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If you only use Word for writing the odd letter to the bank, you’re missing out on its vast range of features. Unleash the potential of Microsoft Word with the help of Mary Branscombe.
What can Word do?
Whether you’re running Word 95, 97 or 2000, you’re party to one of the most powerful word processors around. There’s not much it can’t do and you’ll probably never use all of its features unless you’re producing everything from letters and newsletters to Web pages, books and mailing lists.
Once you’ve found a feature it’s usually fairly straightforward to use, but if you don’t know that text frames let you lay out a page exactly the way you want to, it can be hard to work out what you need to do. Microsoft’s attempts to offer assistance range from underlining ‘mis-spelled’ text in accusing red to popping up the Office Assistant paperclip to offer its advice whenever you try to get down to some work. At the end of the day, these are often more irritating than useful, but in Word 2000 it’s finally almost there, with a vastly improved AutoCorrect to tidy up your typing and an Office Assistant that’s not so intrusive. We rather like the ginger cat snoozing in the corner of the toolbar, actually.
It would be more accurate to call Word a document processor than a word processor as you can do much more than typing in words, checking the spelling and formatting them with fonts and styles. There are tools for organising your documents, from outlines and the Document Map, to master documents and sections with indices and table of contents.
There are also layout tools for adding pictures, tables and boxes, plus bookmarks that link to other sections of the document, other documents or Web pages. You can also embed objects from other programs like Excel charts or use data files to produce mail merges. You don’t just get letters and memos, either – Word’s not a DTP package but you can produce perfectly acceptable Web pages, cards and invitations. And that’s all before you start using macros – Visual Basic for Applications, which replaces WordBasic from Word 97, is too complicated and powerful to cover here, but just recording macros of frequently used commands can make it even more powerful.
We tend to forget how much versatility word processors have given us over organising and re-organising our documents. Find out how Word can keep your world from becoming chaos.
The wonderful thing about word processing, as opposed to writing by hand or on a typewriter, is that if you decide your last carefully crafted paragraph actually needs to go on the first page, you can move it without needing to re-type the whole document. Cut and paste or just drag and drop, and you can rearrange your words with ease. Knowing the right place to put them is your responsibility, but finding the place you want to put them is easier if you organise your document logically, and Word has plenty of ways to let you do that.
For short documents you can just scroll up and down, but there’s no need to keep the structure of a complex document in your head when you can quickly see an overview. If your document is even larger, consider splitting it into sections or even into multiple files linked in a master document via the outline view – that’s most useful if you’re writing something the size of a book.
While you’re planning a document, the outline view (select View Outline or click the outline button at the bottom left of your document) is a great way to move your ideas around and get things in the right order. Put the different levels in descending header styles and the structure shows up with indents so you can see what’s on each level. Move a heading and everything under it by dragging – alternatively double-click to collapse a section for clarity.
If you don’t want to apply heading styles to text because it doesn’t fit with your document, you can use the Outline level styles in the Paragraph Format dialog instead (choose Format, Paragraph and pick from the drop-down menu) to assign levels without changing the formatting of your text.
Outline levels work in the Document Map (also on the View menu) as well, and you’ll see hierarchical levels there too. If there are no heading styles in your document, the Document Map picks up simple bold headings. You can expand and collapse the trees of headings in the map – it’s a great way to navigate around a document that you’re working on, although you can’t move sections of text in the Document Map. Word 95 users won’t see this feature.
If you need to work with the beginning and end of a Word file, or compare two sections as you write, just split the file window in two. Click on the tiny horizontal bar above the arrow at the top of the scroll bar and drag it down the page – you get two windows on to the same document, with two sets of scroll bars. Choose Window, Split to get a bar in the middle of the screen. To get rid of it, choose Window, Remove Split, or drag the bar to the top or bottom of the window to remove it.
If you want a table of contents to show what’s in your document, Word can compile this for you automatically – again it will use heading styles, outline styles or simple bold text if that’s all you’ve used. Choose Insert, Index and Tables, switch to the Table of Contents tab and pick the style you want. Click the Options button to choose what heading levels correspond to what levels in the table of contents – you don’t have to have page numbers, either.
Putting an index in your documents (Insert, Index and Tables, Index) takes a little longer, as you have to tell Word what words to include in the index. There are two ways of doing this – first you can select every interesting word in the document and use the Mark Word command to include it, or you can use the Automark command with a document containing your index words (the quickest way to do that is to save a copy of your document and then delete every word you don’t want indexed).
Want to add images or graphic objects to your documents? Word has always been able to insert a variety of image files (bitmaps, scanned photos and clip-art), and in Word 97 and 2000 you can add what Word calls ‘drawing objects’: lines, curves, AutoShapes and WordArt (previously WordArt was a separate program). On top of this, the Pictures toolbar has features for enhancing your image files and the Drawing toolbar lets you add colours, patterns and borders to your drawing objects, plus some inserted graphics too.
