Side-by-side view in Microsoft WordIf you have a document open in Word 2007 or Word 2010 and you open another document, that second document is displayed in the same window as the first. To view the now-hidden first document, you can’t, as you might expect, swap between the two documents by pressing Alt+Tab. Instead you must click the View tab, click Switch Windows in the Window group and then click the desired document in the list. You can speed up this cumbersome process by using the keyboard shortcut: Alt+W+W+n (where n is the number of the document you want), a technique which works no matter how many documents you have open.

If you’d prefer to have each document open in its own window so you can use the old faithful Alt+Tab technique to switch windows, you’ll need to adjust an option:

  1. Click the File tab -> Options (if you’re using Office 2007, click the Office button then click Options).
  2. Click Advanced.
  3. Scroll down to the Display section and tick ‘Show all windows in the taskbar’.

From now on, each document will be displayed in its own window and you’ll see a taskbar button for each open document. If you’re running Windows 7, instead of the individual taskbar buttons you’ll see a single stack of buttons; click the stack to preview the open documents.

Comparing documents side by side

One reason to stick with displaying documents in the same window is that it comes in handy if you want to compare two documents using Word’s side-by-side view. Side-by-side view works whether you view your documents in the same window or in separate windows, but it’s much easier to use when your documents are in the same window. It’s also particularly effective if you have a widescreen display.

To switch to side-by-side viewing, press Alt+W+B. If you have more than two documents open, Word will prompt you to select the second document to view alongside the current document.

A really nice feature of side-by-side viewing is the ability to scroll the two documents simultaneously. This makes it easy to spot differences between two similar documents. Click the Synchronous Scrolling button immediately below the Side-by-Side button to switch this feature on or off (or press Alt+W+V+S).

If you resize or reposition your documents, you may find the side-by-side view gets into disarray, even though the simultaneous scrolling will continue to work. To reset your documents so they sit neatly alongside one another, click Reset Window Position on the ribbon or press Alt+W+T. You can use the same shortcut to switch the positions of the left-hand and right-hand documents: click in the right-hand document to make it the active document then press Alt+W+T.