Sometimes Smaller Is Better
A reader who writes stories called to say his version of Microsoft Word had gone bad and asked if there is a simpler and cheaper word processing program available. Yes, there is – WordPad comes with all versions of Windows and can be accessed by clicking
The program opens with a blank sheet that closely resembles a new MSWord page, complete with a toolbar and horizontal ruler.
However, the toolbar displays less than a third of the icons seen in MSWord's toolbar. For those who don't do a lot of fancy formatting this can be a definite advantage. Why? Well, MSWord (along with the other major text processors) have become so huge and complex that most folks use less than 10% of the available features.
However, for routine paragraph formatting WordPad does what most of us need to have done. Furthermore, files can be saved as .doc (MSWord), .rtf (rich text format), or .txt (plain text) documents, meaning they can be made compatible with all word processing programs.
The main downside to WordPad is that it contains no spellchecker. However, numerous free spellcheckers can be found online. Type "free spellchecker" into any search engine and choose the one that works best for you.
A handy feature in both MSWord and WordPad is the ability to drag selected text onto your Desktop, where it will be identified as a "Scrap Document" and named after the file from which it was dragged. The dragged text is "copied" from its parent file, leaving the original in place. Scraps are great for saving bits of data that can be used for future reference, such as a name or a phone number.Inserting a Picture into a WordPad Document
Pictures can be placed in a WordPad document by right-clicking the image's file name, choosing Copy, right-clicking an insertion point in the document, and choosing Paste Special to insert a "Bitmap Image."
Another feature shared by MSWord and WordPad is the ability to "Find" a word or phrase by pressing Ctrl+F and typing in the target text. Pressing Ctrl+H will bring up a "Find & Replace" box, which lets you replace one phrase with another. For instance, if Sally Jones marries Tom Smith, all references to "Miss Jones" could be instantly changed to "Mrs. Smith."
Another user-friendly word processor is Google's online Docs (previously called Writely) and it does have a spellchecker. Furthermore, Docs can be set to work in different languages, complete with spellchecking for the language of your choice. Go to docs.google.com to set up your free account.
The main advantage of Docs is that a document can be worked on by multiple participants, since all can access the file online. A potential downside, however – if your Internet connection fails, you have no access to the program. Nonetheless, files created online can be saved to your hard drive.
Furthermore, along with saving documents as DOC or RTF files, Google can save them as PDF files, meaning they can be opened by Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is a free download from www.adobe.com.
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