What is a macro? A macro, simply put, is a series of commands in a software application that is recorded for later play-back and use. The purpose of a macro is to automate a task that you perform regularly in an application, such as Microsoft Word, instead of having to manually perform a series of repetitive, time-consuming actions. It is essentially a set of 'custom commands'.

Truth be told, macros have a reputation as being a challenge to work with and even more difficult to create. Simply using the term macro around users not familiar with their advantages can cause a nervous reaction. But, once you get started with them you will realise that their negative publicity is not deserved, as they really will speed up your work in Microsoft Word.

Some of the typical uses for which macros are employed include:
- To simplify and speed up routine editing and formatting
- To automate a complex series of actions
- To standardise procedures to reduce errors and inconsistencies

Once you have mastered the ability to create and run macros you will then truly see the benefits of having learned how to create them in the efficiency with which you make use of MS Word.

There are a couple of different methods of creating macros in Word. The first and easiest way is by making use of the 'macro recorder' in MS Word. The second way is to use VBA, or Visual Basic for Applications.

Macros can, if necessary, be edited by using VBE, or Visual Basic Editor. It is important to note that within Word there are almost 1000 commands (which are on menus and toolbars), so before you create your own macro you should check to ensure that it does not already exist in Word.

The macro recorder

To begin creating macros you can use the macro recorder. MS Word records a macro as a series of commands in Visual Basic for Applications. When recording a macro you can make use of the mouse to click commands and actions, but you must make use of the keyboard to record actions, as mouse clicks and mouse movements are not recorded in a document window.

Before you begin recording the macro, plan the steps and commands you want the macro to perform, because if you make a mistake when you are recording the macro, any corrections you make will be recorded too.

Visual Basic for Applications

The second, and more complex, method is by using VBA. You can create very powerful and flexible macros that can include instructions, and that cannot be recorded using the macro recorder.

In summary: A macro can be used to format documents, enter text, and/or execute VBA code. It is possible to teach oneself the basics of using and creating macros in Microsoft Word, but comprehensive Word training courses will teach you far more than just the basics, they will enable you to get the most effective use out of Microsoft Word.