Word Processing

December 15, 2004

altair8800.gif MITS Altair 8800 Personal Computer. No Display?

Do you remember using a typewriter and having to cross out your xxxxxx mistakes? Lexitron, Wang and Vydek created dedicated word processors in 1972 where you could correct, insert, cut and paste before you printed anything. And change fonts and underline and bold and create italics on the fly. What an improvement! And now we take it for granted. The first wordprocessor software for a computer was the Electric Pencil in 1976 followed in 1979 by the very popular Wordstar which was originally written for the CP/M operating system and was ported to the PC in April 1982. (Go to http://www.vintage-computer.com/ to see a history of early computers). One of the first things we do with our computers if only to write email is use a wordprocessor. So let’s look at a few of today’s word processors and see what we can do with them.

Notepad. It can’t get much more basic. Notepad produces text in ASCII format (TXT). You can use bold, italics and bold italics and change fonts but that’s about it. But is has one very useful feature: logging the time and date that you start a file.

Open Notepad and type .LOG and then save the file. When you save it, name it in accordance with its purpose. You might need to document the occurrence of medical symptoms, hardware failures, a series of events, or when you found something on the Internet. When you open the file it will include the date and time each time it was opened. If you are using it to take Internet notes it can stay open and reside in your system tray when you revert to your active program waiting to be opened whenever you need it.

Wordpad. Wordpad is Notepad with a bit more muscle. It can save files in RTF and DOC formats as well as TXT. And you can include a lot more formatting features than you can in Notepad. It’s a very simple basic wordprocessor. We’ll open Pastfinders’ Home Page in it; it’s the program that I use to create it.

Microsoft Word. Several word processing programs preceded Word but Word became dominant because of the leverage of Windows. Most programs today can open and save other programs’ formats.

Rather than try to cover Word from the beginning, we’ll look at some of the lesser known aspects of word that will allow you to do more and do it more easily. For more basic information go to:


Selecting Text

Word and WordPerfect

You can select text by swiping across what you want to highlight with the mouse. With today’s faster processors it’s sometimes hard to stop at the right spot. Here are a few Windows techniques that should apply to any program that runs under windows.

Any Text. Place the cursor where you want to start selecting text and then press F8. Move to the right with the right arrow key or up, down or left with the others stopping where you want the selection to end. Or move the cursor to the left margin before the text that you want to select. Hold the left button down and drag the arrow up or down until the text you want to select is highlighted. Text is selected a sentence at a time. I Word you can move the cursor to where you want the election to end and Click.

Select a Word. Double click the word.

Sentence. Triple click somewhere in the sentence. Or move the cursor to the left margin before any part of the sentence until the cursor becomes an arrow. Click. Note: in Word this selects a line, not a sentence.

Paragraph. Move the cursor to the margin to the left of the desired paragraph and double click.

Graphic. Click on graphic to select.

Selected Item Options

Word and WordPerfect

There are several things that you can do with selected items; copy, move, cut, delete, create bookmark or reformat. Here’s how.

Move , cut and copy. You can click on the selected item and hold the left mouse button down and drag the item to a new position. But if you want to leave the original and just drag a copy to a new location, hold the CTRL key down when you drag it.

You can also accomplish a move by using EDIT/CUT or CTRL-X and moving the cursor to the new location and doing EDIT/PASTE or CTRL-V. CTRL-X removes the item and places it on the clipboard so it can be pasted wherever you want it. You can accomplish a copy in a similar manner; EDIT/COPY or CTRL-C and then pasting it as above. The difference is that COPY leaves the original; CUT removes it. Both place the item on the clipboard.

Delete. Press DELETE.

Bookmark. Go to INSERT/BOOKMARK, provide a name and you will be able to instantly get back to that spot from anywhere in the document by going to GOTO (name).

Reformat. You can change the font size or type, bolding, italics or undelining and it will apply only to the selected item.

If you right click on the selected items you will be given a menu that goes beyond what we’ve covered here. If you get in the habit of using CTRL-X or C or V you will save time over using EDIT/CUT etc. Save the right click for special functions such as copying without formatting.


If you are creating a rather large document, you can add bookmarks to aid you in navigating. We just covered how. You can do it as you create a document perhaps bookmarking each section. If you have an existing document that you want to edit you can add bookmarks as necessary to aid in navigation.


