Efficiency

Part of what helps make us efficient on our computers is knowing how to use them, but also using the best set-up. I will often get questions from clients, friends and students about documents. They are wondering why something is not working or why a certain behavior is occurring. Very often I can attribute the problem to the document's set-up. To put it nicely people are just plain setting up their documents wrong because they do not really understand how to use the tools available to them in Microsoft Word.

Do not use spaces to create a column look or indent for your text. Spaces are an inaccurate measurement tool that cannot guarantee that text will line up on the page. Instead, use Tabs, Indents, Columns or Tables to create your effect. These tools use the ruler and actual measuring to line up the text.

Do not use floating (or wrap text) objects unless you absolutely have to. It is nice to have the ability to have text wrap around a particular object, like a picture, graphic or table, but it leads to instability in the document and in this fast paced technology world, most documents are not printed and never changed. To allow for easy editing try to leave objects locked "In Line with Text" whenever you can. Use tables for certain effects of side-by-side text and graphic. Yes, there will be times when you want an object to float and have the text wrap around that object, I am not saying Never use the option, I am saying don't use it if you do not have to use it.

Bullets and numbering are buggy. Microsoft just can't seem to get this feature to work right. Unfortunately I have really just not found a good way to combat this except to know a lot about paragraph formatting and the tools available to me for the editing of this feature. I had a document the other day where I set the numbering to line up on the margin, I set it up in the paragraph dialogue box AND as a style, but this did not prevent the number from still lining up with a .25" indent. I had to actually click and drag the indent marker on the ruler to get it to fix, but this is not very useful for the users of the template unless they know how to do that. It is frustrating. After all these years, that feature should work.

Section Breaks are another tool you do NOT want to use unless you have to use it. Obviously, like wrapping text around an object, there are times when you MUST use the Section Break, but if you do not need it, don't use it. Section Breaks create a complexity in your document that can be tricky if you don't know what you're doing. Section Breaks are needed when you want to create a different set-up in the document from one set of pages to another, i.e. you want to go from a Portrait set-up page to a Landscape page. Section Breaks are also great when you want to have different headers and footers, but if you only need the first page header to be different, don't use a section break, use a Different First Page option on the Header & Footer tool.

Margins are the buffer or spacing between the majority of your text and the edge of the paper. Indents can be used to change that buffer or spacing for individual paragraphs in the document. These two options should be considered carefully. If the majority of your text is needing to be 1.5" inches from the edge of the paper then that should be your margin, then when you need some of the text to be 2" from the edge of the paper, use a .5" indent for that paragraph or paragraphs. Likewise if you need to go in the opposite direction you could set a negative .5" indent to set a paragraph or paragraphs to 1" from the edge of the paper. Consider your options carefully because the settings you choose can effect other things in interesting ways. I had a document recently where the Track Change comments were appearing over some text, and it was because the margin was set very large on the right hand side and the majority of the document was using a negative indent to have the text flow closer to the edge of the paper. The Track Change comments appear slightly to the right of the edge of the margin, so with the margin so big it was overlapping the negatively indented text.

It is worth your while to understand how to use the tools. Classes seem to be out of style for some people because they think they know too much already and they will be bored. I think you will be amazed by what you don't know, and what's the worst that happens, you are bored for part of the class? It's really great when you get a document "looking" the way you want in the end, but if it is not set up well it will cause problems for you in the future, and some of those problems are really frustrating.
 

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