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Part 1 Creating Simple Documents

Our course on Better Word Processing is divided into three parts. The first part is 4 chapters covering essential skills for formatting simple documents. The second part is 4 chapters covering skills needed to complete your documents. The third part is 4 chapters covering more word processing skills occasionally needed to create more complex documents. Below are the four chapters covering essential formatting skills.

1 Word Processing Terms and Functions
2 Comparing Three Common Word Processing Programs
3 Page Layout Styles
4 Custom Paragraph Styles

 


Quote

Writing is an exploration. You start with nothing and learn as you go!”

- E. L. Doctorow

Like most other specialized fields, the field of word processing has evolved its own special language. Many of these terms can be confusing and unfamiliar to beginners. We will therefore begin by clarifying common word processing terms and functions.

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The term Word Processing refers to the processing or structuring of not only words (in the form of characters and paragraphs) but also controlling the appearance of pages, images, tables, lists and any other content types used to share information. The term Word Processing is a broad term that includes the entire subject of how information is shared.

The term Formatting is similar to the term Word Processing but is a more specific term. Formatting also refers to structuring, controlling or changing the appearance of words (characters and paragraphs), pages, images, tables, lists and any other content types used to share information. For example, some of the skills involved in Word Processing include formatting characters, formatting paragraphs, formatting pages, formatting images and formatting tables.

One purpose of a computer is to create and store files. Files are simply collections of information. This information can be in the form of words but can also be other forms of information such as image files. Files are organized inside of folders and stored on your computer in your File Manager.

Documents are one type of file. Documents are the most common type of file. Documents typically have human readable words and can be edited and formatted by Word Processors. Documents can have other files inside of them. For example, many documents are a collection of words but also contain images. Each image is actually a separate file that can exist either inside of or outside of a document file. In this course, we will use the terms file and document interchangeably with the understanding that when we use the word file were generally mean a document that can be opened by a word processor.

What is a Folder?
A folder is a place where you put a group of files (and documents) that are all about the same topic to keep those files organized and separate from all of your other files which are about different topics. Some books and courses refer to folders as directories. However, I think the word directory is confusing. Therefore in this course we will only use the term folder to mean a place to store a group of documents and other files.

What is a File Manager?
A file manager is a place where you store a group of files in folders. The folders are usually organized in alphabetical (ABC) order.

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Above is a file cabinet with a bunch of folders inside of it. Notice that the folders have sheets of paper inside of them. These sheets of paper are like the files we create and store in folders in our computer, in the file manager. All of your files and documents are stored in folders in your computer’s file manager.

There are many different types of documents which are indicated by a different file extension at the very end of the file name. For example, you might have a Word document named My Cool Story.doc. The same document can be easily converted into a Libre Writer document type called My Cool Story.odt. The last digits after the dot (DOC or ODT) are the File Extension. The appearance of these two documents will typically have the same content and nearly the same appearance.

Document types are also known as File Formats. However, students can become confused by the term File Formats because the word Formatting is also one of the collections of tools used in word processing. To avoid this confusion, in this book and course, we will not refer to file formats. Instead we will refer to various document types which means the same thing as file formats but is less confusing for beginners to understand.

Common Document Types
The foundation of the Information Sharing Revolution is the Document. Documents are what contain all of our words and many of our images. Documents are how we organize and express our thoughts, ideas, plans, hopes and dreams.

Documents can and should be organized into folders in our personal computer’s File Manager. Documents come in several different types (also called Extensions) which are noted by the last few letters after the dot at the end of the file name. Currently, the most common type of file is the Microsoft DOCX file. Older style Microsoft documents use the DOC file extension. Documents that have no formatting at all end in the TXT extension.

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LibreOffice files typically end in the ODT extension (aka Open Document Text). However, they also offer an ODG file extension (aka Open Document Graphic) document type.

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Libre Draw documents are similar to Libre Writer documents. But they have several special tools for creating graphics. All three Word Processing programs (Google Docs, MS Word and LO Writer) can open, edit and save documents in any of the common file formats. So the choice of formats is pretty much up to you.

