I’m sure that many people would like me to add Word 2007 to the versions covered in Perfect Pages, but the truth is that it will be some time before I can do it—and in fact, it may never get done. This is partly because I’m tired of writing about Word, and partly because the Windows and Mac editions have started diverging more widely than ever. Since I’m mostly on a Mac, I’m just not that anxious to keep up with the Windows edition.
Oh, and there’s one more reason. For self publishing in general, Word 2007 is a sizeable step backward.
So, for now at least, I’m instead offering this introduction to Word 2007, based on postings to my blog. (Anyway, this may actually be more helpful for people upgrading from previous versions.)
Installing the Program
The first thing I noticed when installing Word 2007 in Windows XP was that it didn’t work. I kept getting the error message, “Word cannot create the work file, check the TEMP environment variable.” Searching the Web, I found a number of people who had experienced this problem, but no definite solution. I finally worked out a fix, though: With the User Accounts control panel, I created a new account, copied all my files over, and deleted the old account. Now it works fine. (Or rather, it works as Microsoft intended.)
All new files are automatically created in Word’s new, more efficient, and more secure file format. To convert older files, though, you have to do a “Save As.” And don’t forget, “older files” includes your templates!
When you convert an older file, you’re warned that the layout may change. To prevent that, you can choose to make the converted document “compatible” with earlier versions. This is a bit confusing, but what it means is that Word will still convert the file to the new format, but it will apply Compatibility settings to keep the layout from changing, including carrying over your own earlier Compatibility settings for the document. This is actually an improvement over previous versions of Word, which would apply such settings without asking.
If you have a document that has already received final formatting and isn’t slated for significant further change, I suggest you opt for the offered layout compatibility with earlier versions. If your document is still in development, skip the compatibility and let Word clear all such settings. But then make sure you go in and personally set those Compatibility options as I recommend in Perfect Pages and later in this article.
Word 2007 has a couple of new settings files to worry about backing up. Your Quick Access Toolbar settings file, Word.qat, is in C:\Documents and Settings\[UserName]\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Office. Custom Style Set templates are in C:\Documents and Settings\[UserName]\Application Data\Microsoft\QuickStyles. For your custom templates, you can still use the File Locations options to place them somewhere more accessible for backup—but in Word 2007, this will make them less accessible when you’re creating a new document.
New and Improved
Though it’s Word 2007’s new interface that has garnered the most attention, there are also some interesting additions and improvements among Word’s features. I’ll discuss PDF export and some new Styles features later in this article, but here are a few of the rest.
Word has long offered an option for “mirror margins.” With Word 2007, it now offers “mirror indents” as well. Find this option in the Paragraph Format dialog box. (Also in this dialog box is a tantalizing option for vertical spacing called “Snap to grid when document grid is defined.” But apparently this is only meant for Asian language text.)
A very interesting development in the spell checker is the addition of “contextual spelling.” This tries to see if you’re using a word that’s entirely incorrect, regardless of misspelling—like the difference between “its” and “it’s,” or “lose” and “loose.” Though I wouldn’t count on this feature any more than I would on any other spell checking, it should at least provide an improved backup check. Checking of contextual spelling is turned on or off in the Proofing section of Word Options.
Along with Word’s other automatic text functions like indexing and creating a table of contents, Word can now format a bibliography. This is on the References tab of the Ribbon.
With Word 2007, Word for Windows can finally import an EPS file—something that only Word for the Mac could do previously. You have to be using the new Word file format, though. And Word didn’t print it in the correct position. And it still can’t import a PDF file—at least not in Windows XP. But you can’t ask for everything, can you?
The file-bloating and potentially corrupting Versions feature has been removed!
