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Two New Take Control Ebooks Explain Microsoft Word 2004

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Finally! The two latest volumes in the ever-growing library of Take Control electronic books are out. They are called "Take Control of What's New in Word 2004" and "Take Control of What's New in Word 2004: Advanced Editing & Formatting". These prosaic titles do not, I'm afraid, suggest the high drama and protracted struggle of their history. The books started life in late June, right after I reviewed Microsoft Word 2004 in TidBITS-734, and I've been working constantly on them ever since.

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I'm not the only one who's been working on them. The Take Control publication process, since it was unveiled just a year ago, has grown in refinement and sophistication under the guidance of publisher Adam Engst and editor in chief Tonya Engst. A book's development now casts a wider net, to bring you, the reader, the clearest, cleanest, and most accurate explanatory experience available anywhere at a mere $5 per volume (or $7.50 if you buy both together, which, honestly, we suspect many people will want to do, and which most readers so far have done).

Mission Impossible -- The two books were originally conceived as a single volume, whose mission was clear at the outset. Obviously this was not to be a book about Word 2004 as a whole; that would be an unspeakably immense undertaking. But Word 2004, looked at as a new version of a program that you may have been using for years, has plenty of new features, options, and behaviors; and that means a need for new answers, new tips, new bug warnings. So my job was to note and explain all that is new in Word 2004, from the installation process, to what happens when you paste, to the new change-tracking balloons. I warn you of what to expect, I explain how things work (or don't work), and I advise you of the best working methods so that you can get on with things, without the upgrade to Word 2004 causing too much of a hiccup in your life.

The first draft took about a month, and then soon found itself in the hands of editor Caroline Rose, who had also worked on Jeff Tolbert's GarageBand ebook and Adam's "Take Control of Buying a Mac." Caroline is a superb editor, for two special reasons quite apart from her perfectionism and her finely honed sense of language. First, her technical experience with documentation makes her expert at tackling problems of nomenclature. Microsoft Word has a massive interface, and we needed to refer to its parts in clear, consistent terms. Second, she was the perfect reader of the book, because she upgraded to Word 2004 the day she started editing it. Immediately we hit a snag: her menus didn't look at all like mine. When we figured out the solution, it went straight into the book. (That sort of thing happened a lot as we worked together.) In this case, it turned out that the hidden Word 5.1 menus had somehow become enabled on her machine, probably because she had at some point accidentally pressed Control-5 or Control-8. The solution is simple: just press one of those shortcuts again. And no, I have no idea why there are these keyboard shortcuts that can wreck your menus, and which you are all too likely to press by mistake (for example, you could easily type Control-8 while trying to type the Option-8 bullet character).

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Soon after, the book ran into trouble because it was too big. We want to keep the Take Control ebooks at a manageable size for readers. After a brainstorming session with Adam and Tonya, I volunteered to split the book into two. This surgery went much more smoothly and quickly than I had expected. The result was two volumes of about 75 pages each, with no mutual interdependency: each can be purchased and read on its own, and if you do go for the full experience and get both, there is a minimum of repeated material between the two volumes (though necessarily, in order to make each book stand on its own, there is some).

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The newly pluralized books then went for a week's scrutiny before a board including Adam and Tonya, the other Take Control authors, and some expert volunteer readers from the community at large. Armed with valuable suggestions and advice from this board, Caroline and I revised each volume once again and found we were ready to put the books before the All-Seeing Eyes of Tonya Engst. The books underwent a period of three-way editing (Tonya, Caroline, and me), with copies of both volumes flying back and forth across the country and up and down the west coast. This really gave us a chance to exercise those new change tracking balloons, in the course of which we naturally found several more last-minute Word 2004 bugs, which went straight into the books.

Finally the books started giving off that delicious smell of freshly baked bread which tells you that they are done. (I made up the part about the fresh bread; sorry about that.) Tonya migrated them out of Word into PDF form (not without a few interesting adventures that taught us even more than we ever wanted to know about Word!), and passed them on to Adam for insertion into the sales process.

All That's New Is Fit to Print -- Here's a handy list of what the books cover, the new features of Word 2004, and what they mean for your use of the program:

  • AutoCorrect: AutoCorrect and AutoFormat As You Type now cause a smart button to appear, allowing you to undo the effect of the change or to toggle off the correction or formatting feature.

  • Copy and paste: Pasting now causes a smart button to appear, allowing you to specify how the pasted material should be formatted. Also, new preferences give finer control over smart copy and paste and paragraph selection behavior.

  • Bullets and numbering: Creating a numbered list now causes a smart button to appear, allowing you to specify whether the numbering should continue from a previous list. Also, bulleting and numbering schemes can be codified and applied through a new kind of style, the list style.

  • Style details: The cascade of modal dialogs when you want to modify or create a style has been reduced. Also, there is a new way to learn that a paragraph has additional formatting beyond its style definition, and to select all paragraphs having a certain style.

