objects/blackboardabc.jpgMost computers today come with a word processing program which allows the user to write text documents like letters, business correspondence, and even books. The first step in learning how to use a word processor is to understand the terminology that is unique to word processing programs. Here are a few basic terms that will help.

A typeface defines the shape of the characters. Some common typefaces are Times New Roman, Arial, and Courier. If you look closely, you will see that the letters in each of these are shaped differently, some narrower, some more rounded, etc.

A font is collection of letters and numbers in a particular typeface. The font includes the typeface plus other qualities, such as size, pitch, and spacing. For instance, within the Times Roman family, there are many fonts to choose from, including different sizes, italic, and bold. If you are working in a word processing program, the font might be Times New Roman, 10 point, bold. Changing the font can completely change the look and feel of a Web page or document.

In a word processing program, you can format any text that you create. Formatting involves specifying the fonr, alignment, margins, and other properties. The format is the layout of a document. The format determines how the document will appear on the screen and how it will look when printed.

The alignment refers to the way lines of text are arranged relative to the edges of a block of text. For example, the text can be flush with the left side of the document (left aligned), flush with the right side of the document (right aligned), or centered horizontally on the document (centered). There is also an alignment option called justified. In text that is justified both the right and left sides of the text will appear to line up evenly.

The tab function in a word processor works much like the tab function on a typewriter. Tab stops can be set in the ruler at the top of the page. When the tab key is pressed, the cursor will move to the next tab location. This allows the user to indent paragraphs and lists.

Margins are the blank space to the left and right sides and at the top and bottom of a page. The size of the margins can be increased or decreased. In Microsoft Word, this is done by choosing File-Page Setup and changing the numbers on the Margin tab.

The header is one or more lines of text that appear at the top of every page of a document. The header often includes information like names and titles. The footer consists of one or more lines of text that appear at the bottom of every page of a document. The footer often includes the page number.

Line Spacing
Line Spacing refers to the number of blank spaces between lines of type. The most common line spacings are single-spaced and double-spaced, but the line spacing in a word processor can be set to almost any amount of line spacing.

Word Wrap
Word wrap is a word processing feature that permits information to be keyed on successive lines without having to tap the return/enter key at the key of each line.

A collection of data arranged in rows and columns. Tables are commonly used in word processing programs. They are also used in spreadsheets and database programs.

Spell/Grammar Check
Word processing programs contain a spell check program which can verify the correct spelling of words in a document. In some programs you will click on a menu choice or an icon to start the spell checking. Some programs will automatically check your spelling as you go, inserting a squiggly red line under words that may be misspelled. Grammar checking works in much the same way with the program inserting a squiggly green line under words that may be grammatically incorrect. Remember the spell check and grammar checking are not foolproof.  A word may pass both checks and still be incorrect.

An indent is one or more spaces that are used to move the text to the right of the left margin.

In a word processor, you can use the ruler to set the indent, margin and tab markers and this can allow complex formatting options. Never use the space bar and return key to align text.

Templates establish the initial document setting and formats. A word processing program like Microsoft Word uses the “normal” template as the basis for all documents.  A user can modify the “normal” document, and/or may create other templates to use.

Bullets & Numbering
A word processing program can automatically add bullets and/or numbers to the text.

Print Preview
This is a very useful feature. Click on the menu choice or icon for a Print Preview and you will be shown an image of exactly what the printed output will look like.