Microsoft Office Word 2007: Essential reference for power users

by Matthew Strawbridge (Ely: Software Reference, 2008): 640pp, £39.95 (pbk), ISBN 978 0 9554614 1 5.

Reviewed by Anne Waddingham

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This sizeable work (think telephone directory) was self-published by our own Matthew Strawbridge and is a labour of love – if that's the right term – if ever I saw one. Matthew has painstakingly gone down all the highways and byways, as well as the side roads and little lanes, to explore every menu, every option, every button that Word 2007 possesses, so you don't have to.

Why would anyone do such a thing? The blurb explains that this is not a user manual but a 'serious reference for power users, for whom the online help is not detailed enough'. 'Power users' are envisaged to be Word trainers, helpdesk support staff and MS Office programmers &ndash not your average SfEP member, then.

Filling in the gaps

Having said that, there's much to be got out of this book if you're a serious Word user for editing, particularly if you're confident enough to wade into the swirling waters of Visual Basic, the macro programming language. This is because the book is heavily cross-referenced to the relevant Word command. Indeed, Chapter 9 is a complete alphabetical list of Word's built-in commands, and even includes old ones (in grey type) that should not be used in new macros.

Chapter 1 – Basic Concepts – is especially useful for filling in the gaps that we all have in our knowledge – I'd learned half a dozen new things by the time I reached page 5! Matthew's tips are particularly handy, and are often backed up with a reference to an MS Knowledge Base article. Two examples are: instructions for turning off the Mini Toolbar, which appears like a ghost when your cursor hovers over selected text, irritatingly causing me to format text accidentally; and, more seriously, a warning of a bug in the Document Map feature when used in large documents.


Chapters 2–8 painstakingly list all the features and commands for the Office buttons, ribbons, task panes and dialog boxes. Chapter 10 comprises a table of all the default keyboard shortcuts and their commands, while Chapters 11 and 12 cover field codes and fonts, including a comprehensive list of symbols. There are seven appendices dealing with, for example:

  • the default words that are replaced by the AutoCorrect feature
  • all the puzzling shapes that your cursor can turn into when handling graphics
  • 'invisible characters', such as the grey square brackets that indicate that a bookmark has been inserted.

No equal

Don't buy this publication if, for instance, you're getting frustrated because the Tools menu has disappeared in the new ribbon interface and you can't find AutoCorrect. Matthew makes it clear that this book is for experts, and I wouldn't recommend it if you're just feeling your way with Word 2007: instead, use Microsoft's interactive tutorial or buy a good 'how to' guide such as Word 2007: The Missing Manual if you want to learn about wildcards or extended text, for instance.

But if you want to save yourself some time finding out what all those ribbon and dialog options mean, and maybe incorporate them into useful programs, this book has no equal.

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