Which word processor?
Microsoft Office Word was the standard for years and I
used good old Word 2003 until Microsoft cheated me out of it. Changing to a new PC, I uninstalled it from the old one
but on installing my 3rd copy on the new PC it falsely claimed I had 3 installs already and they'd withdrawn the phone
service for failed installs. They'd also withdrawn security fix support. I know loads of Word keyboard shortcuts (eg
Alt AIB to add a row to a table) so I looked into buying the latest. There is a Home & Student version of Office
2016, with Word, Excel and Powerpoint but that costs over 100 pounds per computer. There are also Office
365 variants that need a yearly subscription. Of course the latest Word has that infamous 'ribbon' squatting
on lots of your screen space. It doesn't tempt me at current prices.
The obvious alternative is Libre Office, free. I've used Open Office then Libre Office quite a bit. Libre is quite
similar to Office 2003 in use and will read and write Word formats, doc and docx, as well as the new odt standard.
The main incompatibility I've found is having to change the anchoring options for a text box holding address details
in letters. It's also not great at adjusting formuli when you insert a new line in a spreadsheet. Libre Office does
include a pretty good drawing program - Microsoft's Visio is an expensive extra. Here's a chunk from a drawing I
assembled within 15 minutes (try doing that in MS Word):
There are also some online word processors but I could never
see the point. Even nowadays we are sometimes somewhere where
there's no internet connection. There are also WP apps for your tablet. I downloaded Kingsoft but
we generally just use OneNote on them for writing because it synchs to our other devices.
Anything I publish that has to have a good layout tends now to be html so I'm not that bothered
about layout in WP documents any more.
How do I do bullets, justify text etc?
The rest of this guide is geared towards people using Libre Office but should also be useful
if you use an older version of Word.
Styles are the proper way to do bullets but for smaller documents it's fine to just use the
toolbar icons for alignment, bullets etc. Just experiment until you get
the effect you want. You can also use the format painter to copy an
effect to other parts of a document. In Libre Office if you double click
the format painter icon it will stay active until next clicked.
So for simpler documents just use the toolbar buttons:
How do I get my head around styles?
They are rather over complicated (Ami Pro, many years ago, did it much
better than anything since). But for long documents using styles
makes things much easier, mainly because if you change the
characteristics of a style (eg body text or Heading 3) then you
instantly change everything with that style, throughout the document.
Just like the websites I create - most of the layout is held centrally
in one or more css stylesheets so changes apply to the whole site instantly.
So it's well worth learning to use styles if you create and maintain
long, complex documents. The detail of how it works will vary depending
on which WP package you use.
If you do nothing else with styles you should at least use Body text (or Text body) for
your bulk paragraphs of normal text. That puts a half line as a spacer between paragraphs
which looks much neater than having a full line.
How do I insert pictures into a document and make text flow round them?
You pull images into a document via Insert, Image in Libre Office. You can also
paste them if they've previously been copied into memory.
To get text to flow around images, right click on the image and experiment with
the Wrap, Anchor, Alignment and Arrange options, sliding the picture around as required).
If you put lots of big images into a Libre Office document the layout can go haywire.
In that case don't forget Ctrl Z (undo).
How do I move & copy text around?
Edit, Copy/Cut/Paste (Ctrl C/X/V) are the usual methods and will very
often work even between different types of document, eg text and even
images from a web page can be copied into a Word document. First you
have to select the area to copy; just hold down the left mouse button
at the top left of the area to copy and move it to the bottom right
then let go. Anything then highlighted can be copied into memory and
can then be Edit, Pasted somewhere else. You can also click at the
start then use Shift with your arrow keys in most cases.
Within a document if you want to move rather than copy text, select it
then Edit, Cut (Ctrl X) it to make it disappear into memory ready to be
pasted elsewhere. Note that only the last item copied or cut is kept in memory in most cases.
How do I use tables?
I use WP tables lots, because they are much easier to make look
attractive than lists in a spreadsheet.
First you insert a table, then get roughly the right column widths. I mostly use
the Libre Office Table contents style withing tables rather than Text body, to
make them more compact.
It speeds things up greatly if you can learn keyboard shortcuts, eg in
Libre Office Alt AIB for insert a row below and Alt ADR for delete row.
That was the same in Word 2003 and even Word 2007 still responded OK to these.
How to create a Table of Contents?
A table of contents which can easily be updated to reflect changes is great
for longer documents and it's difficult enough to impress a lot of people!
How you create one differs wildly between different packages. Generally the way to do
it is first use a style, eg Contents Heading in Libre Office, purely for entries you want in your table of
contents. Then create the TOC and set it to look for and list just that style.
How do I stop text just overflowing to the next page?
You could just reword and shorten paragraphs that just go onto an extra line or
switch from 12 to 11 point text. But the easiest way is to reduce the
How do I get characters not on my keyboard?
In Libre Office it's Insert, Special Character. Then just choose
what you want and click Insert to put it into your document. You can also put them into
any application via the well hidden Windows Character Map. In Windows 10 it's under
Windows accessories in All apps.
If there's a special character you use a lot, eg emailing Renée, and you have a full sized
keyboard you can learn its code, eg é is Alt 0233 (must be done on the
numeric keypad at the right of a full keyboard). If you're on a tablet, good luck!