Options in Creating New Files

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 23, 2013)

Have you ever noticed that there are times when Word just isn't consistent? For instance, if you choose New from the File menu, Word behaves differently then when you press Ctrl+N, which is supposed to be the shortcut for choosing New from the File menu. In your never-ending quest to make Word behave consistently, you may wonder if there is a way to do away with this particular inconsistency.

Before making any changes, it is helpful to understand what Word is doing whenever you choose to create a new document. There are three primary ways you can create a new document.

  • The first is to click on the New toolbar button. When you do, Word essentially runs an internal command known as FileNewDefault. This creates, appropriately enough, a new document based on the default template (Normal.dot).
  • The second way to create a new file is choose New from the File menu. This displays the New dialog box in Word 97 and Word 2000, or the New Document task pane in Word 2002 and Word 2003. (In Word 2002 and 2003 you can click on the General Templates link in the task pane to display the Templates dialog box, which is essentially the same as the New dialog box in Word 97 and Word 2000.)
  • The third way is to press Ctrl+N. This creates a blank document, the same as if you click the New toolbar button.

If you examine the File menu, you see that the shortcut key for the New option is Ctrl+N. In a standard installation of Word, this is flat-out wrong. As you can tell from the preceding list, pressing Ctrl+N produces a different result than choosing New from the File menu—one displays the New dialog box or the New Document task pane, whereas the other does not.

There is a very simple way, however, to make sure that Ctrl+N pulls up the dialog box or displays the task pane, the same as choosing the menu option. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Choose Macro from the Tools menu. Word displays a submenu from which you should choose the Macros option.
  2. In the Macro Name box, enter the name FileNew. Note that there are no spaces in this, and it must be typed exactly as shown here.
  3. Click on Create. The macro editor is opened. Exactly what you see depends on the version of Word you are using. It really doesn't matter what you see, however. The code displayed by Word is what it thinks the default options are for the built-in Word command you are editing (FileNew).
  4. Save the macro by choosing Save from the File menu, or by clicking on the Save tool on the toolbar. (You don't need to make any changes in the macro code; you just need to save whatever Word presented to you.)
  5. Close the macro editor.

That's it! Now, when you press Ctrl+N, which runs the internal FileNew command by default, your "new" version of the command is executed instead. It just so happens that this new version displays the dialog box, just as you wanted all along.

This change leads to an interesting occurrence in Word 2002 and Word 2003, as well. When you follow the above steps, all of a sudden the New Document task pane is bypassed entirely. What happens is that Word displays the New dialog box (the same one previously used in Word 97 and Word 2000), regardless of whether you choose New from the File menu or simply press Ctrl+N. So, if you hate the New Document task pane, an added benefit of this tip is that you can do away with it entirely by following this tip.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (788) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 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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