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Introduction and Overview
Word processing is probably the most common among the "productivity" software applications in use. The computer was certainly adopted quickly as a replacement for the typewriter when users had increased access to computers and discovered its advantages in document creation, editing, formatting and saving — that is, its word processing capabilities. This is especially true when it comes to making changes to previously created documents. No longer is it necessary to re-type entire pages and/or documents in order to add, delete and make corrections, among other things. It has become as simple as retrieving the originally typed document from the computer (or storage device), making the necessary changes and either printing it with the "push of a button" (or few keystrokes) or putting the new version back into a file on the computer or on a storage device. In fact, there should be less chance of errors and typos because of such features as spelling and grammar checking options.
Possibly the greatest advantage in word processing is the "word wrap" feature which eliminates the need for time consuming "carriage returns," therefore also decreasing the expenditure of energy in the typing process. In order to do "word processing," one needs a computer and a program called a "word processor" (http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/W/word_processing.html Retrieved Oct 2, 2006).
Computers are generally sold with factory installed word processing software, but often this software is not the product or version desired by the customer. For example, the functionality of the software (e.g., Notepad) is more limited compared to the likes of Microsoft Word. As a result, purchasers tend to purchase, install and upgrade to a more common and familiar word processor.
In the early 1980s, word processing software such as DW3 (DisplayWriter) was command based and, as a result, more dependent upon "function" keys for implementing commands. Since the 1990s, users are not required to remember specific functions because the programs tend to be more 'user friendly' in terms of providing icons and drop-down menu options for the user's convenience. Although it may take one some time to find the appropriate command, a user can search and/or browse even request "help" from the program itself -- to find what they wish to accomplish in their document.
Perhaps the most common and familiar to computer users are such word processing software as Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. In fact, word processing has advanced to the point of being within a "suite" of productivity software applications and, as a result, can utilize the interconnectivity of the programs in this "suite" to produce advanced word document presentations with such features as 'linked' tables, maps and websites.
For more technical documents, there's an option to utilize a feature called "Cite While You Write" which inserts commands into the menu (i.e., 'Tools') of the word processing program (e.g., Microsoft Word) to give the user direct access to references and enables the bibliographic software (e.g., EndNote or ProCite) to conduct bibliographic formatting during the writing stage in the open document (Thomson ISI ResearchSoft, 2003, "EndNote 7 ... Bibliographies & More Made Easy," p. 38; ISI ResearchSoft, 2000, "ProCite," pp. 63-64).
Today, rather than purchasing word processing software, there is the option to use Free Software (e.g., AbiWord). Many word processors can open and save Microsoft Word Document files [and] .... suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks [and] ... available for a number of languages and operating systems" (http://www.abisource.com/ Retrieved Oct 3, 2006).. Another option is to make use of web based word processors (e.g., Writely). One can "share documents instantly & collaborate [in] real-time ... edit your documents from anywhere ... store your documents securely online ... [and is] easy to use ... [because it provides] a familiar, desktop feel" (https://www.google.com/accounts/ServiceLogin?service=writely&passive=true&continue=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.writely.com%2F<mpl=homepage&nui=0 Retrieved Oct 2, 2006).
While there are many word processors available, each and everyone has the ability to perform the basics. That is, word processors enable the user to create or type a document, edit (make additions and corrections, as well as check spelling and grammar, move, copy and paste text), format (e.g., change spacing and capitalization, bold, italicize and underline text), print and save (http://www.compusmart.ab.ca/alummis/beginnerword/index.htm Retrieved Oct 2, 2006). Word processors can be quite complicated and provide the user with very advanced functions (as noted above), but the following discussions will begin by focusing on the basics for the benefit of all users.
Since 2007 Windows Vista has speech recognition included with Microsoft Word. The Speech Recognition allows you to issue commands to your computer with your voice. You can launch programs, switch between open programs, close a window, etc with a microphone connected to the computer. With Microsoft Word, you can dictate text, edit and format the text. Once it is set up, there a many possibilities for commands you can use like waking a “sleeping” system, selecting or correcting words in a document or even requesting for a list of possible commands to use.
You do need to train the Speech Recognition feature to learn your voice accurately through an interactive tutorial before you begin using it, it is highly suggested to use a good quality microphone so the computer can hear you better which will reduce errors. The dictation mode allows you to easily speak what’s on your mind and have Microsoft Word do all the work for you, dramatically reducing the use of your keyboard and mouse, it will also allow you to navigate between screens and applications with ease. The Speech Recognition feature is not very useful though for those who often work with text that is not grammatical, such as computer programmers, accountants, and computer administrators.(http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb530325.aspx)
Microsoft Word 2007 attempts to change the de facto word (and office) document file format, but the Open Document is used across more word processors and is gaining in popularity faster.
Microsoft's newest update to the application is Word 2010 which was released in June of 2010. The application included a release of a free online version that works on an applet on most browsers that could be accessed through Microsoft’s online email client, Live or Hotmail. The new version also replaced what once was Microsoft Works with Office Starter 2010 offering a more basic word processor in the suite which comes pre-installed on most computers.The new version of Word most noticeable change could have been the look of the "Orb" which was the icon for the File option which is now a tab icon with the word File on it. Along with these changes and other the application does offer more features for common to power users. (Wikipedia Office 2010)
When you enter text onto a new Word document by a use of a keyboard, you are not only inputting data into the computer but you are also forcing the computer to begin working in a new document (William.B & Sawyer.S, 2007. Using Information Technology. The McGraw-Hill Publishing Inc: New York). Three functions of word processing assist you with the process of what is called creating or starting a new document.
