Making your Word documents behave (book excerpt)

Applies to
Microsoft Office Word 2003
Book image This article was excerpted from Microsoft® Office Document Designer by Stephanie Krieger. Visit Microsoft Learning to buy this book and CD set, which includes the Microsoft Office Document Designer tool kit.

In this article


Q & A for common Word problems

A quick peek at 2 more very helpful ways to get around in Word

Keyboard shortcuts

More information


Have you ever moved text from one part of a Word document to another, and the formatting changed completely, just like that? Perhaps you've struggled to make text align or to get your text to fall on the correct page? Well, take heart! There is a simple solution, and it doesn't involve chucking your computer out the window!

The key word for Word is simplify. Literally, the less work you do, the better your results will be.

Take a look at this example from the first day of a recent Word class. I asked students to format a letter in order to see how they were currently using Word. Midway through this exercise, one guy was gnashing his teeth and sighing loudly. The problem he was contemplating was a group of paragraphs that needed to look like this:

Formatting example

This text was created with a left indent to start the paragraph, as well as a dot leader tab to separate the text and create the identical dotted lines between the text. Total time for the above formatting: about 15 seconds. Here, instead, is what our guy did:

Formatting example

Tip    For help with indents and dot leaders, see the article Paragraph formatting essentials for unbreakable documents.

Fifteen minutes later, he was still working. Those large dots at the left of his example are the nonprinting characters for spaces. He used the spacebar on each line to push the text into an indent. The dots in the middle of each line are periods. To make them line up identically, he meticulously counted the number of spaces and the number of periods and retyped them on each line. Whew! I get tired just thinking about all that! Of course, once he finished, it looked great on his screen. But then he e-mailed the letter to me, and when it got to my Inbox those lines looked like silly string!

The moral of this story: 15 minutes, lousy results; 15 seconds, great results. Word formatting really can be that easy! Check out some best-practice recommendations and answers to some of the most common, problem-solving Word questions people never ask.

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Q & A for common Word problems

  • The question    How do I know which method is best for a given task?

The answer    The simplest solution is always the best! And while that might sound vague, look at a couple of specific examples:

  • If you need indented text, use an indent (set indents in the Paragraph dialog box from the Format menu) rather than a tab — and especially instead of the spacebar. An indent is one step. It controls the whole paragraph, not just a single line. What's more, the indent formatting is stored in the paragraph mark (¶), so the formatting will continue when you press ENTER to start a new paragraph.
  • For two columns of text that line up in rows, use a table (on the Table menu, point to Insert, and click Table) rather than text columns (Format menu, Columns dialog box). Tables don't require a section break, and automatically provide the structure to line up your content (be it text, tables, or even graphics) in rows. No fudging required! Once again, the least work gets the best result!

The underlying philosophy    Word helps you keep your documents simple by organizing most formatting into three levels of related information: font, paragraph, and section. Take a look at the Reveal Formatting task pane shown here (access this task pane by pressing SHIFT+F1).

Reveal Formatting task pane

 Note   Reveal Formatting will also separate and detail Bullets and Numbering or Table formatting, when applicable.

This organization is what keeps a document's formatting easy and manageable. For more information on the three levels of formatting and the underlying philosophy of Word formatting, check out Chapter 2 in Microsoft Office Document Designer. For information on how to save time and more easily manage your documents using the very cool Reveal Formatting task pane, check out the tip sheet "The Long Document Heroes" in Microsoft Office Document Designer.

  • The question    What kind of measurement is a point?

The answer    Points are a typesetter's standard unit of measure. There are 72 points to an inch. So, for example, a capital letter in 12 point font is one-sixth of an inch tall, as you see here.

Letters and ruler

Expanded character spacing (Format menu, Font dialog box, Character Spacing tab) of 4 points is an extra one-eighteenth of an inch of space between each character, like this:

Sample text

The underlying philosophy    Word is not designed like a typewriter or word processor. It's designed on the principles of desktop publishing software. So, using a typesetters' unit of measure makes perfect sense.

For more on the relationship between Word and desktop publishing, and how that can help you keep your documents clean and simple to manage, see Chapter 2 in Microsoft Office Document Designer.

  • The question    Does it matter which Symbol character set (Insert menu) I use?

The answer    Yes, the symbol set does matter! Not all printers are compatible with all character sets. To ensure that your characters will look the same on paper as they do on screen, use the (normal text) character set, any of the Wingdings or Webdings character sets, or the Special Characters tab of the Symbol dialog box (Insert menu).

The underlying philosophy    Computer terminology calls English and Romance language characters Latin text. Other languages, such as the Asian languages, Arabic, Hebrew, and Russian, might use what are called Unicode characters. Though Word 2003 has support for Unicode characters, not all printers have caught up. Unless you know your character is okay for your printer, stick with the character sets listed here:

  • (normal text) will take on whatever font you're working in, and is the best character set for finding multinational characters (such as æ and ç), typographic symbols (such as an em dash — or a copyright symbol ©), or mathematical and currency symbols (such as the degree sign º or the Euro symbol €).
  • Wingdings and Webdings offer a variety of symbols for emphasizing a point or inserting as bullets (in the case of the latter, select your character through Bullets and Numbering on the Format menu and not the Symbol dialog box on the Insert menu).
  • Some characters in other groups, such as the Symbol set, will print on most or even all printers — not all will. If you aren't sure of the character you're selecting, stick with (normal text), Wingdings, and Webdings.
  • The Special Characters tab of the Symbol dialog box offers some characters from the (normal text) set, as well as some nonprinting characters (such as a nonbreaking space). And, it's a great shortcut for finding common characters like a copyright symbol or an em dash.
  • The question    What's the point of seeing formatting marks like ¶, and can I turn them off?