While all three word processing programs come in an online version and an offline version, currently, the offline version of Google Docs is very unreliable and cannot be recommended. As we will see, the online versions of MS Word and LO Writer are missing several important functions needed to create complex documents (such as the ability to create a Table of Contents). We will therefore introduce the online versions of Google Docs, MS Word and LO Writer. But we will focus primarily on the offline versions of MS Word and Lo Writer. Below is a table comparing the advantages and drawbacks of these five popular Word Processing programs.

Features

Google

Docs Online

MS

Word Online

LibreOffice

Writer Online

MS

Word Offline

LibreOffice

Writer Offline

Cost

Free? or $50/user (1)

Free but limited (2)

Free

(3)

$120 per year (4)

Free

(5)

Versions for all operating systems (6)

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Open Source Security (7)

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

Create & share all document types

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Can optimize images? (8)

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Can simplify Toolbars?

No

No

No

No

Yes

Can change the default template

Yes

No

No

Yes

Yes

Can Create Page Styles?

No

No

No

No

Yes

OK for Simple

Documents

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

OK for Complex Documents

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

(1) Google Docs Online requires setting up a Google Gmail Account and is part of Google Drive. It is only free for individual users. Businesses are supposed to pay $50 per user per year.

First is Google Docs Online
Set Up a Google Gmail account by going to https://accounts.google.com/signup/v2/webcreateaccount?flowName=GlifWebSignIn&flowEntry=SignUp

Enter your first and last name and the email address you would like to create:

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Then enter a password with 8 or more characters using lower case and upper case letters and numbers and special characters. Then repeat the password. Then click Next. Assuming no one else has already taken your desired email address, you next need to enter a phone number that Google can send a text message to to verify your new account. Look at the text message and enter it into the verification code box. Then enter a backup email address along with your birthday and gender. Then click Next. Then decline adding the phone number to other services and agree to the terms. Then this screen will appear:

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To reach your new Gmail account, click on the Gmail icon. But we want Google Docs. To reach this, click on the Drive icon.

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There is a slideshow you can watch by clicking on the blue arrow. At the end click on Take Me to Drive. You will see a PDF called Getting Started. You can right click on it and open it in Google Docs. Then click File Move to Trash.

We will next look at two offline tools that actually are useful for inserting and editing images, templates and tables of contents.

There are several ways to set up and use the offline or traditional version of MS Word. Most of them involve setting up a Microsoft account. One way you can use MS Word for free without an account is to go to your local library and use one of the library computers. Most schools also have MS Word installed on their computers. You can also access MS Word for free if you have a school related email address (one ending in dot edu). You can also simply pay for MS Word on a monthly or annual basis. A final option is to get the 30 day free trial version of MS Word. You can only get this free trial once. Also to get the free trial, you need to give Microsoft your credit card number and you also need to remember to cancel within 30 days to avoid MS charging your credit card.

The point in downloading the 30 day free trial of the current paid version of MS Word is to see how it differs from the free online version of MS Word and to capture screen shots of the current version of MS Word.

The second issue is installing MS Word on your personal computer. This is an easy matter if you have a Windows computer. However, I personally use a Linux computer because I run dozens of websites and I cannot afford to have my computer infected by Windows Ransomware or other Windows malware that would destroy all of my files. Sadly, MS Word does not come in a version for Linux. And it would not matter if MS Word did come in a version for Linux because hackers can also install ransomware directly from MS Word documents.

The only secure solution to using MS Word on a Linux computer is to create a Windows 10 virtual machine (which can be done for free in a matter of minutes) and then install the 30 day trial version of MS Word in the virtual machine. This virtual machine acts almost exactly as if it were MS Word running in a Windows 10 computer (including being able to go online, install and use a web browser). But if a hacker were able to attack this Windows 10 installation or if I downloaded an infected MS Word document, all the hacker would be able to do is destroy my virtual machine. They would not be able to attack any of the programs and documents on my Linux File Manager.