Taming the Interface
Few of the typographic features of Word have actually changed, but they’ve all been moved around, so you’ll have to relearn where everything is. That shouldn’t be too hard, though, because the new Ribbon puts a good deal up front. The dialog boxes where you get the control you need for book typography are a bit more hidden, but you can generally reach them by clicking on the arrows in the lower right of a Ribbon group. For instance, click the arrow at bottom right of the Paragraph group on the Home tab to bring up the Paragraph Format dialog box.
Still, just as with any version of Word, I recommend you get a good manual. (A good one is Word 2007 Bible.) Unfortunately, Word Help in this version, with its “OR” searching instead of “AND,” is proving pretty much useless.
To possibly save you some searching, I’ll just tell you that the functions of the old File menu are not on the Ribbon at all. They’re in a new “Office menu” that you get by clicking the Office symbol at top left.
Let’s be clear about this: The Ribbon is a clunker. Though less is hidden, it takes longer to get to anything. Good for beginners, lousy for experts. At the same time, Word 2007 is far less customizable than previous versions were, at least for the average user.
Still, the program leaves enough room for customization that you can avoid the worst effects of the Ribbon. On my copy, I’ve moved the Quick Access Toolbar—the short toolbar at upper left—to a position below the Ribbon and loaded it with all the commands I use most often. To find the menu for customizing this toolbar, click the down arrow at its right end. You can also directly add tools from the Ribbon—including the dialog box arrows—after right-clicking on them.
After customizing the Quick Access Toolbar, I collapsed the Ribbon, so that only the tabs show. This gets the Ribbon out of the way while still letting me click on the tabs and display the associated parts of the Ribbon when I need them. To collapse or restore the Ribbon, double-click any tab.
The status bar at the bottom can be customized too, letting you show different kinds of info. Right-click it to see the customization menu. I recommend turning on “Formatted Page Number”—especially if your page count doesn’t always start on the first page of the document—and “Section.”
According to report, custom toolbars embedded in your templates from earlier Word versions will still show up in Word 2007—but you’ll have no way to modify them. Personally, I think it’s wiser to stick with what Word now provides.
For those of you who want to deal with the Ribbon as little as possible—or to at least gain some time to get used to it—there are several add-ons available to restore to Word the classic menus and the two primary toolbars. These are not hacks—they make use of advanced customizing capabilities that Word makes available to programmers.
- Classic Menu, from Addintools, www.addintools.com
- Ribbon Customizer, www.pschmid.net/office2007/ribboncustomizer
- Toolbar Toggle, www.toolbartoggle.net
Taming the Settings
In Word 2007, Word Options are accessed from a button at the bottom of the new Office menu (the one you get by clicking the Office symbol at top left.)
There’s even more here to play with than in previous versions, and I don’t pretend to know all the best choices for you. (Personally, I prefer not to be distracted by the new Mini Toolbar and Live Preview, so I turned those off.) One option that will be important, though, is “Show Developer tab in the Ribbon,” found in the Popular options group. Turn this on, because it gives you access to template tools.
Thankfully, there’s no longer a “Fast Saves” option to let Word corrupt your files, but there’s still one to turn off for “Background Saves.” It’s not in the regular Save options, though—you have to find it among the Advanced options.
The Compatibility options are much better hidden than before. To find them, go to the very bottom of the list of Advanced options and click on the little plus sign next to “Layout Options.” As with earlier versions, first use the drop-down menu at the top to choose compatibility with the current version. Then select the WordPerfect justification option, and also “Don’t use HTML paragraph auto spacing.” Make sure “Use printer metrics” is off.
Note that another menu at the top of this list applies these settings to one of the current open documents or all later documents. So, if you want to affect the current document and all later documents, you have to apply the options twice! You also have to apply them separately to each existing document that needs them.
If you’re wondering what happened to Normal view, it has now been demoted to “Draft view.” That’s because Microsoft is urging you to instead use Print Layout view, which features Word’s new Live Preview. Personally, I’ll stick to Normal—excuse me—Draft view. If you want to allow documents to open in this view, go to the Advanced options under “General” and select “Allow opening a document in Draft view.”
