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Entering Text

How many ways can you type a memo? The answer used to be, “One keystroke at a time.” Today, however, Word has expanded our data-entry horizons by offering additional ways of getting text into our documents. You can enter text in a Word document in the following ways:

  • You can use the good, old-fashioned hunt-and-peck typing method.

  • You can allow the AutoText feature in Word to help you speed text entry by anticipating what you’re going to say and entering it for you.

  • You can use the dictation feature in Word to speak text into the program.

  • You can use your drawing tablet to write text (this is good primarily for adding your signature to documents or jotting a short note on a report).

  • You can import text you’ve created in other programs.

Which method do you want to try first? The following sections walk you through several examples of the different text-entry methods. Have fun!


Be forewarned: Speech dictation and recognition is new with this version of Word, and although it’s a great feature (and fun, too), you’ll have to spend quite a bit of time “training” Word to recognize your speech patterns before it actually saves you time. The program needs to learn how you say things before it can enter your words and phrases accurately.

Typing Text

When you open that blank document (or template, for that matter), the cursor is blinking expectantly on your screen. When you type, the characters appear at the cursor position. Nothing mysterious about that. Type a sample paragraph now (here’s one to use in case you can’t think of one):

Mrs. Smith, the typing teacher, had never seen a new student type so fast or so well. Her eyes gleamed in admiration.

Notice that the sentence wrapped to the next line automatically. That’s a feature called word wrap, and it’s something Word takes care of automatically. You can continue entering text to get the feel of the keys, if you like, or simply press Enter to complete the paragraph and move the cursor to the next line.

One important consideration when you’re typing text in your document is whether you’re working in Insert or Overtype mode. Insert mode inserts characters at the cursor position, pushing existing characters to the right. Overtype mode types over existing characters and can sometimes create a mess in your document if you’re not paying attention. By default, your document is in Insert mode (which means characters won’t be replaced). You can toggle Overtype mode on and off by pressing the Insert key on your keyboard. When Overtype mode is on, the symbol OVR appears in the status bar along the bottom of the screen.

Using AutoText

The AutoText feature in Word is great for helping you streamline the typing of often-used words and phrases. The feature comes with a whole slew of choices already included—from headers and footers to mailing instructions to saluations and signature lines. You can add the text by using the dialog-box method or by displaying an AutoText toolbar in your work area (this is the best choice if you plan to use AutoText for a number of entries). Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the Tools menu and choose AutoCorrect.

  2. Choose the AutoText tab in the AutoCorrect dialog box. Choose the AutoText entry you want to add by selecting it from the list, as shown in Figure 4-5.

    Figure 4-5. Use the AutoText tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box to enter common phrases you’d rather not type or those you tend to misspell.

  3. Click Insert. The word or phrase is added at the cursor position in the document and the dialog box closes.

If you plan to use AutoText regularly, display the AutoText tab and choose Show Toolbar. The AutoText entries are displayed on a short toolbar positioned just above the work area. You can choose the text you want to insert by clicking the All Entries button, selecting the category you want, and clicking your selection, as shown in Figure 4-6.

Figure 4-6. My folks aren’t crazy about typed letters (too impersonal), so I probably won’t really send this.

Your Own Custom AutoText

You can also use AutoText to customize your own ho-hum phrases. Suppose, for example, that the title of your official report is A 12-Month Study of the -Behavior of Army Ants and you’ve been asked by your boss to refer to it by name every time you cite it in your summary report. How often will you have to type it? Dozens of times. Luckily, you can use AutoText to insert it for you at the click of your mouse. To do this, display the AutoText tab (if you’re using the AutoText toolbar, you can simply click the AutoText tool to display it), type your phrase in the Enter AutoText Entries Here line, click Add, and then click OK. Now, when you want to insert the phrase, click the All Entries button on the AutoText toolbar, choose the Normal category (where customized entries are stored), and click the entry. Word inserts it at the cursor position.

Speaking Text

The speech recognition and dictation features in Word are exciting and fun. As I mentioned earlier, however, they require a lot of up-front preparation and training (for your computer, not for you). For Word to understand what you’re trying to say and record it accurately, you need to teach it how to recognize your speech patterns and the fluctuations and intonations of your voice.


Before you work with speech in Word, you must have set up the feature in Microsoft Windows XP. To do this, click Speech Tools on the right side of the Language Bar, and then choose Options. This displays the Speech Properties dialog box, where you can create a training profile, test and adjust your microphone, and modify speech settings.

To start using the speech feature, follow these steps:

  1. Position your cursor at the point in the document where you want to add the dictated text.

  2. Open the Tools menu and choose Speech. The Windows XP Language Bar appears across your document.

  3. Make sure your microphone is turned on and positioned properly.

  4. Speak clearly and slowly into the microphone. The text appears on the screen.

Figure 4-7 shows you what appears on my screen in a quick trial session. I didn’t say anything at all about baseball (or The Simpsons, for that matter), so I don’t know what Word was thinking here. One thing is obvious—I need to spend more time training!

Figure 4-7. Speech is a great feature with tremendous potential—so long as you’re willing to invest the preparation time. In the beginning, Word will be bound to make some errors, as you can see here.

We focused on dictation here, but Word will also respond to your voice commands: “Open File” opens the File menu. To activate voice commands, click Voice Command on the Language Bar, and then speak clearly into the microphone.


Depending on the power of your microphone, Word might pick up any little sound and interpret it as either a command or a word to be entered. While I was working on this section, for example, the telephone rang and I answered it. Somehow during that brief exchange, Word got the idea I was commanding it to print the document, so it opened the Print dialog box and tried sending the file to the printer. The moral: Turn the microphone off when you don’t mean to speak into it.

Writing Text

Another fun feature in the Word toolkit is handwriting recognition. Now, this may not be practical for you for any long passages of text unless you have a graphics tablet (and pretty good handwriting, to boot).

To get the process started, click Handwriting on the Language Bar and choose Writing Pad from the menu that appears. The Writing Pad appears on the screen and you can write the text you want Word to insert. Word recognizes what you write and adds the typed characters on the screen, as shown in Figure 4-8.

Figure 4-8. You can use handwriting recognition to jot notes into your document.


You’ll have a good time experimenting with the different handwriting features—and you can draw on the screen, too. The whole process will be much easier if you use something other than a touchpad as a pointing device (which is what I do when I want to add my signature to documents or draw highlighting marks on documents). A graphics tablet, a stylus, or even a mouse would be a much friendlier drawing instrument than a touchpad.

One more thing—how do you get rid of that infernal Language Bar when it seems to want to stay smack dab in the middle of your Word document? Click the small minimize button on the upper right corner of the bar. You’ll see a Language Bar message box, telling you that the bar will be minimized and displayed as an icon beside the clock in the taskbar. Click OK and the Language Bar disappears.


Don’t forget to save the file once you’ve finished it. Remember how? Press Ctrl+S to display the Save As dialog box, navigate to the folder in which you want to save the file, enter a file name, and click Save.

As this chapter has shown, the basic tasks for creating your first document are simple—you just open a new document and enter text. But the range of choices for the kind of document you create and the way in which you enter text require some exploration. By now you should have enough of a foundation to really begin cranking out those words in Word.

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