  • Table styles: A new kind of style, the table style, extends the notion of table autoformatting so that you can now define and apply your own table formats.

  • Unicode: Word 2004 is Unicode-savvy. Any Unicode character can be entered, and cross-platform documents containing previously problematic characters may now be legible. On the other hand, existing Macintosh documents that use characters in older specialized fonts may have new problems.

  • Notebook Layout view: A new view, Notebook Layout, is intended for rapid outline-based note-taking and brainstorming, and permits audio recording.

  • AppleScript: Previously, Word was somewhat scriptable with AppleScript, but to script it fully you had to use Visual Basic (directly or within AppleScript). Now, the complete power of Visual Basic scripting is incorporated into AppleScript; you can use AppleScript natively to make Word do absolutely anything.

  • Scrapbook: Office-wide persistent storage of copied material, previously called the "Office Clipboard," has been tweaked.

  • Formatting Palette: The Formatting Palette now contains more sections, and which sections appear can now be customized. The Formatting Palette fades when not in use; this behavior can be customized as well.

  • Comments: A comment can be displayed in the document itself as a balloon in Page Layout view. The display of comments in the Reviewing Pane (formerly the Comments Pane) can no longer be filtered by author, but the display in the document itself can be. Commented text is marked by brackets rather than by highlighting.

  • Revisions: Revisions (changes performed with Track Changes turned on) are now displayed like comments: they can be displayed as balloons in Page Layout view and are listed in the Reviewing Pane (formerly the Comments Pane). Changes to formatting are now properly reported. The Reviewing toolbar has been heavily reworked, providing four modes for viewing revisions in different ways. You can strip author names when saving a document, for security.

  • Navigation Pane: The Document Map is now one of two modes of the Navigation Pane; the other mode displays thumbnail images of your document's pages.

  • Reference tools: The interfaces for the dictionary and thesaurus have been folded together, along with new online searches of Encarta and MSN.

  • Crash reporting: When Word crashes, it now puts up a dialog allowing you to send the crash report to a Microsoft server.

  • Compatibility Report: Word now alerts you to features of your document that might not work if the document is opened with other versions of Word.

  • Miscellaneous changes: The Project Gallery dialog has been heavily revised. The Print dialog now includes a live preview. Find File has been abandoned. Word can automatically check online for updates. A new toolbar uses Macintosh text-to-speech to read selected text aloud.

The Horizontal and the Vertical -- So how do the two volumes divide up this material? Think of them as the horizontal and the vertical approach to Word 2004, respectively.

The first volume is intended for the general reader who mostly wants to know what is new in Word 2004. It starts by discussing the installation process. This turns out to be fairly involved, not least because Word 2004 surprises you when you first start it up by dumping 80 MB of fonts into your user's Fonts folder. Having provided a strategy for dealing with all the fallout that can result from so many fonts being installed, the book proceeds to survey all of the new features in the areas I've just listed. But it doesn't do much more than survey them, except with regard to Notebooks, which are given a fairly full tutorial treatment. The reader of the first volume thus comes away with a clear strategy for installing Word and a knowledge of the entire range of what's new in Word 2004; but the details on the more involved features are postponed to the second volume.

The second volume goes into complete depth on those topics that, for reasons of space, had to be given curtailed treatment in the first volume. These topics, by coincidence, all have to do roughly with editing and formatting; it is this fact, along with the desire to give a sense of the second volume's greater depth and detail, that led to the label "Advanced Editing & Formatting." It consists of the following sections:

  • Typing and Editing: The AutoCorrect smart buttons, the Paste Options smart buttons, the Numbered List smart button, and a new way of reformatting lists

  • Working with Styles: The Style dialog, the new Styles section of the Formatting Palette, table styles, and list styles

  • Entering Special Characters: How to use the Mac OS X Character Palette, keyboard layouts, and autotext to enter Unicode characters that previous versions of Word could not cope with

  • Unicode Support in Detail: A down-and-dirty explanation of Word's Unicode behavior, along with a study of things that can go wrong with Unicode in Word 2004 (such as why you may see square boxes instead of the correct characters in your old document) and what you can do about it

  • Using Markup: The balloons, the reviewing toolbar, the reviewing pane, how to view markup, how to deal with markup, and security features. A must-read for all those who use Word to edit cooperatively

Conclusion -- Use of Microsoft Word, like it or not, is practically a necessity these days; and so is upgrading if you need any of the features in Word 2004. The purpose of these two volumes, "Take Control of What's New in Word 2004" and "Take Control of What's New in Word 2004: Advanced Editing & Formatting," is to make your upgrade process as smooth, secure, and smart as it can possibly be, thus ensuring that you make the most of your investment in Microsoft Office. We wracked our brains so that you don't have to! I hope you are helped by these books; you might actually, dare I say it, enjoy them. And remember, if you have suggestions, let us know and we'll keep them in mind for a future free update.

 

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