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Changing From Word Perfect to Word

25 reasons paralegals should consider making the switch.

By Kim Plonsky

(Originally appeared in print as "25 Reasons to Make the Switch")

May/June 2005 Table of Contents


Like a lot of other die-hard Corel WordPerfect fans, for many years I was convinced WordPerfect was the superior word processing program, bar none (particularly barring Microsoft Word). However, with each new release of WordPerfect, beginning with Version 9, I increasingly became disappointed and frustrated with at least one irritating glitch to be worked around. This proved to be time-consuming, counterproductive and inefficient.

Recently, the administrator of the law firm where I work as a litigation paralegal informed the staff and attorneys that, although the firm is not switching from WordPerfect to Word, within the next two years, the staff is expected to become proficient in both programs because most of the firm’s clients and an increasing number of its co-counsel, opposing counsel and others with whom the firm regularly interacts, use Microsoft Word exclusively.

As a paralegal faced with the necessity to become proficient in Word, I decided my best approach to combat this encroachment of the enemy was to do some intense, comparative research and study. Then, I would use my findings as ammunition in my battle to keep Word out of my office.

Well, just imagine my rather unpleasant surprise when my in-depth research and study revealed Word (version 2002) was far superior to WordPerfect (through version 12), in nearly every way. Since my initial review of Word, I have upgraded and exclusively use Word 2003, and now cringe when forced to work on a WordPerfect document.

I was so impressed with Word, I prepared the following list of the 25 features of Word 2003 that convinced me to drop WordPerfect forever, and I encourage all paralegals to make the switch.

1. Reveal Formatting

Over the years, the No. 1 reason I never considered using Word was because it lacked a feature similar to Reveal Codes in WordPerfect. This is the most-cited reason legal professionals resist using Word. While the “Reveal Formatting” feature isn’t quite the same as Reveal Codes in WordPerfect, it does show all the formatting in use, such as font, language, paragraph alignment, indentation, margins, layout, paper and so forth. The concept of Reveal Codes in WordPerfect is necessitated by the fact that WordPerfect features are turned on and off, thus Reveal Codes is needed to find the on and off codes. However, formatting in Word is paragraph-based — the formatting codes are embedded in and controlled by the paragraph mark found at the end of each paragraph. The paragraph mark at the end of each paragraph in Word conveniently carries forward to the next paragraph, retaining the formatting of the previous paragraph. In my comparison of Word and WordPerfect, Word’s “Reveal Formatting” option eliminated my long-held dislike of Word.

How-to: From the “Format” drop-down menu, choose “Reveal Formatting.” The formatting information appears in the “Reveal Formatting” task pane on the right side of the screen.

2. Clear Formatting

Another problem I encountered when using Word in the past was the inability to universally get rid of all formatting already in use. Since, in prior versions of Word, there was no “Reveal Formatting” option, editing a Word document created by someone not proficient in Word was frustrating and time-consuming. WordPerfect made it so simple to locate offending code and simply delete it. But now, with the simple-to-use “Clear Formatting” feature in Word, which selects text and clears all formatting, another of my previous arguments against Word has been eliminated.

How-to: Select the text from which you want to remove formatting. Click “Styles and Formatting” from the “Format” drop-down menu. Click “Clear Formatting.”

3. Format Painter

My favorite and most-used feature in Word is the Format Painter (similar to QuickFormat in WordPerfect 12). This feature replicates the formatting that is already in use in a selected area and applies it to other selections without having to know the formatting options in use. Although this is particularly useful in editing a document created by someone else, I find I often use it in my own documents, such as when I decide I want to add the same formatting from one section of the document to another section.

How-to: Select the text or graphic that has the formatting you want to copy. From the “Standard” toolbar, click the “Format Painter” icon (small paintbrush). The pointer then changes to a paintbrush icon. To apply the formatting, click within the area you want to change. To apply formatting to more than one block of text or graphics, double-click the “Format Painter” icon.

4. Format Consistency Checker

This handy option checks the document for formatting inconsistencies and allows review and selection of suggested format changes. Format Consistency Checker indicates a formatting inconsistency in a document with a blue, wavy underline. Right-click on the underline, and options appear allowing you to correct the inconsistency, remove the underline and not correct the inconsistency (choose “Ignore Once”), or skip all occurrences of the inconsistency in the document (choose “Ignore Rule”).

How-to: From the “Tools” drop-down menu, select “Options,” and then the “Edit” tab. Select the “Keep track of formatting” check box, then the “Mark formatting inconsistencies” check box, and click “OK.”

