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Supercharging Microsoft Word part 1

Supercharging Microsoft Word part 1

Hhints and tips on how to get the most from Microsoft Word

Dr Mike Unwalla of TechScribe ( turns technical jargon into clear instructions. Here, he gives you a few.

The Supercharging series is for anyone who uses Microsoft Word to write documents longer than about 10 pages. Whether you write reports, proposals, training guides, essays, etc., the series shows you how to save time by using Word's advanced features. Each article assumes that you are familiar with the content of the previous articles; you can always find these on All examples are based on Word 2000 (the most popular version in the business environment). 

Behind the scenes
To gain the most from Word, you need to look behind the scenes. This article explains the basics of formatting marks and hidden text and it introduces the concept of styles. Once you can see formatting marks and are familiar with them, you'll understand why Word sometimes appears to behave erratically. So, what are formatting marks? They are special codes and characters that Word uses to control the layout and appearance of the text on the page. For example, to create a new paragraph you press the Enter key (sometimes called the Return key) on the keyboard. Normally, you don't see anything between the two paragraphs. But if you tell Word to show paragraph marks, then you can see this mark: . That's a paragraph mark, and it indicates the end of a paragraph.
There are many other formatting characters, such as for a space and for a tab (often used to indent a line).
How do you see formatting marks? Choose Tools>Options. The Options dialogue box appears. Click the View tab. Select All to show all the formatting marks. Click OK. You can now see paragraph marks, space marks, tab marks and so on in your text
Experiment with the options that are available. Admittedly, you may find the marks a little irritating to start with, but if you are serious about producing long documents, my advice is to become familiar with them.
A well-structured document will use a minimum of formatting marks to control the layout and appearance. For example, there won't be multiple paragraph marks between paragraphs of text and there won't be multiple tabs to indent a single line. Instead, the layout will be controlled by styles, which we discuss in future articles.
Now, if you are just typing a single letter, it doesn't really matter. But imagine that you have a large document. If the internal structure is well formed and uses styles, you can change the entire appearance extremely quickly. Here are a few typical examples of what you can do:

    • Increase the spacing between paragraphs. If the document contains just a single paragraph mark between paragraphs, then you can make a single change, and all the paragraphs will be changed consistently.
    • Change the appearance of headings or subheadings by changing the style that controls them. You could change colours, size of text, indentation and whether or not the heading starts on a new page.
    • Change the appearance of specific types of text. For example, every instance of emphasised text (normally in italics) can be changed to bold text or a bright colour.

This article has given you a brief overview of hidden text and formatting marks and why you'd want to use them. See Word's online help (press F1 in Word) for more information. For basic and advanced training in Word, contact Wyvern Training (



Styles - As in specifying the logical meaning of text. By that I mean, if you have a long document, you'll want to split that document into convenient chunks of information. Typically - chapters, sections and subsections. You may want to highlight various blocks. For example, you might want to emphasise certain words or phrases. Many people do that by clicking the formatting buttons or by using the Format options.
A much better way is to use styles. A style is a set of formatting characteristics that you can assign to text. Word contains some built-in styles, such as Title, Heading 1, Normal, Body Text and a whole host of others.
When you want a top-level heading, don't just highlight the text and then format it to give the appearance you want. Instead, apply the Title style. For all major headings use the Heading 1 style. For subheadings or sections use style Heading 2 and so on. You can see how the style name for the headings reflects the logical structure of a document. How do you apply a style? Put the cursor in the text and then either select the style from the Styles list (or use Format>Style and select from the list that appears).
If you do not like the appearance of your headings and subheadings, you can change all of them extremely quickly. You might want all your chapter headings to be 15pt (that means about 1 ½ times the height of the usual text size),
dark blue, bold and centred on the page. Let's use our Heading 1 example. Choose Format>Style. The Style box appears. Highlight Heading 1. Click Modify. The Modify Style box appears. Click Format. A list appears. Select Font. The Font box appears. Change the Font color and Size options.
Then click OK to return to the Modify Style box. Click Format. A list appears. Select Paragraph. The Paragraph box appears. Change Alignment to 'Centered' (US spelling). Then click OK repeatedly to close all the boxes.
Now, all your top-level headings are centred, blue and 15pt. If you have a large document with dozens or hundreds of headings, you'll see what a boon styles can be. You make a single change, and every instance of a style is changed.
A paragraph style applies to an entire paragraph, even though it contains information about the font characteristics also. A character style affects selected text only, such as font, size, colour, bold and italic formats. For example, if you apply the style 'italic' to text, Word italicises the text, like this. If your emphasised text should be shown in bright red and bold, just change the definition of the style using the Font box.
We've only touched the surface in this article. For more in-depth help, press F1 in Word. For basic and advanced training in Word, contact Wyvern Training

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