Basic use of MSWORD

What is in this guide?

  1. What can you use MSWORD for
  2. Important things to know about your computer and keyboard
  3. How to use MSWORD
  4. How to set up a filing system on MS WORD

  1. What can you use MSWORD for?

Many organisations now use computers to produce and organise written material, correspondence, membership lists and so on. This guide deals with the most common programme, MSWORD, that is used on most computers. It is written for people who have not used the programme before and has very basic information about the keyboard and MSWORD. If you have taught yourself to use MSWORD, it may also be useful to you.

Your MSWORD programme is called a word-processing package. This means that it is useful for typing and storing letters, articles and anything that consists mainly of words. It is basically a fancy typewriter with a built in filing-system.

The more you use your computer the more you will learn about what it can do. This guide contains a few basic things to help you get started.

If you have not used a computer much, print the next section out and look at your keyboard and MSWORD programme with it. Try to do everything as you read it.

  1. Important things to know about your computer and keyboard

Your computer

A computer usually has six important parts:

  1. A keyboard – that you use to type on and to give commands to the computer
  2. A screen – where you can see your document and all the commands a programme offers
  3. A hard drive with stiffy and CDRom ports – The hard drive is the actual computer where all programmes and information is stored. Stiffy disks or CDRom can be used to store your back-up files. They can also be used to transfer information from one computer to another.
  4. A mouse – this is a tool you use to give orders to the programme by moving an arrow or line [cursor] that appears on the screen and clicking on command symbols or clicking on a letter or word where you want to work. You can use the mouse to highlight sections that you want to delete, move or format.
  5. A printer – the printer is connected to the computer and prints paper copies of your documents
  6. A modem – this can be connected to the computer or can be built in. It is used to make a phone call from your computer to another computer so that you can send information between the two - eMail and internet needs a modem.

Your keyboard

The keyboard has many keys that make typing and layout easier. Here is a list with a short explanation of useful keys:

Esc - this means escape and is what you press to escape from any control key you have pressed.

Tab – this makes indents [a bigger than normal space between the text and the margin.]

Caps Lock – if you press this key a green light will appear on the right hand side of the keyboard and any typing you do will be in capital letters. This is useful for headings.

Shift – this button shifts you into a capital letter when you just want to use it briefly –for example to start a sentence. Press shift and the key you want to use. It is also useful when you want to put in the punctuation marks or other symbols that are on top on the keys of the numbers and some of the punctuation keys on the keyboard. So, if you need a question mark you will need to press the shift key and the key with the ? on it.

Home – if you press this you will get to the first letter of the line you are typing. If you press CTRL [control] and Home at the same time you will get to the first letter of the first word of your document. This is useful if you have typed a long document and want to make a change in the first paragraph.

End – takes you to the end of a line. Ctrl and End at the same time takes you to the very end of the whole document.

Delete – this is an eraser – it erases or deletes any letter or word, or line or paragraph you decide you don’t want anymore. If it is a letter, use the mouse to go to the letter and click on the letter. Then press delete – the letter in front of the cursor will be deleted. Some times it is easier and quicker to use the

Backspace arrow just above the Enter button can be used if you want to delete the last letter you have typed. The letter should disappear. If it is a whole word, or line or paragraph then use your mouse to go to the beginning of the part you want to delete. Keep your finger clicked down on the left hand mouse button and drag it over the whole bit you want to delete. This is called HIGHLIGHTING a section and the screen shows this by making the section black and the typing white. Then press delete and the whole bit will disappear.

Page Up and Page Down - take you to the top and bottom of the page you are currently busy on.

Arrows - Use the arrows on the right hand side of the letters to move the cursor (line on the screen showing your position - where the next letter will be typed) up, down or sideways. You can also use the mouse to do this. If you want to add or delete something, move your cursor to the right place and then either delete or add letters.

  1. How to use MSWORD

Switch on your computer and wait until a whole lot of picture symbols appear with a Start button on the bottom left of the screen. Use the left button on the mouse to click on the Start button. Then click on programmes and then double-click on the MSWORD programme. Some computers have a MSWORD symbol that will come up when your computer is on and you do not have to go to start – simply double click the left button of the mouse on the symbol.