5. Office Clipboard

One of the basic tools of Windows software programs we all are familiar with is the universal Windows Clipboard, which allows cut or copied selections of text or graphics to be transferred to the Windows Clipboard for easy retrieval (using the paste or “Ctrl+V” option). In prior versions, the Clipboard would overwrite the previous Clipboard entry, which made using the Clipboard to edit word processing documents tedious and repetitious. The new Clipboard feature in Word stores up to 24 clipboard items.

How-to: From the “Edit” drop-down menu, click “Office Clipboard.” When the “Clipboard” task pane appears, you can choose to “Click on item to paste,” “Paste All” or “Clear All.” At the bottom of the “Clipboard” task pane, there is an “Options” button where one or more of the following preferences can be selected: “Show Office Clipboard Automatically,” “Show Office Clipboard When Ctrl+C Pressed Twice,” “Collect Without Showing Office Clipboard,” “Show Office Clipboard Icon on Taskbar” or “Show Status Near Taskbar When Copying.”

6. Select, Copy and Paste Multiple Noncontiguous Items

In addition to the Office Clipboard feature, Word offers the option to select, copy and paste multiple noncontiguous items. While this also can be accomplished by using the Office Clipboard and choosing each item to be pasted separately, I like the added capability of achieving this task on-the-fly, with just a few keyboard strokes.

How-to: Select the first item or paragraph, then choose “Copy” from the “Edit” drop-down menu (Note: At least on my PC, “Ctrl+C” doesn’t work with this feature), hold down “Ctrl,” then select the next item or paragraph and then select “Copy” from the “Edit” drop-down menu, and repeat as necessary until all noncontiguous items to be copied and pasted are selected. Then paste the noncontiguous items in your document.

7. Extended Selection Feature

The EXT feature toggles on and off to select an extended area of text. This is handy when you need to select large areas of text and graphics in a document. It’s much more efficient than manually selecting each paragraph or line while holding down the “Shift” key. Simply toggle on the “EXT” button (which must be enabled to appear on your Status bar) at the point where you want to begin your selection, then navigate to the end point of your selection, and all of the text in between the beginning and ending points is selected for easy copying or cutting and pasting.

How-to: Turn on the Status bar so it appears at the bottom of the document window by choosing “Options” on the “Tools” drop-down menu. Then, select the “View” tab, and choose the “Status bar” check box under “Show.” The Status bar then will display the current location of the document’s insertion point, and also has buttons that display several options, one of which is the “EXT” button. Double-click the “EXT” button (disregard the fact that EXT appears to be grayed-out, which usually indicates an unavailable option) to begin selecting text (EXT then becomes available to select), release the mouse button, and then select additional text without losing the original selection.

8. Find and Highlight

In Word 2003, you can find and highlight all instances of a word, symbol or phrase (not to be confused with the other type of electronic highlighting, which is similar to that accomplished by using a highlighter pen on a hard copy of a document). Although WordPerfect 12 does allow the option to find and remove highlights in a document, it doesn’t allow the Find and Replace option to insert highlights. Finding and removing highlights in WordPerfect 12 is somewhat complicated.

How-to: To find highlighted text, from the “Edit” menu, click “Replace.” In the “Find what” box, enter the text that you want to search for. Then, enter the same text in the “Replace with” box. Next, choose the “More” radio button, select “Format” and choose “Highlight.” Then, choose “Find Next,” “Replace” or “Replace All.” To temporarily mark items in a document, from the “Edit” menu, click “Find.” In the “Find what” box, enter the text you want to highlight, then select the “Highlight all items found in” box. Choose “Main Document” or “Headers and Footers” from the drop-down menu below the check box, and then click “Find All.”

9. Document Map

With this feature, you can view a document in two frames, with the left frame showing headings in the document and the right frame showing the document. Clicking on a heading in the left frame navigates to that point in the document on the right. This is one of my favorite features in Word 2003, and something I find especially useful in working on long, legal documents and briefs. Although WordPerfect 12 also has the “Document Map” feature, it requires the use of index, table of contents or table of authorities reference markers. The Word 2003 Document Map is superior because all that is required is the use of built-in heading styles. Not all legal documents, or even legal briefs, require indexes, tables of contents or tables of authorities.

How-to: Go to “View” and click “Document Map.”

10. Outline View

In the outline view, headings and text can be re-ordered by moving them up or down, or you easily can promote or demote headings or text. To see a document’s structure in outline view, a document must be formatted with one of Word’s built-in heading styles or outline levels.

How-to: From the “View” drop-down menu, click “Outline.”

11. Split Document View

This feature allows you to display or edit two different areas in a document simultaneously. It’s a valuable tool for legal professionals working on long documents or legal briefs.

