December 10, 2004
"Word Hacks": Tools for Taming Your Text
Sebastopol, CA--Few consumer software packages are as malleable as
Microsoft Word, observes author Andrew Savikas. It has to be malleable, he
points out, to meet the unique needs of millions of users around the
globe. Oddly enough, many people--perhaps most--spend months or even
years using Word "out of the box" without taking advantage of a single one
of its limitless customization tools.
"There's a palpable reluctance among long-time Word users to peek behind
the curtain," says Savikas in his new book, Word Hacks (O'Reilly, US
$24.95). "They may curse the wretched Bullets and Numbering buttons twenty
times a day or take two hours to manually change the font size of every
heading in a lengthy report, but they will not tear off the cover and
start tinkering. For too long, they've been seduced by Word's supposed
simplicity ('There must be a menu to fix this somewhere...')."
In Word Hacks, Savikas guides readers into the inner workings of Word.
For many users, this will be their first real understanding of Word's
power and their own power over Word. "They'll learn how to transform Word
into a customized editing tool," says Savikas. "I hesitate to use the
term 'customized' because I mean so much more than just moving toolbars
around or adding new menus, although the book does show you how to do both
of those things. By customized, I mean things like adding decision layers
to built-in commands, such as disabling the Bold command, but only within
headings. They'll learn how to teach Word about their unique needs."
Full of expert advice for customizing, programming, and automating Word,
the book shows readers how to:
Work smarter by modifying menus and toolbars, adding sorely needed features, and creating custom workspaces
Use advanced formatting tools such as tabs, field codes, and cropmarks to create everything from simple forms to professional documents
Improve editing efficiency by automating mundane editing cores and adding new, more robust tools
Build faster, friendlier, and more flexible macros that move beyond basic automation tasks
Create PDFs from Word files without purchasing the full version of Adobe Acrobat
Use XML to create, process, and edit Word documents
Control and program Word from Python, Perl, and Ruby, as well as from other Microsoft Office applications
Word Hacks offers much more than tips for streamlining and automating
frequent tasks. "With the rapid rise of blogs and RSS, people are thinking
a lot more about other ways to distribute text, besides just printed
form," notes Savikas. "With that comes the need for a better understanding
of building documents with structure, documents that can be re-used in
different formats without much fuss. This book includes tools for helping
readers do that.
"I'm sure Word will remain the standard word processor for many more
years," Savikas adds. "But at the same time, much of the content created
in Word will have a later life beyond just printed form. So finding ways
to better integrate Word into changing workflows will become very
important. The native XML support introduced in Word 2003 is a huge step
in the right direction, and opens up a lot of doors for repurposing
content from Word."
Many of the hacks in the book will work with Word 97, although the book
only explicitly covers Word 2000, 2002, and 2003. And, while many of the
hacks can be adapted for use on a Macintosh, Word Hacks only covers Word
Novices or seasoned pros, everyone who uses Word for more than simple
memos and letters will find something in Word Hacks to save them time.
ISBN: 0-596-00493-1, 372 pages, $24.95 US, $36.95 CA
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