If you’re used to Word 95, with its single Insert, File command for including images, Excel files, text notes and anything else you already had in a file, take care with Word 97 and 2000 – here, the Insert, File command only works on text or other readable files – try it with an image and you’ll get a stream of garbage. To include an image, choose the Insert, Picture command and you get the choice of Clip Art (from the Word Clip Gallery), Files, AutoShapes, WordArt or Chart. In Word 2000 you can also acquire images directly from a scanner or digital camera.
If you don’t have Excel, the Chart tool lets you fill in a simple datasheet to produce a chart with the standard Excel charting options – pick the graph type and colours or format every element by hand. If you’re putting together a Web page, Word lets you set the transparency colour for images so they float on the page. If you’re laying out an invitation or poster, you can position the images where you want them and set text to flow around the graphics.
When you insert an image file, Word embeds it in the document, so you’ll need to have the correct graphics filters installed first. In Word 97 and 2000, you can convert an image to greyscale or black and white, or use it as a watermark in the background. You can also adjust brightness and contrast, crop the image or (in any version of Word) drag to resize it. Make sure you drag from the corners to retain the aspect ratio – if you later change your mind, choose the Reset Picture icon on the toolbar.
The Clip Gallery includes pictures, sounds and videos, sorted into categories – you can add more images to the gallery if you want to use them frequently, or pull in extra clips from the Microsoft Web site. If you open a metafile clip-art image such as a .WMF file or other vector image, you can ungroup it to alter the colours and line styles, or move elements around. To do this, choose Format, Picture, Layout and change it to a floating image by changing the wrapping style, then right-click on the image and choose Grouping, Ungroup.
AutoShapes let you add simple shapes, banners, stars, speech balloons, arrows and flowchart elements to your documents, fill them with colours or patterns and give them 3D effects. Choose the shape you want and click to insert the default size or drag out the area you want to cover – you can resize and rotate the shapes. Word 2000 has a More AutoShapes command on the Drawing toolbar that opens up another set of shape categories.
WordArt is a great way to add decorative text to documents – it’s simple but very powerful. Choose your WordArt style from the dialog box that pops up when you choose the icon on the Drawing toolbar (or Insert, Picture, WordArt) and type your text into the dialog box. You can rotate, stretch and skew the text by dragging the image handles.
3D effects give your graphics more impact on the page – you can give lines, WordArt or AutoShapes the 3D look, or add a shadow to embedded image files (remember to change the wrapping style first). Use the 3D icon to choose a preset 3D style or choose 3D settings to change the colour, rotation, depth, lighting or surface texture of the shape. Similarly, you can choose a preset shadow or change the shadow position, which changes the depth.
When you draw an object, it automatically appears with a thin border around it; you can also add borders to text boxes, pictures, and imported art. Format a border in the same way as a line – you can change the line style from the Drawing toolbar. Choose the small dashed line at a small point size and with multiple lines to produce this stippled frame. You can also add a border to the whole page: choose Format, Borders and Shading, Page Border.
Cards, lists and mail merge
If you’re producing business letters (say you’ve found a list of estate agents and you want to send them all details of the sort of house you’re looking for), or you’re being organised with invitations or labels for your Christmas cards and you have a database of names and addresses, mail merge can save you a lot of time and still make it look as if you’re personalised everything. You can put a mail merge field into anything from a mailing label to a menu for a place setting – it doesn’t even have to hold a name or address. You could create personalised treasure hunts for a kids’ party or print out a set of horoscopes – anything where there’s a fixed set of data that you can pull out of a file and merge into a formatted page.
First of all you need to create your master document and fill in the generic information you want to repeat in every letter or label (or whatever you’re creating). Choose Tools, Mail merge and click the Create button under Main document, then select the type and pick the active document (or new document if you’re starting from scratch).
Now choose the data source – you can use a spreadsheet, database or text file, or if you don’t have one select Data Source, Create Data Source and choose the fields you want to use. Word brings up a form for you to fill in the data in a table.
Once you know what all the fields are called, go back to the main document and insert the merge fields – placeholders that tell Microsoft Word where to insert data from the data source. They look like this: <<NAME>> which tells Word to use the contents of the ‘NAME’ field in the merge data source. Insert the fields by clicking Insert Merge Field on the Mail Merge toolbar. You can’t type the merge field characters (“ “) or insert them by using the Insert, Symbol command. Put any punctuation outside the merge field characters.
Choose Tools, Mail merge, Merge to merge the data with the master document – each record produces its own individual letter or label. You can send the documents straight to the printer (or by e-mail), or you can collect them into a new document so you can look them over first before printing out later.
This material is the copyright material of or licensed to Future Publishing Limited , a Future Network plc group company, UK 2004. All rights reserved.