When you are creating a document, you may find it useful to prepare an outline that you can use as guidance. In Word you can go to VIEW/OUTLINE and create an outline for your project. The headings and subheadings become part of your document. After creating the outline you can revert to NORMAL and enter additional text. If you click the DOCUMENT MAP Icon you will see a pane open up on the left that has all of the outline headings that you created and you can click any heading and be taken to that location in the document.

You can also outline an existing document

Show All

In the Word Toolbar there is a paragraph symbol ( ¶ ). If you click on that, you can see where every paragraph ends and where spaces are. In later versions it also shows TABS. Wordperfect has a VIEW CODES view that shows all formatting codes; Word shows some of them.

Spelling and Grammar Correction

You can check spelling and grammar as you type or you can do the whole document at one time when you are done. You can also employ AUTOCORRECT to automatically correct common errors.

Spell and Grammar Checking. Click on TOOLS/OPTIONS and you can select how you want spell and grammar to operate; as you type or when asked for.

Autocorrect. Go to TOOLS/AUTOCORRECT to see a checklist of items you can correct for on the fly. Select what you want.


Macros are small programs that you can create that will perform a certail function when you run them. If there’s something that you have to do over and over again you can creat a macro to do it for you. Open a new page in Word, set the font to Tahoma 36 pt red and then click on TOOLS/MACRO/RECORD NEW MACRO. In the form that opens under MACRO NAME enter Holidays and press the keyboard to create a keyboard macro. Under Press new shortcut key, enter ALT-D. Anything you do now will be recorded as part of your macro. Enter Happy Holidays which should appear as large Tahoma text. Press ENTER after Holidays and then click on the square under Stop Recording.

Open a new page and press ALT-D. Do it again and again. Now anytime you press ALT-D you will create that message. You can make a name and address macro or for anything that you need to enter often.


The default items such as font, margins other formatting are stored in a template. The default template is Normal.dot but there are others and you can create your own. You can also modify any template to meet your needs. Open the template that you want to change, change what you want to and click on Default at the bottom and YES when asked if that’s what you want to do. Save the template and when you next use it it will be formatted your way.



Perhaps the most common application of a merge is the Mail Merge where you can merge an envelope or address label with an address list. Here’s how to do a simple mail merge.

Click on TOOLS and select ENVELOPES and LABELS. Choose the size envelope that you want to use. Insert a return address and create a name for the document and save it. Then go to TOOLS and click on MAIL MERGE and under DATA SOURCE click on GET DATA and then CREATE DATA SOURCE. I remove all entrees except First Name, Address1 and City rather than bother with first, last etc. Save the DATA SOURCE and then click on EDIT to edit the data source. It will ask for a first name, address1 and city. Type the full name under FIRST NAME. (Bill Gates will never know). Type the full address under ADDRESS1 and the City, State and ZIP under CITY. And then click on ADD NEW to add another name to your address list. When done, save it. Then click on TOOLS/MAIL MERGE and click under MAIN DOCUMENT either SETUP or EDIT. Move the cursor below the return address and click on INSERT MERGE FIELD. Select FIRST NAME and then press enter. Select ADDRESS1 next and so forth. Click on TOOLS/MAIL MERGE and the on MERGE and you will have created envelopes with all of the names you entered.


WordPerfect is the program that I use all of the time and the program that created this document. It started out in th early 80s created by the WordPerfect Corporation. It was sold to Novell, then to Broderbund and finally to Corel in Canada. Novell’s suit against Microsoft for restraint of trade is still pending.

While it seems more intuitive to me it may be because I’ve used it for 20 years. One feature that it has that is absent in all other programs is Reveal Codes which lets you see all of the formatting codes that get inserted into your text. It’s most useful when you insert text from another source and it appears to have weird formatting. However, later versions of Word show more formatting than Word 97 did.

It also includes typesetting functions that allow you to move text up, down, left or right by thousands of an inch at a time. Another feature is MAKE IT FIT where it will take 4 pages and shrink them to 3, especially useful if you’ve just slopped over onto a new page.

Here are a few typesetting features:

Advance up .05 inchesdown .1 inches.and back to normal. Also letter spacing.Tighter and tighter. And Word Spacing.


Email uses a form of word processing or you can create a letter in your wordprocessor and send it as email. In WordPerfect go to FILE/SEND TO and select EMAIL RECIPIENT. Word 97 has only FAX RECIPIENT but later versions must include Email recipient. Check to see.