If you want the old Draft view, you can get it by going to the Advanced options under “Show Document Content.” Select “Use draft font in Draft and Outline views.”
If you want to make Print Layout view less wasteful of screen space, go to the Display options and deselect “Show white space between pages in Print Layout view.” Or just double click between pages shown on screen.
Styles have become even more powerful and even more confusing in Word 2007 with the introduction of “Quick Styles” and “Style Sets.” Again, easier for newbies, harder for experts.
The Styles group is found on the Ribbon’s Home tab. As with other Ribbon groups, you can access more complete controls by clicking the arrow at bottom right of the Styles group. This brings up the Styles task pane.
It’s a bit different from the Styles and Formatting task pane in Word 2003, but if you poke around, you’ll find just about everything you’d expect, as well as some nice additions. You can use the Styles window options (bottom right) to set the window to show only “Recommended” styles, then use the Manage Styles dialog box (at the bottom, third button from the left) to set which styles are Recommended.
What may throw you are the Styles commands visible on the Ribbon itself. First off, you’ll see that the old pull-down Styles menu from the Formatting toolbar has been replaced by the new Quick Styles Gallery. It’s not as efficient, but then, that’s the Ribbon for you. One thing that you might like is that you get a Live Preview in Print Layout view when you hold your cursor over a Quick Style—unless you’ve turned that off in Word Options, as I have.
To the right of the Quick Styles Gallery is the Change Styles pull-down menu, from which you can choose a different “Style Set.” In other words, you can import into your document an entirely different set of style definitions for existing styles. This is much like attaching a new template to your document and in that way importing its styles—and in fact, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Style Sets are contained in special Word templates that are stored separately from others and that contain nothing but styles. Word supplies a number of these templates, and you can create your own.
Does anyone else see a problem with this feature? If you have customized the styles in an individual document, and then you change the Style Set just to try it out, you would wipe out your customizations. A command on the Change Styles menu lets you revert to the document’s earlier style definitions, but this works only if you haven’t saved and closed the document.
On the other hand, if you’re sure of what you’re doing, you can use Style Sets to your advantage. Instead of saving customized styles to a standard template, you could save them as custom Style Sets, then use this menu to quickly import or refresh those styles. In this way, it can be used like the old Style Gallery. This may be more convenient than attaching or re-attaching a standard template that includes those styles, which would do the same thing.
If you use Style Sets in this way, you may find it safer and simpler to rename your styles with unique names—style names not used anywhere by Word. “Normal,” for instance, could become “My Normal” or “Body” or “Paragraph” or “Text.”
On the other hand, you might find it safest not to use Style Sets at all. In this case you can studiously ignore the feature, or else turn it off completely through the Styles task panel. To do that, click on the Manage Styles button at the bottom, go to the “Restrict” tab, and check the box that says “Block Quick Style Set switching.” To block it for all new documents, do this in your Blank Document template, Normal.dotm.
Saving as PDF
One of my main interests in Word 2007 was the new capability to save direct to PDF. Is it good enough to produce files for commercial digital printing, at least for black-and-white interiors? I played around with it a good deal, and later sent a test file to my printer. First, here’s what I figured out from my initial prodding.
Before you export to PDF, make sure your file is in Word 2007’s new default file format. If the file was created in an older version of Word, this means you must “Save As” in the “Word Document” format.
Now you’re ready to “Save As” in PDF, but you have to be careful to get the right settings. To optimize, choose “Standard,” then click the “Options” button. You have to do this each time, because the settings don’t stick—or at least, they don’t always stick. In the dialog box, clear the option “Document structure tags for accessibility.” Those tags will greatly increase the size of your file and are useful only for ebooks and text meant for export to other formats.
