Microsoft Word Review

Microsoft Word: A Closer Look

Ah, Microsoft Word. Every aspiring author who even imagines writing and publishing has, in one way or another, experienced MS Word. Microsoft Office introduced Word back in 1983, making it close to 40 years old! During its long tenure, Word has set the bar for word processing, editing, and page layout for millions of authors.

Bookmakers from traditional publishers to self-publishers use Word as their book writing software and primary editing tool. And for its time, Word offered the best way to write. Today, Word is a bit out-moded by some newer tools, but it’s still a standard for authors. 

So let’s take a deeper look at what Microsoft Word offers authors.

Writing With Word

Microsoft Word, at its core, is a formatting and editing tool. Over the years they have added hundreds of Microsoft Word templates to help you create a resume, business letters, and research papers. Oddly enough, there isn’t a built-in template for a book. Though one could argue that a blank MS Word document is already perfectly suited for the writing process.

Using style-based formatting to create different ‘sets’ of text, Word makes simple formatting easy. Style principles are common now and using them when writing has always made sense to organize chapters and sections within a larger piece. If you applied styles from the moment you started writing your book, searching and organizing during the editing process will be easy.

Blank document in Microsoft Word

Here’s a blank, open page ready for your creative writing. Or nonfiction. Or memoir. Or whatever. Word is is an impressive writing space and with their rich style options, you can do a fair amount of basic design. 

That said, there is an overwhelming amount of options. And unlike some other writing tools, Word doesn’t have a focus mode (that I’m aware of).  

Writing, once you’ve got your features set up to your liking, is just fine with Word. I find the speed of characters displaying to be quick enough that it keeps pace with my typing, but not jumbled or distracting. One feature I would love to see is a ‘typewriter’ mode that binds my cursor to the middle of the screen. But no writing tool is ever 100% perfect.

Editing With Word

I generally find Word to be fine, but lackluster as a writing tool. That said, it’s superior as an editor. Yes, if you’re using the desktop version of Word, you must literally share the file. Archaic. But the upside is the delightful ‘Track Changes’ tool under the Review menu.

Turn on Track Changes in MS Word

Track Changes create a column on the right side of the document, organizing and listing any edits. This includes deleting or adding text, updating any existing text, new formatting, and provides the opportunity for in document notation. 

The notes (called ‘Comments’) allow you and your editors/proofreaders to make changes and have a conversation within the document, making nothing permanent. The file will be a true living document, and the flow of ideas can run back and forth until you settle on phrasing, organization, and other elements of the design of the manuscript. If you like a change or have acted on a comment, they can be ‘Accepted’ to remove them from the running list of Track Changes and keep the interface nice and clean.

Other writing tools have document sharing and editing options, but Word wins out for clarity and simplicity. 

Going Beyond The Basic

You can build in a lot of advanced formatting into your Microsoft Word document. In fact, I wrote an entire post about this very subject. While I don’t recommend using Word to layout your book, you can achieve a very nice final design. 

Without digging into the details, the Formatting panels in Word offer a ton of was to customize your DOCX file and control the style and layout of your pages.

Even just this one Paragraph Format window offers a variety of options for your text. This isn’t even getting into things like drop caps, section and page breaks, and header/footer layout.

The last piece of formatting I want to touch on is page numbering. Again, I’ve written in-depth about this, but it needs to be mentioned that while Word can handle page numbering, it’s a pain in the ass. If there’s one reason to use a dedicated layout tool to create your book file, the challenge of page numbering would be it.

Laying Out Your Book With Word

Finally, the manuscript is done and edited. Now you can start playing with all those options Word offers in their ribbon. If you’re creating a novel with limited graphics, Word is fine for your book’s layout. Anything involving a lot of graphics, charts, or tables and think about a dedicated layout tool like InDesign

The first step in laying out a file to print and publish a book is setting up the page. 

Word handles that nicely with the ‘Layout’ menu to set the page size for the entire document. While they do pre-load common page sizes, they do not include the standard Trade 6 x 9. So you would need to create a custom size, also easy to do in the Layout menu.

Along with the critical layout and design tools, Word can manipulate the content on the page. Breaks (both Page and Section) give you control over the positioning of content, and images can be in line with the text, behind the text, or nested with the text through Word’s ‘Picture’ menu.

Once you’ve got your page all laid out, you must export from DOCX to PDF so the file is ready to be sent to a printer. Some printers may accept a variety of file types, but most require PDF. Regardless, take the time to create a PDF. It’s the only way to ensure printers keep your formatting and will streamline any troubleshooting if a problem arises.

Microsoft Word, At A Price

If you’re PC or laptop came with the basic Office Suite built-in (so Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) you may not know that Microsoft’s products are actually pretty expensive. Particularly when you consider you can do almost all the writing, styling, collaborating, and editing for free with Google Docs

If your machine did not come with Office installed (or if you’re still running Office 2013) you can purchase the Suite directly from Microsoft. They offer three options to get access to Word:

  • Microsoft 365 Family – $99.99/year
  • Microsoft 365 Personal – $69.99/year
  • Office Home & Student – $149.99 (one-time)

Office 365 Vs. Office Suite

Like many software creators, Microsoft is moving to a subscription model. At first glance, this might seem like a shameless cash grab. You can buy the basic Office Suite for less than just two years of their 365 service! Who would ever do this?

