Reference for Power Users
627 Pages, A4 paper
by Matthew Strawbridge
Software Reference Ltd.
A Different Kind of Book about Microsoft Word 2007
Some software books try to be all things to all users, but
Matthew Strawbridge’s new book on Microsoft Word 2007 has a much narrower
focus. It has no aspirations to serve as a tutorial, and it has no aspirations
to serve the needs of new users. Instead, it proclaims itself an essential
reference for power users.
The book is organized around the elements of Word’s user
interface, which makes it very easy to find the section most likely to contain
the information you’re looking for. For example, there’s an entire chapter on
the new Microsoft Office button, a chapter on “permanent” ribbon tabs, a
chapter on contextual ribbon tabs, and a chapter on task panes. There’s a
chapter on dialog boxes (a very long chapter!) that covers 328 different dialog
boxes. There’s a chapter on the Options dialog and another on the Trust Center.
Separate chapters are also devoted to Word commands, keyboard shortcuts, field
codes, and symbol font character sets. Additional information is presented in a
series of seven appendices.
The book’s title page includes the following quotation,
attributed to “Anonymous”: “I didn’t write this; a very complex macro did.”
Indeed, and the book’s strengths and its weaknesses derive therefrom.
The book’s strengths include the following:
- The contents are very navigable for anyone familiar with Word’s
- The contents are very authoritative insofar as they are harvested
from Word’s screentips and help system and from its user interface elements.
- The contents are liberally illustrated with screen snapshots.
- The contents seem exhaustive (and, like Word itself on occasion,
- Wherever possible, information is presented in tables and lists for
- Tips and other notes are sprinked liberally throughout the text.
The book’s weaknesses include the following:
- Much of the information has been harvested directly from Word,
which is perfectly consistent with the book’s “reference” mission, but this
means that independent insights are mostly limited to the tips and other notes
sprinkled throughout the text.
- There is very little discussion of document structure or of
relationships among the various elements found in Word documents. This is not
the result of negligence, but of a deliberate effort to limit coverage to
reference rather than tutorial topics.
This book has a completely different feel from any other
book about Microsoft Word. It goes about its business in a very determined
fashion. There are no quips or clever cartoons, just page after page, snapshot
after snapshot,table after table, list after list of options, functions,
If there’s an ideal reader for this book, it is probably
someone who has reached an impasse of some kind. A user confronted by an
unfamiliar dialog box, for example, could quickly look up that dialog box and
find a comprehensive table describing the options and functions for that dialog
box. A help desk worker trying to help such a user could also benefit from the
book. A true power user might prefer an online resource to a printed manual,
but a power user who cracks open the book will be both entertained by and
surprised at the wealth of information between its covers.