POWER USER

How to cancel Clippy, and other useful tips for fixing Word 2000

John McCormick

As Microsoft Corp. navigates its way around the court system, users are learning to navigate the software giant's new operating system and massive office suite. The trick is to make Windows 2000 Professional and Office 2000 work for you, not against you.

To begin with, they occupy lots of disk space, so consider your hard drive capacity before you undertake any upgrade.

Win 2000 is quite stable, but it does have thousands of known bugs. Older Windows client OSes still work with a wider range of hardware and are better for multimedia work such as simulations. Giving up those features is part of the price you pay for Win 2000's greater stability. Win 2000 is for you if you want better security and power management for mobile computing'and if you have a fairly new system with a 10G or larger hard drive.

Microsoft has issued an Office 2000 service release, SR1, to fix some security and year 2000 date code problems. Yes, Microsoft is still fixing year 2000 bugs in products I thought were certified as year 2000-ready last year. I endorse most security-boosting upgrades, but you might want to pass on this one because of the many reports that the SR1 patch is an installation nightmare.

Clipping Clippy

Users who are fed up with Office's unhelpful and unsightly paper clip that pops up whenever they try to do something even slightly out of the ordinary can now kill Clippy. The next time it appears, click on it and look for the options to kill it or reduce its appearances to an absolute minimum. Don't worry, you can get it back anytime from the pull-down help menu.

If you ever wondered why suites have grown so gigantic, just look at all the options you can set for Clippy. I counted 12 in addition to the only one I consider useful: blocking it entirely.

As for the way Word alters typing, does anyone believe that even high school graduates don't know that the first letter of the first word of a sentence is in uppercase? Even in high school I was automatically hitting the shift key correctly 99.9 percent of the time. If you are incredibly lazy, you might want Word to capitalize the first letter for you, but I certainly don't want to start relying on it, or I'll soon be making mistakes in every other application.

This feature just gets in my way on the frequent occasions when technical documents requires typing something that would be considered unusual in an eighth-grade English class.

Every Word 2000 user should take a few minutes to look in the Tools menu under Options and decide which of the 130 or so options should remain active. It takes time, but you probably don't want a lot of the default settings Microsoft has chosen for you.

Now, how about the way Word 2000 always changes drop-down menus? They are designed to keep your most-used options always at the top, and you can get to the others by clicking on the bottom symbol, although having to do so is irritating. There are some'although not enough'keyboard shortcuts on the pull-down menus. It would be nice to see them without having to use the mouse first to display them.

This is important because, after all, the hidden commands are the ones you don't use very often, and therefore you are likely to have forgotten their shortcuts.

To see all the options every time, go to Tools, Customize, Options and uncheck the 'Menus show recently used commands first' box. You can also choose to have the full menus shown after a delay of about five seconds, but that's a long wait if you type 60 words per minute.

Unfortunately, any changes you make here or in Excel will affect all your other Office applications. You can't customize the menu options for individual apps. You're stuck with the same options for everything unless you reset them each time.

After extensive modifications, I've managed to make Word 2000 work almost as well as my 14-year-old copy of WordPerfect 4.1 for MS-DOS which, by the way, I'm using to write this column. I always have and probably always will because it's so much faster than Word.

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at poweruser@mail.usa.com.

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