WORD 2000

Love it or loath it Microsoft Word has become the de-facto word processing program for the PC. Its detractors claim it is vastly over featured and difficult to  use but those who persevere and learn to live with its many quirks usually end up appreciating the wealth of features, enormous flexibility and easy integration with other Windows applications.

Word has been through many incarnations since the original DOS program first appeared in 1983. The most recent offering is Word 2000; it was launched last year, initially as part of the Office 2000 suite but was swiftly followed by a stand-alone version. Word 2000 is the most significant revision since Word 95 though users of both Word 95 and 97 should feel immediately at home with it since most of the changes are well hidden behind the familiar desktop.

We haven’t bothered much with Word 2000 until now but the growing number of letters and emails we’re getting indicates that the program is find its way onto the nation’s PCs, and causing a fair amount of head-scratching in the process as users come to terms with new features or try to find old ones. This week’s Boot Camp -- part of a short series on Office 2000 -- takes a look at what’s on offer and considers whether or not it’s worth upgrading.

Many of the changes in Word are linked to wider improvements in Office 2000, most of which are geared towards making the whole suite more Internet-friendly, however, there are lots of new word processing features, and that’s what we’ll be concentrating on here.

Although Word looks almost exactly same as before the layout of drop-down menus has been simplified. Instead of displaying all the options they are shown in short-form, with the most recently or frequently used items at the top of the list. Clicking on a little arrow brings up the whole list. It can be switched back to the traditional layout from Customise (Options tab) on the Tools menu. File Open and Save As look different too. They’re one of those global changes mentioned earlier, affecting the whole of Office 2000. Instead of just showing a list of the files in a particular folder the dialogue windows also displays a row of icons for quick access other frequently used folders and applications.

The View menu now has just three options instead of the five in Word 97: Normal is the same as before, Print Layout replaces and improves upon Page Layout and Web View replaces the Online View. Web View still scales the page to suit Internet page layout but it can also show backgrounds and graphics.

One thing most new users will appreciate straight away is how easy it is to choose a font. The drop-down menu on the formatting toolbar shows an example of each typeface. Click and Type is a nifty way of quickly keying in text into a particular position on the page, without resorting to tabs, spacing changes or altering justification settings. It works on the Print Layout and the new Web Layout views, all you have to do is double click the pointer where you want the text to appear and a little graphic shows you the style or effect you’re probably looking for, depending where you are on the page (left justify, centre, right justify). One arguably retrograde step is the return of the Overtype command to the keyboard, it’s toggled by the Insert key – as it used to be in Word 6 -- however it’s easy to disable from the Command list via the Keyboard button on the Customise menu.

The new Clipboard in Word 2000 is a big improvement. It can now hold up to 12 separate items that can be copied or pasted between any open document and Office application. The clipboard appears automatically when two or more items are copied into it and it can be called up any time by right-clicking into an empty space on the toolbar and selecting it from the list.

Some of the biggest changes are concerned with the automatic correction of spelling mistakes, a popular (and sometimes frustrating) feature of previous versions of Word. It’s now much easier to tell Word not to change a spelling. The Exceptions button in AutoCorrect has the facility to enter a list of words that you do not want to be corrected. This replaces the cumbersome Exceptions Dictionary. If you’re stuck for a synonym just right-click on a word and a list appears, along with a direct link to Word’s much improved Thesaurus.

Language recognition is now automatic, which could be very useful if you routinely work on multi-lingual documents, you can now create AutoCorrect lists in any chosen language and Word will automatically correct mistakes and make simple punctuation changes, like hyphenation, as you type. 

Here’s something that will interest a lot of users of Word 97. Mr Paperclip, the Office Assistant, has got some new friends. He has been joined by six new animated characters, complete with irritating sound effects. They include a bouncing ball, The Genius (aka Albert Einstein), a cat, dog and a cute little Robot called F1. The good news is that the option to permanently disable Office Assistant actually seems to work this time!

There have been some major enhancements to the Table facility. It’s now a lot easier to create a table from scratch, just use the pencil-shaped drawing tool to define the shape and insert the rows and columns. You can also put tables within tables. Tables can be arranged side by side on a page, text can be wrapped around them, they are also easier to resize, edit and delete plus text blocks can be easily converted into tables using the drawing tool.

Finally on this brief tour we come to Bullets and Numbering on the Format menu. Bullets are a quick and easy way to smarten up lists; Word 2000 has a much larger choice of colourful bullets and it’s now much easier to create and use your own designs.

Is it for you? If you are reasonably happy with your current version of Word and mostly use it for straightforward word processing jobs then probably not. The improvements are all very worthwhile but they are fairly minor in nature. Nevertheless, for those who regularly work on multi-lingual documents or are interested in web page authoring it is definitely worth considering.

Next week – Outlook 2000




Word feature that automatically corrects spelling mistakes as you type


Help feature in Word where a ‘friendly’ cartoon character pops up and tells you how to do things. For example typing ‘Dear Sir’ will bring up advice on how to write a letter


Typing a letter or character replaces the character or space next to it



Here’s another Easter Egg to while away a few aimless minutes. In case you’ve not come across them before they’re pointless but often amusing little extras hidden inside software applications by the programmers. This one is in both Windows 95 and 98. Open Display Properties in Control Panel, select the Screensaver tab, choose 3D Pipes, click the Settings button and check ‘Multiple’, ‘Traditional’ and ‘Solid’. In Joint Type select Mixed, click OK then Preview and look out for Teapots… No prizes but can anyone tell us what’s so special about this particular teapot?

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