Last week, John C Dvorak wrote about technical duds. And it’s unfortunate about what happened to Word macros, because at times they can be extremely useful, and not terribly difficult to use, either.

Here’s my favorite macro–a method to join single lines. You’ll wonder why it never became a standard feature in Word. You won’t use it often, but when you need it, you need it badly.

This works in Word 2003, and worked very similarly (possibly identically) in earlier versions of Word too. Perhaps going back to Word for Windows 6.0 from the Windows 3.1 days. The functionality is buried in Word 2007, so I’ll have to revisit that another time.

It’s extremely useful for removing extraneous line breaks from stuff you copy and paste into Word from e-mail messages, web pages, Acrobat documents, and anything else you didn’t create yourself originally. Removing those breaks allows you to reformat it to fit your document neatly. I only need this a few times a year, but when I need it, this macro can sometimes save me hours of tedious work.

Go to Tools, Macro, and select Record New Macro. Type join_single_lines as the name and click OK. Now hit ctrl-H to bring up Find/Replace. In the Find What field, type ^p^p. In the Replace field, type &&&&. Click Replace All. Now change the Find What field to ^p and blank out the Replace field. Click Replace All. Now change the Find What field to &&&&, the Replace field to ^p^p, and click Replace All yet again.

Then click the little stop button on your macro recorder.

Now any time you need to remove those line breaks, go to Tools, Macro, Macros, select join_single_lines, and click Run.

You can do some other nifty tricks too, like recording a macro that searches for a period followed by two spaces and replaces it with a period followed by a single space. Or searching for a carriage return followed by a tab character (^p^t) and replacing it with two carriage returns (^p^p). Or you can record a macro that does the opposite, if you prefer traditional indentations.

These macros are extremely simple and don’t even use 1% of the functionality of Word’s macro language, but that’s OK. They’re useful and require no programming skill to implement. You just have to remember that they’re there when you need them.