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Using Bookmarks in Word

As you can imagine, I write a lot of long documents (like 200 page books) and I don’t usually write them in a single sitting (no matter how many Frappacinos I drink) so I frequently have to save my place and come back to it later. I also don’t tend to write these books sequentially. Right now I’m writing Chapter 2, but I’ve already written most of Chapter 12.  I can’t just press [END] and go to the bottom of the document to pick up where I left off. To make matters even slightly more difficult I also tend to write multiple chapters at once. I may be in Chapter 2, but I’ve also written some of several other chapters. So how do I quickly get back to where I left off and in a particular chapter?   Same way I do it in a paper book: Bookmarks.

The Insert Bookmark tool lets you create a new bookmark at your current location, delete an existing bookmark or go to a bookmark you’ve already defined in the document.  You can have as many bookmarks as you’d like and sort them either by name or by location. A location sort will place them in the order they appear in the document from page 1 forward.  The name sort is, as you might expect, a simple alphabetical sort of the bookmarks.

The way it works is pretty simple, you click in a spot or select a block of text and then go to the Insert tab of the Ribbon and choose Bookmark. (or you can press CTRL+SHIFT+F5 if you’re mouse-averse). The Bookmark dialog box will appear and you can type a name for your new bookmark. You can’t use spaces or many of the punctuation characters (like hyphens) in your bookmark name but you can use underscores (“_”) to separate words.

Notice the checkbox for Hidden bookmarks?  Those are a special case, generally, Word uses them for a variety of purposes – usually without you realizing it. One example is the Table of Contents. When you add a Table of Contents to your document and flag an item for inclusion, Word puts a hidden bookmark at that spot so that the hyperlink from the Table of Contents can take you back there when you click it.

To get back to your bookmark press CTRL+G or click Find on your Ribbon and go to the Bookmark.  Or you can get there via the Insert | Bookmark dialog where you create and manage your bookmarks.

So how can lawyers use bookmarks in their documents?  I like to use them in templates at key sections.  Let's say you've created a very good basic will.  And you're going to use that basic will as a starting point for future wills for other clients.  First thing you want to do is go through and replace any personal information (names, addresses, amounts) with placeholders that explain what goes there.  "The is the last will and testament of [Full Name]" etc. etc.  At key places in the document I would insert a bookmark so that when you're filling out the document you can very quickly jump to those sections without having to page or scroll through a long document.

Finally click File | Save As and save that template as a Word Template.  Next time you go to create a will you can just start from that template, use the bookmarks to navigate and fill in the information at the appropriate places.  A huge time saver over starting from scratch or trying to navigate manually through what might be a long document.

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