The Microsoft word programme will appear on the screen.

There will be a blank screen called Document 1. Every thing you type is called a document. Above the blank screen there are various terms and signs you should know about.

  • The first line has a list of titles called commands - File, Edit, View, etc
  • The second and third lines are called the toolbar and have different blocks that you can use to give quicker commands to the computer.
  • The fourth line [if there is one] shows your page margins – it is called the ruler.

The File title

Click on this and a box with different sections will appear. This is your file organiser and you use the first section:

  • To start a new document (click on new) You can use the block with a folder on it on the toolbar to do this more quickly. Use your mouse to click on it.)
  • To open an old document (click on open) and then click on the name of the document you want to open
  • To close a document. The computer will ask you if you want to save it before you close it and then you click on Yes or No.

The next section is to do with saving documents.

If you press save, the document will be saved under its heading in the general folder called My Documents. You can do this with the block on the toolbar showing stiffy disk. Click on it with your mouse.

Save As allows you to save a document under a new name in the folder of your choice. When you click on Save as, a new box will open on screen. First go to the Save In square. It should say My Documents. In the block below yellow folders will appear if you have made them. (See Step 2 in Using MSWORD as an Office) Click on the folder you want to save the document in. Click on Open. Then check that you like the name of the document. If you like it press save. If you don’t like it delete the file name and type a new name. Then click save.

If your document is an update of an old document but you want to save it as a new version click on Version in the Save box under file. Type in your comments and click Save. (I don’t use this much as I just give the document a new date and use Save As to save it under a new name.)

The next section is to do with how the document looks (Page Set Up) and Print Preview and to print documents.

Page set up allows you to change the margins of the page so that you can get more (or less) typing on a page. If you click on Paper Size it allows you to change the page into Portrait (normal A4) or Landscape (sideways A4)

Print preview allows you to see what the document will look like on a printed page. You can also to this by using the block on the toolbar with a page and magnifying glass on it.

Print allows you to print the document if your computer is connected to a printer. You can also print quickly by using the block with a printer on your toolbar.

The next section allows you to Send your document either to another computer via email or to a fax machine. Your computer has to be set up for this. You can also email your document by using the block on the bottom toolbar with an envelope on it. Properties allows you to store information about your document.

The next section is a list of the last four documents you worked on. Clicking on the right file name is a quick way of opening the any of these documents.

The last section says Exit. If you click on this the MSWORD programme will shut down and you can return to Windows. If you have forgotten to save any documents the computer will ask you if you want to Save. Click on Yes or No. You can also exit or close down MSWORD by clicking on the X in the last square on the top right hand side of the screen.

The Edit title

This section allows you to change or edit your work.

The most useful tools in the list are Cut, Copy and Paste.

Cut: this allows you to delete a section but not to throw it away completely in case you need it later. Use your mouse and drag it over the section you want to delete. Then go to Edit. Click Cut. If you want to use it again you can add it in later or move it to another section. You use the Paste command to move the section to a new place. Take your cursor to where you want to place the section. Click on Edit. Click Paste and the cut section will be pasted or put in this new place. We call this Cutting and Pasting.

You can also Copy a section of your work and use it again. Highlight the section with your mouse. Click on edit. Click on Copy. Then take your cursor to the new place you want to put it. Click on Edit. Click Paste and the section will be repeated.

If you want to do it quickly, you can use the scissors symbol on your toolbar to cut, the two pages next to it to copy and the clipboard next to that, to paste. 

WARNING: Your computer will only keep the last section that you cut or copied. As soon as you cut or copy another section, the first one will be deleted.

The View title

When you type a document the view on screen is in Normal mode – or as it appears on the screen. You can look at it in Layout (as it would appear) printed or in other ways. A quick way of looking at your page layout is to use the toolbar and click on the blank page with a magnifying glass on it.

