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Book Review: Plain & Simple Microsoft Word 2010 by Katherine Murray

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Hooray for Katharine Murray! In a visually appealing guide to Microsoft Word 2010, she simplifies the transition from older versions or other word processing programs. Sometimes it seems more difficult to master changes in a program to which one is accustomed than to learn the program from the beginning. For those who have been using ancient versions of Word,  starting 2010 can be a shock.

Plain & Simple Microsoft Word 2010 is a shock-reducer. The first time a user sees the new “new document” screen is anxiety-producing. Where is everything? Compounding the problem is customization — many users extensively customize their toolbars, then are at a loss when they see the new stripped down bar. Transitioning (did I really say “transitioning”?) to Microsoft Word 2010 is frustrating on so many levels. For me, it was on every level. Each time I couldn’t do something, then couldn’t find the function, and was helpless with “help,” I’d run to the yellow pages and look up psychotherapists.

I’ve been using Microsoft  Word 2010 for several months, without therapy, and — little by little — I discover how to do things I didn’t even have to think about in the spring. I still don’t like it better.

Plain & Simple Microsoft Word 2010 may not succeed in making anyone love Word 2010, but it will help keep PCs on desktops rather than sailing out windows (or am I the only one to look my computer square in the screen and say “I hate you. I HATE you. I HATE YOU!!!”?). True to its title, the book plainly and simply explains the basics, as well as some of the more advanced functions.

According to the publisher, Microsoft Press, here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Create professional-looking documents with ease
  • Organize, edit, and format text
  • Apply themes, styles, and other design elements
  • Work with graphics, tables, and charts
  • Take advantage of pre-built templates, or make your own
  • Edit a document with others simultaneously — online

and here’s how you’ll learn it:

  • Jump in whenever you need answers
  • Easy-to-follow STEPS and SCREENSHOTS show exactly what to do
  • Handy TIPS teach new techniques and shortcuts
  • Quick TRY THIS! exercises help apply what you learn right away

Many users simply ignore features with which they are unfamiliar, depriving themselves of things that might make their word processing projects easier. Plain & Simple explains how to use various features, thereby making their use more accessible. Readers may find that they are employing previously unused functions because this book explained it so clearly (“Hey! I can do that!” we exclaim when we realize everything isn’t so complicated and mysterious).

The first chapter, “Getting Started,” introduces the user to the very basic aspects of Word 2010,  including “Word Views.” It helps users begin creating documents. In the second chapter, we learn how to edit them. We then move on to formatting, giving our documents the personality they deserve. Sections on layouts and graphics add to our repertoire of design.

There is a wonderful introductory chapter on blogging, with hints and tips for setting up a blog page, and creating documents (content) for blogs. Again, this is elementary information that will make a beginner’s first foray into the blogosphere quite a bit easier. In the same chapter is mail merging, which was always a hot topic in word processing classes I taught (teaching people how to is a lot easier than convincing them that it really isn’t that difficult).

It all ends with Chapter 10, my favorite, the “happily ever after” chapter. There users learn to customize Word 2010, and to secure and protect  documents. This is also the fun part where we learn to individualize Word 2010, turning it into a program that works for each of us.

Plain & Simple Microsoft Word 2010 is not a complicated manual written in technospeak. Readers will see exactly what to do with easy-to-follow steps, and screenshots illustrate what they will be seeing on the screen. There are some quick exercises to experiment with various features, and — best of all — tips and shortcuts.

Bottom Line: Would I buy Plain & Simple Microsoft Word 2010? Absolutely, for beginners and those who have not taken full advantage of functions that seem too complicated, it helps save work and time, and is an easy to comprehend introduction to what may seem a complex program.

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