Getting the most out of Microsoft Word – simple formatting tips that it seems most don’t know about

I write a lot of Microsoft Word based documents. Specifications, requirements, technical reviews, articles, designs, the vast majority, but not all, IT related. They often contain a lot of tables, diagrams, and in a lot of cases these complex documents are many, many pages long. And I work with, or review many documents written by others.

One of the things that I never cease to be amazed by are the extraordinarily simple Microsoft Word formatting settings, it seems very few people know about, or if they do, don’t use very well, that can easily improve the layout and formatting of documents. They are all related to document pagination and how content is positioned, and essentially remains positioned.

And when these settings are used appropriately, they can make a huge difference to how a document looks, and more importantly how it looks as the document evolves and grows.

These properties are all defined as characteristics of a Microsoft word paragraph and are assembled under the heading of Pagination on the Line and Page Breaks tab. They’re the following settings:

  • Widow/Orphan Control
  • Keep with next
  • Keep lines together
  • Page break before

These seemingly simple settings can help you control the format of a complex Microsoft Word document much more comprehensively than you might at first imagine. I’ll describe the sort of scenarios that they assist you with, or more particularly, the sort of situations I often encounter in documents that these settings can help avoid. I’ll go through a number of scenarios in which each of these settings can assist you with.

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Where is all my Macbook Pro’s Hard Disk Space going?

I have been mystified by the gradual decline in free hard disk space on my Macbook Pro. It accelerated over recent times, around the time I upgraded to El Capitan, and exacerbated by a temporary failure to my primary Time Machine device, and my initial instinct was to blame the new Operating System. It turns out, I was wrong. The answer was a default characteristic of how my Time Machine Backups work. Here’s what I found out.

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If you don’t have one, get yourself a password manager … now

For some time now, I’ve been using a password manager application, across multiple platforms, that I’ve found to be very effective. I’m not writing this post to specifically promote the particular application I use – it happens to be mSeven Software’s mSecure, which I’m very, very happy with, but as a call to action to those who don’t have one – go out and get one now. A recent experience that a friend had, has just demonstrated to me, just how important they are.

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Can’t Connect to the iTunes / App Store from your Apple Device – check this first!

I was confronted one morning recently by a very frustrated daughter of mine who was complaining that the home WiFi was playing up again, and that she couldn’t connect to either Apple App Store or the iTunes Store from their iPad. The symptom was quite curious, because the applications appeared to display correctly momentarily, and then the message “Can’t Connect to the App Store” (or iTunes store) appeared after that. Very strange.

In typically careless fashion she hadn’t backed up or synced her iPad in months, and the system software was 2 versions out of date, and so I suggested she do all of that housekeeping and once that was all done, come and see me again. Well she had to go out to do some shopping, so it fell to me to go through all of these remedial actions, none of which appeared to resolve the issue. My other Child’s iPad was working fine, so the mystery deepened.

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An unfortunate side-effect while migrating Sharepoint content from 2007 to 2013 causes some embarassment

A client I’ve been working with recently has been migrating their Intranet from SharePoint 2007 to 2013, and we’ve been using the pretty impressive Quest Migration Suite for SharePoint, which is now sold by Dell since the Quest change of ownership.

I’ve found the tool to be very impressive, quite efficient and generally fairly intuitive, but I came across an interesting issue, or perhaps “side-effect”, that after reviewing the User Manual, isn’t “warned against”, but probably deserves to be.

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