Tips and tricks: Tabs for Word time saver (February 2019)

by Bridget Blair

Do you find yourself with multiple Word documents open while you work? There may be a style sheet, an author brief, a formatting template, plus several chapters of manuscript for cross-referencing. Every time you need to check one of these documents, you have to move the cursor to the Word symbol on the task bar at the bottom, wait for the docs to pop up, move your cursor to the right one and click to open. Or continuously alt-tab to scroll through them all. Recently I was working on a series of cookbooks which had seven reference documents, including ready reckoners for converting measurements (weight, volume, oven temperatures, etc.), and I had to swap between them constantly. All that extra mousing added up to a lot of time and wrist strain, and it was driving me mad. Why, I thought, can’t Microsoft use a system of tabs, like internet browsers and Adobe products do?

Tabs for Word crop

So I did a Google search and discovered to my great delight that there is an add-on available for download that allows you to see all your documents as tabs in the one screen. It’s called, ingeniously, Tabs for Word and is available for all versions of Word from 2003 onwards, including Office 365, from

Of course I did a bit of background checking before downloading anything. The program’s actually been around for a while, so I wish I’d thought to look for it earlier. Extend Office makes a variety of tools for Microsoft Office applications, including the suite of shortcuts Kutools for Word. The tools are not freeware, but there was a 30-day free trial, which I decided to take up. Thereafter the Tabs for Word add-on costs all of US$15 – well worth it, in my book. You can also buy it as part of the Office Tab package, which also includes Tabs for Excel and Tabs for PowerPoint.

Another feature of the program that I found useful is the ability to group files by project and open them all with one click. You can also save all the documents at once, rename them while they’re open, drag and drop tabs to reorder and customise the look of the tabs.

A downside is that the program has a tendency, from time to time, to cause Word to disappear from the screen and taskbar when you close a single tab. You then need to minimise your other open programs until it pops up again: annoying, but only occasional and not a deal-breaker.

I’ve come across two similar programs which are both free and worth checking out: TidyTabs and WindowTabs.

Bridget Blair AE is a freelance editor and member of the communications subcommittee.