Advanced Word-Processing Skills

Even people who have been using word processors for years often don’t know about some of the advanced tips below.

Most of the videos in this section use Microsoft Word 2016 as a model.  If you use a different word-processing program (or a different version of Word), the specific tools might appear in different places, but you’ll still be able to perform the same activities.

Hanging Indents

MLA and APA bibliography pages use a special type of indent, called a “hanging indent.”  Where a normal paragraph indents the first line but not any others, a hanging indent paragraph DOESN’T indent the first line, but DOES indent all the others.  Luckily, it’s very easy to have your word processor do the hard work of this type of formatting for you, as this video demonstrates.

Bibliography Pages

Speaking of bibliographies (or Works Cited pages, or References pages), did you know that many word processors have ways to help you create those quickly?

Alphabetizing Bibliographies (and other Lists)

One more bibliography tip…if you create your citation list as you use sources, you’ll need to put these in alphabetical order at the end.  An easy way to do that is to use the Sort feature in your word processor.  This video demonstrates that in Word 2016.

Inserting Pictures

Many college projects will require you to include visuals in your essays.  The following video addresses how to add an image and then how to get the text around it to behave properly afterwards.

Change Default Settings

If the first thing you do each time you open a new document, is change your font size or style, as well as readjust your margins, then you probably will save time by changing the default settings so it starts just the way you like it. (This video is for Word 2013)

Free Alternatives to Word

Word is the most common word processor, but it’s expensive, especially if it didn’t come with the computer you bought.  Here are some free options to explore as an alternative.

  • Office Online.  You’ll need to register with an account, but can then access your saved files from any internet-connected device.
  • OpenOffice.  This is software you download on your computer, so you don’t have to be online to use it.
  • LibreOffice. Similar to OpenOffice, you download this software directly to your computer.
  • Google Drive. Connected to a Gmail / Google personal account, this flexible tool lets you access your saved files from any internet-connected device.  You can also download files to work on offline, and they will automatically sync when you go online again.