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How-To Geek

Lesson 1: The Interface, Fonts, and Templates

Fonts vs. Typefaces

Typefaces and fonts will be a routine part of your daily document formatting unless you’re happy with one single font for every document you write. Good font use is very important as it can allow you to better express yourself and get your point across. For that reason, you want to at least understand the very basics of how they work and what font is appropriate where and why.

For the sake of clarification, a “typeface” is basically the way a collection of letters, numbers, and symbols looks across its entirety. Here we see the Times New Roman typeface, which will have the same characteristics no matter which font you use. In other words, Times looks like Time, whether it is bolded, italicized, or whatever formatting you apply to it.

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A font may be understood as the entire collection of typefaces. For example, Times New Roman and all its various forms (bold, italic, bold italic) is a “font family”. Each of the variations (regular, bold, italic, and bold italic) within the family is a font:

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For the sake of simplicity, rather than split hairs and confuse you with talk of typefaces and fonts, we’ll just refer to everything type-related as a font.

Serif fonts

There are two types of fonts you should understand.

First, there are so-called serif fonts; serifs are those little bits that stick out from a letter as in the example below.

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In many cases, a serif font will look best in formal of official documents. One of those most immediately identifiable and iconic examples of a serif font is seen on the New York Times masthead:

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Sans serif

Conversely, a sans serif font will obviously not have serifs, hence the “sans” part. Here you see the Arial font, which is one of Windows’ default fonts.

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Sans serif fonts are widely used in advertising and logos because they often tend to look new and modern. Without a doubt the most notable sans serif font is Helvetica, upon which Arial is obviously based. You can find dozens of examples of Helvetica-derived fonts in modern culture. Check out Microsoft, Target, and Panasonic for just a few examples.

You can add different fonts to Windows, and by extension Word, by downloading them from the web.

If you want to read up more about typefaces and fonts, Microsoft provides more information its typography homepage.

Point size

Point size relates to the size of the font, leading, and other page items. It is not connected to any established unit of measurement. In typography, a point is the smallest whole unit of measurement.

For most fonts in Word, the smallest point size is 8 points tall. The smallest lines and other graphic objects can have is a point size of 1. Here are some example of various point sizes:

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Font Styles and Effects

You can apply various font styles and effects from the “Font” tab on the “Home” ribbon.

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You can access further font effects from the full font dialog accessible by clicking the arrow in the bottom right corner.

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You’ve have a whole range of effects, including colors and different underline styles you can apply.

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Templates

Before we end this lesson, we should take a moment to briefly acquaint you with templates, since they can often make short work of complex layouts.

Templates are preconfigured documents, like a resume or business cards that you can use to speed creating forms. There are templates for pretty much anything you can think of.

The goal of Microsoft Word is twofold: (1) provide sets of themes and styles so that the Word user can create professional-looking documents and (2) give the user the ability to create documents of graphic-designer quality by providing tools and preconfigured set of objects from which the user can select.

When you open Microsoft Word or click on the “New” from the “File” tab, the first screen it shows you are the templates available to you, either already included with the program, or available for quick download. If you don’t immediately see what you want, try “suggested searches” or use the search box.

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Right-click on any template and you can “Preview” or “Create” the template. You can also pin a preferred template so it is always available at the top of the list.

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Creating a template will cause it to open if it is stored locally on your computer, or it will download if it isn’t. Note that some these templates, such as the gift certificate pictured below are offered by third-party sites, so they may not all be free.

If you decide you want to purchase a third-party template, you will be provided with further instructions on how to do so.

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After you pick a template, it will open as a new document, and you can fill it in and tweak it to your liking. We see here the template for the “Basic Resume”.

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Note how Word will automatically fill in your name and the template provides instructions on how to use it. In reality, this template is really nothing more than a table (discussed in Lesson 3) with a Theme (discussed in Lesson 5) applied to it.

When you are done filling out the template, you can then save it as a new document. You can also take a template, make changes to it, and then save it as a new template. Let’s say for example, that you wanted to apply a different style to our “Basic Resume”. You’d simply need to open the template, affect the changes you want, and then save it as a new template.

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There’s a whole lot to discover with templates. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about creating every single document on your own. Need a quick business card or invitations to your retirement party? Word templates make quick work of a lot of formatting headaches, leaving you time to actually design something you’ll be happy with!

Coming up Next…

That concludes our lesson for today, you should now have a fairly firm grasp on Word’s layout, tabs, margins, indents, fonts, and templates.

Tomorrow we’ll go over how to change the appearance and behavior of paragraphs on your pages, shading and borders, as well as introduce you to lists and all their various parts!

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Living just north of the border, in what he calls Practically, Mexico, Matt spends his days scouring the latest tech news, writing e-books, and attempting to create the perfect breakfast burrito.

  • Published 02/17/14

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