We are a country definitely immersed in the techno-gadget age. In fact, 2.4 million Canadian households have a computer, 11 million have at least one cordless phone; 800,000 carry a pager and 300,000 are on the Internet. We love our tools, but do we know how to use them?
In 1995, 88% of the Canadians who owned a personal computer, also owned a word processing program. Would I be wrong to assume that about 8% used no more than the bold, save and print functions of the program? Purchasing a word processing program and not using all the features is like buying a microwave oven just for bacon. (And we know people who have done that too, don't we?)
As writers, we generally have more important things on our minds than to try and learn a new feature. Our editors don't need graphics (generally), nor fancy fonts, drop caps, etc. They just want the text. But even that can seem overwhelming to the computer illiterate.
Therefore, I'd like to share with you a few features to help you get your text completed faster. And trust me, these are easy things to learn. In fact, you'll be pretty impressed with yourself when you're done!
In WordPefect for Windows there is a feature called "Quick Correct" (in Word it is Auto Correct) found under the Tool menu. Already programmed into the Quick Correct are certain words that the majority of us spell wrong and some symbols, etc. You can easily add your own words to be corrected. This is great if you are a poor speller, but better than that is the ability to limit writing out words. For example, you are writing a story about The Victoria Museum of Native Art. Your expert is Mr. William Ryser-Hearstberg. Wow, what a mouthful. So we make it easier.
By clicking on Tools and then Quick Correct, you can type WRH in the Replace box and Ryser-Hearstberg in the With box. Click Add once you've done this. Then do the same for the museum using something like VMN. Close the dialogue box and type WRH then hit the space bar. Instantly, the expert's name appears on your screen. Now there are other ways to get this same function, like assigning keys, but this is the easiest. Try it for any words you type repeatedly in your novel, article, thesis, etc. The acronyms can be deleted without affecting previously typed text when the document is completed.
If you're a novelist, you've probably worked with many manuscripts. How many times have you printed off several copies of a section of novel to take to a critique group and then gotten confused with comments from members? By printing your pages with the lines numbered down the left-hand side, your readers can direct your attention to the exact spot: line 14, page 25. Everyone in the group can find the place quickly.
To add the line number feature to your document, click on Format, Line, Numbering and then click in the box that says "Turn numbering on." It's that simple. The only other option in that dialogue box that you may wish to change is to click off the "number blank lines" feature. Word offers the same feature by clicking on File, Page Setup, Layout and then Line Numbers.
Both WordPerfect and Word offer styles and quick formatting, but are often too confusing for the busy writer. If you are going to spend any time learning anything, I think it should be the Master/Sub documents feature. What this means is that you have a main document with all your formatting codes, (i.e., line spacing, margins, font, page numbering, etc.) and then you have secondary documents which have no formatting. For a book author, you would do each chapter in a secondary file and use the master document to set it up as per the publishers guidelines. Not that this ever happens to any writer, but if the publisher rejects the manuscript, simply modify the master document for the new guidelines. Then call in the sub documents and viola, another novel ready to send out. The same thing goes for any other document that might need a different format.
To create a master document in WordPerfect, follow these steps:
Open a new blank document
Format as required (i.e., font style and size, headers or footers, page numbers, line spacing, margins, etc.)
Click on File, Document, sub document
A dialogue box comes up for you to click on the name of the sub document
Highlight it (change the directory, drive or whatever is necessary to locate the sub document)
Click on Include
On the screen you can't see anything, but if you turn on your "reveal codes" (Alt + F3) you will see the code "Subdoc"
Make sure your cursor is past this code and then insert a manual page break (Ctrl + Enter)
Add the next sub document in the same way and continue until all the chapters have been added.
Click on File, Document, Expand Master
A small dialogue box will pop up listing all your sub documents
Double-check to make sure all your files are there, then click on OK
Depending on the number of sub documents, it may take a moment to expand
When the document is expanded, scroll through it to make sure everything worked
Make changes as needed then print
Once you have printed your document, you can condense the master document
Click on File, Document, Condense Master
A dialogue box will prompt whether you want to save the changes you made
Again it may take a few moments for each sub document to be updated.
This feature is relatively easy and once you are familiar with it, you'll never do a large project without it. Practice using small documents with a paragraph in each one until you feel comfortable with the feature.
Can writing on a computer get any easier? You bet! Most wordprocessing programs come with a spelling and grammar checker, thesaurus, search and replace (great if you change your character's name), word count, and even a proof-read feature. And don't forget the perfect expert help in Word Perfect. Simply type in your question: How do I underline? and it will display the topics which answer that question.
As you can see all of these features are fairly easy to utilize. If you're not using them, why not? Oh, please don't tell me you only cook bacon in your microwave...geez, you should have stopped reading after the first sentence.

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