BOOT CAMP 155
MAKING WORD WORK, part 1
The steady stream of letters and emails to the F!F!F! column,
asking for help to find a symbol or formatting instruction in Microsoft Word,
was the inspiration behind this week’s and next week’s episodes of Boot Camp.
Usually we (or our highly knowledgeable readers) can oblige, but what we
sometimes fail to do is point out that almost every action in Word can be
assigned to a simple keyboard shortcut or toolbar icon.
Clearly this can be a major timesaver if the feature needs to
be accessed on a regular basis, as would be the case for a student or chemist,
for example, who wants subscript characters for typing chemical formulae.
Normally switching this particular feature on and off involves almost a dozen
separate actions. By assigning the function to an icon or keyboard shortcut it
can be reduced to just a couple of key taps or mouse clicks.
The focus of our attention is an extremely powerful feature
within Word 97 and 2000 called Customize (the Microsoft spelling…). It’s
basically a ‘toolbox’ that lets you change the way Word looks and operates.
Whilst it’s not exactly hidden away most users rarely come across it, nor in the
normal course of events do they need to since the defaults in Word have been
quite well thought out and users are generally quite happy to live with them.
Unfortunately we haven’t the room to go into every one of Customize’s many
functions but we’ll run through a few simple examples of how it can make Word a
bit friendlier and easier to use, and hopefully this will inspire you
investigate further and make a few modifications of your own.
Customize can be found on the Tools drop-down menu or you can
right-click into an empty area of the tool bar and select it from the bottom of
the drop-down menu. It’s worth knowing that once Customize is open the text
window is disabled and toolbars and menus are in ‘modify’ mode, so be careful
where you click, and before we go any further a word of warning. There’s no
‘undo’ function as such, so you can’t easily go back and correct an action but
if you do get into a tangle you can always return a menu or toolbar back to the
factory default by right-clicking on the item and selecting Reset from the menu
So let’s begin with a quick guided-tour. Open Customize and
you are presented with three tabbed options. Start with the Toolbars tab. The
Standard, Formatting and Menu items should all be checked and showing on the
desktop, you can uncheck the first two but Menu is fixed as a safety precaution.
All told there are around 20 toolbars to choose from, the majority of which
you’ll never need or use but it’s worth spending a few minutes running down the
list, checking each item in turn, to see what’s available. You may decide to
keep one or two of them on screen, especially if you regularly use graphics in
your work – Drawing and Picture can be very useful to have on display -- or
Tables and Forms, if you make frequent use of those functions. You’ll also
notice that you can create your own custom Toolbar, which we’ll come to later
on, and at the bottom there’s a button marked Keyboard. You’ll see this on all
three Customize tabs, and it’s another important feature that we’ll be looking
at in more detail in part 2, next week.
Have a quick peek at the Options tab; on Word 97 there are
just a handful of items, which should require no explanation. On Word 2000 there
are some extra ‘switches’ for controlling the appearance of menus and again it’s
fairly obvious what they all do.
Having familiarised yourself with the Toolbars and Options
tabs move on to the Commands tab. This is the most powerful feature of
Customize. It’s not immediately obvious how it operates but it’s quite
straightforward once you get used to it. In the left hand Categories window is a
list of Word’s main operating modes and features, click on a category and a set
of functions specific to that feature appears in the right hand ‘Commands’
window. You can find out what each one does by highlighting it and clicking on
the Description button. To add a function to a drop down menu or toolbar all you
have to do is highlight it in the Commands window, and drag it onto a toolbar or
Time to put theory into practice. Returning to our earlier
example, of simplifying the Subscript function, highlight Format in the
Categories Window then scroll down the list in the Commands window to find
Subscript, click and hold on the label and drag it on to a toolbar; a bold ‘I’
bar shows where it will be placed, release the mouse key and it is inserted. You
could also place it on a drop-down menu if you wished. Whilst the Customize
window is open you can move the icon to any other location simply by clicking on
it (it will be highlighted with a bold black box) and dragging it to its new
position. To remove the icon (again with Customize open), click, hold and drag
it onto the desktop, release the mouse button and it’s gone. By the way, whilst
Customize is open you can move or remove any menu item or toolbar icon in
exactly the same way.
Try the same thing with Word Count on the Tools category.
This time you’ll notice that you don’t get an icon, just a large ugly label box.
You can easily change that by right-clicking on the label and on the drop-down
menu that appears click Default Style, then right-click again, this time select
Change Button Image and a selection of icons appears. The Calculator icon is
appropriate, so click on it, close Customise and you have a word count button on
your Toolbar in the shape of a calculator. Other buttons you might want to have
on your toolbar include ‘Close All’, ‘AutoScroll’, and try moving or adding
second ‘Save’ and ‘Close’ buttons on the right hand side of the toolbars, to cut
down on mouse travel. If your Toolbars start to get a bit crowded weed out
unwanted or rarely used items, or create a New empty toolbar by going back to
the Toolbars tab.
Next time – Making
Word work, part 2
Useful feature in Word – originally meant for ‘wheel’ type
mice – that automatically scrolls through a document
Closes all open documents in one go
A simple and ideally memorable sequence of two or three
key-strokes, used to invoke a frequently used action or activity within a
program or application
If you are using Internet Explorer V5 and you haven’t tried
Internet Radio yet, there’s a radio tuner facility hidden away inside your
browser. To enable it click on Tools > Internet Options and select the
Advanced tab. Scroll down the list to the Multimedia heading and check the item
‘Always Show Internet Explorer Radio Bar. Click Okay and exit the dialogue box,
now right click into an empty area of the toolbar and select Radio from the
drop-down menu. A new toolbar appears, click on Radio Stations and Radio Station
Guide, which will take you to the Windows Media radio tuner home page. From
there you can select a list of stations according to style, content, language
etc. This will either take you to the station’s home page, and a live ‘listen’
button, which lets you hear what’s going on through Windows Media Player. (Be
patient, it can take a few seconds before you hear anything, as the data has to
be ‘buffered’ in the PC’s memory to prevent breaks in sound caused by heavy
traffic on the Internet). Some stations
may require you to have special player software but there is usually a link on
the page to the appropriate download web site.