True, creating a book or manual in Word can be tricky,
but not impossible. I do it all the time. The trick is to be organized and
you must have a good handle on using Styles, Sections and Field Codes
in Word. If not...you'll go nuts trying to keep things together!
In this article, I'll give you a few pointers that I've learned about creating
books and we'll walk through some of the issues you'll have to
consider. This won't be an article on the entire creation of books, because
the subject is too varied thanks to all the different needs a publisher/writer
might require when putting together a document like this. But there are a
lot of additional resources around here from which you can gather more insight.
Most folks get started creating a book or user manual by opening Word and
start to layout the design. Bad move! Unless you're very experienced with
book/manual creation in Word...this is not what you want to do first!
There are a lot of questions to be answered, before you dive into Word.
One of the first things you'll want to consider is what fonts you'll be
using. Lots of time is wasted when folks just start typing
and later decide they want to change the fonts. I've had to bill consulting
clients over and over because they couldn't make up their mind on fonts
and asked me to continually change their documents styles from this font
to that one. It's time/money wasted because they hadn't considered
this before they started.
You should only use two font faces in a document. Okay,
you can actually get away with a third one—a decorative font—if you're planning
to have special pull quotes in your document. However, this is rarely
used in books or manuals and is mostly used in articles or newsletters.
Now, obviously, you do not want to use this many styles
of pull quotes! This is just a sample of how they can be used and different
ways you can use them. So pick one style and stick to it. But again,
it's rare to use this in a manual, unless, maybe at the beginning of a chapter.
You could use a decorative font to give a brief summary of what the user
will learn in the upcoming pages. A tease.
However, other than a decorative font for the purpose of a possible pull
quote, you will need to pick one san serif font and one serif font.
Serif fonts are used for reading large chunks of text and would be the main
font used throughout the majority of your book content. A san serif font
would be used for all your chapter and section headings, as well as for small
tables of numbers and footnotes. San serif fonts make large amounts of text
more difficult to read. So they should only be used for short blocks of text,
such as titles—which need to stand out. However, when fonts are small,
such as with footnotes, san serif fonts can be better because they help small
text become more readable. The same is true with numbers. You should rarely
use a serif font when displaying tables or columns of numbers. All those
curls characteristic of serif fonts cause numbers to become more difficult
to read. San serif fonts make the numbers more crisp.
You can also get away with using a san serif font to help set bullet or number
lists apart from the rest of the text. They help those items stand out more
and, as long as the amount of text is not too long, they work well for bringing
attention to special instructions, such as steps to take in a user manual.
The only exception to this rule is when you're publishing to the web. Because
monitors are not always as clear as the printed page, most web publishers
prefer to use a san serif font. This helps make the text displayed
in a web browser more clear. However, also make sure you increase the leading,
or space between the lines, when using a san serif font as your actual content font.
Set your spacing at 1.5 leading or your readers will get a headache!
Once you've gone through and experimented with the look and readability
of the bazillion fonts on the market, you'll
want to grab a pencil and paper and sketch out some ideas of how you think
your manual should look. You'll save a lot of time just fiddling with sample
drawing scribbled out on scratch paper, than trying to create various designs
on the computer.
Will you have the manual title or chapter name listed in
the header? Should the company name be listed on every page; maybe in the
footer? What other information needs to be listed on every page within the
header or footer? Will the start page for each chapter look different than
the rest of the pages—probably! So how will that page look? Will you include
chapter page numbers or just standard page numbers? And don't forget
that page numbers should always go on the outside of the
page margin! There's nothing more annoying than trying to find a page number
when it's been tucked into the binding.
And speaking of binding...how will your manual be put together? Will you
just staple it in the corner or will it be bound? If bound, don't forget
to leave extra spacing on the inside margins to allow for that 1/2 inch binding
space. Will your manual be double-sided or single-sided. Sure, single is
easier, but double uses less paper.
Will your design be simple?