The most integral function is the cursor. This small arrow or vertical line that appears on the screen allows you to see where you are located in the document. It allows you to navigate through the document so that you do not loose your place.
On the left or right side of your document you will also find a scrolling device that allows you to quickly move back and forth through the document from beginning to end. This device allows you to preview the beginning and end of the document while saving a vast amount of time (William.B & Sawyer.S, 2007. Using Information Technology. The McGraw-Hill Publishing Inc: New York).
When it comes to creating a document the easiest package that comes to mind is Microsoft Word. With Microsoft Word you are able to create, edit, spell check, print, and save professional looking documents, calendars, brochures, etc. In addition to creating, editing, spell checking, printing, and saving professional looking documents you can import other applications into Microsoft Word including spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and database directly into Microsoft Word maximizing all the specifications of other applications. There are similar packages out there that will do basically the same as Microsoft Word. They include Word Perfect, Open Office, and Lotus to name a few.
Editing is the process of making changes or modifications to an existing document. In word processors there are many features that can assist you with editing your document. Word processing allows people to spend less time with editing and formatting which in turn allows them to put more time into the piece they are writing (http://office.microsoft.com/en-ca/word/HA101650321033.aspx, Retrieved December 5, 2006). Information technology has greatly improved the process of human editing but also has allowed us to become “editing inept” as we the computer just does it for us with the touch of a button. Essentially an English professor may say we have become lazy in our approach to English.
Part of the reason we have become lazy is due to the fact that word processing has made it so easy for us to edit. Instead of whiteout or erasing if we make a mistake we can use the insert & delete button. If we feel we want to make additions to the document we can use the insert button and start typing wherever we place the cursor. All other text will shift (William.B & Sawyer.S, 2007. Using Information Technology. The McGraw-Hill Publishing Inc: New York). You can also replace text in a document. For example, if you have typed one word throughout the whole document but realize you made a mistake you can find all instances of the words and then replace them with the word you meant. This feature saves the average writer an enormous amount of time. Making a mistake used to be a great annoyance in those handwriting days because it meant using an eraser, whiteout or even starting over. However, now with the Undo command you can undo the last mistake you made just by using a touch of a button or simple command — Control Z on the keyboard. (William.B & Sawyer.S, 2007. Using Information Technology. The McGraw-Hill Publishing Inc: New York).
Editing a word processor document also allows you to cut and paste which used to be accomplished with scissors and glue. However, you can do this on the computer now with a touch of a button. Word processing allows you to copy a word, paragraph or picture and paste to another location or another file.
If you are having trouble thinking of a synonym all you have to do is use the built in thesaurus which is part of most word processors today.
The last two elements of word processing that we have become to increasingly rely on in our daily careers, schooling and writing is spelling and grammar check. The computer will scan your document and pick up any miss-spelled word or grammar issues you may have in your writing. This technique is and was one that you would spend hours and hours on in your English class learning however now the computer will automatically check and fix for you. Be careful with the spell check feature as if the word is spelled correctly but in the wrong context it will not pick it up. These features are good but still need the human eye to totally understand the language.
Two very useful tools in Microsoft Word are Templates and Wizards. There are numerous pre-made Templates you have access to in Microsoft Word; ranging from certain types of business and personal Templates. There is also an option to create your own personalized Template. The purpose of these Templates is to save you time when creating specific documents you may use with the same outlines just different body information. Template can contain formatting, styles, headers, footers, and graphics. The Wizard is a tool that can save a lot of time formatting, printing, and mail merging. In Microsoft Office 2010 both of these tools can be accessed through the File tab.
Morley, Deborah, and Charles S. Parker. Understanding Computers: Today and Tomorrow. Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.
The use of templates in word processing has become very popular. Templates are extremely helpful whether you are working in a Fortune 500 company or own your own small business. The templates that are available are wide spread and include fax cover sheets, resumes, calendars, business cards and memos to name just a few. I think that the resume templates are most helpful whether you are a recent college graduate or if you are returning to work. The templates give you many different options to choose from, but also give you the ability to customize them to make them your own.
(Understanding Computers Today and Tomorrow/13th Edition/Morley and Parker page 29)
Styles vs Direct Formatting
It is always a good idea, especially for longer documents of more than one page, to use the Header1, Header2, Header3 markup rather than using direct formatting. The advantage of building a document using styles is that when it comes to outputting to PDF, the word processor will build an outline view of the document and this will be handy in finding Chapters and Sections in a longer document.
Styles are beneficial also when you want to change the text properties of your headings. For example, if you have set your sub-sections to 14pt Arial and have a 20 page document. If you want to change the typeface to something else, using direct formatting it will be necessary to manually go thru the complete document changing the typeface to "Liberation Serif". Using the style for Heading1 you go into a dialog box and change the properties of Heading1 - font-size, font-weight, color, etc... This step alone will save a lot of time.