If you work on proposals and/or marketing content, chances are you use Microsoft Word®. In fact, a Forrester report found that over 90 percent of companies run some version of Word, while less than 8 percent run any of its competitors. That’s right, despite some occasional quirkiness and ill-conceived components (remember Clippy?), Word continues to be the dominant word processing software in marketing and sales.
However, while most professionals use Word every day, many don’t realize that it has evolved over the years, adding various time-saving features to each new version. And Word 2013 and 2016 are no exceptions. That’s why in this post, we’re discussing some of our favorite newer Word features—ones we’ve found to be the most useful in streamlining content development. On to the list!
1. Table Formatting
Most proposal writers love tables, and for good reason. They’re a great way to convey information that otherwise might not be obvious or readily understood. Unfortunately, formatting them in previous Word versions was often a tedious and frustrating challenge. No more. Word has a bunch of new table features that we like, most notably the border painter, border sampler, and one-click row/column insert.
Border Painter: First is the border painter, which does away with the click madness required to add different border types in a table. Just go to the Design tab, select your desired border style/color/thickness, then click the Border Painter button, which will make your cursor appear as a paintbrush. Now any border you click will change to your desired appearance.
Border Sampler: If your desired border appearance is already somewhere in the table or a table nearby, use the border sampler. In the Design tab, click Border Styles, then Border Sampler, which will make your cursor appear as a dropper. Click the border with your desired appearance, then each of the borders you would like to change to that appearance. Easy.
Quick Inserts: Finally, you can now insert a new column or row with one click. Simply place your cursor above a column border or to the left of a row border, and a small plus sign will appear. Click the sign, and a new column or row appears. It may not sound like much, but with the number of tables in most proposals, not having to right-click or search the toolbar/ribbon for every insertion can save some serious time.
2. Image Alignment
Another famously frustrating area of Word is the positioning of graphics. Fortunately, in addition to having improved layout options, Word now incorporates alignment guides, little green lines that allow you to easily line up graphics to other proposal elements.
Whenever you click and move a floating graphic element (i.e., an image, chart, or SmartArt illustration set to text wrapping other than In Line with Text), the guides will appear when it is aligned to other elements on the page, such as a heading or the top of a paragraph. Guides will also appear when the graphic is lined up to page margins, the page center, and page edges.
3. Collapsible Sections
Most proposals have lots of pages and lots of sections. Combine that with the scattered requirements and redundant or overlapping questions found in many RFPs, and it’s amazing that our scroll bars and page up and page down buttons haven’t worn out.
Luckily, Word now allows you to collapse sections within a document, minimizing the time spent scrolling for information. It works like this: When you move your cursor over text formatted in a heading style, a small triangle appears to the left of the heading. Click the triangle, and all content between that heading and the next is collapsed. Click the triangle again to make the content return.
This feature is particularly useful when writing and editing proposal drafts, as well as when scanning and referencing an RFP document. By keeping each section collapsed except for the one you’re working on, it is much easier to navigate documents, refer back to prior sections, and find what you’re looking for—quickly.
4. PDF Conversions
Ever want to include text or tables from other documents in your proposal, but they’re not in Word? Talk about a formatting nightmare, with pasted content often riddled with random paragraph marks, indents, and extra spaces. Thankfully, those days are mostly gone.
Just like newer versions of Adobe Acrobat, Word now allows you to convert PDF files to Word while fully preserving the fonts, layout, and formatting. Simply open the PDF file in Word, click OK, and you’re done.
This feature is particularly useful for recreating RFP forms and developing proposal outlines, compliance matrices, pricing tables, and project status sheets. Also, it can be a major time saver to open full RFP documents in Word, allowing you to easily scan sections and requirements with the new section collapsing feature.
5. Comment Dialogues
While the comment feature has always been handy for proposal reviews, things can get very confusing—visually and narratively—when you have more than one reviewer. Ever find yourself looking cross-eyed at a colorful page of comments, desperately trying to figure out who is responding to whom and who is referring to what? Us too.
In Word 2013 and 2016, Microsoft has taken a queue from Facebook and created easy-to-follow comment dialogues. Rather than treating every piece of feedback as a new comment, it allows reviewers to engage in a discussion within a single comment box. To reply to a comment, reviewers click the comment reply icon (at the right of the comment box). Then, when a topic has been fully dealt with, you can right-click the discussion and select Mark Comment Done, which grays out the comment box. Much easier.
6. Simplified Edits
Remember that colorful page of comments? How about when they’re accompanied by a headache-inducing number of tracked text and formatting changes? Yikes. This view can be very troublesome when finalizing changes to a proposal draft, often resulting in the introduction of new mistakes, such as dropped punctuation and missing or additional spaces.
Luckily, Word has added a few features to avoid this issue. First, Simple Markup has been included as an option for viewing tracked changes (in the Review tab, under Tracking). It shows the final version of the document, but with a red mark to the left of each line where a change has been made. To see what the changes were, you simply click the red mark.
Second, you can now lock the Track Changes feature with a password so reviewers can’t bypass it (unfortunately, we’ve seen this happen all too often). That way, reviewer mistakes or changes aren’t unknowingly introduced during the review stage, and you avoid ever hearing, “Oops, I forgot to track changes.” Thank goodness.
Next Up: As we put this list together, it got us thinking about some of the time-saving Word features that have been around for years, but that a surprising amount of professionals aren’t familiar with. We’ll be discussing them in our next entry.
Shameless Plug Alert: A great way to ensure you have clear, persuasive proposals and presentations is by hiring a professional writer, editor, or trainer. You know, like the ones at Freestyle Editorial Services. Explore our website and contact us today to discuss how we can make your company stand apart from the competition.
One Final Note: We’re always suspicious when articles mention products by name, so let’s be clear: Freestyle Editorial has no relationship with Microsoft, and we’ve certainly had our fair share of frustration with Word’s quirks. The features discussed above are just some of our favorites, plain and simple.