Or will it be more complex? If you're planning a more complex design, sure
it may look cooler on paper, but are you sure you know how to design a more
complex look like the one below on a computer? If not, you'd better learn
how to do it or change your design to something more within your technical
A Master Template
Once you have answered all the questions, it's time to design your master
template and main styles. Open a blank page in Word. Immediately click File
> Save As. Click the Save as type drop down
and save this document as your master template.
Now you can go about designing your master layout and styles. As you work,
be sure to hit Ctrl + S to save the work you've done so far. This will ensure
that, should your PC crash, you won't lose your work!
> Page Layout and start going through all the settings. Realize
that your view will vary depending on the version of Word you are using.
There are a lot of settings you'll want to consider in these dialog
boxes. So don't just set the margins and be done with it! Go through all those
settings, buttons and drop downs. If you don't understand what all those
settings mean—find out! Either check in the Help files under Page
Setup or ask
someone about a specific setting in a user group.
If you're not a member of a user group and don't know how to find one, read
this article: How
To Get Help or go to my Resources page on MouseTrax where you can find a list of groups I recommend and help support.
Now that you have your initial page formatted, it's time to add a little
sample text so you can mess around with styles to get it looking the way
you want. If you have a different first page for the chapter, add in a sample
chapter name and work with your chosen fonts to see if the actual look is
what you want. Experiment! Once you're satisfied with the way it looks,
click Format > Styles and add your new style to your
Remember to organize your styles by using, not only names that make
sense, but by putting them in order of their type. Don't name them My Big Bullet,
My Small Bullet. You'll be hunting all over to find them when it's time to
quickly apply them to text. Use group names such as Bullet01, Bullet02 or
BulletLarge, BulletSmall. This way all your bullets will be in order. Same
goes for Para01, Para02 ParaIndented and Title01, Title02 or TitleMain, TitleSub01,
What type of numbering or bullets will you actually use? What about special
indents? Will you have any quoted text that you'd want indented from left
and right, as well as italics? What about emphasis? Will you be using bold
or italic to show emphasis and commands? Maybe a character style will help
so you don't have to go through changing everything later? If you don't understand
character styles and their benefit...ask or read the help files!
Try to think about everything your manual will contain and create a style
for each one of those instances. Yes, you can add more as you go along, should
a new style be needed. But best to try to think through as many as possible
at the beginning.
Will the same style come after a specific style? In
other words, will Para01 be used after each TitleMain? What about Para02,
will it usually come after Para01—probably. So why not chain those
up? In Word's style dialog, you can choose which style comes after the current
Chain up as many as you can to save you time from having to apply
each style manually.
Create a Sample
Alright, you'd designed up your manual page format and created all the
styles. Ready to get started, right? Not so fast!
Who is writing this manual? Are you the sole authority on it and what it
will ultimately look like? If you are, then you can probably get started.
But, if anyone else is going to come along and tell you that they want any
of the formatting changed, then this is the time to create a mock-up sample
of your manual and get approval before you spend all the time formatting
the real thing!
This is one of those life experience lessons. Many years ago when
I was first learning to create manuals, or any designed document, for someone
else, I quickly learned to show them a mock-up before I tolled over the fine
tuning. Take the time to build yourself a couple sections/chapters with a
few pages in each. This will not only allow you to pass a formatted document
to the powers that be, but you'll also be able to apply your styles and make
sure they look the way you expect, as well as inspect the section headers
and footers. You don't want to get to the final printout before you realize
your page numbers are on the inside of the page binding. Study your mock-up!
Word has a great little tool hidden inside it to give designers and teachers
the ability to toss a pile of sample text into a document with just a few
keystrokes. Lots of folks think this is a bug in Word or an Easter Egg hidden
for the enjoyment of those who discover it. But it's really a very useful
tool for those who require sample text.
Where you want text added to fill up your mock-up, so you have some text
to format, do the following.