In other courses and books, such as Learn Linux and LibreOffice, I explain how to set up a free virtual machine. The key issue is that while Linux works fine with just 2 GB of RAM and 20 GB of storage, Windows 10 requires a minimum of 4 GB of RAM and 50 GB of storage in the virtual machine. You therefore need at least 8 GB of RAM on your personal computer in order to set up a Windows 10 virtual machine and still have any RAM left for your normal activities.

Whether you are using a real Windows computer or a virtual machine inside of a Linux computer, here is what MS Word looks like when you open it:

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Click on Blank Document to open a new blank document - or click on New to get more template choices. To save an existing document as a new custom template, open the document. Then click File, Save As and choose More Options.

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This will open up your File Manager.

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Click on Custom Office Templates to put the template in your templates folder.

LibreOffice Writer comes included with any Linux computer. And it can be added for free to any Windows or Apple computer. Just go to the LibreOffice download page:

https://www.libreoffice.org/download/download/

Then select the operating system you are using (such as Windows 64-bit). Then click the Download button. Once the program has downloaded, left click on it to select it and right click on it to install it. Then close the file manager and the web browser. You should now see a LibreOffice icon on your Desktop. Click on it to open LibreOffice.

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Then click on Writer document to open a new blank Writer document.

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LO Writer like MS Word comes with a very complex interface. Thankfully, we can greatly simplify this interface by hiding a lot of the functions we may never use. For example, because you probably will not need these functions, go to the View menu options and uncheck the Ruler, the Status Bar and the Side Menu. Then click on Tools, Customize and click on the Toolbars tab. For the Standard menu, uncheck features that are better reached in the main menu, such as PDF, Print, Print Preview, Clone, Find and Replace, Formatting Marks, Chart, Page Break, Field, Symbol, Footnote, Endnote, Bookmark, Cross Reference, Comment, Track Changes, Line and Basic Shapes. Then click OK to see the new simplified Standard Toolbar.

The term Styles may seem strange to most people. We think of the word Style in terms of designer clothing fashions. Changing styles is like changing clothing. You look different on the outside but are the same body on the inside. Styles are not only used for the way we control the appearance or design of print books, styles are also used to control the appearance or design of Ebooks and Websites. The key to easily migrate or convert styles from one information sharing format, such as a Print Book or PDF book, to another format, such as an Ebook or Web Page, is understanding the relationship between the tools used to set styles in these different formats.

Information Sharing Format

Design Controlled by

Content Controlled by

Print Book or PDF Book

Page, Paragraph and Character Styles

Plain Text Language

Ebook or Website

CSS (Cascade Style Sheets)

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)

While Print and PDF books use the older Page, Paragraph and Character Styles, web pages and Ebooks use a new system called Cascade Style Sheets (or CSS). What we want is to use Page, Paragraph and Character styles that can easily be converted into CSS styles.

Content versus Appearance
Another way to think of Page, Paragraph and Character Styles is that they control the appearance of the content in your documents. Whether you are writing a one page resume or a 400 page book, your document can be divided into the content such as the words and images versus the appearance which is the appearance of the pages, paragraphs and text.

Why We Need to Consider Page Layout in Designing Documents

Here is the problem. Imagine you are teaching a course with 30 students. Ten of your wealthy students bought the Color Print Book for $60. Five others bought the Black and White Print book for $30. Five other students bought the Ebook for $20. Five of the poorer students downloaded the PDF version of your course book from your course website for free. Three printed the PDF book which at 10 cents a page for the 400 page book ironically cost them $40. Two other students did not have the money to print the PDF book – they are simply reading the PDF on their laptop computer screen. Finally, five of the poorest students are trying to get by reading the course book you posted as web pages on your book promotional website.

To make matters worse, all of your students are using a variety of computer screens, from laptops and tablets to mobile phones - all of which have different screen widths - to read their course book!

