Microsoft Word might be the most powerful word processing program ever developed,
but in the hands of most users itís no more than a slumbering giant.
And no wonder! In its latest incarnation, the program has nearly 1000 commands
arranged on more than 140 menus and toolbars, many of which you might never
have seen and never will see.
Whatís the best way to take advantage of all this power? How do you set
up a document for maximum efficiency and effectiveness? How do you know which
command to use in any given situation?
One way to become a Word power user is to grit your teeth, sign up for a
class, and vow to succeed even if it kills you. Better yet, sign up for two
or three classes, enroll in some internet discussion groups, buy a couple
of books, lay in a supply of NoDoz, and set aside all of your other work.
Does this sound like too great a price to pay? If so, donít give up hope,
because thereís an easier way to become a power user that you might have
Addins and Custom Templates to the Rescue: More Power, Less Training,
Plus Documents That Can be Easily Shared
The most powerful feature in all of Word is called Programmability, but
this isnít a feature that shows up on a menu or a toolbar. Instead, itís
a feature that allows Word to be programmed to do your work for you at the
click of your mouse.
Taking advantage of Wordís programmability isnít as hard as you might think.
In fact, all you have to do is install an addin or a custom template designed
for the kind of work you do. Installation techniques vary, but typically
all you have to do is place a single *.dot file into a special folder on
your hard drive or network. (For more information, look up templates and
addins under Help.)
To see whether any Word addins are installed,
Some addins and custom templates can be downloaded from the internet at
no cost. Others must be purchased.
If your needs are unique, you might have to hire a consultant to develop
an addin or custom template tailored explicitly to your needs. Before you
dismiss this approach out of hand, consider what it would be worth to reduce
hours and hours of work to a single click of your mouse. Thatís exactly the
kind of gain in power that can be achieved through addins and custom templates.
When you use a well-designed addin or custom template, you gain access to
menu commands and toolbar buttons and special keystrokes that dramatically
simplify your work and let you focus on your job. Instead of relying on Wordís
built-in commands (such as Format Paragraph or Table Formula or File Page
Setup), youíll be able to use commands that reflect exactly what you need
to do, such as Insert Letterhead, Toggle Letterhead On/Off, Eliminate Duplicate
Names, or Translate Sentence.
Hereís another advantage: well-designed addins and custom templates require
little or no training. Why? Because the commands on the menus and toolbars
are named for the tasks that you do every day. If your daily work involves
creating reports, you could install an addin that offers a command called
Create Report. When you choose the command, a wizard pops up and guides
you through all the steps of creating your report. You canít get much more
intuitive than that.
And hereís the best part: documents produced in Word with the help of an
addin or a custom template can be shared with ALL users of Word, including
users who donít have access to the same addin or custom template.
Gain more power. Waste less time on training. And still create Word documents
that can be easily shared with other users. Thatís like losing weight without
diet or exercise!
Seeing is Believing
One of my professors used to say, ďWhen youíve seen one martian, you know
a lot more about martians in general than someone who has never seen a martian
The same is true of Word addins and custom templates. Once youíve seen one
or had a chance to work with one, youíll quickly grasp what a dramatic impact
they can have on the quality and productivity of your work. And, until then,
thereís a good chance that you wonít fully appreciate what all the excitement
To help you visualize how these powerful tools can transform the way you
work, Iíve described several addins and custom templates below.
Important! As you read the descriptions and look at the accompanying screen
shots, keep in mind that these are examples from other users. Donít judge
these addins and custom templates on the basis of your own needs, because
they werenít developed for your particular needs. Instead, judge them according
to the type of work they were designed to do. Then ask yourself whether your
own work could be simplified or fully automated in a similar way.
Example 1: Hereís a screen shot from a custom template for preventive
maintenance procedures. As you can see, the template provides a special menu
for entering specific maintenance tasks into the procedures. Instead of manually
typing tasks, users simply choose tasks from nine predefined categories on
the special menu. The menu also provides commands for color-coding the tasks
and for changing the order of tasks. Thanks to the special menu, maintenance
technicians can focus on getting their procedures completed, instead of focusing
on typing and spelling and other Word activities.
Example 2: This screen shot shows a special dialog box from an addin
that counts how many times various words and phrases are used in
a long document. The dialog box also lets the user mark all instances
of a word or phrase and view the marked items in context. This addin was
developed for a prominent best-selling author who wanted to detect phrases
of varying length that were used too many times or used too frequently within
250, 500, or 1,000 words of each other.
Example 3: Many corporate legal departments produce thousands of
legal and financial documents every month. While working on such
documents, they need instant access to all the legal entities involved.
The screen shot above comes from an addin that lets users review
and manage their legal entities without leaving Word.
Example 4: If you work for a multinational
organization, you might have to work with documents written in a
variety of languages. Translating those documents accurately and
consistently across a department or a division can be a daunting task.
a Word addin that can help.
Example 5: If your job requires you to produce reports, you probably
spend an awful lot of time in Word, so why not let Word help you with
your work? That was the thinking behind the wizard shown above, which
allows consultants in 12 countries to produce highly structured reports
that conform to a single world-wide standard.
Word Smarter, Not Harder!
Want to take a quick test to see if youíve grasped the essential point of
this article? OK, here goes:
Which of the following persons qualifies as a Power User of Word?
A. A person who has explored the 100+ toolbars hidden under Wordís ďhoodĒ
B. A person who has recorded some macros for personal use
C. A person who uses a Word addin or a custom template that improves their
efficiency and boosts the quality of their work
D. A person who has implemented complex page-numbering schemes (with or
without resorting to the Help menu)
E. All of the above.
The answer, as you might have guessed, is E. But if youíre truly interested
in working smarter instead of harder, the best answer might be C, because
Word addins and custom templates can boost your quality and productivity
by simplifying your work and eliminating training requirements.
For More Information:
Microsoft offers a number of addins and custom templates at the following
Third-party addins and custom templates listed at Microsoft Office Marketplace
can be found here:
Some free addins are listed at my own website here:
And you can find many free utility templates through MouseTrax.com here: