High School Homeschooling, Christian Home Education

Introduction to Microsoft Word

  • Jeffrey Ober www.Ober.org
  • 2012 14 Nov
Introduction to Microsoft Word

One of the first commercially available software programs for personal computers was the word processor. As personal computers increased in popularity, typewriters quickly disappeared. And in time, the word processing program known as Word, manufactured by Microsoft, quickly became the most popular application for typing in any form.

Microsoft Word is proprietary software, which means it is owned by a company and you are required to purchase the software in order to use it. It may come pre-installed with your computer, or you can buy it at any retail store. While it has gone through a large number of versions over the years, the most current version is Word 2010. It may also come bundled as part of the Office 2010 software package. Office 2010 typically includes Word and a few other office-style programs (such as Excel and PowerPoint). The professional version of Office usually includes an additional piece of software, Microsoft Access, which is used to create and work with databases. 

Few other applications are able to work with documents created with Word. Therefore, if you create documents with Word and want to share them with other people in an electronic form, the other people will also need the Word application.


When you start up the Word application, you will see various areas around the application that have special meanings. Across the top you will see the title bar: the top bar, which has the Office button, the picture of the disk, and a few words, including the name of your document and “Microsoft Word.”

Below that line is the toolbar. This is the line that has the words Home, Insert, Table, and other entries. Each of the words is actually a menu. When you click on one of the words, you will load a number of options into the space below; that space is called the ribbon.

Each ribbon is separated into sections. Each section has a title at the bottom (e.g., Clipboard, Font, Paragraph). Inside this section there will be buttons, words, options, and additional menus (indicated by a small arrow). If the section has even more options than can be displayed, adjacent to the name of the menu will be another small arrow, indicating that clicking there will open up another menu with even more options.

Basic Formatting Font 

The simplest and most common formatting options are in the Font section of the main ribbon. All these options change the appearance of the text in your document. Font types and font sizes can be set. Below that are other options: bold, italics, and underline. All these options can also be applied with Ctrl-b, Ctrl-I, and Ctrl-u (press and hold down the Control key while pressing the appropriate letter key). 

There are also options to add superscript and subscript. In the lower right corner are options for setting the colors of the text, both background and foreground.

Below that is the option to expand the font ribbon into the font pop-up window. In that window, you can set all these options and more by using check boxes, and you can see a preview of what your font will look like if you apply the selected font. You can cancel at any time to reject any changes.


When working with paragraphs, there are a number of formatting options. The most common options are at the bottom of the paragraph box in the ribbon. These buttons set the horizontal alignment of the paragraph: left, center, right, or justify. Most text will be left-justified. Titles and headings can be centered. The “justified” option will automatically adjust the spacing and the text so that both the right and the left side of the paragraphs will be aligned, much like the style found in magazine and newspaper-style articles.

The top, left section of the paragraph ribbon lets you use bullets to add bullet points to your paragraph. Most documents will use the standard bullet point, but the tiny drop-down arrow will allow you to use different symbols or images for the bullet in your text. You can also let Word apply automatic numbering to complete a list.

Also included in the paragraph formatting section are the Paragraph Spacing, Foreground Color, and Border buttons.


The next section of the Home ribbon includes styles. This starts out with a group of pre-defined styles that are set up for your use. To use them, simply select some text and then click on a style that you want applied to your text. For additional styles and examples, click on the expander arrow in the lower right corner.

For the next level of addition of extra styles, use the Change Styles selection. This option will allow you to change the Style Set that will apply a different set of options to your Styles selection text. The colors option will change the colors of the pre-defined styles using a large number of complementary and effective color schemes. The last option, Fonts, allows you to change the basic sets of fonts set up with your styles.


At some point you are likely to want to save your document for retrieval later. There are a number of ways you can accomplish this task. The quickest and shortest way is to use the keyboard shortcut: Ctrl-s. Just press Ctrl-s at any time and your document will be saved. The first time that you do so, the application will ask you to name your document and will open the Save box. Be sure that you notice in what folder you save your document, so that you can retrieve it later. Use a descriptive name other than “Document 1,” so that you can distinguish one document from another. You may want to create a folder for just your Word documents. You can also save by using the Save button in the title bar of the screen.

Once you have saved your document, or when you first start Word, you might want to open a document that you had previously saved. When you click on the Office button, on the right side you will see a list of recent documents that you have saved. Clicking on any file name will quickly and easily open that saved document. At the same time, in the left column, you will see an option to Open. Using that option will let you select a document to open.


To add additional items (besides words) to your document, head over to the Insert ribbon. A large number of options are here, including the third section, Illustrations. Using the tools in this section, you can add pictures, art, shapes, and charts. To add any picture from your computer, just click the Picture button and select the image from your computer.

Once you have added a picture, you can resize the picture to fit onto your page, however you like, by simply dragging any of the eight sizing handles on the edges of the picture. For even more options, right-click on the picture and select Format Picture. These options will enable you to change the way the picture looks on your page via the use of various formatting options.

Another useful feature of the picture in your Word document is the “wrapping” feature. Right-click on an inserted picture and put the mouse pointer over the Text Wrapping option, which will give you a list of different ways that you can direct the text to wrap around your picture.


Another feature of Word that can be used to help format your information in a document is the table. Tables are available on the Insert ribbon, usually the second option on that ribbon. To insert a simple table, click the arrow under the word Table, and then move the mouse pointer over the size of table that you want to add. Be sure that the cursor is in the location where you want to add the table to your document. As you hover over the tables, a preview will appear in your document. Just click when you have the right size table, and it will be inserted.

For more features and automatically created and formatted tables, use the Quick Tables option in the Table drop-down menu. This menu has a number of pre-defined tables that you can insert into your document. Once a table is in your document, you can change the formatting of any of the cells, rows, or even columns by selecting the item you want formatted, then applying the format as described elsewhere in this lesson.


If you would like to include columns in your document, as you would for a magazine or newsletter layout, you can do that with the Columns feature in Word. This item can be found in the Page Layout ribbon, in the Page Setup section. The easiest way to add columns is to click on the Columns menu item and select the number of columns that you’d like to appear on your page. As soon as you select it, the page will add the columns and you can continue to type. Word will adjust your text and move the cursor to the next column as needed.

For more advanced options with columns, click the More Columns option at the bottom of the Menu item. That will open another window and give you additional options for columns, including manually setting the size of each column (so that you can create columns of different sizes) and adding a line between the columns.


Another very useful feature of Word that is turned on by default is the spell checker. This module will attempt to check every word you type to determine if it exists in the dictionary. When a word that is not found in the dictionary is identified, Word will underline that word with a squiggly red line. When/if this line appears, if you right-click on the word, a menu with a few options will pop up. If the word you intended to type is in that list, simply click that word, and the word you typed will be replaced with the word that you select. If this is a word that you know you have typed correctly, but Word does not recognize the word (for example, your last name), you can select Add to Dictionary from the list. Or, if this is a word that is correct for now, but one that you don’t want to be remembered forever (such as a technical or slang term), you can select Ignore from the list, and all the red underlines will disappear. Please note that the spell checker cannot tell if you have used the wrong word—only that the word you have typed is spelled correctly!

Using Microsoft Word to type letters is quite simple. However, Word has a large number of more advanced features that truly make it a powerful word processing program. As you become more familiar with the Word application, experiment with other buttons and options. You can’t break it by clicking a button, so if you want to see what something does, just try it out!

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com  or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Jeffrey Ober is a full-time freelance writer and professional sports photographer. He and his wife Rikki live in remote Juneau, Alaska, where they homeschool their two children. He has more than twenty years of experience working with and programming computers. Read more about Jeffrey at his personal web site: www.ober.org.

Publication date: November 14, 2012

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