Learning Microsoft Word

by Carol Luther

Whether or not you've ever used another word processing program, you can learn to use Microsoft Word in a short time. The trick to becoming proficient with Microsoft Word is to practice the basics until you know them by heart. Once you have a firm grasp of the fundamentals, you can easily progress to more complicated uses for this powerful software.

Microsoft Word Environment

When you start Word, the software opens a blank page. Along the top of the screen you'll see menus from which you can select commands. Unless your Word software has a custom configuration, you will also find buttons (or icons) displayed across the top of the screen. If you place your mouse pointer on any button in Microsoft Word without releasing it, Word will display a box (hint) that tells you what the button does. If you don't know or can't remember which commands are under what menu, simply click on the name of the menu, and Microsoft Word versions through 2003 will display the list of functions under that menu. In Word 2007, clicking on each menu title will display a set of buttons that will perform the functions and commands that it manages. Then you can hover over the buttons to get information about them.

Quick Start Tips

When you open Word, you can just start typing your text. You don't need to pull a return lever or press the Enter key when you reach the end of a line of text. Word uses a built-in function known as word wrap. Your cursor automatically moves to the next line when you reach the right margin. When you finish typing a paragraph, press Enter to start a new paragraph. You can also press Enter repeatedly to make empty lines when needed. Always use the Tab key to indent. Using the space bar at the beginning of a line or paragraph will lead to formatting problems when you're ready to print your document.

File Management

Experts recommend that you save your Word document as soon as you create a new file. Each document should have a unique name that helps you find it easily when you need it later. Choose Save from the File menu in Word versions through 2003. The Save command is under the Office button in Word 2007. Type your file's name in the box provided. Check to see where Word plans to save the file. Change the directory, if needed, then click OK. After your initial save, save your document every 5 to 10 minutes to avoid data loss.

Editing and Enhancing Text

To edit or change text after you've typed it, place your cursor in the location where you want to make changes. Then type new text or delete text by pressing the Backspace key. If you want to change or delete a large area of text, it's faster to select it first by dragging your mouse across it (click to place the cursor, then hold the left mouse button down until all the text has been highlighted). To apply enhancements like Bold, Italics and Underline or a different font, highlight the text, then select the enhancement that you want from the menu or buttons at the top of the screen.


Microsoft offers excellent free tutorials for Microsoft Word basics on their website (see References). In addition, they have user forums where you can get quick tips and answers. The Microsoft website also has free document templates and books that you can purchase to learn more about using Word's features. ComputerHope.com and Hewlett Packard's Learning Center (see References) are two of many websites with free guides and classes for Word users. Many bookstores carry books that help you learn how to use intermediate and advanced Word functions. Look for those that have practice exercises on CDs.