The answer    You can turn them off by clicking the paragraph button next to the Zoom box on the Standard toolbar, but please don't! There are good reasons to learn to live with formatting marks on your screen:

Looking at formatting marks is the easiest way to keep track of what formatting is in your document, or to help you fix the formatting of a document that's misbehaving.

Even if you turn off formatting marks, any recipients of your document can turn them back on. Keeping formatting marks visible leaves you in control of the formatting, so that you know your document will look professional regardless of how and where you send it.

The underlying philosophy    Remember, when you're working in Word, the least work almost always provides the best results. Keeping an eye on formatting marks helps you stay in control so that you can quickly see if your document is getting too complicated. For more on formatting marks, see the article Paragraph formatting essentials for unbreakable documents.

If you don't see formatting marks, you might not know, for example, that what you think is indented text is actually pushed over with five tab characters. And, while that wouldn't matter if you were just printing the document, if you're sending that document by e-mail or otherwise sharing it electronically, it isn't likely to travel well!

  • The question    Does it matter which view I use to work on a document?

The answer    Yes, there are big differences between document views! And, good reasons for each of them. Your choice of view affects what parts of your document you see on screen and how much of your system's resources are used.

Knowing what each view provides can save you a lot of time and stress! Explanations of each are provided below.

The underlying philosophy    

Layout    This view shows you exactly what you'll see in the printed document, along with nonprinting formatting marks. It uses more system memory than normal view, but lets you see the entire layout of your pages. Use print layout view when working on page layouts or with tables or graphics.

Normal    This view shows you only the body of your document, without page layout. In normal view, text columns, for example, will appear below each other instead of side by side, and you won't see headers and footers or footnotes. This view uses less system memory than print layout, so it's great for making text edits on long documents (your computer might work more quickly). It also offers a style area that shows the names of paragraph styles attached to each paragraph down the left edge of the document window.

Tip    Set your preferred space to use for the style area in the Style area width box on the View tab (Tools menu, Options dialog box). When a style area appears in your document window, you can drag the right edge of the style area to adjust its width.

Outline    This view is designed for working with Word Heading Styles (Heading 1 through Heading 9), or any styles attached to an Outline level (available from the Format menu, Paragraph dialog box, Indents and Spacing tab). If your document is created with heading levels (such as the Microsoft Office Document Designer presentation or report documents), use this view to quickly rearrange pages.

Tip    Just click the plus, minus, or box beside the uppermost heading of the text you want to move and all text below it (until the next top-level heading) will be selected. Then drag and drop it to its new location. You can also cut, copy, or delete entire pages or chunks of text by selecting them in this way.

Web layout    This view is only for documents you are preparing to post on the Web! While it's ideal for that purpose, it is not effective for documents you are intending to print, e-mail, or view onscreen within Word.

Additional view options    Some new view options in Word 2003, such as Reading Layout (to look through your document's text in a large, readable font) and Thumbnails (showing thumbnail images of each page which you can click to move quickly around a document) can also be great timesavers (both on the View menu).

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A quick peek at 2 more very helpful ways to get around in Word

The object browser

Object browser

The object browser at the bottom of the vertical scroll bar enables you to browse through the document by (reading across, from top left, in the image shown here) Page, Section, Comment, Footnote, Endnote, Field, Table, Graphic, Heading, and Edit, or to open the Find or Go To tabs of the Find and Replace dialog box. When you select an object to browse by, click the double arrows above and below the object browser to search through the document by the next and previous instances of your selected type of object.

 Note    When you select Page (which is the default), the double arrows are black. Select any other object, and they turn blue. Hover over the double arrows with your mouse pointer for a screen tip that shows what object is currently selected.

The view options

button images

Click the buttons at the left edge of the horizontal scroll bar to quickly switch between (from left) normal, Web layout, print layout, outline, and (in Word 2003) reading layout views.

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Keyboard shortcuts

Here are some keyboard shortcuts to use to help keep your documents well behaved.

Keystroke Action
CTRL+Z Undo an action (you potentially can undo up to the last 300 actions). CTRL+Y will redo actions in the reverse order that they were undone.
Switches your active document's view to print layout, outline, and normal, respectively.
SHIFT+F1 Opens the Reveal Formatting task pane to show all formatting applicable at the insertion point. (If you're working in Word 2002, this takes one extra step. After you press SHIFT+F1, click into the text for which you'd like to see the formatting.)

See the Keyboard shortcuts topic in Word Help for a complete list of available shortcut keystrokes for all features.

More information

Want some more basic instruction for the topics discussed here? Try Word online Help.

Type any of the following online Help topics into the Type a question for help box on the right side of the Word menu bar: Troubleshoot using styles and applying formatting; Check formatting for consistency; Insert a symbol or special characters.

About the author    Stephanie Krieger is a professional consultant, trainer, and writer who specializes in creating solutions with the Microsoft Office System. She helps clients customize software and design templates and also provides train-the-trainer services.

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Applies to:
Word 2003