First, we have to acknowledge that most, if not all, paid software are going to shift to subscription models. Because maintaining and updating software takes a lot of time and resources, these software companies need a steady, reliable income to stay in business.

What’s more, while Word 2013 might be fine for writing and editing, it’s outdated. And eventually, it won’t be supported any longer. Once that happens, file standards and new features won’t be available.

So the benefit of the subscription is that you’re always lined up for the newest features and fixes. The downside is that you’re paying for a tool readily available in other (arguably better) forms.

I also want to note that, if you’re considering subscribing to Office 365, there is a free version (for 1 month) to try it out. And you do get access to a TON of tools from Microsoft with this subscription.

Microsoft Word: The Bottom Line

Word is a powerful writing tool. And it has amazing in-line editing options. If you write novels or memoirs, it’s probably all you’ll ever need to create, edit, and design your book files. But it does come at a price—either annually or in purchasing a version that will eventually be outdated.

10 thoughts on “Microsoft Word: A Closer Look”

  1. Valentin Kuznetcov

    Hi again,

    Just referring to my comment below:

    The PDF document does tell me that there is Times New Roman PS (3 variations – bold, italics, and regular). I have downloaded this font and installed it on my computer. Then, I saved the file as a PDF again, but the font doesnt embed no matter what i do. I have gone through the word doc many times, manually checking font everywhere to find elements that use the font to delete them, but no results. I have tried searching for the font, but still nothing. The doc doesnt seem to ACTUALLY have it, yet the PDF registers it as such. What more can be done? I really don’t know how to fix this

    1. Hi Valentin,
      Well, you’ve done everything right as far as I can tell!
      I see that you submitted a support case a couple of days ago. I just checked in with one of our print support agents, and she thinks she might be able to help with embedding the font’s using Adobe Distiller. She’s got the case now and said she should get back to you in the next day or two.
      Sorry for the inconvenience!

  2. Valentin Kuznetcov

    Hi guys,

    have 4 questions:

    1) I am writing a novel without any images (US trade, 6 x 9). Do i need to add bleed? Your guide says that there is no need to add bleed, but the pricing calculator lists bleed as a requirement (6.25 x 9.25 instead). Which one is correct?

    2) That also relates to the spine width – the guide provides the same number for a given range (say 306 – 330 pages) while the pricing calculator provides a specific width for each page count (306 would have a different spine width compared to 330)? Which one is more accurate?

    3) In case bleed is indeed needed, how does that affect the margin on the side that will be cut off? In other words, do i need to add more margin to the side opposite of the spine relative to the side next to the spine, or should both sides have equal margin?

    4) When I upload the interior, I receive an error that some fonts are not embedded, even though i have done many different things to ensure that all fonts have been embedded. How can I solve this problem?

    Appreciate the answers.

    1. Hi Valentin,

      Happy to help!

      1. The print file will always need bleed. If you’re using Word to layout your book, I strongly recommend using our template – found on this page.
      2. The calculator is more precise because you provide us the exact page count.
      3. Bleed applies to all 4 sides of the page. You would want to allow for this when preparing your margins, as Word doesn’t have any automated ways to apply bleed.
      4. You’ll want to open the PDF in Adobe Reader, go to Files > Properties > Fonts. Look for fonts that don’t have the (embedded subset) beside them. Often, you’ll find a line break or some similar formatting element has the offending font assigned to it.
  3. CANNOT UPLOAD LARGE 2.5GB PDF FILE TO LULU. TOO BIG? CAN I SEND BOOK IN PARTS? 96 PAGES OF PICTURES

    1. Hi Bill,
      Our uploader doesn’t have a file size restriction (it did in years past). The only limitation will be your internet speed. You may need to plug into your modem or find a faster service to connect to for the upload.

  4. Elaine F Anderson

    I have been using Microsoft since the 1987 and have no complaints I have published two poetry books and a how to book. I love their features that makes writing and publishing simplistic. I am presently working with Microsoft on two novels This the best product for writers.

  5. Dear Paul,

    My apologies for this is not about the subject at hand.

    I recently commented to you through your last blog post.

    Taking your advice, I sent a message to lulu support with another account explaining the situation I was facing – about my inability to access my pre-update account – but the message I received as an auto-reply that addressed nothing.

    When will lulu be up to speed so that they can assist me in my situation?

    I understand that with the new updates everyone is working around the clock and do not have time to properly assist customers.

    Will things be ready by the end of the year?

    Regards,
    Jackson

    1. Hi Jackson,

      My understanding is that the auto-reply always gets sent when the case is created. It’s true that our support staff is working through a backlog of support cases, so response times from a real person are slower than we’d like.

      I’ll ping someone in our support team to see if we can get you some help.

  6. I developed some fairly robust 6×9 book templates for Word in 2012, in cooperation with a publisher’s book designer, when I wrote The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing (which used Lulu as the illustrative method for micropublishing–the hardback was published via Lulu and may still be available). The templates are freely available: see waltcrawford.name/lgm.htm for details and links. (By the way, LibreOffice works very nearly as well as Word and is free: the site also has LibreOffice templates.) I’ve been publishing books using modified forms of these templates for years.

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