A Beginner's Guide to Microsoft Office

A Beginner's Guide to Microsoft Office

Microsoft Word is a word processing program that was first made public by Microsoft in the early 1980s. It allows users to type and manipulate text in a graphic environment that resembles a page of paper. Extra features, such as tables, images and advanced formatting give users more options to customize their documents. Over the past three decades, there have been a number of updates and additions to Microsoft Word. Today it is one of the most widely used word processors available for Macs and PCs. It is often taught to students in schools and required as part of the basic computer requirements for many office jobs. In this guide, new users will learn the basic functions of Microsoft Word and how to use them.

Alignment – The alignment options dictate whether the left and right edges of the text in a document adhere to the right side, left, center or justified. Alignment can be set from the formatting toolbar at the top of the window or under by choosing “Paragraph” under the Format menu.


Bullets/Numbering – When creating a list of text items, users can choose from several bullet or numbering system to add a small graphic icon or series of numbers before each item. To add bullets or numbering to a series of text, click on the corresponding buttons in the formatting toolbar or choose “Bullets and Numbering” from the Format menu.


Clipboard – The clipboard acts as a type of storage area when a piece of text is temporarily removed and stored for later use within the same session. Using the Cut or Copy commands will place the text in the clipboard. Click on “Clipboard” under the Edit menu to view any text that may be temporarily stored in it.


Copy – Copying text simply means making a replica of any text that is currently selecting and saving it to the clipboard. Pressing the Control and C keys in Windows or Command and C on a Mac will copy the text. Alternatively, users can also select the text and then click the “Copy” option under the Edit menu or in the main toolbar.


Cut – Cutting text removes the text entirely from the viewable document and stores it in the clipboard. Control-X or Command-X are the keyboard shortcuts for the Cut function on Windows and Mac respectively. The Cut function can also be found under the Edit menu or the toolbar.


Document – Each document in Microsoft Word is essentially a new file. Each document can be several pages long. A new document can be created by hitting Control-N or Command-N, or by choosing the “New Blank Document” option from the File menu or the standard toolbar.


Edit – The edit menu or toolbar in Microsoft Word allows users to perform basic editing functions in their document such as copying, cutting and pasting. It also contains options for the Undo and Find/Replace functions.


Font – A font is a type of design for text and typically incorporates this design into each letter, number and symbol found on a keyboard. Fonts can range from formal to whimsical. Microsoft Word comes with a series of provided fonts and additional ones can also be downloaded if needed. To change the font used in a document, select the text and either click on the main Font menu, the Font drop-down menu in the formatting toolbar or hit Control-D or Command D.


Footer – The footer is the text that consistently appears on every page of a document, at the bottom of each page. Footers normally include details such as the page number, or a company’s name and contact details in formal documents. Add or edit a footer by choosing “Header and Footer” under the View menu.


Format – The Format menu (or toolbar) goes one step further than the Edit menu. Users can make stylistic changes by changing the look of the text itself, paragraphs, lists and more.


Header – The header is similar to a footer except that it sits at the very top of every page in a document. Headers often contain page numbers, the document name or sub-titles within a document. The header can be edited by clicking on “Header and Footer” within the View menu.


Justify, left justified, right justified – Justification is a type of alignment for text in a word processor. Justify ensures that both the left and right sides of the text in every paragraph run in a straight line. Left justify makes only the left side of the text aligned, while the right side remains ragged. Right justified does the complete opposite, with only the right side of the text aligned. Users can apply justification to their text by clicking on the corresponding buttons in the formatting toolbar or by selecting the text and clicking on “Paragraph” under the Format menu.


Open – The Open command opens an existing document in Microsoft Word. Command or Control plus O, or choosing “Open…” from the File menu will provide a pop-up window for users to select the document they wish to open.


Paste – The paste command takes any previously copied or cut text and lays it down within the document where the cursor is pointing. Control or Command plus V, or “Paste” from the Edit menu or standard toolbar will run the paste function.


Print – The print command first opens a window where users can specify parameters of the paper, printer and ink they wish to print with and it provides a preview of what the physical print will look like. Control or Command plus P, or clicking on “Print” in the File menu or standard toolbar lets users access the print window.


Quick access tool bar – The quick access toolbar is a small and moveable toolbar at the top of the document window. It usually contains buttons to save, undo, redo and print. This toolbar can also be customized to include or remove other commands.


Ribbon – The Ribbon is a type of toolbar found in versions of Microsoft Office 2007. It contains graphic buttons for commands and similar commands are shown in groups for easy access.


Save – The save command is one of the most important ones. It saves all of the work done to date within a document. The save command enables users to return to the same document later and continue writing, editing or printing. Control or Command plus S, or clicking “Save” under the File menu or standard toolbar will save the document. The “Save As” option is slightly different; it allows users to save the document as a different version by adding a different file name.


Text – Text is any of the words and paragraphs that a user types within a document.


Standard tool bar – The standard tool bar is the row of icons at the top of the document. Each of these buttons are used for basic functions such as saving, opening or printing documents, among other commands.

Undo – The undo feature keeps track of each command that a user issues while working on their document. Issuing the undo command allows the user to go back one step and restore the document as it was before their latest editing command. Related to the Undo command is Redo, which lets the user redo the same formatting command again. Control or Command plus Z, or “Undo” under the Edit menu is used to undo a command, while Control or Command plus Y or “Redo” under Edit is to redo a command.

Additional Resources

1.    Basic to Advanced Microsoft Word Quiz

2.    The Microsoft Word Toolbar Quiz

3.    Test Your Knowledge of Microsoft Word Basic Functions

4.    Print Microsoft Word Vocabulary Flash Cards

5.    How Well do You Know Microsoft Word? (PDF)

6.    Try This Online Microsoft Word Test