We all have to use it. We all watch the cursor blink, and we all try to remove a blank space between lines, and we all try to make a list, and we try to put the cursor somewhere on the page to do something other than type exactly where it already is, and we all feel our blood pressure rise, and we all fantasize about our computers flying out the window.
It’s a reality. And it’s not going away any time soon.
But did you know that the program is actually… dare I say it? Kind of cool?
Microsoft Word is actually kind of cool.
There, I said it.
I use the daggone program every day at work, and I finally had had enough of faking my way through proper page layout and moving the ruler and placing it just so in order to stop the random page from appearing in the middle of my document. I’d finally had it with manually updating the font size in various places in my document, only to see that somehow, a whole paragraph had italicized itself and moved the margin way too far to the right, looking like it was trying to run off the page.
Anywho, I broke down and watched a few videos on PluralSight, a learning platform sponsored by my employer. There, I found Heather Ackmann, a glorious human and excellent teacher who I’ve also included in my post about people who can teach your parents how to use their electronics. Watching that video, I was literally enthralled. “Husband,” I said to my husband, “Watch what this lady is telling me I can do with Microsoft Word.” He watched. “Wow,” he said. And here’s why:
You can change the color of the entire Microsoft Word page.
If you’d like to jazz up your document without adding, y’know too too too much jazz, try changing the page color. It’s a great way to easily improve the cover page of a report, or to make your resume stand out from the pile.
And, changing the background color is really easy. Microsoft Word uses tabs to organize its many functions. They’re the labels at the top of the window, including Home, Insert, Draw, and more. To change the background color of a page, look in the Design tab, then over on the right, look for the Page Color option.
From there, you can pick a color from the automatic color picker, or you can select More Colors… at the bottom of the Page Color option and choose from all over the spectrum. Mac tip: If you want to use a standard brand color, or somehow know the hex code for some other magical reason, you can input the hex code on the RGB sliders within the color picker.
Then, you pick your snazzy color, and it paints the whole background for you! Just remember our dear ol’ environment if you’re asking people to print your document, as ink can be toxic. Also, please think of people’s wallets and sanity (including your own), because this would take a lot of ink to actually print, and I’ve never met anyone who’s excited about replacing an ink cartridge.
If you want some ideas for awesome colors, check out this post!
You can insert a 3D model into your Microsoft Word document.
If you work in an architecture firm, work in the gaming field, or dally in another field that relies heavily on visualization, you might find Word’s 3D model feature pretty useful. I personally have no use for it, but I’m going to try to find one because I think it’s neat.
You can use the 3D model function in a two ways: you can insert your own 3D models in select file formats, or use the surprisingly robust Office models. To access them, under the Insert tab, select 3D Models in the Illustrations group.
And maybe you pick the Stock 3D Models, and maybe you pick the little wizard man from the Animated Models.
Well, whatever you choose, from there, you have a bunch of options to edit your fun 3D model. Or, if you selected an animated model such as little wizard man above, you can watch it do its thing over and over again and call it a day.
Once you insert your 3D model, new 3D Model menu tab will appear on the top. You can then choose different angles to display your 3D model. One way to choose what to display is to select from the already created views under the 3D Model menu tab that appears. The defaults are front, sides, back, top, and bottom.
Or, you can move the 3D model on your own to get exactly the angle you’re looking for. To move it on your own, select the button in the middle of the figure, and keep your finger clicked on the mouse as you move it around.
Now that you know how to move the model around, you can also zoom in on certain parts of it, for example, if you want to zoom in on the astronaut’s helmet to discuss a feature of it. On the right side of the 3D Model menu, look for Pan & Zoom. Turn on that tool, and a zoom and crop function appears that you can use as you move the model around.
You can take a screenshot from within your Word document.
Screenshots are an incredibly useful tool, even if you use them exclusively to tell IT that your shit isn’t working. But did you know you don’t have to leave Microsoft Word to take a screenshot to include in your document? Within the PC version, it’ll provide quick snapshots of other windows you have open, or you can use the screen clipping tool to get a picture of the last screen you viewed.
To use this feature, go to the Insert tab and find the Screenshot button in the Illustrations group. From there, you’ll have two options: Available Windows and Screen Clipping.
Available Windows will insert a not-minimized window from another program in its current state, while Screen Clipping will jump to the last window and tab you had open. From there, you can clip a section from the screen to include in your document. Please note that the Mac version of this functionality is a bit limited, because mac and PC still haven’t figured out how to get along.
