A History of Text Processors and Writing Tools
Word Processing: Typing Has Never Been So Easy. Mail merge, grammar-check, and instant résumés are some options.
At this point, every serious package has a spell-checker as standard fare, but other writing tools, like a thesaurus and a grammar checker, may still be considered separate options by some companies. Here’s a list of features to look for in word processing.
Automatic Footnotes: Numbers footnotes and places them at the bottom of the page, or wherever you prefer.
Automatic Indexer and Table of Contents: Creates an index for your manuscript. You can tag key words that you want to include in the index, and the indexer will place them there, with the appropriate page number. If page numbers change as you edit the document, the indexer updates the information. The contents function scans all the headings in your manuscript and lists them, with page numbers, in a table of contents.
Automatic style formatting: This feature offers a variety of document templates, which may include one for a fax cover sheet, résumé, business letter or memo, newsletter (with multiple columns) and, of course, a regular document. This is very handy when you need to make a professional-looking documents in a hurry and you neither have the time nor for the talent to design them yourself. But this feature also allows you to design your own templates, too.
Automatic envelope and label maker: Each word processor varies in sophistication where this feature is concerned. The most basic lets you input the name and address of the addressee, automatically creating an envelope or label with that information, plus your name and return address. More robust word processors incorporate mail merge functions (see below) and let you input multiple return addresses.
File preview and outlining: File preview lets you take a close-up or an at-a-distance view of what your document will look like when it’s printed. The outlining feature lets you concentrate on just headings or the first lines of each paragraph.
Graphics editing and support: This lets you import graphics (pictures, charts) into your document, automatically wrapping text around them. This is a must if you create presentations or newsletters.
Customizable macros: A macro is a mini-program that you design for shortcuts. For example, if you type a certain phrase frequently (To: B. Smith. From: S. Thomas), you can create a macro to do it for you in one or two keystrokes (Ctrl-X, for instance).
Mail merge: Handy for home based businesses, this feature lets you zip through mass mailing by letting you merge a form letter with your database of names and addresses.
Graphing and drawing modules: Some word processors have extra features (sometimes called “modules”) that let you design graphs and drawings to enhance your documents, automatically wrapping text around the graphic.
Saving in different formats: This feature translates a document created in another word processing program, and lets you save it in your own word processor’s format.
Thesaurus, Grammar-checker: A thesaurus offers synonyms for words you select; a grammar checker, well, checks your grammar.
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