How-to: Point to the split box at the top of the vertical scroll bar, and when the pointer changes to a resize pointer, drag the split bar to the position you want. To move or copy text between parts of a long document, display the text or graphics you want to move or copy in one pane and the destination for the text or graphics in the other pane, and then select and drag the text or graphics across the split bar. To return to a single window, double-click the split bar.

12. Print Preview Multiple Pages

This feature lets you print preview up to 24 pages at a time. Usually, when I use Print Preview, I am looking for widows and orphans in the paragraphs. The ability to view multiple pages at a time expedites this process.

How-to: From the “File” menu, click “Print Preview.” When the “Print Preview” toolbar appears, choose the icon for “Multiple Pages” and select the number of pages that you want to preview.

13. Document Browser

The Document Browser lets you browse for a document by heading, page, section or graphic. It’s easy to access from the scroll bar, and is a must-have feature.

How-to: On the vertical scroll bar, click “Select Browse Object” (the round ball), and then choose how you want to browse — by page, section, comment, footnote, endnote, field, table, graphic, heading or edits. The “Browse Object” icon also gives you access to the “Find” and “Go To” features.

14. Intuitive Menus

With this feature, menus automatically update to feature your most recent menu choices and hide the menu items you use least. Arrows at the bottom of each menu allow the full menu to be displayed. This feature takes some getting used to for those who prefer to always find a menu item in a specific location.

How-to: This is an automatic feature of Word 2003.

15. Remove Personal Information

Document security has become an important issue in law offices. There are many times your firm would not want opposing counsel to see all of the revisions, tracked changes or comments in a particular document or pleading sent via e-mail or disk for review. But this type of information is easy to access. Therefore, the ability to remove such hidden data is a valuable tool.

Although Word’s online and offline help explain how to enable this security feature, in practice, I found it didn’t work. I found this out by having enabled another Word security feature, called “Warn before printing, saving or sending a document that contains tracked changes or comments,” after having previously chosen “Remove personal information from file properties upon save.” After some online research through Microsoft’s Knowledge Base (http://support.microsoft.com), I learned the installation of an add-on tool, “Remove Hidden Data,” is required to use this feature. The “Remove Hidden Data” tool for Office XP and 2003 can be downloaded at: www.microsoft.com/downloads (type “Remove Hidden Data” in the “Search for a download” search box). After I downloaded and installed this add-on tool, I successfully removed all hidden data from my documents.

How-to: After installation of the “Remove Hidden Data” tool, this feature can be accessed in two different ways. 1) Go to the “Tools” drop-down menu and select “Options.” Go to the “Security” tab, and under the “Privacy options” heading, select “Remove personal information from file properties on save.” Just below that option is another good security choice “Warn before printing, saving or sending a file that contains tracked changes or comments.” 2) In a document with tracked changes, a new menu item appears on the “File” drop-down menu, “Remove Hidden Data.”

16. Display Function Keys

For those who frequently use PCs, using keyboard shortcuts is much quicker than using the mouse. Activating the “Function Key Display” option in Word 2003 displays a special toolbar at the bottom of the screen, just above the status bar (if activated), with reminders of how to accomplish certain common tasks by using the F keys on the keyboard. For example, to “Go To” a place in a document, press “F5.” What is really neat about the “Function Key Display” toolbar is, by pressing “Ctrl” or “Alt,” the toolbar displays the options for that F key combination. For instance, by pressing “Ctrl,” notice the “F5” key on the “Function Key Display” toolbar changes to “Restore,” and by pressing the “Alt” key, the “F5” key changes to the “Restore All” option. This is a valuable tool to learn F key keyboard shortcuts. I eventually plan to disable the “Function Key Display” once I have mastered the F key keyboard shortcuts.

How-to: From the “Tools” drop-down menu, choose “Customize,” then “Toolbars.” Select the check box “Function Key Display.”

17. Print Multiple Pages Per Sheet

While WordPerfect 12 offers a similar feature (print thumbnails, with options including print down or across), I found Word 2003’s feature to be far superior. For example, in WordPerfect 12, I printed four thumbnails across a sheet, which produced thumbnails in the center of the page in type so tiny it was illegible (and I could not readily find any WordPerfect controls to enlarge the thumbnails). In fact, I got the exact same output when I chose to print four thumbnails down a sheet. In Word, I printed four pages per sheet, and the output was nicely laid out over the entire sheet, and all the pages were legible.

How-to: From the “File” drop-down menu, choose “Print.” Under the “Zoom” category, use the “Pages per sheet” drop-down list to select the number of pages per sheet you want to print.

