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Ways Microsoft ought to improve MS Word

The primary Self-Publishingsoftware that self-published authors use to write and format their books is MS Word, a word processing program. While MS Word has improved over the years, unfortunately it still works like a glorified typewriter and so isn’t well-suited for book design.

MS Word isn’t going away, though there are better programs out there for both writing and designing books. This largely is because of three factors: authors are familiar with the MS Word program; other programs (particularly book designing software) is an additional (and often a great) expense; and because Kindle DP and Smashwords allow authors to upload MS Word documents as ebooks.

Microsoft seemingly has little incentive to alter its software or offer a variation of it to be more book designer friendly, but it ought to be proactive. It’s simply a matter of meeting consumer’s needs, and as IBM found in the 1980s when the average person wanted microcomputers, new and less expensive software soon may usurp it.

Given that, here are nine ways MS Word software needs to change to become more user friendly for self-published authors, as well as those writing long academic papers, such as for a master’s degree or a PhD. These suggestions are based on more than a decade of personally using MS Word to write and format books as well as editing other writers’ formatted books and academic papers.

Simplify page numbering functions
Several non-intuitive, often confusing steps are needed to start numbering pages after the document's first page or to change the Roman numerals used in the front material to Arabic numerals in actual text. An author should be able to directly tell MS Word to number pages 1-4 as i-iv and pages 5 through 200 as pages 1-195 without placing page and section breaks throughout the document.

Simplify header and footer functions
Doing more than aligning a page number the same way on every page is extremely difficult despite that most books don’t follow that structure. MS Word should have a button allowing authors to design both a left- and-right facing page header or footer that is used throughout the document. This would allow page numbers and different wording (such as the author’s name on the left page and the book’s title on the right page) throughout the document.

Allow the Insert Hyperlink and Insert Bookmark pop-up screens to expand
Especially for ebooks, most authors hyperlink their table of contents to chapter titles with the book. Currently, because these two screens can’t be expanded, constant scrolling is required when creating multiple links within a document.

Add automatic vertical justification
Pages in MS Word often are left with more than a couple of blank lines above the bottom margin of a page while forcing whole or partial paragraphs to the next page. MS Word instead ought to function more like InDesign, in which the text automatically fills the space on the page right up to the margin without significantly changing the spacing between the lines.

Improve hyphenation
When justifying (or distributing text evenly between the left and right margins), MS Word fills the line by expanding spaces between words on that line. The result often is abnormally large blank spaces between words on a line of text. Instead, MS Word needs to have a larger internal list of words it will automatically hyphenate words at the end of a line to make those large spaces go away.

Add an auto hide of corrections marks made in Track Changes
Unless going through a long stretch of commands, so long as Track Changes is turned on every time you open a document the red proofreading marks show up. Seeing the red marks is extremely annoying. Why not a one-stop auto hide button so that the corrected version without the red marks shows up each time an author opens the document?

Stop converting a string of underscores into a “border”
Ever have a line in an MS Word document that you just can’t get rid of? That’s because a long line is read as a “border.” Authors typically think of a long line as rule, however, that divides sections of text rather than part of a box that sets text aside as if it were part of a sidebar.

Fix the auto bullet system
A mess to use, once it’s on every time an author hits ENTER a new bullet appears; further, changing the tabbing between bullet and the text is difficult at best. A one-stop bullet button (with a drop-down menu that allows users to choose the kind of bullet – such a dot, an arrow, a square, etc. – to use) could be added. When the author hits ENTER, then next key to hit would be one for the bullet.

Add a two-page view
Authors want to see the left and the right side of a spread of their formatted book. That can be done by viewing “multiple pages” and then zooming in so only two pages appear. Why not just make “Two Pages” an option for viewing, however?

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an economic climate where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.


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