Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Word – Adding Lines

I created a template for a client that was used to produce a Word document from an Excel spreadsheet; it pulled in some information from the order and the printed doc could be taken on site, scrawled on and then taken back and the extra information added back into the document as a record.

The client decided they needed lines for the field guys to fill in (and bold all the text). This is what they thought had when they’d finished (details modified to disguise the client):

They were happy – although the ragged right hand side should have raised some flags. But when I looked at what was actually there (displaying tabs, paragraph marks and bookmarks), this is what I saw:

… and it is not good. Not only is it inefficient to create a line this way (basically turn on underline and tab your way across the page) the end result will be uglier than you might expect.

First – as everything is in bold it is actually quite hard to read.
Next, because random tabs were used as the information is entered the line gets pushed across the page. If there is enough information this line overflows onto the next line – even if the information itself fits on one line (changing the two page document into a three page document)
Finally, the tab before the bookmark at “Product” was zapped meaning there is no space between the label and the information.

What are the alternatives?

Still ugly – but better – would have been to have defined a right justified tab where the line was to end.

At least it looks better – but when entering the information on a PC by hand (ie not from the automatic code) you are having to mess about to get the cursor in the right place (the original code had information placed at the end of the lines so you just went to the end of the line – down arrow would do it).

Nicer still would be to have used a table. Things line up nicely. It is easy to navigate. And as an added bonus you can control the line thickness.

The most sophisticated solution would have been a table and a form. This locks the text people are not allowed to modify.
I hope if you need to make a similar document you will now consider your options before hitting the tab button across the page!

Tab Stops

My lastblog generated a question about what tabs were – and how do you make them.

A “tab” is short for a “tab stop” and for those who still remember typewriters they were little bits of metal that stuck out and stopped the carriage (which carried the paper) when you hit the tab bar. In word processing the setting is simpler – but potentially more complex.

The most common tab is the Left Tab and when you hit tab the text will left align with the tab stop. If you hit tab when no tabs are defined Word will use the default stop – which defaults to one every 1.27cm.

If you want to set tabs at specific points there are two ways to do it. You can click on the ruler – or set it with a style. I’ll leave setting up styles for another blog.

By default the Left Tab is found at the top of the ruler (if you cannot see the ruler set the checkbox in the View tab for Word 2007/2010/2013 – or the View menu prior to Word 2007).

Look at your text and click on the ruler. A Left Tab symbol will appear on the ruler. This tab will be inherited when you hit enter. To remove a tab just drag it off the ruler.

If after you have typed more info it is obvious the tab is not set correctly you can select all the text and drag the tab to the correct position.

Apart from the Left Tab, a Right Tab defines the right of the text. So when to tab the right hand part text following will line up with the tab.

A Centre Tab will centre the text around the tab.

Finally, a Decimal Tab will align the decimal point of numbers.