Learn how to create, navigate, and format a document in Microsoft Word
If you’re new to MS Word or have just typed the occasional letter or short paper, you may be surprised at how much more it can do.
Word has hundreds of settings and tools to help you make professional-looking documents and use them for personal purposes.
Here’s how to use Microsoft Word step-by-step.
Note: Instructions in this article apply to Microsoft Office Word 2007, Word 2010, Word 2013, Word 2016, Word 2019, Word 2021, Word for Microsoft 365, and Word for Mac. In this article, we are using Word 365 as an example.
Part1: Creating a Basic Document
1. Open the Microsoft Word application: Double-click the Microsoft Word icon to open it.
2. Review the available templates: You’ll notice several templates of interest at the top of the screen:
- Blank document – A blank Word document with the standard formatting.
- Welcome to Word – Take a tour of Word using this template to learn and do the basics.
- Creative Resume/Cover Letter – A neat, pre-formatted resume (and cover letter) document.
- Student Report with Cover Photo – A document format aimed at an academic audience.
- Fax Cover Sheet – A document used to preface fax reports.
- Cards – Premade templates to create postcards.
- You can also use the search bar on the Home screen to look for specific templates online from within Word.
3. Choose a template: It will open the template in Word with whatever pre-determined formatting it has. Now that your document is open, you can go over to review your Toolbar options.
- When in doubt, start with a blank document.
Part2: Navigating the Microsoft Word Toolbar
1. Click the File tab: It’s in the upper left corner of the screen (or in the menu bar for Mac users). On the left side of your screen, you have several valuable options:
- New – Click this to open the “New Document” page, which contains a list of all the pre-formatted templates. When you open a new document, it will prompt you to save your previous one.
- Open – See a list of recently opened or pinned documents. You can also search in a specific directory (for example, “This PC“).
- Info (PC only) – Click this to review the document’s statistics, such as when it was last modified or created and any potential issues like Spelling errors, etc.
- Save – To save your document, click Save. If this is the first time you’ve saved this document, you’ll see a prompt to enter a name, save location, and preferred file format.
- Save As – Click this option to save your document “as” something (e.g., a different name or a different file format). You can also use this option to save a Word document to a pdf file.
- Print – Click this option to access your printer settings.
- Share – Click this tab to see the document’s sharing options, including email and cloud options.
- Export – Click this to create a PDF, create PDF/XPS document or change the file type quickly.
- Transform – Click this to transform your document to a Microsoft Sway web page.
- Close – Click this option to close your document (you’ll see a prompt asking to Save or Don’t Save your document’s content).
2. Click ← in the top left corner of your screen. You won’t have this option on a Mac; click your document to exit the “File” menu.
3. Review the Home tab to see your formatting options. At the top of your document screen–from left to right–you’ll see six sub-sections of this tab:
- Clipboard – Text is saved on your clipboard whenever you copy it. By selecting the Clipboard option, you can view copied text.
- Font – You can change text case, font style, size, color, formatting (e.g., bold or italic), effects, and highlighting from this section.
- Paragraph – This section allows you to change aspects of your paragraph formatting, such as line spacing, alignment, indentation, and bullet formatting.
- Styles – This section discusses various text types for different situations (e.g., headings, titles, and subtitles). You’ll also notice the famous “No Spacing” option, which eliminates extra spaces between lines of text.
- Editing – Here, you’ll find frequently used tools, such as “Find and Replace,” which quickly allows you to replace all appearances of one Word with another. You can also use the Select option to select objects or text in your document.
- Dictate (Voice) – This Office Dictation option allows you to use speech-to-text to create drafts or outlines, capture notes, and get your thoughts out. Click the Dictate button and wait for it to turn on. Start speaking to see text appear on the Word document.
4. Click the Insert tab to review the media types you can place in your document. It is to the right of the Home tab. Use the Insert tab to add graphics, pictures, comments, and page numbers to your documents. Among the notable options, from left to right, are the following:
- Table – By selecting this option, you can create an Excel-style table directly within your document.
- Pictures – Insert an image into your document using this feature.
- Shapes – Insert readymade Shapes using this feature.
- Comment – Add a note in your document using this feature.
- Header, Footer, and Page Number – These options are required when writing in MLA or APA format. The Header adds a space at the top of the document for comments, while the Footer adds at the bottom—you can customize page numbers.
- Equation/Symbol – These options use special formatting to display simple equations correctly. You can choose these equations or symbols from the relevant drop-down menu.
- Link – Add clickable hyperlinks to take readers or users to webpages or files within or outside your document.
5. Click the Draw tab to create your drawings. It’s to the right of the Insert tab.
- The drawing features in Word can help you add notes, create shapes, edit text, and more. The Draw tab is also available in Excel and PowerPoint.
- The Draw tab provides three drawing textures: pen, pencil, and highlighter, each with a unique look. Click one to select it, and you’re ready to begin drawing.
- If you want to change the color or thickness of the pen, click the drop-down arrow next to it and choose your preference. Click away from the menu to return to your drawing when you’re finished.
