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Two New Take Control Ebooks Explain Microsoft Word 2004

by Matt Neuburg

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.


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).


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).


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:

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:

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.