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Now imagine you are trying to set up daily and weekly reading assignments for your students. You could just have the students read Section 3.1 for Monday and Section 3.2 for Tuesday. But imagine you want to review a particular topic in the Course book tomorrow morning and you want all 30 students looking at the same page.

The only way to solve this problem is if the content and appearance of each page in your course text book is identical regardless of the information sharing format being used by your students. Welcome to the world of the modern college classroom.

Subcategories

Word processing is a very important skill you can use in both your business and personal life. It is not only a way to produce better documents. It is a way to better organize your thoughts, goals and tasks. Our first chapter introduces several basic word processing terms and functions. It is divided into the following four sections:

1.1 Word Processing versus Formatting
We explain the meaning of terms like word processing, document formatting, styles, word processing tools and word processing programs.

1.2 Files and Documents versus Folders and Directories
How to create and structure your files and folders.

1.3 Document Types versus File Formats
Benefits and drawbacks of various document types and file formats.

1.4 Using Your Computer Clipboard
How to select, copy or cut, move and paste text and images.

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Sound good?

Let's get started!

 

In this chapter, we will review the 3 most popular word processors you are likely to encounter. These are Google Docs, MS Word and LibreOffice Writer. This chapter is divided into four sections:

2.1 Word Processors Comparison Table
This table shows whether popular word processors have or lack important word processing functions.

2.2 How to Set Up and Use 3 Online Word Processing Programs
Word processors often come in online and offline versions. In this section, we see that the online versions of word processors have very limited functions.

2.3 How to Set Up and Use MS Word Offline Word Processor
An introduction to the MS Word main menu and changing ribbon.

2.4 How to Install and Use LibreOffice Writer Offline Word Processor
An introduction to the LO Writer main menu and fixed toolbars.

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Let’s see how these three popular word processing programs really compare to each other!

In this chapter, we take a closer look at Page Layout Styles and the role they play in designing documents, templates, reports and books. In particular, we will look at the most useful page styles for creating a universal source document so that the same source document can be used to create a report, print book, Ebook and/or website page. We will then see how Page Layout Styles can be implemented in Google Docs, MS Word and LO Writer. This chapter is divided into the following four sections:

3.1 What is a Style and Why is it Important?
We review the benefits of using styles in general and page styles in particular.

3.2 Page Right and Left Margins, Line Length and Paragraph Width
We show how to set up right and left margins so that the same styles can be used on either an 8 ½ by 11 PDF or an 8 by 10 Print book.

3.3 Page Top and Bottom Margins, Headers and Footers
We compare the differences between the way MS Word and LO Writer set up headers and footers and the effect these methods have on the top and bottom margins of your documents.

3.4 How to Create Your Own Custom Page Layout

In this section, we describe how to create your own custom page layout with MS Word, LO Writer and Google Docs.

Paragraph styles are used to control the appearance of our paragraphs. Each time you hit Enter on your keyboard, you are creating a new paragraph – even if the paragraph is only a single line long. Different paragraphs can have different paragraph styles. Our goal in this section is not merely to create some custom paragraph styles but to create custom paragraph styles that can eventually be converted into website styles (also known as CSS classes).

This chapter is divided into the following four sections:

4.1 Benefits of Using Paragraph Styles
When you are first getting started with word processing, paragraph styles can seem complex. Taking the time to create and use custom paragraph styles can seem like a lot of work. But in the long run, using paragraph styles is actually LESS WORK than formatting words, sentences and paragraphs one at time.

4.2 How to Clear Direct Formatting
Direct Formatting is using the buttons in your word processor top menu to change your text appearance. Direct formatting is commonly used by beginners - but creates problems for formatting using styles. It is important then to clear any direct formatting from your document.

4.3 Four Heading Paragraph Styles
In this section, we review why you should consider using four levels of heading paragraph styles.

4.4 How to Apply Styles Quickly

In this section, we provide tips for making the speeding up the process of adding paragraph styles to your documents.

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