- You can use the Ink to Shape feature to automatically convert your ink drawings to different shapes.
6. Click the Design tab to create your template. It’s to the right of the Draw tab.
- The Design tab displays pre-designed themes and document formatting options at the top of the page.
7. Select the Layout tab to change the formatting of your page. This tab includes options for modifying the following aspects of your document:
- Margins – Set the margin sizes for the entire document using this feature.
- Orientation – Change your page orientation to landscape or portrait.
- Page size – Choose a document size for your page using this option.
- Columns – Number of columns on the page (defaults to one). You can also Add or Remove Columns.
- Breaks – Insert a section break to your page and select where the section starts using this option.
- Hyphenation – Hyphenate a word using this feature.
- Indentation (left or right)
- Spacing (before or after)
- Selection Pane – Select the object to change its order or visibility using this option.
8. Click the References tab to manage your citations. You can also manage your bibliography page from here.
- Click the Bibliography drop-down menu and choose a template for quick bibliography formatting.
- You can change the bibliography formatting from APA to MLA in the “Citations & Bibliography” group of options (or other citation styles).
- You can insert a table of figures from the “Captions” group. It is helpful in scientific review papers or other documents where statistical data takes precedence over quotations.
- You can insert Authorities from the “Table of Authorities” group. It allows you to add statutes and other citations to your document.
- You can create a table of contents from the “Table of Contents” group. It allows you to give an overview of your document.
9. Click the Mailings tab to review your document-sharing options. You can check your email settings, start mail merge, select recipients, and share documents from within this section.
- You can also create and print an envelope or label template by selecting it from the “Create” group in the upper left corner of your screen.
- The Start Mail Merge drop-down menu allows you to send a document to multiple people. You can also insert different fields such as Name and Address.
- The Select Recipients drop-down menu lets you choose between Outlook contacts and an existing contact list in Word. Or you can type a new list of recipients.
10. Click the Review tab. Since you can use the Review section for editing, it includes document marking and proofreading options. Among the essential options are:
- Spelling & Grammar (Editor): Select this option (far left corner) to highlight any spelling or grammatical mistakes and writing suggestions.
- The “Proofing” section: This section is on the far left side of the Word toolbar. Use the Word Count feature to count the number of characters, Pages, Words, Paragraphs, and Lines in your document.
- The “Changes” section: This section is on the far right side of the toolbar. You can enable the “Track Changes” feature from here, which automatically formats any additions or deletions you make in a document in red print. You can also jump from the Previous to the Next tracked change.
- The “Protect” section: Use Restrict Editing option to prevent formatting changes, track changes or allow only commenting on the document.
Tip: In the newer versions of Microsoft Word, you’ll see the “Editor” option in the “Proofing group” instead of Spelling & Grammar.
11. Click the Focus Mode to eliminate distractions. It’s in the status bar of your document. Or you can select the View tab at the top to find this feature. It’s to the right of the Review tab.
- It’s for eliminating distractions from your document to improve productivity.
- Press the Esc key on your keyboard to exit focus mode.
12. Decide on the options that best apply to your work. For example, if you’re a student, you’ll almost certainly use the Insert and References tabs. You can format your first Word document now that you’re familiar with the toolbar options.
Part3: Formatting Your Writing
1. Open a new Blank Document in Word. If you already have a document, you can open it instead.
2. Enter text. Click on the blank section of the document and start typing.
- If you opened an existing document, make a backup before reformatting.
3. Highlight a section of text. Click and drag your cursor across your writing and let go of the cursor when you’ve highlighted the area you wish to edit.
4. Consider what you want to do to the writing. Some potential options include:
- Format your writing quickly. Right-click (or two-finger click) on your highlighted text and choose an option from the right-click menu.
- Change the font of your choice. You can select a new font from the drop-down bar at the top of the “Font” section (Home tab).
- Make your highlighted section bold, italicized, or underlined. Click the B, I, or U in the “Font” section of the Home tab.
- Change the color of your text. You can click the drop-down bar next to Font Color in the Font group of the Home tab and then choose a color.
- Change your document’s spacing. It is easiest to do by right-clicking your selected text, selecting Paragraph, and adjusting the “Line Spacing” value in the bottom right corner of this window.
5. Continue working with Word. Your preferred options for your documents will vary depending on the purpose of creating them, so the more you work within your format, the more experienced you’ll become.
- A red line under a word indicates misspelling, a green line indicates a grammatical error, and a blue line indicates formatting.
- If you right-click (or two-finger click) on an underlined word, a replacement suggestion will appear at the top of the right-click menu.
- Hold down Control (or ⌘ Command key on a Mac) and tap S to save your document quickly.
- Don’t forget to save your work before exiting Word.
Yes absolutely! Microsoft Word is free to download and use from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. You can also use the free web version of Word online in your browser.
Go to the free Office website and sign up for free. Then log in to your Microsoft account and start using Word for free on the web. You can also save your work in the cloud with OneDrive.
To start using Office apps for free open your browser, go to www.office.com, and sign up for free. Select the Word app to use it for free. There are free online copies of Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote you can select from, and OneDrive online storage.