CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Software shortcuts make PC life easier

Monday, March 24, 1997

Cathi Schuler

Shortcuts and streamlining are among the many reasons that people turn to computers for automating the many tasks we encounter each day. Since its inception, the personal computer has pared countless hours off the time needed to perform both simple and complex business chores. In today's world, a company without any form of computer automation is the exception rather than the rule.

Computer programs, or software, are the instructions that orchestrate your computer's components to perform harmoniously and deliver the final product in a fraction of the time it would take to do the job manually. WordPerfect and Microsoft Word, for example, are both word-processing applications that transcend the ordinary typewriter and catapult the average user into a new galaxy of desktop-publishing options that were previously available only to professional publishers.

Not only are these programs themselves time savers, but there are shortcuts and nifty tricks built into these applications that further automate repetitive tasks. Macros are a feature of most business programs that allow the user to bundle multiple instructions together in a single command that can later be executed with a mere keystroke or from the toolbar. You can, for example, create a macro for something as simple as a custom letterhead or as complex as a merge process.

Macros have been around since the days of text-based computing and in fact have their own programming language. Although graphics-based programs have made creating and executing macros easier, they are still considered to be an intermediate activity and can at times be tricky.

Beginners will find the use of automatic text entries in both Word and WordPerfect much easier to master and a blessing when time is of the essence. AutoText is a feature of Microsoft Word that allows you to assign an abbreviation to any block of text or graphic. Whether it's an entire document or merely a paragraph, Word will memorize it as a few simple keystrokes that you can later play back at any time, in any document.

Let's say, for example, that you create letters and documents daily that contain redundant entries, such as salutations, signature lines or homework headings. First, enter the text and apply formatting as you would normally. Block the text and choose Edit, AutoText from the menu bar. (Note: Word 97 users will choose Insert, AutoText from the menu bar). Now type an abbreviation for this block, such as LH for letterhead or CJS for a signature block ... it's your choice! Click on the button labeled Add, and you're done. To execute the AutoText entry, simply type the abbreviation in your document and press the function key F3. Presto! Your expanded entry appears on the page.

When creating AutoText entries, you can be assured that Word will retain all of your text and paragraph formatting, such as font, size, alignment, text style and borders. This is a quick and easy way to create multiple styles of letterheads or salutations. Graphics as well can be assigned an AutoText entry for ease in adding a company logo to your document, for example.

WordPerfect users will find automatic text entries in that application aptly called Abbreviations. The process is essentially the same as in Word, with the exception of a few command differences. Block the desired text in WordPerfect and choose Insert, Abbreviation from the menu bar. Click the button labeled Create, type your text abbreviation, then click the Close button.

To execute your automatic text entry, type the Abbreviation and press CTRL+A. Once again, the text appears like magic in your document. WordPerfect doesn't have the ability to assign graphic images to Abbreviations like Word does, but the automated text feature is reason enough to explore this option in WordPerfect.

Once your shortcut entry is created in either Word or WordPerfect, it becomes part of the application and can be executed at any time, in any document. Simply position the cursor where you want the entry to appear, type the abbreviation, and press the appropriate keystrokes to expand the shortcut.

For complete step-by-step instructions in either application, click Help on the menu bar and look up Abbreviations in WordPerfect or AutoText in Word. Print the Help topic and add it to your own file of helpful hints and time-saving techniques.

Creating shortcut entries for those boring and mundane tasks frees your time to explore the fun and creative side of word processing.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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