By Michael Utvich
WHEN WORD PROCESSING PROGRAMS first hit the market, about all they could do was, well, process words. But man does not live by text alone. Windows 95-compatible word processors offer a variety of specialized power features--"programs within programs"--that let individuals and organizations transform plain-vanilla documents into eye-catching masterworks. You can even use your favorite word processor to post your brainstorm on the Internet. The bottom line: more creative and effective communication.
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40.2KB bitmap image of artwork
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From Clip Art to Text
Pictures worth a thousand words
Microsoft Word for Windows 95 has a treasure trove of hidden programs that will make your documents sparkle. The WordArt applet, for instance, lets you add the kind of slick, sophisticated effects you'd normally associate with high-end graphics programs. You can create designer headlines and custom graphic effects by altering the shapes of letters, entire words or even phrases.
WordArt is easy to access and use. Select Object from Word's Insert menu and choose Microsoft WordArt 2.0 from the drop-down list in the resulting dialog box. Your screen transforms into a WordArt editing screen. Enter or copy the text you want to customize into the Enter Your Text Here dialog box. When you click on the drop-down list marked Plain Text in the upper left-hand corner, a palette of shapes appears. Select the shape you want-curves, angles, whatever-and that effect will be applied to your type. You can also rotate the text and add 3-D effects by choosing those options from the Format menu or clicking on their corresponding toolbar buttons.
If you need to edit your text, just click on the object and the Enter Your Text Here dialog box reappears. Make your changes, then click on the object again.
If you're in an artistic mood, Word for Windows 95 can make your documents the picture of loveliness. Click on the Drawing icon (it's on the top row of the toolbar, two buttons to the right of the Excel icon), and a special toolbar appears on your screen. This built-in object-oriented package lets you draw a variety of lines and geometric forms; you can also assign object fill colors and patterns, set line thicknesses, control stacking of objects in front and back, and group and align objects on a page.
Choose the Text Box icon to create and place text anywhere in the document. The Callout feature automatically draws indicator lines to a text box, which lets you create special labels and enhancements for photographic images or screen captures.
It's easy to import these art files into your document. Choose Insert/Picture to peruse a library of generic clip-art images in the Clipart folder, which lies within your MSOffice folder. They're stored in both bitmap (.BMP) and vector (.WMF, for Windows Metafile) files. You can also store your own custom clip-art images in the folder.
Want to beef up your documents with charts or graphs? Microsoft Graph, another Word 95 applet, is as quick and easy to use as WordArt. You'll find it by choosing Insert/Object/Microsoft Graph 5.0. The applet will automatically display a sample graph and an entry grid where you can directly enter or paste data.
When the graph object is active, Word's menus automatically shift to display relevant chart or data editing options, allowing you to select chart types, enter and edit data, and format the result to your liking.
Here's how to get your document on the Internet without getting tangled in the Web. Microsoft's Internet Assistant tool package (see review in this issue) is a free add-in (shipping is $5 extra) that you can order from Microsoft on a single 3.5-inch diskette.
Internet Assistant comprises a quartet of tools for Microsoft apps. The Word 95 tool creates an HTML editing subsystem-complete with an option to activate your browser-on the File menu. It lets you convert Word documents to HTML and edit them in that format, and allows Word to read HTML files. You can also use some of the fancier HTML capabilities such as tables and in-line videos. IA includes authoring templates so even cyberspace novices can develop professional-looking Web pages.
Lotus Word Pro 96 also provides features that speed the authoring of interactive documents in the HTML format and allow users to save those documents to the Net.
Word Pro's Internet feature group, available from the File menu, treats Internet files much like files on your local system. An access dialog box lets you specify the types of files you want to edit and provides features to link directly to your Internet service provider's online dial-up features. Once online, you can search, open files directly and save them back to the Internet site just as fluidly as if you were working on your in-house computer network.
Lotus is evolving Word Pro's capabilities toward a "team editing" concept that expands traditional assumptions about the nature of databases and how they support enhanced productivity. This concept allows you to maintain a database of network addresses and use your computer network to directly distribute document drafts to a customizable list of individuals. These documents arrive on people's desktops just as easily and quickly as e-mail.
There's much more to team editing than simple distribution, however. Control features within dialog boxes let you assign-or deny-editorial rights to selected individuals. You can give some people markup or full editing rights and restrict others to read-only access.
Once the document has been distributed to the desktop and edited by the individuals you've selected, Word Pro 96 returns their comments to the original author, both in freestanding, edited files and a consolidated document that displays each editor's comments in a different color. The author may then select individual edits in the consolidated master document, or perform other automated editorial operations such as accepting or denying edits made by specific editors.
The Internet publishing features in WordPerfect for Windows 95 (part of the Corel WordPerfect Suite) let you create HTML documents without having to learn the format's complicated control codes. A fully WYSIWYG display shows you how your documents will look before you post them.
WordPerfect offers its own custom text subsystem, called TextArt. You can copy and paste text directly from your document into a text-entry area, and select custom font effects and shapes to create snazzy headlines, logos or other type. You can also use this feature to rotate and position body copy or other garden-variety text. TextArt, which you can access from WordPerfect's Graphics menu, also provides sophisticated preview screens.
WordPerfect Draw, another integrated subsystem, lets you create and edit artwork directly within the word processor. Draw features a sizable clip-art library, but you may find this feature even more useful as an editing tool to enhance your own custom artwork.
You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy software packages that promise to work wonders with your documents. The answer to becoming a great communicator may lie within the pull-down menus of your old-reliable word processor.
Michael Utvich is a high-technology consultant, and author and co-author of six books, including Guerrilla Guide to High Tech Trade Shows (Random House, 1996). Click Here to find the e-mail IDs for our editors, who can put you in touch with this author.