Friday, April 4, 2008

Time saving trick

I think “hidden text” is one of the most under-appreciated features in Microsoft Word. It’s become an invaluable tool in my weekly lesson planning and Bible teaching. First, let me explain how to create hidden text, and then I’ll demonstrate how to use it.

To create “hidden text,” you first need to select the text you want to hide. Then go to Format > Font. A little window will pop up, and one of your “Effects” options is to create “hidden text.” Once this button is checked, your highlighted text will be hidden both on your screen and in your printed documents. However, you can easily view hidden text on the screen by clicking the “Show/Hide paragraph” button on the Standard toolbar.

Why is this helpful? I first heard of this feature a couple years ago while reading a discussion thread by some teachers. One of the teachers said they used “hidden text” when creating a True/False or multiple choice test. They would create the test with blanks, and then “hide” the answer key right in the document.

It then occurred to me - I could use the same trick to create a Bible lesson handout with blanks, then include all my answers and lecture notes in the same document as hidden text. This saves me the time of having to create two separate files: one for the teacher and one for the students. You can view a sample document here. Again, you can toggle the hidden text on/off by clicking the “Show/Hide paragraph” button. To print a document with hidden text visible, go to File > Print > Options > Include with document: hidden text.

I’d encourage you to experiment with “hidden text” a little bit. If you find yourself starting to use it regularly, you can create a simple keyboard macro to save time. First, go to Tools > Macro > Record New Macro. Name your macro something like “hiddentext”. Assign a keyboard shortcut (I use “ctrl + w”). Once the macro recording has started, click on Format > Font > Hidden text. Then click the red square to stop the macro recording. That’s it! You’ve created a new macro shortcut. You can now create hidden text at any time simply by clicking “ctrl + w”. One further tip: to distinguish hidden text from visible text, I like to put my hidden text in blue. You can add this step into your macro recording so that “ctrl + w” will hide the text and change color to blue all at the same time.

Note: Hidden text should not be used to store sensitive information, because it is easily made visible.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.

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