Right-clicking for Synonyms

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 20, 2018)
This tip applies to Word 2000, 2002, and 2003

Recently, subscriber Debbie Galle wrote and asked how to add the Synonyms option to the shortcut menu that pops up when you right-click on text. She noted that some of her users had the option in Word 2000 and some did not. Before getting to the answer, a short side trip is in order...

For users of Word 2000 and later versions, the synonym list that is available when right-clicking on regular text is a very handy feature. Whoever thought up the idea of providing a right-click shortcut access to a synonym list was a bright person. But that person used a clever trick to implement the idea. Also, Microsoft didn't go far enough with the implementation because the right-click synonyms list feature only got added to the "Text" set of shortcut menus. This means the synonym list is only available on a right-click shortcut menu when the user right-clicks on standard text. It doesn't show up on right-click shortcut menus for any other text item (e.g. text in a table, text in a list, text in a footnote, etc). What makes it worse is that Microsoft didn't provide an easy-to-use "synonyms list" command that could be dragged out of the Customize dialog box to customize other menus.

The problem here is that the "trick" used in the synonyms shortcut list feature works by using some special built-in programming. The synonym list is actually built on-the-fly and the fly-out menu is then customized on-the-fly by the built-in code. Each synonym listed on the fly-out "Synonyms >" menu is actually a temporarily added shortcut sub-menu item. Because this synonym list is created dynamically through built-in programming, there isn't a single Word command that exists to drag onto the shortcut menu.

The Knowledge Base touches on this subject in article Q229749. However, the article hides Microsoft's potential embarrassment over this short-sighted omission by being overly brief and skirting around the issue. The article points out that right-click shortcut menus are context sensitive but what it doesn't say is why there isn't a Synonyms > command in the Customize dialog box nor how to add this feature to shortcut menus where one wants this feature to appear. The suggested workaround is not particularly helpful, either. It simply suggests adding the "Thesaurus..." command to any shortcut menus where one wants to provide access to synonyms. All this does is open the normal Thesaurus dialog box--definitely not the same thing as a fast-access shortcut list of synonyms. Yet, there is a way the "Synonyms >" feature can be added to other shortcut menus, which we'll get to in a moment.

Meantime, Debbie mentions that some users have the shortcut access to the right-click "Synonyms >" list feature and others don't. If they truly don't have the feature on regular text, then perhaps someone has customized some of the systems to remove the synonyms list. The feature is included on the standard text shortcut menu by default even in an upgrade, but it may have something to do with the Normal.dot those particular users had in use when they upgraded from an earlier version of Word/Office. Whatever the cause, the only way to fix this is to completely reset the shortcut menus--which means re-customizing any other shortcut menu customizations after doing the reset. Note however, that resetting the shortcut menus doesn't affect existing customization of other toolbars or menus.

You can reset the shortcut menus by following these steps:

  1. Choose Customize from the Tools menu. Word displays the Customize dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Toolbars tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Toolbars tab of the Customize dialog box.

  4. In the list of toolbars, select Shortcut Menus.
  5. Click the Reset button.
  6. Click OK when asked to confirm the reset.
  7. Click on Close.

Having reset the shortcut menus, the "Synonyms >" list fly-out will now appear when right-clicking any word within any standard text. The way to add the "Synonyms >" shortcut list feature to other shortcut menus is through these steps:

  1. Choose Customize from the Tools menu. Word displays the Customize dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Toolbars tab is selected.
  3. In the list of toolbars, select Shortcut Menus (make sure it has a check mark in the check box). Word displays the Shortcut Menus toolbar showing the three shortcut menu groups (Text, Table, and Draw). Under each group drop-down are the context-sensitive shortcut menus for that group.
  4. Click on the Text drop-down list on the Shortcut Menus toolbar. Word displays the various contexts in which text shortcut menus can be displayed.
  5. Click on the Text option from the drop-down list. Word displays the shortcut menu items that appear when right-clicking on standard text. At the bottom of that shortcut menu is the "Synonyms >" item.
  6. Hold the mouse pointer over the "Synonyms >" item, hold down the CTRL key, click the left mouse button, and then start dragging the "Synonyms >" item to whatever other shortcut menu you want to add it to.
  7. When you have positioned the "Synonyms >" item where you want it (indicated by the dark horizontal insertion line), let go of the left mouse button and the CTRL key and the "Synonyms >" item will be copied to that shortcut menu.
  8. Click on Close in the Customize dialog box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (649) applies to Microsoft Word 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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