You can also change your Toolbar using View. Just click next to the tools you want displayed on the screen. Do not open too many since the part of your screen that you type on will become very small. It is best to leave this until you know your computer well, as it is not really necessary!

If you have poor eyesight you can change the size of the letters you see on screen. Use the Zoom command at the bottom of View and set your view to 100% or more – just click next to 100% if that is big enough or go down to the box at the bottom and type in 110%. 

The Insert title

This is useful for inserting Page Breaks (that is, beginning a new page), page numbers, footnotes, pictures and so on.

You can also use this box to insert page numbers. Click on Page Numbers and then click on OK. If you want to copy documents on both sides of a page, it is best to put your page number in the middle of the page at the bottom. To do this click on the box called Alignment and then click on Centered.

Play with this box on a practice document to see what you can do with it.

The Format title

This is useful for layout or making your document look attractive. There are various headings.

Font: This is the type of print or shape of print you are using. Your MSWORD programme comes with a few options like Arial, New Times Roman, Century Gothic and so on. You can set the font type and the size of letters for a document before you start working. The format also appears in the second white block on the toolbar below the titles, with an arrow next to it and followed by a block with a number in it and another arrow. You use these to quickly change the font and the size of the font. So you can write big or small and in different styles. For normal typing is best to use a font size of 11 or 12. For headings you can use a bigger size or make the headings in bold. Just highlight the heading and then click on the B at the top of your screen. Fonts are fun to play with.

Paragraph: The paragraph section allows you to change the margins of a paragraph. It also allows you to change your line spacing to single, or bigger. You can also make the gaps between paragraphs a bit bigger – just click on Paragraph and then on Spacing Before – change the 0 to 0.6.

Bullets and Numbers: Bullets allow you to mark points in different ways, using dots, or arrows or blocks and so on. Highlight the section you want to bullet and then click on Format, then on Bullets and Numbering and then on the type of bullets you like. A new bullet will appear wherever you pressed enter to make a new paragraph. Numbers allow you to number your sentences or paragraphs in different styles (a, b, c, 1, 2, 3 and so on.)

The quick way to do this is by clicking on the little blocks with numbers or the little block with dots (bullets) on your toolbar.

Borders and shading: allows you to put a border around your whole document or to put a box or border around a paragraph. Highlight the piece you want to border. Go to Format. Go to Borders and click on the kind of border you want. You can also put in a background shade. Play with this until you find the style you like best.

The quick way to place a border around a section is to highlight it and then to click on the square on the top toolbar near the right end.

Columns: allow you to arrange your whole document into columns. Normally it is in one column, but you may want to make it look like a newspaper and have different columns. I think it is easiest to do this before you begin typing, but you can do it afterwards. Decide on how many columns you want. Go to Format. Click on Columns. Click on the style you like and then type.

Change case: Sometimes one types in capitals by mistake. Rather than retyping the whole section you can highlight it. Go to Format. Go to Change case. Click on Sentence case and it will correct it for you.

The Tools title

This has a helpful button to check the spelling in your whole document.

Miss-spelt words are underlined in red as you make the error. It is quicker to correct all the errors at the end, rather than do them one by one. You do this by going to Tools. Click on Spelling. The spell-check will give you options – click on the correct spelling and the click on Change. If the word is correctly spelt, but not in their dictionary click on Ignore or Add.

You can also highlight a word you are not sure of and the click on the ABC symbol on your toolbar.

The Table title

Often we want to arrange information in tables. Decide whether you need a table. Decide how many columns you want. Then go to Table before you type the information you want in the table.

Insert Table allows you to make a new table. Click on the number of lines and columns you need. You can change the numbers by clicking on the little black arrows next to the number. Then click on OK. The computer will put in a table for you. You can change the size of the columns by using your mouse to drag the downward lines closer or further apart. Then type in your

information in the columns you want. If you want lines and borders to appear on the table when it is printed click on the borders box on the toolbar. A new toolbar will open. Go to the border box on that toolbar and click on the arrow next to it and then on the box with gridlines on it.

