15 September 2007

Set up your laptop for work: Make Word useable

Microsoft Word 2003 is a powerful word processor and can be a valuable tool. However, some of the default behaviours are less than ideal for research students (or anyone else). I don't know how many times I've heard people scream "I hate Word," and with good reason. There are a number of changes that I make and a number of features that I turn off when I first install Word that make it a much friendlier program.

Turn off Word annoyances
Don't you hate it when you try to select only one or two letters, but Word 'helps' you by selecting the whole word? How about auto-correcting words such as customise, summarise, colour? How about when a quotation mark 'helps' you by turning the wrong way? How about having to click on those two little arrows at the bottom of the menu so that you can 'unhide' the command that you want because Word 'helped' you by hiding infrequent commands? There is a long list of Word annoyances. Lets begin by turning off those annoying things that Word does automatically.

1. First things first - lets set the language to Australian English. From the Tools menu, select Language and then Set Language... and choose English (Australia). No more -ize endings.

2. Select Options... from the Tools menu. Click on the Edit tab. Untick When selecting, automatically select entire word. Now you can select only one character of a word.

3. From the Tools menu, select Autocorrect Options... and click on the Autocorrect tab. Untick Capitalize first letter of sentences and Capitalize first letter of table cells.

4. While in Autocorrect Options... click on the AutoFormat as you type tab and untick Straight quotes with smart quotes.

5. From the Tools menu, select Customize... and click on the Options tab. Select Always show full menus and Show shortcut keys in ScreenTips.

Customise your toolbars
The default Word 2003 toolbar layout isn't terrible, however, it can use a little research-student-tweaking. Luckily, you can add, remove, or edit toolbar buttons.

To customise a toolbar, select Customize... from the Tools menu and click on the Commands tab. From here you may add any command to any of your toolbars by simply dragging it into the desired position on your toolbar. To remove a command from your existing toolbars, simply drag it off the toolbar and drop it onto the Customize... dialog box.

Here is what the default Word 2003 toolbars look like (click toolbar to enlarge):
Ok, lets get started. I always remove these buttons:
Print - we will replace this with a more useful print button.
Email - who emails from Word?
Research - what is this?
Tables and borders - if you need to insert or modify a table, just use the Table menu.
Insert Table - as above.
Insert Excel Worksheet - if you need to insert or modify an Excel worksheet, just use the Insert menu.
Drawing - you will never use this.
Help - there's a search box in the top right corner.
Read - you will never use this.
Outside border - accessible via right click if you ever need it.

Now that we've gotten rid of the useless buttons, lets add some buttons that will make our lives easier and save us time in the future. Remember that toolbar buttons are added by selecting Customize... from the Tools menu and clicking on the Commands tab.
Save As - (from the File category) allows the user to save the document under a new name. This is very useful for saving different versions of your important documents.
Print... - (from the File category) when clicked, it will bring up the Print dialog box, allowing you to specify the number of copies, zoom, staple, double sided printing, two pages on each etc.
Paste Special - (from the Edit menu) allows you to remove formatting from text that has been copied to the clipboard.
Find - (from the Edit menu) allows you to search for (and replace) text in your document.
Header and Footer - (from the View menu) place text at the top or bottom of a page.
Symbol - (from the Insert menu) insert special, foreign, phonetics characters.
Superscript - (from the Format menu) useful for transcription e.g. the superscript h that indicates long lag VOT.

Of course, you might have some buttons that are useful to you that I haven't listed here. You should add them to your toolbar. Let us know which button you added in the Comments at the end of this post.

In the Customize... dialog box click on the Toolbars tab. Check the box next to Word Count. This will make the word count toolbar appear. This toolbar displays the number of words right in your toolbar.

After the above modifications, here's what my toolbars look like:

1 comment:

Mark said...

I spoke with Arman at the lunch table today, and he claims that Office 2007 is a superior product to Office 2003. Given that Office 2003 comes with all MARCS laptops, this doesn't really help the rest of us. But it is something to keep in mind.