- Hit Ctrl + 0 (that's a zero)
- Type: =rand(20,10)
- Hit Enter
Note! You must have AutoFormatting turned
on to make this work. But if you did it correctly, your pages will now be
filled up with a lot of text about dogs and foxes. You can use this text as
your sample, rather than having to type a bunch of gibberish on the pages.
A couple tips about the above command:
- By hitting Ctrl + 0 (zero) you will add line spacing
before each paragraph. If you don't include this step, your text will
be jammed up. However, it might not matter if you'll be applying different
formatting that will have spacing before it anyway. That is, if you created
your styles properly, you will!
- You can feel free to change the numbers within the parentheses. The first
number represents how many paragraphs you will get. Above we asked for
20. Change that number, as needed. The second number represents how many
sentences will be added within each paragraph. We asked for 10 sentences.
Again, adjust, as needed.
One very important note here about the above sample. Although this is a fantastic
tool, whoever created it at Microsoft didn't know much about designing
text on a computer! Computer fonts are proportionally spaced. This
means that a PC knows that a period does not need as much space as the
letter M. It knows to adjust, accordingly.
In the =rand text you will get, the text was created with two spaces
after the period. Don't ever do this! Why? Well, first...everyone
who does understand basic design typography will instantly know you're
an amateur. But worse, you will add rivers of white into your document!
As you can see in the image below, your eye can instantly
pick out the excess gap in the first set of sentences which have two spaces
When text begins to flow through a document, this excess spacing will appear
to snake through the document, causing these typographical rivers
of white and your eye will be drawn to the gaps. This will cause you
to concentrate more on this annoying error than on the text you should be
If someone told you that you should add two spaces after a period, they are
probably old—having learned that back in the days of typewriters. Or
just old fashioned and never learned to adjust for how computer's work. Two
spaces after punctuation on a computer using proportional spacing is just
plain wrong! Period!<stepping down from my soapbox>
Once your sample layout design has been approved...now you can start
your actual manual.
But wait! What about screen shots? If you're creating a user manual for some
PC training, you've got to have screen shots! Do you know how to do them?
Do you have a copy of the program you're explaining on your system? Do you
know how to use it well enough to take the screen shots? Will someone else
be taking the shots? Have you discussed with them the proper size, resolution,
file type and naming conventions to use? Do they have a good screen capture
program? Do they know how to take screen shots? Does the program they will
be using have the capabilities of including the cursor? Will you need the
cursor included? Will the images have frames?
You'd be amazed at how few people know how to take good, consistent screen
shots. Seems simple enough...open a dialog box, hit Alt
+ PrtScn (the Print
Screen button on your keyboard) and then hit Ctrl + V to
paste the image into your manual, right? Rarely is it actually that
However, if you've invested in a good screen capture program, it can do a
lot of the work for you and ensure that your shots are consistent and look
good. There are a lot of programs out there that'll take screen captures.
If you don't have one and can't afford one, you'll probably be stuck using
the Windows screen capture (the print screen button) and Windows Paint program
to make some modifications, if needed. If you have a graphics program, such
as Paint Shop Pro (PSP), check the version. If it's a more recent one, it'll
have a capture utility that does a pretty good job. Then you can bring the
images into PSP and make modifications. I used to use PSP for captures,
but it was time consuming.
Then I discovered SnagIt.
As the name implies, SnagIt is specifically for taking screen shots. This
means it does a great job. Whereas with PSP, screen captures are an afterthought...an
added utility. SnagIt was
created for taking screen shots and allows users to modify their shots, add
annotations and keep them sorted. So it does a good job doing all these things
and gives you the ability of concentrating all these features in one, handy
and inexpensive program.
Granted, I still love and use PSP for much of my graphics work. But when I'm creating a manual and need
to just grab some quick, good screen captures, toss them on the clipboard
to drop in as needed, with cursor displayed in the shot and neat borders
applied, SnagIt is great! I've even applied it to my print screen button
so it's ready to go with one keystroke.