The Window title

I never use this but it allows you to work on two documents at once.

The Help title.

Play with this. It will tell you how to do things. The contents are arranged alphabetically and you find out more about what you want your MSWORD to do.

The toolbar

Look at your toolbar. On the top left it will show the font and size in white boxes. You can change your font and its size by clicking on the arrows next to each and selecting what you want.

These are a quick way for you to make some words or headings Bold (B), to type some words in italics (I) or to underline them (U).

Then there are 4 blocks with lines in them. These can align your typing in different ways. Get to know them by typing a paragraph and highlighting it. Then try what each looks by clicking each of the 4 blocks. The first one is the normal way your text will be aligned. The second one centres your typing in the middle of the page. It is most useful to make headings if you want them in the centre of the page. The third one is not used often since it aligns the right side of page and the left side is uneven. The fourth one is used to align both sides – this makes your document look nice, but it sometimes stretches out the spaces between words and can make a line look strange

Then there are the numbers and bullets tools. Highlight the section you want numbered or bulleted and click on the right tool. If you do not like the type of bullets or numbers you will have to go to format and change the bullet type and then click on Reset [if you want to use this type for bullets in your whole document] and OK.

The next two tools have stripes and an arrow. The are useful for indenting a paragraph. Highlight the paragraph and the click on the first one to move it to the left and the second one to move it to the right.

A square box is the next tool. This can help you arrange your borders quickly. Click the mouse button on the arrow next to it and it will give you the options. Choose the one you like and click on it.

If you go to any other tool on the third line with your mouse, it will light up and tell you what it is for. We covered most of them already. A very useful tool is the curved blue arrow. This is called the undo button and it reverses an action you have taken that you don’t like. So if you deleted something and want to put it back – click undo immediately.

  1. How to set up a filing system on MSWORD

Your MSWORD programme can be a mini – office if you set it up in an organised way from the beginning. In the same way as you would file paper copies of documents, all your MSWORD documents should be filed in folders so that they are easy to find.


Imagine that you are setting up a filing system and decide what files you will need. For example, you will need a file for membership, for staff issues, for funders, for training and so on. Where possible your computer files should be the same as your office paper files.[see guide on Filing] Make a list of all the separate files you think you will need and write them on a piece of paper and then go to your computer.


Switch the computer on and click on the icon [symbol] saying My Computer. Then click on C drive. Then click on the folder marked My Documents. Go with your mouse to File. Click on New. Click on Folder. Make the folders you need by typing the name and remember to press enter each time you have typed in the name of the folders from the list you made in Step ONE.

Now, under the main heading of My Documents you will have separate folders with different titles. Every time you use MSWORD and click Open these folders will appear and you can open an old document by clicking on the folder and then on Open. The list of documents in that folder will then appear. When you click on Save As, the list of folders will also appear. Save your new documents or letters or anything you type in the correct folder.


You can now file all your old documents into the right folders. Switch on your computer and click on My Computer. Click on C and then on My Documents. All the folders and all the old documents should appear on the screen. Simply put your cursor on a document and hold the left mouse button down. Now drag the file document to the right folder and release the button. If some of your documents are on the C drive and not on My Documents, you first have to move them to My Documents. Click the right mouse button on the document and a new box of commands will open. Then click on Send To and then on My Documents.

How to make back-up copies.

A back-up is a file saved onto a stiffy disk. It is a good idea to store your completed documents on stiffy disks in case your computer is stolen, or gets a virus and crashes. This means you have a copy which you can use on another computer. Get into the habit of doing this at least once a week. Use a different stiffy for each folder. Go to My Computer, then click on My Documents. Put in a stiffy disk and click the right hand mouse button on the first folder. Click on Send To and then on 3½ " Stiffy. If you want to take a document to another computer, you can simply click Save As and the click on 3½" Stiffy.

A hard copy is a paper copy. You do this by using the printer. Very important documents [ like financial records and reports] should always be printed out. In this way you also have a readily available copy which someone may want to look at without using the computer. Store hard copies in files in a filing cabinet.