Smooth the Way for Word Users

Microsoft Word is a stable and effective application. However, IT professionals and users can do much to leverage Word for better collaboration and communication. Here are Word's biggest pain points and what you can do about them.


TIP 1: Use the Format menu, not the keyboard, to format documents.
The Format menu's Paragraph command and the Table menu let you use all the power of Word to format documents. Using the spacebar and the Tab and Enter keys is so 1970s. When users use keystrokes to make a document or table look the way it should, they "break" the power of Word.

TIP 2: Use the Track Changes and Versions features.
Prevent file version proliferation by teaching users to use revision tracking and the Versions feature. The Versions feature, new to Word 2003 and found in the File menu, lets users preserve and access multiple document versions within one Word file. The Track Changes feature lets users collaborate on documents, showing changes made in the editing and rewriting process and letting users accept or reject those changes.

TIP 3: Always use Paste Special instead of Paste.
The Paste command leaves too many decisions up to Word. Teach your users to choose Paste Special and experiment with the available options for each item they bring into Word. They should always select Unformatted Text when pasting content from the Web or bringing in numbered lists from another Word document. And when pasting a picture, choose the Picture: Enhanced Metafile option when it's presented; it's the most effective and efficient "picture" format (not to be confused with the "photo" formats, .gif and .jpg).

TIP 4: Use templates, not boilerplates.
Many users think they use templates, but they don't. Users often open a document, make changes to it, then save it under a different name and call it a template. But that's not a template—it's a boilerplate document. Templates provide capabilities that boilerplates don't, including the ability to centrally manage macros, styles, and formatting.


TIP 5: Customize AutoFormat and AutoFormat As You Type.
The AutoFormat and AutoFormat As You Type tabs (in the Tools menu as part of the AutoCorrect command) are a great feature. However, both tabs offer several stupid settings, starting with the Internet and network paths with hyperlinks setting. Examine and customize these settings, perhaps through Group Policy. You can also customize AutoCorrect from within Word, and then distribute the resulting file (which is named MSO1033.acl on American English systems).

TIP 6: Create custom shared dictionaries.
Most users in an organization end up with (or should end up with) very similar custom dictionaries. Save them the effort and create a dictionary that contains words common to your industry that would otherwise be flagged as misspelled. Collect your users' existing dictionaries as guidance. You can merge or edit them in Word, or from the Tools menu select Options, click the Spelling & Grammar tab, then type the dictionary name in the Custom dictionary field.

TIP 7: Watch for overloaded Normal templates.
The Normal template can become overloaded with styles, AutoText, and macros and can be prone to corruption. You'd also be surprised how much of that information can leak out of your organization. Understand the complexities and risks of the Normal template, and educate your users.

TIP 8: Create a standard Normal template and global attached templates.
There's no good way to manage the Normal template, because it's meant to support user customizations. However, you can create macros and other styles in a template that's always available to users and change the lame default and built-in styles in the Normal template that you distribute with Microsoft Office so that templates conform to corporate style standards.

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