Macros don't do everything

Digging in

In the last article, you saw how easy it is to get started with macros.  We made one simple example that was good in a very particular case.  That's an important point to remember.  Word and Excel are very much general purpose software.  Everything that we do with them is specific to our own needs.  Those specific needs make us want all kinds of features that will never make it into Word or Excel.

Recognizing when a macro is the right thing to do

 When you find yourself pressing the exact same keys in the exact same order many times in rapid succession, you're guaranteed to get a boost out of a recorded macro.  Recorded macros are the best kind because they have an instant payoff.  It takes no longer to record a macro than it does to do that RMI inducing sequence one time.  Afer that, you don't have to do it any more.  That's right, you just have to click to run the macro many times over.  Okay, so at least it will take alot longer to get an RMI.

A recorded macro is no different than any other macro, it's just that Word creates it for you based on the actions you take while your recording your work.  There are some things that Word can't record, most are actions with the mouse.  For these you'll have to use keyboard shortcut. Some important ones are:

  • Selecting text with the mouse: this is a big one.  There's an easy way around it, though.  Use the arrow keys to move the cursor to the text you want, then hold the shift key while you move the cursor with the arrow keys.  This works whether or not you're recording, so try it out any time.  Here's another one - try holding ctrl while you press the arrow keys.  Using ctrl-left and right will move the cursor a word at a time.
  • Choices you make in a dialog box.  Word won't record what you do in a dialog box, but it will record the result of that action.  For example, if you choose Edit-Find, then type "Waldo" in the find what box, Word will record the action as a search for "Waldo," even if the text wasn't found when you were recording.  Now when you play the macro back, it will find "Waldo," not bring up the dialog for you to type in a new word to find.
  • Some controls or buttons will just be greyed out when you start recording, that doesn't mean for sure Word can't record that action, it might just mean you need to do it another way in order to have Word record it.

Recorded macros work best on documents that are very uniform.  If your document is a report that came out of some other computer, a bank statement, a form letter, or a list of addresses, car parts, or your world tour dates then a recorded macro will help you process it.