Most importantly, select the option for the PDF/A standard. If you don’t, Word will refuse to embed any of the 13 most common fonts. You say you didn’t use any of those in your text? Well, Word may use some anyway for miscellaneous symbols and numbering, even if you don’t realize they’re there. If so, and if they’re not embedded in your PDF file, that file will likely be rejected by your print service.
And what’s the quality of the PDF? Running a test file through Adobe Acrobat Professional’s Preflight feature, it looks like Word 2007 by itself creates a PDF file that’s in some ways superior to what we’ve gotten from past Word versions partnered with Acrobat. For instance, blacks are now specified as grayscale instead of RGB.
So far, so good. To compare results, though, I later converted the same Word 2007 file to PDF using Acrobat Professional 6. (Note that you need Acrobat 8.1 or later to access Acrobat from within Word 2007—but printing to an Acrobat print driver from earlier Acrobat versions works just fine.)
To my surprise, the results were not identical, even for basic text. On the one page that I printed from each file, the text of one line—justified by compression, as allowed by the WordPerfect compatibility setting—showed slightly different character placement in each sample. More importantly, the Word export file in Acrobat’s Preflight showed a number of CID Type 2 characters, while the Acrobat file showed none. Neither of these are critical issues, but they did make me a bit cautious about trusting Word.
This test was run in Windows XP, and I think it would be worth repeating in Windows Vista, which has a different imaging engine with built-in PDF capability. But at least if you’re creating PDF files in XP and you already have Acrobat, you might want to stick with it.
By the way, under an agreement between Microsoft and Adobe, the “Save as PDF” capability doesn’t actually come with the program—but the first time you try to access it on the Office menu, you’re led through the steps to download the add-on.
PDF, Pictures, and Perversity
After my initial exploration of Word 2007’s PDF capabilities, I prepared some test files and sent them off to my printer, Lightning Source. Actually, they were pretty much my current files for Perfect Pages, because the book includes examples of a variety of text and graphic elements.
Frankly, I’m staggered by the results of this test and by my findings from the further exploration they inspired. (I was helped greatly in this exploration by the Preflight feature of Acrobat 7 Professional on my Mac.)
First, the good news. If you’re using Word for books with text only, you should be OK. The PDF files exported by Word 2007 with the PDF/A option seem to work just fine for text meant for digital black-and-white printing. If you have Acrobat, then using that is still probably your safest bet—but if you don’t, then you’re not likely to run into trouble if you create the file directly from Word.
Now the bad news. Word has become completely unprofessional in its handling of high-resolution graphics. I saw this first in Word 2004 for the Mac, and now it has come to Windows.
Basically, Word 2007 alters pictures in various ways and at various times to limit file size or “improve” appearance. The sins visited on your pictures without alerting you may include
- Downsampling (for lower resolution)
- Reduction of bit depth (for fewer colors or levels of gray)
- Antialiasing (for smoother but fuzzier lines and edges)
Depending on the kind of alteration, it may occur when you import or paste the picture, when you save the document, or not till you save as PDF. Some may even be based on context—perhaps on current file size. (At least, that was the best explanation I could think up for the inconsistency in my results.)
As it turns out, Word does give you a choice of “target resolutions” with a setting I can only describe as ingeniously hidden—under Options, in the dialog box of the “Compress Pictures” command, in the Adjust panel of Picture Tools (which only appear when a picture is selected)—but the highest resolution allowed is 220 ppi for “excellent” output.
I did work out one scheme, though, that seemed to guarantee avoiding these alterations entirely. You have to insert the picture by linking to it instead of by saving it in the document. Then you must forget Word’s PDF save and use Acrobat or another program to create your file.
Here’s my take on it: If you’re producing books with straight text, Word 2007 with its PDF save is a reasonable choice for your interior files. If you’re working with graphics too, you’re probably better off sticking with an earlier version.
And so Microsoft Word joins the march of today’s popular software to cater to the lowest level of users, sacrificing professional capability to ease of use. It looks like all the professionals who stuck with Word 2000 might have had the best idea.