After Windows 95 the next most popular application for PC users has to be Microsoft Word, and it's not difficult to see why. We're not plugging Microsoft products, Word is simply the best and since the very earliest versions this sophisticated word processor program has set the standard by which other WPs are judged. If there has to be a criticism it’s that it is too powerful and we suspect most owners never use more than a small fraction of its many features.

This week we have a few tips and tweaks to help you get Word up and running, and tailored to suit your needs. In part two we'll delve a bit deeper into some of the more interesting and useful facilities. We're focusing on the two most popular variants of Word, Version 7, which is part of the Office 95 suite of programs, and Word 97, which is sold as a stand-alone product. They look very similar but there are several quite significant differences, however as far as possible we'll stick to the common features.

Word is reasonably intuitive and even complete novices are usually able to start writing and printing letters or documents straight away. We'll skip the basics and assume you are familiar with the concepts of making things happen by pointing and clicking on menus, highlighting text, and making simple style changes.

The first thing most users want to do is customise the blank page that appears when Word starts, this is called the Normal Template. If you don't care for the default typeface or font, and the size of the characters, simply click Format on the menu bar and select Font. Choose your preferred font, size and style -- even the colour if you wish -- then click on the Default button, and that's what you'll get every time you open Word.

You can have as many, or as few Toolbars on show as you like, however most of them just waste valuable screen space, with functions you're unlikely to need more than once in a blue moon. The two most useful ones are Standard and Formatting; they're worth keeping on screen all the time. The Toolbar display option is on the View menu, or put the mouse pointer into a toolbar, right click and the selection menu appears. The Toolbars and Menu bar can be shifted around by pointing at the border, clicking and holding the mouse button and then dragging it to where you want it to go.

The paper-white screen in Word can become quite tiring on the eyes after a while, you can adjust the screen brightness or better still, give it a light grey tint. Go to Windows Control Panel (Start, then Settings), click on the Display icon then select the Appearance tab. Click in the Window Text box and go down to the Colour box, which should show white. Click the down arrow on the box and the Other button. Use the vertical slider next to the multi-colour panel to select a light tint and click OK.  

First time users often get themselves into a tangle when it comes to saving documents, so get organised as soon as possible. By default all of the files you create will be saved in a directory called My Documents, which exists outside Word, on the main C: drive directory tree. The first job is to work out the various types or categories of documents and letters you'll be creating, 'Personal', 'Bank', 'Letters to Bill Gates', that sort of thing. It's a good idea to put the year, i.e. '98' after each one, (and resolve to create a new set of folders every year). Now go to the Start button, then Programs and Windows Explorer and scroll down the list in the left hand window until you get to My Documents, double click on it and select New from the File Menu and click on the File icon. Create as many folders as you require, re-naming each one as you go. Get into the habit of naming and saving a document in the appropriate folder -- using the Save As command in the File menu -- as soon as you've written the first line or two.  

Word can help you with your spelling, highlighting words it doesn't recognise in red and correcting simple mistakes, as you type. Word also checks grammar and punctuation; this can be a bit hit and miss but it keeps you on your toes and anything it disagrees with is underlined in green. Going to Options on the Tools menu and selecting the Spelling & Grammar tab enables both facilities. This menu decides how the checks work; there's a more in-depth selection of options under AutoCorrect, also on the Tools menu. Spend some time with these menus, ticking the features you consider worthwhile. Don't rely on AutoCorrect, always run a complete spell check when you've finished a document by placing the cursor at the beginning of the text and clicking the 'ABC' button on the Toolbar.

Word Count is something you'll want to access time and again. You can save time by assigning this and any other frequently used functions a simple keyboard shortcut. Select Customize from the Tools menu, click on the Commands tab and then the Keyboard button. In the left-hand window locate and highlight Tools, and in the right window scroll down the list until you come to Tools Word Count and highlight that. Click a flashing cursor into the 'Press New Shortcut Key' window and choose a simple two-key combination, (Ctrl + backslash -- next to 'z' on most keyboards -- is normally unassigned and simple to do with the left hand), click Assign and it's done. While you're at it have a look through the lists of commands and see if there's anything else you want to have a shortcut to, but not too many or you will have trouble remembering them all.

Be creative with your letters and faxes, there are plenty of embellishments in Word so get to know them. You'll find a useful assortment of ready-made templates in Style Gallery under the Format menu; these can be applied when you have finished writing keying in the text. Try adding borders, you will find a good selection of styles on the Format menu, under Borders & Shading. The same menu bar also has options for drop capitals, plus bullet points and paragraph numbering, though it's easier to use the buttons on the Standard toolbar for the latter two features. Don't forget you can add pictures and graphics to your documents, a good way to learn about this feature is to experiment with the Clip Art facility, it's accessed from the Picture option on the Insert menu.

Next week, labels, tables and macros




Text style and size. Virtually all word processors have a ‘wizzywig’ display (actually WYSIWYG, or what you see is what you get…), so what appears on the screen is what ends up on the printed page.


A graphic representation of the way folders and files are stored on your PCs disc drives. In Windows Explorer, clicking on the  '+' sign next folders opens up 'branches' of sub-directories containing files and folders


A template is a page that contains embedded instructions concerning typeface and size, page layout and style features. Word processor like word contains a wide selection of ready-made templates, or you can create your own.



The Dictionary and Thesaurus in Word are okay for day to day use but there's an even better option and that's Bookshelf British Reference Collection (yes, another Microsoft product…). It is a large collection of highly respected reference works, including Chambers Dictionary, Hutchinson Concise Encyclopaedia, Encarta World Atlas, the Bloomsbury Treasury of Quotations and an Internet Directory. Providing the CD-ROM is kept in the drive Bookshelf can be directly accessed from Word, a small control box appears on the screen whilst you're working, simply highlight a word and click on the appropriate icon and Bookshelf opens automatically. Text and graphics can be pasted from Bookshelf into Word in just a couple of button clicks. Shop around, it's currently selling for less that £30.

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