A Faster Path to Keyboard Shortcuts

I was recently adding some keyboard shortcuts in Word and noticed that the ALT + CTRL + NUM + shortcut (“Num +” is the addition key on the numeric keypad) was assigned to a command I hadn’t heard of: ToolsCustomizeKeyboardShortcuts. Apparently this shortcut is the only way to run this command, which is unfortunate because it can save you a lot of time when you are modifying shortcuts.

Using the Command

When you press ALT + CTRL + NUM + your mouse arrow will change to the looped square symbol: ⌘. While this new pointer is visible, you can get information on keyboard shortcuts in two ways: by selecting a command or by pressing a keyboard shortcut combination.

Setting a Shortcut for a Command

If you use the looped square cursor to select a command in the Ribbon, Quick Access Toolbar, or Status Bar, Word will pop up the Customize Keyboard dialogue box. This will display the current shortcut(s) assigned to the selected command and allow you to make adjustments.

You can also view shortcuts for commands triggered from dialogue boxes. For example, if you open the Styles dialogue box (CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + S), you can use the looped square icon to add a shortcut for the Style Inspector: select the icon showing an A with a magnifying glass. This is a handy command that doesn’t have a predefined shortcut and is not easily navigated to.

You may recall seeing Word display the shortcut assigned to a ribbon command when the cursor hovers over it (for example, when you hover over the Bold icon). However, Word doesn’t always display shortcuts when you hover (as when you hover over the New Comment icon). And if more than one shortcut is assigned to a command, when hovering does work it will only show one of the shortcuts. So this command is a much more accurate way to identify shortcuts.

Checking a Combination of Keys

If you press a keyboard shortcut while the looped square icon is visible, Word will also pop up the Customize Keyboard dialogue box, this time displaying the command assigned to that shortcut. This is very handy for determining if a particular shortcut is currently in use.

There is a downside to this command, however: it will not work for keyboard shortcuts that consist of the ALT key and another single key. If you run the command and then press this kind of shortcut combination, Word will display the KeyTips for the current ribbon menu, just as if you were pressing the ALT key by itself.

Other Tips

When the mouse pointer appears as a looped square symbol (⌘) you can press the Esc key to exit this command and be returned to a regular mouse arrow.

To use this command on a laptop that doesn’t have a numeric pad, you can manually assign it to another shortcut:

  • Burrow down to the Customize Keyboard dialogue box: File > Options > Customize Ribbon > Keyboard shortcuts: Customize…
  • In the Categories window on the left, scroll all the way to the bottom and select the All Commands category.
  • In the Commands window on the right, scroll down to ToolsCustomizeKeyboardShortcuts
  • In the Press New Shortcut Key field press the desired key combination  (I recommend ALT + K) and select the Assign button, then close all of the dialogue boxes.

This tool does not appear to work when selecting macros or third-party commands such as those for PerfectIt via a menu. It will, however, indicate which macro is assigned to a given shortcut.