Two ways to return to where you last were in a Microsoft Word document


If you browse a lot, you might want to make use of these two easy methods for returning to where you started in Microsoft Word.

Image: Screenshot

That title’s a bit ambiguous because where you last were could mean different things to different users. What users really want is to look around in a document without losing their place. If you’re reading a book, you can bookmark the spot. You can do the same in a Word document, but that’s a bit dramatic if all you’re looking for is a quick way to return to where you last were. In this article, I’ll show you two easy ways to do that, even though where you last were doesn’t mean the same thing in both tips.

I’m using Microsoft 365, but you can use earlier versions. There’s no demonstration file because you won’t need one. I used the RAND() function to create a few paragraphs of text and then copied them several times to create a five-page document. The space bar tip works in the browser, the Shift+F5 tip doesn’t. Enlarging the cursor carries over into the browser but increasing the size of the insertion point doesn’t.

SEE: Office 365: A guide for tech and business leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Finding where you last were in Word

The phrase where you last were could mean two different things. Either you want to go back to the spot where the insertion pointer is, or you want to return to the last edit. Sometimes, the spot is the same and sometimes it isn’t. Fortunately, there are two quick ways to satisfy both possibilities.

Getting back to the insertion pointer in Word

It’s common for a user to be reviewing a part of the document that’s nowhere near the insertion point. The user might be referencing related information or checking to make sure information was included in a later section. There are many reasons for viewing content that is paragraphs, pages, or even full sections away from the insertion point. All that’s required to get home is a tap of your shoes–I mean, the space bar. It really is that simple.

Now, let’s suppose you’re working in a long document (which is difficult to represent in a single figure, so lend me your imagination a bit). You can see in Figure A that the insertion point is on the first page, but let’s say you’re reviewing content on page 4. (You’d probably scroll down rather than displaying multiple pages as I have. I’m displaying multiples to represent what we’re doing.)

Figure A

wordlastposition-a.jpg

  You can view areas well beyond the insertion point.

Now, let’s suppose you’re reading page 4 or 14 or 421, and you want to return to the insertion point, and you don’t remember exactly where it is. Remember, the insertion point is where you can edit the document and not necessarily where you’re currently viewing. All you have to do is press the space bar and Word immediately returns you to the insertion point. You’ll want to delete the space of course, but that’s the quickest and easiest method for getting back to where you last were. This is one of those simple tips that works more often than not without doing a single special thing. However, this quick and easy solution won’t always work. For instance, if you use Page Down to browse the document, it won’t work because Page Down moves the insertion point! 

Get back to the last edit(s)

In some cases, where you last were will refer to the last edit you made. That may or may not be where the insertion point is. To find the last edit, simply press Shift+F5. You can press this combo to find the last three places in the document where you edited content. Keep in mind that a single keystroke is an edit, so sometimes this combo won’t work as you expected.

Try it now by making simple edits in a longish document—remove a word, add a space, apply bold—and then press Shift+F5 to return to each of those edits. If you have more than one document open, the combo might even take you to another document!

SEE: Recap: Microsoft Build 2020 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

How to enlarge the cursor and insertion point

Neither of these tips is perfect but don’t give up. They’re both worth the effort of familiarity. However, there’s one more tip to offer. The cursor is small. Even when working on the same page, it can be difficult to find. One way to attack this is to make the cursor larger and thereby more visible. (Notice that I’m talking about the cursor and not the insertion point—we’ll get to that next.)

This solution is a Windows solution and it isn’t perfect (nothing in this article has been) but it can help. Here’s what you can do:

  1. In Cortana, type Control Panel and choose Mouse from the list to the right (Figure B).
  2. In the resulting dialog, click the Pointers tab.
  3. From the Customize list, choose Text Selector, and then click Browse.
  4. Thumb down to the I beam choice and select a bold, larger item (Figure C).
  5. Click Open, Apply, and OK. The new insertion point is much larger than the out-of-the box icon.

Figure B

wordlastposition-b.jpg

  Find the Mouse settings. 

Figure C

wordlastposition-c.jpg

  Choose a larger I beam icon.

That’s helpful to a point, but what about the insertion point? You can also enlarge it. To increase the size (or thickness) of the blinking cursor (the insertion point), do the following:

  1. In Cortana, type Ease of Access mouse settings and choose the system settings item from the resulting list.
  2. Click Mouse and Pointer on the left.
  3. Scroll down to change cursor thickness and use the thumb to increase the size. Figure D shows the insertion point at its full thickness. The thickest setting can be confusing as it resembles insertion mode a bit. Reset the thickness until you find the one that’s right for you.

Figure D

wordlastposition-d.jpg

  This insertion point is much easier to see.

Keep in mind that changing the insertion point and the cursor are Windows settings, so they impact more than Word. You will see the modifications in other applications that use them.

It’s not a silver bullet

Nothing I’ve shown you in this article will work perfectly, as you expect, every single time. As you become more familiar with each, you’ll intuitively know what will work best in any given situation. Whether you change the visual impact of the cursor and the insertion point is up to you.

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