Undoing in MS Office

Dennis Faas's picture

Most of us are aware of the Undo command in MS Office. Boy! It can really save your bacon when you have somehow managed to foul up something in the Office application you are using. Jensen Harris, who is highly placed in the MS Office User Experience Team says that Undo is the fourth-most used command in MS Word!

There are multiple undo commands in practically all of the Office applications, with matching multiple Redo to undo what you just undid! There are, however, limits to how many undo actions you can take. Starting with the latest version of Office though, MS Office 2007, there is an almost unlimited undo number for your instant document. That is to say, the document you have open in front of you.The easiest way to implement the Undo command is to use the quick key combination of CTRL + Z, which works in many programs.   You can also click on the undo or redo icon on your Standard and Formatting toolbar.   Another way is to click on Edit | Undo.

In Office 2007, the Undo command is on the QAT (Quick Access Toolbar).

An undoable action is not always what you think. In MS Word, you might think that each character you type is an action but it is not. Word considers a block of text as an action, so when you click the undo icon, you might find that a paragraph or a larger block of text disappears. Some individual actions in MS Word include the following:

  • Any series of actions you perform using a dialog box, such as changing fonts, numbering, etc.  
  • Reformatting an element  
  • Any AutoCorrect action like correcting double capital letters

In MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint, clicking the Undo icon will undo the last action. Clicking the arrow on the right of the icon will display a drop-down list of undone actions. You can select any of the listed actions to be undone or all the actions from that point forward.

MS Word is pretty smart about doing and undoing actions. Word will allow you to save a document or run a macro without interfering with your redo list, however MS Excel 2003 will empty the redo list simply because you saved the document. In Excel versions 2003 to 2007 running a macro will also empty the redo list.

A word to the wise -- in MS Word 2007, any action using the Office Button is not undoable.

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