If you don't have a program like this, you'll need to make sure you pay attention
to the size and resolution of your images to make sure they're consistent.
It's annoying to read a manual that has images that are all over the board
in regards to size and shape. True, sometimes it can't be helped and sometimes
you need to make some images smaller/larger or show more/less detail. But
do your best to give them a similar look, resolution and size proportion.
And be sure to modify your screen colors! Okay, you may love shocking yellow
as your window color. But consider your readers! If it's difficult to make
out the details in your dialog box shots, you might want to consider adjusting
the colors to a more standard design while taking pictures. You can always
return it back to your previous eye bending colors, as long as you remembered
to save your scheme before you changed it.
Remember, also, to tune your images down to a lower, compressed format. Don't
use BMP files when JPGs will work just as well. Your computer will thank
you by not blowing up when it has to display 100 pages of JPGs versus 100
pages of BMPs. You might also want to scale down the size of your images.
You probably don't have to use full size images. Your readers can
still get a lot of imformation from a 75% original image versus a 100%. And
by cutting off just a little, you can save a lot of file space. Your document
will weigh less and be less likely to crash on you as you're scrolling through
And speaking of which, did you know there's a feature in Word that will allow
you to turn off the image so the chances of your document crashing from overextended
resources are about nil? Click Tools > Options > View
> Picture Holder. The feature will blank out the images, so Word
doesn't have to work as hard to continually redraw those images.
Yet it holds the spacing so you can concentrate on the formatting of the
Don't wrap text around an image in a manual, if you can help it. The manual
will be confusing enough to your readers. Why add more difficulty for them
by having to reference the text to the corresponding image by having text
wrapping all over the page? Not to mention the additional formatting work
you'll need to do to keep things aligned. Text wrapping is wonderful for
newsletters and feature articles that tell a story. But when it comes to a
technical manual, as they say...KISS (keep it simple, stupid).
Dealing with Headers and Footers in Sections
Okay, this will probably be your biggest nightmare when it comes to creating
a manual in Word. Particularly if you've decided the manual will be double-sided
with mirror margins and a different first page format. And glutton for punishment
that I am, this is probably the format in which I have the most experience
(thank you David Montgomery!<smirk>).
I was baptized by fire in that I started learning how to create books by
starting with a monster financial, statistical book that had many specific
requirements and took many weeks, under an intense deadline, to complete.
It was common to see me leaving the office for the day at 2am after a day
of text changes and formatting modifications.
I did learn a few important things, however. First...never give
one of your text editors/authors the original version of your electronic
document! If you can get away with it...hand them a printed copy and a red
pencil! If they insist on having an electronic version, make sure you
know how to use Word's Track Changes feature. Lock that puppy up
tight and password it. And no matter how much they scream that it's difficult
to make edits with all the markings on the screen...don't give in! They will screw
up your styles and formatting and you'll be left sitting there having to
fix what they messed up!
One of the most difficult things to do is to add a new section to a manual
and keep the page numbers and footers formatted properly...but it can be
done if you're meticulous about doing it right. Take the time to learn to
do it properly. Read the help files or ask.
The basic idea as well as some tips...
- Create your first page...the chapter page. It's a good idea to apply Paragraph formatting
to this style that says it will always start on a new page—Format
> Paragraph > Line and Page Breaks. Or better, click
Insert > Break > Section Break > Odd Page whenever
you start a new chapter. (Always best to start a new chapter on the odd
numbered/right side of a manual.)
Oh, and please don't type This page
intentionally left blank when Word adds in the extra page to adjust
your numbering. If
every new chapter has started on the right thus far, your readers will
understand that the previous chapter just didn't fill up all the pages.
Not to mention that professional designers will laugh at you!<smirk> This
is another sign of an amateur.
- Be sure to learn how to use Field Codes.