18. Thesaurus Available from Right-click on Any Word

Access to the thesaurus by right-clicking on any word is very handy. In WordPerfect 12, you must first select a word, then go to the “Tools” drop-down menu, and select “Thesaurus” to find a synonym for a word. Granted, both word processing programs ultimately offer this same useful feature, but I prefer the handiness of the right-click access.

How-to: Right-click the mouse on any word and select “Synonyms,” then click “Thesaurus” to see a list of synonyms for the selected word.

19. AutoSummarize

This feature creates a brief version of a document by key points based on formatting. It works best on well-structured documents, such as legal briefs and memoranda, reports, articles and scientific papers.

How-to: From the “Tools” drop-down menu, choose “AutoSummarize,” and then select the type of summary you want. Next, in the “Percent of original” box, type or select the level of detail to include in the summary, selecting a higher percentage of the original document to include more detail.

20. Create a Table in the Middle of Text

In Word 2003, it’s easy to wrap text around a table, such as when creating a newsletter. Keep in mind, certain other table format settings might have to be adjusted for this feature to work properly, such as table width and alignment. When I use this feature, I first set my table format settings, then drag and drop the table into the paragraph where I want it inserted, and it works beautifully.

How-to: From the “Table” drop-down menu, choose “Table Properties,” and then click the “Table” tab. Under “Text Wrapping,” click “Around.”

21. Table of Contents Feature

Unlike WordPerfect 12’s mark-and-generate “Table of Contents” feature, Word 2003 can create tables of contents automatically, simply by using Word’s built-in outline-level formats and headings styles within a document. Each time I have used this feature in Word 2003, it has taken mere seconds to create a beautiful and flawless table of contents. I rate this option as one of Word’s best features.

How-to: Position your cursor at the chosen insertion point for your table of contents. From the “Insert” drop-down menu, choose “Reference,” and then click “Index and Tables.” Select the “Table of Contents” tab, and then choose any other options you prefer. Note: Creating tables of contents is an advanced feature. Please refer to Word’s offline or online help for detailed instructions on creating tables of contents in different situations.

22. Table of Authorities and Mark Citations

While WordPerfect 12 still has the old-fashioned mark-and-generate “Table of Authorities” feature, Word 2003 can mark all citations automatically. The “Mark All” feature marks citations in the document. This option is another one of Word’s best features for the law office professional.

How-to: From the “Insert” drop-down menu, choose “Reference,” then “Index and Tables.” Next, select the “Table of Authorities” tab and choose the category you want to include in your table of authorities, or select “All.” Note: Creating tables of authorities is an advanced feature. Refer to Word’s offline or online help for detailed instructions.

23. View Footnote/Endnote as a ScreenTip

If you work with footnote-intensive or endnote-intensive documents, you will appreciate this feature in Word 2003. By simply positioning the cursor over the superscripted note number, the entire text of the note appears as a Screen-Tip — a note that appears on the display screen to provide additional information.

How-to: In a document, position the mouse pointer on the note reference mark, and the note text appears above the mark in a “ScreenTip.”

24. View All Footnotes and Endnotes

Because I frequently work with footnote-intensive briefs, the ability to view and edit all of the footnotes at once is a great timesaver. When this feature is activated, the screen is
split between the document pane (top) and the note pane (bottom). You can drag the split-screen bar up to show more notes.

How-to: Choose “Normal” from the “View” drop-down menu. Next, choose “Footnotes” from the “View” drop-down menu. When you have finished viewing and editing notes, simply click the “Close” button to return to “Normal” view, or choose the “Print Layout” view icon in the top left corner of the note pane to close the note pane and return to “Print Layout” view. Note: The following options also are available from within the “Note” pane: “Footnote Separator,” “Footnote Continuation Separator” and “Footnote Continuation Notice,” whereby you can alter each of those default attributes.

25. Better Document Compatibility

Since the rest of the world mostly use Word, legal professionals using Word have better document compatibility.

How-to: Purchase and begin using Microsoft Word 2003 today.


While I truly wanted to see WordPerfect succeed and eventually triumph over Microsoft Word, I feel duty-bound to preferentially use only software programs that streamline my work, increase my productivity and make me more efficient. After objectively comparing both software programs, it became apparent to me that WordPerfect simply is not keeping pace. Will they ever catch up? That remains to be seen. For now, Microsoft Word has become my program of choice. Is it time for you to make the switch?



Kim Plonsky is a paralegal at Gordon, Arata, McCollam, Duplantis & Eagan (www.gordonarata.com), based in Lafayette, La. Her expertise is primarily in civil litigation, and she had more than 20 years experience in the legal field.



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