Whenever Microsoft releases a new version of Office, the new features often grab the most attention. But for each new release, Microsoft also tinkers with existing tools to make them easier to find and use. In the last Quick Look post, we wrote about the value of using Styles and Autotext/Quick Parts in Word; for this post, we look at three more underused Word features that aren’t exactly new, but definitely worth learning how to use.

USING TEMPLATES If you are looking for a quick productivity boost, embrace the template. Instead of creating a document’s structure from scratch each and every time, you can use a template with all the goods built in: page layout, fonts, margins, styles and more. All you need to do is fill in your content.

Basic template options in Word 2013.

Basic template options in Word 2013.

Word 2010 and 2013 provide thousands of template designs — everything from newsletters and reports to labels and fax cover sheets. Templates save time and effort no matter what kind of document you are creating, but are particularly useful when you are putting together highly formatted materials like calendars and brochures.

To view available templates in 2013, go to FILE | NEW and you will see thumbnails of the most commonly used templates. If the options presented aren’t quite what you are looking for, you can browse local and online templates by category, or search for a style using keywords.

If you still can’t find what you need, you can create your own template from scratch or based on existing designs.

Click here for a how-to on using templates in Word 2010.

CUSTOMIZING NORMAL.DOTX Think about the first time you opened Word after a version upgrade. You probably didn’t like the default font, nor the spacing, but you just changed it and got on with the business of work. Then you opened it up again, and made the same changes again — and again, and again, and again.

You can save time and frustration by modifying the Normal.dotx template, which is what Word uses for all new blank documents. It takes a few minutes to set up, but think of all the time you would be wasting modifying each new document.

You can also go beyond font and spacing; you can modify Normal as much as you wish. For example, you can put the path and filename on every document to make it easier to find from printed copies, change Paste Special behavior, change the file save location, disable/enable spelling and grammar options, hide/unhide the mini toolbar and more.

For instructions on changing the Normal template in Word 2010, click here.

For one techie’s opinion on what to change, see “The first nine things I do to default settings in Word 2013” from TechRepublic.

USING MERGE TO EMAIL Most professionals are familiar with creating mail merges for labels and other printed items, but they may not have had the chance to try out the merge to email feature. This tool enables you to send a mass email that’s personalized to each recipient.

The cons: You need to set up the merge, which seems like a time-consuming task on the surface but is fairly easy to create.

The pros: Very subtle, but powerful. Your letters will appear more professional, and your recipients/prospects will not feel like just another name in a long list of email addresses.

Click here for instructions on setting up a mail merge for email in Word 2010.

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