6 Word macro tips you won't want to miss

The macro features in Microsoft Office can seriously boost your productivity. A well-written Word macro can save you hours of repetitive work, allowing you to spend more time focusing on writing great content. I've written many lines of VBA code over the last several years and I'm always amazed at how much time and work macros save, especially if you share them with a team of writers.

Here are a few tips you might find helpful when writing macros to automate Word tasks.

  • Create a separate module for storing each macro, and give the module and macro the same name. That way you can easily copy single macros from one template to another. Also, the module name appears first in the macros dialog, so it will be much easier to find the desired macro if the module and macro have the same name.
  • Record as much of the macro as you can with the Record macro feature. That way you'll have less code to write manually when you open your macro in the VBA editor.
  • Learn to use the Object browser if you regularly create complex macros. It allows you to see the properties and functions that can be altered for common Word objects, such as styles, paragraphs, tables, auto text entries, and so on.
  • When testing your macros, use the Step into feature to walk through the macro one line at a time. Open your Word document on one half of your screen, and the VBA editor on the other half. That way you can see how each line of code impacts your document. Also, by stepping into the macro, you'll have a much easier time isolating bugs and fixing them.
  • Use comments in your code. You may need to alter your macro months or years from now, and you'll have a much easier time if you insert meaningful comments. Also, someone else might be stuck with the task of updating your macro. Help them out by writing good comments.
  • You'll be able to produce some incredibly powerful macros if you learn just a few common programming conventions. Learn the VB code for If...Then loops, arrays, and subroutines, and you'll be amazed at how much of your work you can automate. Get a good book on BASIC programming, or consult the VBA help. Take it slow and learn one concept at a time, then practice what you've learned.

If you can learn to use Word macros effectively, you'll find yourself spending less time wrestling with your tools and more time focusing on writing. You and your team will likely experience a major boost in productivity.

If you found this interesting, check out Technical writing and efficiency.