How to Use MS Word to Make a User Manual
By Filonia LeChat
Creating a user manual may be a trial and error exercise in research, documentation, and formatting, but the final product makes the effort worthwhile. Microsoft Word’s templates provide the framework, allowing you to concentrate on the presentation of information about your product or service. While working within one of Word’s templates, you have the freedom to customize the document to your needs.
In Word, click the “File” tab and select “New.” Double-click the “Books” folder in the “Available Templates” window. Double-click the “Other books” folder. Double-click the “Professional manual” template. Word’s user manual template is just a starting point as you customize the manual to your requirements. The document downloads into a new Word window.
Scroll through the pages of the user manual template to get an idea of what’s included, what needs to change, and what needs to be added. For example, Word includes a generic title page, table of contents, headers, text blocks, and image placeholders, along with tips on user manual setup.
Highlight a header or block of text. Type over it with your manual information. You'll probably copy existing text from another document and paste it directly into the template text boxes. Replace all of Word’s placeholder text with your own. Fill the manual as required; you may want to add the text first, then the headers and images, or you may want to work linearly from the first page through the end.
Right-click a placeholder picture or image and click the “Delete” key to remove it. To add your images, click the “Insert” tab, then the “Picture” button. Browse to the image and double-click it. This is also an ideal way to brand the manual by adding your company logo on the cover page and elsewhere in the document.
Click the “Home” tab. Check the options in the Styles section of the ribbon. These dictate how sections of your manual appear, such as the main paragraph text and the headings. If you want to use elements other than what the template offers, right-click one of the styles, such as "Heading 1," and choose “Modify.” Reformat the header and click “OK.” All Heading 1 styles are changed, so you don’t have to go through them individually. This is a great way to ensure your manual conforms to your company's internal style requirements.
Scroll to the first page of the template, which is the cover in most templates. Make sure all placeholder text has been replaced with information about your product or service.
The table of contents shows the generic template headers. Right-click the table of contents and choose “Update Field.” Click the “Update entire table” radio button, then click “OK.” This changes the table of contents to reflect your new headers and page numbers.
Click the “File” tab and select “Save As.” Enter the user manual’s file name in the “File name” field, choose where to save the document on your computer, and click the “Save” button.
- Your user manual requirements will dictate some of your choices in setting up Word. For example, you may prefer single pages to booklet style. In the former case, you can stick with Word's default page setup of 8.5 inches by 11 inches. Other Word templates use multipage layouts in other sizes and orientations.
Fionia LeChat is a technical writer whose major skill sets include the MS Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher), Photoshop, Paint, desktop publishing, design and graphics. LeChat has a Master of Science in technical writing, a Master of Arts in public relations and communications and a Bachelor of Arts in writing/English.