1. Backup. MS Word and Open Office (and I’m sure other programs) offer a setting to back up your work. I highly recommend turning this feature ‘on’. You can set for certain times, such as every 5 minutes. This enables writers to automatically backup while they work.
Backup in MS Word (recent versions). You may need to look up your specific version of MS Word
2. Automatic saves. I know the word processors also provide the feature of automatically creating saves in timely increment. I think the default setting for MS Word is 10 minutes, but as a fast typer, I can lose quite a lot in 10 minutes. I changed it to every 5 minutes. This saves your work automatically while you work.
3. Templates. Word processors offer tons of templates from the manufacturers but often times you can find users upload these to share on the Web. I’m including some links to writer-related templates; (Check your program version)
4. Find and replace feature. The find/replace feature works in nearly all word processing. You can find and replace just one event, or find all words and change as you desire. I’ve also used this feature, to find spacing or even symbols in the manuscript.
- Click Ctrl+F which will open a box to type in the word you wish to find.
5. Hotkeys or Keyboard shortcuts. I use these a lot when I type because it takes time to reach for the mouse to click and drag things. With hotkeys, you find the same commands do the same thing, and your hands stay on the keyboard. You can save, print, cut/copy/paste, highlight, insert auto text, change formatting, and so much more.
6. You can change default settings for font and file format. Some writers find their word processor has the Ariel font as their default. Its better to change this to Times New Roman or Courier. Even Georgia and Bookman works pretty well. And why? Its to help make reading easier for the reader (or editor/agent).
The font size should also be 12 point.
You should also think about the default save format of your document. Most settings for writers include RTF (rich text format) or DOC (MS Word), or TXT (text). Avoid using the default DOCX format.
7. Header and Footers. These are essential when formatting for submission. Each page should include your last name, title, and page number. I find for my writer’s group, we also ask for email address so feedback can be sent to the author.
8. Macros. Macros are programmable actions the program will do by assigned keys. For instance, in my journal document in MS Word, I was sick of adding the date, day of the week, and ‘goals’. I created a Macro which adds all of this with the simple Ctrl+PageUP key combo. Very handy.
9. Dictionary and Thesaurus. Did you know MS Word and Open Office include a built in dictionary and thesaurus? You can even edit words to include character names, settings, or odd words you’ve made up for your story. The thesaurus also helps the writer to find words that mean the same, if you’re at a loss for the right word.
Open office dictionaries- information about Openoffice dictionaries, how to install new ones, add thesaurus and more.
10. Spellcheck and grammar checking. I must preface this feature with a warning that programs are STUPID, they only do what they are programmed to do, and cannot use words in context. That being said, these features should not be the final method used in checking your writing. The grammar also includes settings for formal and informal styles. For instance, you can choose the program to check for words like contractions (you’re vs you are). In some styles of writing, this is important.
I don’t think Open office has a grammar checker but you can find some online