Soon after I wrote about recording a macro to type an en dash, my friend and colleague Russell Harper wrote to me, as he often does after I venture into giving technical advice, to point out how I might have done it better. Don’t get me wrong—Russell is the most humble smart person I know. He never intends to make me feel bad, and he never does. It’s one of his many gifts, knowing how to make a person feel just fine about not knowing as much as she could.
Russell is familiar to readers of this blog as my go-to tech guy. I’m always, always, tempted to run a tech post by him ahead of time, but I don’t always, because the thing about having a tech-savvy friend who has a different, actual job—and a family, and a life—is that you have to save him for when you’re desperate so as not to become a nuisance. I save Russell for questions that I know he won’t be able to resist (I hope he’s not reading this), either because I know he will really want me to know the answer or because (and this is rare) he doesn’t know the answer himself. Yet.
So back to the macros. Russell thought I did fine in explaining how to use Microsoft Word’s macro-recording feature, but he wanted to point out that the example I used—that of making a shortcut key for an en dash—could actually have been accomplished in a much faster way without the use of a macro.
My goal of making a shortcut key for an en dash came about because my new laptop lacks a numeric keypad, so the usual Control-hyphen for typing an en dash isn’t an option. Assigning the keyboard command Control-hyphen to a macro that grabbed an en dash from the Symbols menu was a good solution.
What Russell pointed out, however, is that Word has a quicker, easier way to assign keyboard commands to special symbols, including the en dash. And since many of you probably use these common symbols regularly, I feel I must share. Here’s how:
- In a Word document click on the Insert menu.
- Choose Symbol > More symbols.
- Click on the Special Characters tab.
- Click on En Dash
- Click on Shortcut Key . . .
- In the new box, put your cursor under Press New Shortcut Key and hit Control-hyphen.
- Assign and Close.
As you can see from the graphic, shortcut keys are already available for a number of symbols. You can also see that the default shortcut for an en dash requires the numeric keyboard; however, by using the Shortcut Key button, you are free to assign whatever key combination you prefer. (This is also handy for restoring your long-used shortcuts when a default combination changes in a new version of Word.)
If you already knew this but, unlike Russell, haven’t written to point it out, it might be because you assumed that it was beside the point, and that I chose the en dash because it was ideal for making a basic macro, not because I didn’t know about this easier way. Unfortunately, you would have been wrong.
I hope you used my macro lesson to record a simple shortcut for a time-consuming mechanical task you do often. I also hope that you will always, like Russell, feel free to comment or email me about anything useful. It’s how I learn things.