Volume 19, Number 8
December 2002

By Dora Pontow

With an increasing number of law firms adopting Microsoft Word, many longtime users of WordPerfect find themselves forced to learn the program. If you're one of these users, you'll soon discover that many familiar WordPerfect features-most notably the Reveal Codes function-are much less powerful or simply absent in Word. On the other hand, you will find numerous welcome additions in Word, such as AutoText, Document Map, and Office Clipboard.
Beneath this ad hoc list of competing features, however, lurk several fundamental differences between the two programs. As a trainer of Word users for several years, I have determined three major areas of concentration that experienced WordPerfect users should master to become more comfortable with Word: Formatting, Styles, and Automatic Numbering.

Formatting is the most basic of the three and could be termed the foundation of document creation: You must understand Formatting to work with Styles and Automatic Numbering. Formatting consists of more than just margins. If you don't also understand the full complement of Formatting functions-Views, Rulers, Indents and Tabs, Headers and Footers, Line and Page Breaks, Justification, and Margins and Spacing-you're using only part of the program.
The two basic elements accessible within the Format menu are Font and Paragraph. Font controls such elements as Typeface, Point Size, Italics, and Bold. Paragraph covers Line Spacing, Indents and Tabs, Justification, and other effects. The little symbol that appears at the end of the paragraph contains all the Formatting attributes for that paragraph.
Touching the Enter key in Format-ting does not simply add a blank line; rather, it ends the paragraph and creates a new one with the same Formatting attributes. It's simpler in the long run, for example, not to hit Enter twice to add extra space below a paragraph and instead Format the paragraph with the Spacing After feature. When working with longer documents such as legal agreements and pleadings, pagination is an important feature to control. Formatting a paragraph with the Spacing After feature allows you to control whether headings stay with the text paragraph below. I wouldn't want to visually check the pagination of each page in a long legal document.

Styles are among the best features in Word, but even longtime users often overlook them. There are different types of Styles, but the most commonly used is the Paragraph Style, a grouping of all the Formatting attributes assigned to a given paragraph. You don't do anything to get a Style; one is automatically assigned to each paragraph. The default Style is called Normal. (Be careful not to confuse the Normal Style with the Normal default Template or the Normal View.) The Normal Style commonly has default Formatting for attributes such as Font, Justification, and Line Spacing. Modifying the Style allows you to control these standard default attributes and to add others, such as Spacing After or Tab/Indent. Styles allow you to quickly copy the Format of one paragraph onto another, even across documents, and they provide a simple way to design headings and tables of contents.
Effective and efficient use of Styles contributes to timesaving editing capabilities. In fact, Styles so dominate the use of Word that documents can be a disaster if this feature is not used correctly. I've seen some pretty bad documents-so bad that it was necessary to remove all the special Styles, take the document back to the Normal default, and start from scratch.

Automatic Numbering
Word users consistently list Automatic Numbering as its most problematic feature, but you can avoid many problems by correctly using Formatting and Styles. Within WordPerfect you can have on-demand control over the method, type, and position of numbering. This is not true in Word, which requires you to customize the different offerings within Numbered and Outline Numbered lists.
In Word, the Format menu offers various bullet and number options that control number style, number position, text position, and the indent. Additionally, the Spacing After feature within Para-graph becomes critical to include a blank line after the numbered paragraph. Using the Enter key to create a blank line (actually a blank paragraph) is wasted effort when proper Formatting would produce the same effect.
Styles also control the text attributes and location in Automatic Numbering. These can be customized to create briefs, motions, or pleadings. Because every area of law uses documents with outline structures and numbered lists, an understanding of Automatic Num-bering can save time, money, and duplication of effort.
Because Word is the most common software for document creation in all fields of business, you can bet it isn't going away. Take the time to learn it properly. Strengthen your document skills by becoming fluent in both WordPerfect and Word.

Back to Top

< /