Center For Practice Management, Microsoft Office, Productivity, Technology

Quick Parts: The Good, the Bad, and the Alternative

Microsoft Word and Outlook have a feature called “Quick Parts”. You can save selected text into a library and insert it into emails and documents. It works well with MS Word templates as a clause library to select and reuse text and images. Quick Parts are powerful and can save a lot of time. However, there are some issues with Quick Parts. You cannot easily share them among multiple users, and they are stored on individual devices. The good news is there are viable alternatives to consider.

MS Quick Parts Basics

Under the “Insert” tab in MS Word and MS Outlook in the Text group you will find a button called Quick Parts. If you click on Quick Parts, you will see that you can add Auto-text, Document Property fields, Field codes, and the Building Blocks Organizer. For lawyers, the Building Blocks Organizer can be set up to hold text – sentences or even a paragraph – with formatting intact and images.

To add text or an image to Quick Parts simply select the text, go to the Insert tab, and in the Text group click on Quick Parts. Choose “Save Selection to Quick Parts”.  You will see the following options:

Name – give your Quick Part a name you can easily remember.

Gallery – While you can choose to add a Quick Part to a different gallery it is probably best to leave it in the default.

Category – The default category is “General”. If you have a lot of Quick Parts you can create multiple categories, such as “Real Estate” “Wills” “Closing” etc. These categories will make it a little easier to find the Quick Part you want to insert.

Description – Add a description to remind yourself of the intent of the clause or image.

Save in – the default setting stores your selections to the Building Blocks.dotx. If you want the text or image available to any of your documents save it to the Building Blocks.dotx. If you want to have Quick Parts saved with a specific template, when you save your Quick Part into a template file (.dotx) you will notice you can save the Quick Parts with only that template. Or you can save Quick Parts to Normal.dotm. The Quick Parts will only be available to that user. These options are only in MS Word, the only option in MS Outlook is the “normalemail.dotm”.

Options – This controls how text or images are inserted into a document or email. Choose to insert the selection inline with content (“Insert Content Only”), as its own paragraph, or as its own page.

Inserting a Quick Part into a Document or Email

When you type the name of the Quick Part into an email or document and press F3 the Quick Part will be automatically inserted. Or click on Quick Parts (TIP: right click to add the Quick Parts button to your Quick Access Toolbar so you don’t have to hunt for it) and choose from the drop-down menu.

Be aware that the Quick Parts are not shared between MS Word and MS Outlook. Your Building Blocks gallery is unique to each application.

To Edit an Existing Quick Part

While you can go click on Quick Parts and choose “Building Blocks Organizer” and edit the name and location of a Quick Part you can’t edit the text. You will have to insert the Quick Part, make edits to it, and re-save it.

Limitations of Quick Parts

While they are extremely useful, Quick Parts have some significant shortcomings for law firms that want to leverage a shared clause library. They need to be backed up and transferred if you are moving to a different version of MS Word or Outlook or are moving to a new computer. Building Blocks in Quick Parts are not available in MS Word for Mac 2019. They are also not available in the browser or mobile versions of MS Word or Outlook.

If you save Quick Parts into a specific template (.dotx) then the Quick Parts for that template are available to other users in MS Word. Useful for your team’s shared templates on the server or shared cloud drive. However, do be aware that if you accidentally share the template (.dotx) with anyone via email they will be able to see all the associated Quick Parts whether they open it as a template or a document. You cannot share a Building Blocks gallery in MS Outlook without some significant configurations.

Alternatives to Quick Parts

Of course, if you are looking for an easy to use and shareable clause library it depends on what your use case is. Many, if not most, of the document assembly products like Lawyaw, Documate, AfterPattern, HotDocs, Pathagorus, Form Tool Pro, ActiveDocs, and more can automate and reuse sections of content in documents. Many of the contracts automation tools have similar features.

If you are looking for something that is a bit less time intensive to get up and running, products like TextExpander now has a Team version. Litera Content Companion lets you create a shared content library, to drop into Word and other documents. Content Companion also anonymizes content from prior documents, so you don’t accidentally pick up confidential information

There are also many products that not only let you store and drop in snippets of your own content, but they also provide standard clause libraries. Subscription products like ElderDocs and LawGood bring drafting tools, with content for practice specific content integration. Afterpattern document assembly has clauses and subscriptions from Bloomberg, Lexis and Westlaw provide options.

For clauses for MS Outlook across a team, the Ablebits add on, Shared Email Templates, has a lot of excellent features for firms and starts at $3 per user after a 60-day free trial.

Another set of add-ons for Microsoft products comes from OfficeatWork. Built for Microsoft 365, they have apps for template creation, clause libraries for MS Word, and more. Firms that have invested in the creation of sophisticated MS Word templates that want to create and manage shared content libraries more effectively can get two tools – the Uploader that lets firms create (or select) re-usabcontent and share within MS SharePoint so that the content is available across locations, devices, and platforms. With the Content Chooser you can then insert content from the shared clause library anywhere.  Priced at $1.69 per user/month and $2.69 per user/month respectively, these sophisticated but lightweight tools enhance and expand the Microsoft suite capabilities.


QuickParts are a terrific way to add formatted text (like tables), images, and snippets to MS Word documents and Outlook emails. However, for more flexibility and control consider other tools that are purpose built for multi-user standardization and administration to truly leverage your firm’s know-how.