneDrive, or navigate to another service or a folder within another service to save a document there. At one time it was necessary to use various workarounds to save Word documents to third-party storage services, but this is now built-in in iPad.
  • Don’t forget to download any documents you plan on working on while you are online if you plan to work on it offline. Documents you have already downloaded show a green tick beside their name in the Recent Items list.
  • You can also use external storage volumes from within Word starting in iOS 13.

Finding Apple’s Share pane

iOS users will already make lots of use of the Share pane, but it’s not particularly visible when working in Word.

  1. To find it, tap the Page/ellipsis tool at the top left of the document and then choose Send a Copy.
  2. You’ll be given the chance to define a format (Word or PDF) and invited to Email with Outlook (even if you’ve never installed Outlook) and an option called Send with Another App.
  3. Tap the latter and you’ll be back with your old familiar iOS Share pane, offering AirDrop, Messages, Mail, Save to Files and a range of other options.

I do think it’s naughty that Microsoft has chosen to hide the Share item behind three taps, rather than making it easy to get to within the Word interface (and creating some useful Shortcuts).

[Also read: 6 best note-taking apps for an Apple iPad]

Learn the keyboard shortcuts

Most iPad apps offer a selection of Mac-like shortcuts that work when you use an external keyboard with your Apple tablet, and Word (Excel and PowerPoint) are no exception. To see a list of all the available shortcuts for any app, tap and hold the Command button on the keyboard and a list of available ones should appear.

The following Word shortcuts will probably be familiar to any Mac user:

  • Undo: Command Z
  • Redo: Command Y
  • Save: Command S
  • Find: Command F
  • Select All: Command A
  • Bold: Command B
  • Italic: Command i
  • Underline: Command U
  • Copy: Command C
  • Paste: Command V
  • Style options: Command, Option and N, or 1, 2 or 3.
  • Top and bottom of document: Command and Up or Down arrow.

Change the Dictionary

You can change Word’s default dictionary in Settings>Language& Region. You’ll see a section called Preferred Language Order within which you’ll see Add Languagewritten in blue. Tap this and you can select your choice of dictionary (including UK English).

In future when writing you can set your choice of dictionary by holding the globe/emoticon item on the keyboard and selecting which language you want to use for that document. (I tend to accidentally changing language when typing with a clumsy thumb, so do watch out for that).

Want more advice for using an iPad for productivity? Check out my extensive six-part guide to using an iPad as a laptop replacement – or quickly review these 12 generic iPad productivity tips.

Work smarter, not harder!

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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