Nuggets of Word wisdom (Part 1)
Guy van der Kolk
Senior Solutions Consultant, Typefi
There is absolutely no doubt that Microsoft Word is the most-used word processing application on the planet, especially in corporate environments.
Even though I can’t back that statement up with some relevant statistical data or a beautiful infographic, I can definitely back it up with 20 years of experience dealing with the publishing industry!
However, the fact that something is the most-used application doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is adept at using it. As with all things, we humble users are often pressed for time and use software the way we were taught—if we were lucky enough to have received formal training.
There is often no time to investigate new ways of doing things. And even if you are inclined to want to know something, sometimes the correct search terms fail you.
In this first part of this two-part series, I want to address some general ‘nuggets of Word wisdom’, including the differences between Office 365 and Office Suite, and Word for Windows versus Word for Mac. I’ll also share a few ‘hidden gems’ that I use to set up my workspace for increased efficiency, and some tools that will enable you to get more out of Word’s many features.
So, let’s dive right in!
Office 365 vs Office Suite
When Microsoft made its move to the cloud back in 2011, they faced the same marketing problem that Adobe would face a year later: both companies were never able to fully dissipate the perception that the software would now only work in a browser. So, let’s clarify what Office 365 is.
- A software distribution platform. Full versions of Microsoft Word for Windows, Microsoft Word for Mac, and Word for mobile devices, can be downloaded and installed from the Office 365 website.
- An online set of office tools. Like Google Docs, Office 365 offers what I would call ‘light’ versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote, that work in the browser. They do not have the full functionality of a downloaded and installed version, but it is impressive what they do offer in their current versions. Personally, I really like the online Word environment since it is not so ‘bloated’ with features that you don’t use. Brilliant from an authoring perspective, but not nearly powerful enough for editorial work.
- A set of services. Most notably storage and collaboration in the form of OneDrive and, recently, the “creative storytelling” tool Sway.
Mac vs Windows
The Office Suite has had a Windows version and a Mac version for years, and in the beginning it really felt like the two applications came from different companies for their total lack of feature parity. The last few years have seen considerable effort on Microsoft’s behalf, and current versions are similar in many regards, but even today there are definitely some missing features.
Most notably for the way I work, the Mac version has no Style Inspector (explained below), and no way to disable linked styles (to be addressed in a future article). As a result, Word for Windows is my go-to choice if I want to troubleshoot a Word file. If it comes to the pure act of writing, the version really does not matter.
Setting up the workspace
In general, I use Word as a writing tool and for working with other people’s written files, either for troubleshooting or for adding additional structure. When writing, I usually start with a template and only use the Quick Styles area to apply headings as needed. But when working with other files I set up my workflow as follows.
When working with another person’s Word files it is imperative to be able to see the underlying structure and identify extra hard returns, line breaks, multiple spaces, multiple tabs, and so on. Enabling invisible characters (or hidden formatting marks) can be done by clicking the Show/Hide icon in the Paragraph group of the Home tab on both Mac and Windows.
Try it out for yourself!
The tools described in this article are particularly useful for anyone working with structure and styles in Word; however, nearly all Word users can benefit from them. Please feel most welcome to share your own tips or let us know how you use these features in the comment section below.
In a future blog post I will expand on this article by talking about linked styles, tabs, and numbered lists, and share some handy search and replace tips that will make your Word life easier.
Guy van der Kolk first got hooked on publishing while attending an international school in Ivory Coast, where he used Pagemaker, Photoshop and an Apple Quicktake 100 camera to help create the yearbook. After many hours of hard work, while holding the final printed product, he knew this was an industry he wanted to be a part of.
Having spent the first 17 years of his life in West Africa, Guy is fluent in three languages and has a multicultural background that has served him well in his career. As an IT consultant and trainer for an Apple Premium reseller and now as a Senior Solutions Consultant for Typefi (based in the Netherlands), he has spent the last 15 years training thousands of people to get the most out of their software.