You can add alt text to your images for people with visual impairments.
Alternative text, or “alt text” describes the content of images, graphs and charts. It’s useful for people with visual impairments, and can also be used to enhance the user experience by describing what your reader is seeing.
To add alt text to a picture, shape, chart, 3D model clipping, or SmartArt graphic (basically anything that’s in an image format), right-click the object and choose Edit Alt Text. Decide how to describe your item, such as, “many many bananas.”
You can create a flow chart or mind map right inside your Microsoft Word document.
SmartArt is MS Word’s cheesy-’90s-computernerd way of referring to various types of flowcharts and relationship visualization tools. And it’s super useful if you have a little patience and an idea of the relationships you want to convey. To access it, check out the Insert tab (which is proving to be pretty robust imho), and look for the SmartArt button in the Illustrations group.
As you can see, there are several categories of graphics, including matrix, process, cycle, and list. Select one, then you can customize these according to the information you’re trying to convey. What’s great about this too, is that SmartArt opens a separate SmartArt Text panel, which allows you to place the info in a simple list format, then it populates it for you.
Another great feature is, if you change your mind a bajillion times about what shapes you want, SmartArt will hang onto your text for you while you decide which visual to apply.
Edit pictures in Microsoft Word, including removing the background.
Microsoft Word’s picture editing capabilities are significantly better than you think. While they’re no Photoshop, you can still perform basic editing tasks and add effects.
One unexpected capability is the Remove Background function that you can use on an inserted image. While it’s not exactly a bastion of perfection, it can get the basic job done if you have a simple subject in your picture with uncomplicated lines.
To access this tool, double click on your image to make the Picture Format tab appear. On that newly appeared menu, you’ll see Remove Background. Click it!
Microsoft Word will do its best to find the background, but usually it’s off. But fear not! Another little special menu will appear, allowing you to guide the background selection where you want it.
You can use Mark Areas to Keep and Mark Areas to Remove to select what should be selected.
Granted, if the image you have is complex, this feature ain’t gonna do the job. Unless you’re an avant guard office artist. I suppose it could be useful if you have a need to make an intentionally bad image, which can truly be an art of its own. You do you.
This feature of a picture editor has always been a favorite. If you want to take a normal photo of, say, a flower, and make it look like an artsy/funky version of that flower, you can use the artistic effects presets to add graininess, pixelate the photo, or many other options.
To access this tool, double click on your picture to make the Picture Format menu appear. Look for Artistic Effects in the menu, and pick your favorite from fun classics like variations of grainy, chalky, and pixelated.
Of course, you can work with each of the effect types and manipulate it how you want with Artistic Effects Options. You can also give the image a frame and make it appear raised.
Change Color Options
If you want to make your image more or less saturated, change the tone, or change the color of the image entirely, you can use Word’s pre-sets or choose a transparency percentage from the color menu.
You can also adjust the transparency and several other color settings, or combine many of these effects together for a truly funky result.
I added quotation marks to the word “corrections” because the capabilities are really just more editing options. They’re not really correcting anything per se, because that implies that something was objectively wrong with it. But, Microsoft views them as functions that correct your work, soooo I won’t belabor that semantic point. Microsoft is more powerful than me, and they can use words incorrectly I guess, just like Google can pretend “setup” is a verb (not “set up”) and I swear I’m dropping it now. Moving on.
To use this feature, double click on your image and look for the Picture Format menu to appear. Then, click on Corrections, where you’ll see Sharpen/Soften presets and Brightness/Contrast presets.
I think there’s nothing wrong with my little stock photo bee so I left it just like it was. No corrections needed.
Change cells in tables to make them look cool.
If you too are tired of the same old black and white tables that have looked the same since Microsoft happened, distress no more. You can change some of the effects of tables, including padding within the cells.
Click anywhere inside your table, and you’ll notice two new tabs appear, Table Design and Layout. In the Layout tab, in the Alignment section, click on Cell Margins. From there, you can select the radio check button next to “Allow spacing between cells” adjust the Cell Spacing, even making them tables look like buttons.
Update the number to put space between the cells, like so:
Look, work sucks sometimes, and using boring software doesn’t help. But life is what you make of it, etc. etc., and if you have to be doing the work, you might as well use this surprisingly robust software to the max.
So, add those images, zoom in on that 3D model, and make sure visually impaired people can understand images you place in your docs.