Tutorial: Speedy text edits with Microsoft Word hidden characters

microsoftwordicon.gifEver had a really long block of text that needed an extra line after every mark? Or are there random extra spaces littered throughout some text you received? Are Word macros a mystery to you?

Being a busy Web producer in a busy newsroom, I get text from reporters all the time spaced in all sorts of weird ways. Don’t burn you finger muscles. Instead, try using the hidden characters in Microsoft Word.

In Word, you can work with hidden paragraph marks, tabbed breaks and even spaces using the Find/Replace function and some special symbols:

^p will target a paragraph mark

^l will target a line break (you make these by hitting Enter while holding the Shift key)

Typing a space will target spaces in the text.

So let’s say you need an extra empty line after each line of text. In the Find/Replace… window, you would type ^p in the Search field. Then, in the Replace field, enter ^p^p. This will replace one paragraph mark with two. Hit Replace All, and you’re done!

If you want to eliminate all double spaces in the body of text, just type two spaces into the Find field and type one into the Replace field.

You can also view these hidden characters if you want. In the Options menu, choose View and click “All” under the non-printing characters to display them.

Just the other day, I had to convert a Google Earth KML file to XML for a map (I know, I know — don’t ask me why), and I thought I was doomed because my KML file didn’t have a single line break in it. Oy. Microsoft Word’s hidden characters, of all things, saved the day and made the file much more manageable.

I simply targeted each of the tags in the file and did a Replace All adding a ^p after it. I copy/pasted it back into my XML editor, and the file was ready to be worked with.


For more useful tools and tips, check out the Tutorials category.

Author: Danny Sanchez

Danny Sanchez is the Audience Development Manager at Tribune's Sun-Sentinel.com and OrlandoSentinel.com. Danny has been with Tribune since 2005 in a variety of editorial, digital and product development roles in Hartford, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. He has also previously worked in the newsrooms of the Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald.

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