Word 2004: Not remembering assigned keyboard shortcuts properly

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
November 30th, 2004 • 3:10 am

I have already discussed the many problems with Word’s Customize dialog box, which essentially hasn’t changed in the past 6 years or so. The most blatant problem is that there is no “Cancel” button in that dialog box. If you make any changes in the dialog box, they cannot be undone. Given how destructive some actions performed in that dialog box can be, this is absolutely ridiculous.

(You can actually prevent Word from saving the changes you’ve made by customizing your environment if you quit Word without saving your Normal template or any other template that you might have made changes to. But this is hardly a solution, because it means that you have to remember to save your templates after each change you make — so that you can undo the last change you made without undoing all the changes that you’ve made in the past week or so, for example — but if you ask Word to save your template automatically, then it won’t be as easy to avoid saving it when you do not want to save it in order to undo the changes you’ve just made in the “Customize” dialog box that doesn’t have a “Cancel” button — know what I mean?)

Today, I want to mention a more specific problem with customizing keyboard shortcuts. Quite often, in Word I encounter a keyboard shortcut that I don’t want, because I don’t want to hit it accidentally. Today, for example, it was command-F11, which is the default shortcut for the “Lock Fields” command (which I have never used in my entire life). Since I have a command-F12 shortcut for another command that I use quite frequently, it’s a bit too easy for me to accidentally hit command-F11.

So I went to the “Customize Keyboard” dialog box. (You can add a command to go directly there, since it’s a different dialog box from the general “Customize” dialog box, which doesn’t let you customize shortcuts.)

Instead of browsing through the mind-bogglingly irrational list of commands trying to locate a command that might be called “LockFields” (the actual command name is not necessarily the same as the one that appears in the “Undo” command when you use the command in Word), I thought I’d just be clever and add the command-F11 to the first command listed in the dialog box, which is “FileClose” (as I just said, the actual command name is not necessarily the same as the one that appears in the Word menus, where there is no command called “File Close“). My reasoning was that, since you cannot have the same shortcut for two different commands, Word would automatically remove the command-F11 shortcut from the “Lock Fields” command (without my having to actually locate the command in this stupid dialog box). Then I would just have to remove it from the “FileClose” command as well, and it would be gone for good, right?

Yeah right. With Microsoft Word, being clever is something that you attempt at your own risk.

When I assigned command-F11 to “FileClose“, Word did display an alert saying that the shortcut was currently assigned to “LockFields“. I assigned it just the same. At that point, command-F11 was no longer assinged to “LockFields“, and was assigned to “FileClose” instead.

But then I selected the command-F11 shortcut in the list of shortcuts assigned to “FileClose” and deleted it. At that point, I assumed that the shortcut was no longer assigned to any command. I exited the dialog box and tried it again.

Tough luck. When I tried command-F11 again, Word executed the “Lock Fields” command again.


So finally I did end up having to locate the “Lock Fields” command manually in the list of Word commands in the “Customize Keyboard” dialog box (lucky me, the command was actually called “LockFields“) and delete the command-F11 shortcut there.

But why didn’t my clever (and faster) work-around work? Because it’s Microsoft, of course.

There is absolutely nothing in the “Customize Keyboard” dialog box that indicates that, when you do what I did (i.e. assign the shortcut to another command, and then delete the shortcut), the keyboard shortcut is reassigned to the command that it was previously assigned to. But it is.

(To make things even more Microsoftian, when I deleted the command-F11 shortcut that I had just assigned to the “FileClose” command, Word also deleted the command-W shortcut that is also assigned to it, even though I never selected it! But when I closed and reopened the “Customize Keyboard” dialog box, the command-W shortcut was back. I guess that, to somebody in Redmond, this all makes sense.)

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