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The hidden power of Microsoft Word, Part 1
technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
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The hidden power of Microsoft Word, Part 1

Technofile for March 28, 1999

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers

If you're serious about word processing, you probably use Microsoft Word. It's the standard high-quality word-processing program for Windows PCs.

Then how come nobody ever told you about all the hidden power that Word has? If half the world drove Hondas, you bet there'd be Honda driving tips in newspapers and magazines. Yet tips on Word are geek specialties, practically unknown to the public.

Let's change all that. Let's take a look at five great features of Word 97 you probably never knew were there.

  1. An automatic spelling fixer.
  2. I'm not talking about an automatic spell checker. I'm not referring to the squiggly red line that Word sticks under something that's spelled wrong. Anybody can see that. (If you can see it, it's not a hidden feature, right?) I'm talking about AutoCorrect.

    AutoCorrect watches how you type. If it spots something you are typing wrong, it fixes it, on the spot. Word 97 comes with a bunch of AutoCorrect entries already set up, and you can add your own. Let's say you always type "in the garden" in a messed-up way, like this: "int he gardn." Just type it wrong, select it and open the Tools menu. Choose AutoCorrect and add the right spelling. Do that for any number of entries.

  3. Buttons that do what you want.
  4. I know people who used Microsoft Word for years without ever discovering the next trick. Want to make your own toolbar buttons? Just click the right mouse button in a blank spot where the toolbars are. Choose Customize, then choose Commands when you see the small window. Nothing you ever learned will prepare you for the next part of this trick: While that window is open, you can use your mouse button to drag any of the commands onto any of the toolbars at the top of the main Word window. Just drag them out and drop them down. Try it.

  5. A view that gets rid of all the pointless stuff.
  6. See the View menu? Click it and choose Full Screen. I'll bet you never knew that option was there. If you have a small monitor, Full Screen is almost a lifesaver. I say "almost" because you don't get the FULL lifesaving benefits of Word until you combine Full Screen with the next trick.

  7. Make things BIG so you can see them better.
  8. I love this one. I use it all the time. Open the View menu and click Zoom. Rock my socks, grandma, look what Santa just brought in -- a way to make all the type readable! You can also change the Zoom settings from the top of Word, in the toolbar area, unless you (or one of your kids) turned off that function.

  9. Stop the madness! Make the Word window the size and shape YOU want.
  10. Your basic clue to the problem here is the name of the operating system -- Windows. Word runs inside a window, and you know from looking at houses and apartment buildings and factories that windows come in all shapes and sizes. Guess what? So does the window Word uses! Run Word, click on the bottom right corner of the window and drag it. Make the window any size you want. Now click on the top of the window (what I call the menu bar) and drag the entire window in any direction. Put it where it looks good. Now exit Word and run it again. Kaboom! It opens up just the way you want it.

That's it for the first five tips. I'll tell you five more -- plus a bonus tip -- next week.

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