There are a lot of Fields that you can use to pull information from someplace
else to be included elsewhere in the document, such as a chapter or section
name in headers/footers. The STYLEREF is probably the most useful field
for this purpose. But, depending on your layout and requirements, others
may suit you as well. Check the Help files for details on each field.*
* Note! Unfortunately, it appears that Microsoft screwed
up the Help files when it comes to Field codes. In previous versions
of Word, you could click on a field name in the Insert > Field dialog
box. Then you'd click on the Help question mark icon on that dialog.
You could then click the field name, again, and the exact field code
help files would appear, providing you with all the details you
needed to use that code.
However, in Word 2003, someone apparently attempted to fix the way
it works and now it doesn't work! The minute you click on the question
mark Help icon, in the upper/right of the Field dialog box, the Help
files open to the generic About Field Codes help. If anyone knows how
to find the proper help files without spending an hour hunting, I'd love
to hear about it because I haven't been able to find a way in this version
- Create your header/footer, if needed, for your Chapter page.
Tip! Use a table without a border in your header/footer
to provide the segmented areas that allow you the freedom to format left
text to the left and right text to the right. A third column can provide
you with a center cell to format. However, realize that left, center
and right is a lot of information to add into a small area. Is all that
information really necessary on every page? Probably not!
- Add a page break and create the headers/footers for the rest of the chapter
pages. Remember that you'll have two different subsequent page
headers/footers if you plan to have mirror margins! So you'll need to
design your odd header/footer, as well as a reverse one for your even
pages. Toss in another section within this chapter and you can see how
this can get quite complicated!
- Keep a vigilant eye over your Same as previous button
on your header/footer toolbar. If you miss one along the way, you can
go insane. This is particularly true when you're adding a new section
because the header/footer for this section will be your Different
first page header/footer. So you don't want it like the previous
one and you don't want the next one like this one! And if you understand
what I just said, you'll do just fine!
Tip! Pay attention to the title on the header/footer you're
currently accessing when you move into them to make any modifications.
Word will tell you the current settings for that header/footer. If you're
smart enough to keep watch over them, you have a better chance of not
letting a mistake go too far before you notice the setting is wrong.
In the image below, notice the information provided when I enter the
header/footer area. I can see that this footer is the Odd page footer
in Section 4 and it's set to look the same as the Odd page footer in
Section 3. Whereas, the next page is the Even page Header, which is also
the same as the previous even page header.
However, in this next image, notice the confusion with the previous page
being a First Page footer in section 2, whereas, the next page is the First
Page header in Section 4. Could be a mistake, were it not for the fact that
an additional section break was needed within Section 2 for a formatting
change, but that section was a continuous section and didn't have it's own
header/footer. Confused yet?
Besides keeping an eye on the information Word provides you when you open
the header/footer, be sure to also work in View > Print
Layout. And hit
Ctrl + Shift + 8 to toggle the document formatting codes on/off so you can
see the section breaks.
- Learn how to manipulate page numbers! You may need to use Roman numerals
in some of the first pages and then switch to Arabic numbering
throughout the document. This can be done by controlling how the Same
as Previous footers work, as well as learning how to modify
If you're not comfortable with Field codes—how to work with their options,
toggle them on/off and change their code manually—learn! Read up on them
and practice making changes.
Also become familiar with the Page Numbering dialog box and learn how to
change field code numbers to a new number.
And there you have it! Once you master all the processes above, you're set.
Save your final template. Then click File > New, choose your template and
start adding text into your first chapter. Don't forget to add in page references,
if you'll be using them. Index markers are also best added as you're working
through the text, rather than hunting them out later.
If your document will be longer than 100 pages, be extremely complex or you
have a poor working computer, you'll want to chop the chapters into separate
documents. RD field codes will allow you to pull the TOC and Index together
across separate documents, but page numbering will become a lesson in nested
field code trickery.
And you thought this was going to be difficult!
Need further help getting your complex Word docs formatted? Join our free
Word Doc Design support group! See this link for details: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Word_DocDesign/ .