Microsoft Word for Writers: Introduction

Hi Folks,

This post and the next seven are excerpted and expanded from a seminar I put together awhile back titled “Microsoft Word for Writers.” I also posted this series before, a couple years ago, on this blog. However, I have updated the information where necessary.

I encourage you to comment and share new information, but please question, comment or expand only on the topic of the current post. Today’s post briefly introduces Microsoft Word and offers other valuable resources, including alternatives to Microsoft Word and where to purchase it if you don’t already have it.

The remaining posts in this series, which will appear every ten days, are nuts and bolts stuff, and they will include screenshots for your convenience. If you have two computer screens, you will be able to read the blog post on one screen while practicing in Microsoft Word on the other. Of course you can also simply print out or otherwise save the blog post and practice later. The screenshots are sequentially numbered throughout the series:

  • Setting Up the Menu
  • Setting Up the Quick Access Toolbar
  • Setting Word Options
  • Find & Replace (The Most Valuable Tool in Word)
  • The Paragraph Formatting Tool (includes an overall example of the Find & Replace function used in conjunction with the font- and paragraph-formatting tools)
  • Odds & Ends
  • Styles


Microsoft Word comes as part of the Microsoft Office package. Different versions of Word have different features, or the same features in different places. This series is based on Microsoft Word 2010. If you’re using an earlier version, your dialogue boxes might look slightly different from the screenshots in these blog posts. Any techniques I mention here will be essentially the same, although you might have to think a bit and alter the instruction to suit your version of Word.

To see which version you have, click Help and then About Microsoft Word. (In some versions, Help is a separate tab in the menu. In others, it’s located under the File tab in the menu or in the upper right corner of the Word screen as a white question mark in a blue circle.)

I work with a PC, but from what my Apple-oriented friends tell me, Microsoft Word for Mac is comparable. Thanks to Alison Holt, a dear friend and excellent author, for providing me with the location of this PC to Mac and Mac to PC Converter. It’s an excellent resource.

Where Can I Get MS Word Without Breaking the Bank?

Of course, it’s always better if you can go to Staples or your store of choice and purchase the full version of Microsoft Office outright, and that’s what I recommend if you can afford it. You can also purchase the military and student version on military bases at the base or post exchange if you have privileges (saves sales tax). However, in the real world, you can also visit eBay or Amazon. Key in “Microsoft Word 2010” or “Microsoft Office 2010” and see what pops up. Even if it’s used, if you receive the OEM (original) program on CD and the Product Key, you’ll be fine. Of course, I do not endorse piracy or purchasing or using products illegally.

If you want to purchase the newer Microsoft Office or Word, it’s available either as a subscription (Office 365) or as a dedicated program (Office 2013). I personally prefer Office (and Word) 2010 because it does everything I need it to do and it’s a dedicated program, meaning once I buy it, it’s installed on my computer (the license I bought is for up to 3 computers) and it doesn’t keep costing me in the future. With the subscription version (it’s called Office 365) the subscription is for one year (about $99) and for up to five computers.

Alternatives to Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office)

LibreOffice—This is a good alternative for Microsoft Word. Not quite as many bells and whistles, not quite as customizable as Word, but it’s free and it’s very intuitive. I used this one for a long time on the small laptop that is dedicated only to my writing. Like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. Get it at

WPS Office— This is another good alternative for Microsoft Word, and again it’s free. Between this one and LibreOffice, I liked Libre more, but your results might vary. (grin) Again, like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. You can get WPS Office at

Apache OpenOffice—This suite reportedly does everything Word can do, and it supposedly does it even more easily or more intuitively. You can get Apache OpenOffice 4.0 at According to the OpenOffice site, it’s easy to use, and best of all it’s both free and fully compatible with all versions of Microsoft Office. Similar to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice contains a word processor (called Writer instead of Word), a spreadsheet (Calc instead of Excel), a multimedia presentation program (Impress instead of PowerPoint), a drawing program (Draw—here it seems to me they’re taking a page from Corel), plus a database program (Base) and an equation editor (Math). I have not personally used OpenOffice, but I’ve heard nothing bad about it.

Jarte—This is basically a souped-up version of Microsoft’s WordPad. It has all the basic editing and formatting (both font and paragraph) functions, but it does not have the more advance features like Track Changes. Jarte is available at I do have this program and I use it when I want to “just write” without being distracted with all the bells and whistles. Jarte is a free word processor, although you can pay a small fee to get the few extra bells and whistles of Jarte Plus. If you try and enjoy Jarte, I do recommend you upgrade to Jarte Plus just to help support the developers.

Writing Software

I do not recommend or endorse any so-called writing software, but some people swear by it. In case it’s something you would like to try, here are a couple:

yWriter5, for Windows PCs—This is billed at as “novel writing software.” It’s a word processor that “breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. yWriter was designed by an author…. yWriter5 is free to download and use, but you’re encouraged to register your copy if you find it useful.”

Scrivener—This program used to be available only for Mac, but it’s now available for Windows PCs as well as Mac OSX. Visit the website at You can get a free trial (I don’t know what’s included in the free trial), and the cost for the full version is $40. The site includes video tutorials. Among other features, Scrivener enables you to edit multiple documents, store virtual index cards on a “corkboard,” outline your project, and create collections to help you keep track of notes, etc. If this is something that appeals to you, I encourage you to visit the site to see what Scrivener has to offer.

You can find these and many more helpful links—including dictionaries and translators, various conversion engines, and a lot more—on my website at

Next time, Setting Up the Menu. Until then happy writing!

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Microsoft Word for Writers: Introduction

    • Thanks Gary. A lot more to come, and they’ll be even more helpful and in a more specific focus. 🙂 And thanks for leaving a tip in the jar!

    • Thanks! Good to see you on here. Yes, Microsoft Office updates, but to do a series like this you have to pick one. Because Microsoft Office 2010 is the prevalent version (even with 2013 and 365 out there), I chose to use 2010 for this series. There will be many more posts on how to use Microsoft Word for writers.

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