In the latest release of Office 2016 for mac (office 365), Microsoft have finally included the ability to customise the ribbon; a feature available for the Windows versions since Office 2007.

This means that all you mac users can now enjoy the benefits of our enhanced Word, PowerPoint and Excel templates.

Needless to say, Microsoft haven’t quite included all the functionality and some things within Word for mac still work in a slightly different way. So existing enhanced templates may need to be tweaked a bit, but at least the fundamentals are now in place, to allow us to support mac users as well as Windows users.

So, thank you Microsoft.

(did I really just say that out loud?!)

If you want to see how enhanced templates can help you, you can download demonstration templates from our website.

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What could be better than having one of the most experienced document formatters in the industry on tap to support your bid?

Having both of them!

Kay Jones and Andrea Collier have joined forces at Checkpoint, to provide unparalleled bid formatting experience and Word expertise, creating a team of experts dedicated to helping you produce high quality, consistent bid documentation.

Each with over 15 years experience, supporting and coordinating large bids across multiple industry sectors (including civil engineering and infrastructure, rail franchises and transport, and defence), they provide a cornerstone of bid production support, in this high pressure environment.

So, whether you need:

  • one off support for a specific bid
  • ongoing support, as required
  • improvement or development of templates
  • training for your writers on how to use templates properly
  • or just some advice on how to use Word more effectively and improve your documentation processes

We can help you out.

Just contact Andrea, either via LinkedIn, or the Checkpoint website and she’ll be happy to discuss any requirements you may have.

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When somebody just makes a document look the way they want it to and then saves it as a .dotx file!

Just because a file is saved as a document template doesn’t mean that it is one. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve been sent a ‘template’ document with no styles set up, paragraph numbers typed manually, no automatic captions and no multi-level lists configured. Just a bunch of text with direct formatting and spacing within the ‘template’ achieved using tabs, the enter key and the space bar.

Document requirements vary greatly; there are simple documents which just need simple templates, then there are more complex documents that need more complex templates, but what they all need is styles. If you haven’t got any styles set up, you can’t call it a template.

Of course sometimes we see the opposite problem, where a template has been around for so long, and been tinkered with by so many different people, that they have hundreds of styles. This is equally bad, as nobody picking up the template to use it, will have any idea which styles they should be using, where.

The whole point of a template is to make creating documents easier and more consistent. Any template with more than 40 styles is pushing the boundaries. Ordinarily, in most circumstances, less than 30 is perfectly sufficient.

In addition to the most basic requirement of styles, most templates will also need or benefit from:

  • paragraph numbering set up correctly (using list styles linked to heading styles)
  • outline levels configured (if not using built-in heading styles)
  • bullet and number lists (created using multi-level lists)
  • table styles configured
  • headers and footers (avoiding “same as previous” – it can only lead to heartache)
  • automatic captions
  • a table of contents set up

So, if somebody presents you with a so called template, and it either has no styles at all set up, or over 40, be wary! It may be worth considering a new one.

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If you need to distribute templates or documents to others, who may not be using the same language version of Word, be careful when creating your Table of Contents.

If you just create a standard TOC, using built in headings, it’s fine. The field code generating the TOC is something like this:

{ TOC \o “1-3” \h \z}

Where \o”1-3″ means use built in headings 1-3.

If you do something more adventurous, like using built in headings 1 and 2 and an appendix heading you have created yourself, at the same level as Heading 1, the field code becomes something like this:

{ TOC \o “2-2” \h \z \t “Heading 1, 1, Appendix Heading – Level 1,1”}

Which is fine if you are using an English version of Word. The problem is, that now the TOC is referring to Heading 1 using it’s actual name; in other language versions of Word, they aren’t called the same thing. For example, in the French version of Word, “Heading 1” is called “Titre 1″. In Germany, it is “Uberschrift 1”.

The result is that other language versions of Word won’t be able to populate the TOC properly, as it won’t be able to find the matching styles.

An argument perhaps for not using built in styles at all, but always creating your own.

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Most people think of Word templates as a pre-defined starting point for documents, where the document inherits content and styles from the template, which is quite correct. What is less commonly known is that once a document has been created, the relationship between the document and the template changes and it may not be as you expect.

When a document is created based on a template, the document does inherit the content, styles and page setup of the template. From that point forwards, the document is on it’s own in respect of these things. In the case of the content, this is fairly obvious. You wouldn’t want changes to the content contained within a template to be replicated in documents created from it. It’s styles that catch people out.

It is often assumed that if you change one of the styles in a template, or create a new style, that this style will be updated or available in the documents created from it – which is not the case. Unless you specifically copy the style(s) in question from the template to the document, none of the style changes in a template will be available to documents already created from it. Only new documents created from the template will inherit these changes.

Likewise, if you attach an existing document to a template, none of the styles or page setup will be inherited by the document. In fact the document will remain completely unchanged.

What a template actually does after a document is created, or when it is attached to an existing document, is sit in the background and provide access to its macros and building blocks. It also provides toolbars, customised ribbons and keyboard shortcuts to the attached document. It is worth noting at this point, that when a Word document is created from a template, the macros, building blocks, customised ribbons and keyboard shortcuts are not copied across to the document itself.

So, in summary, a template is a mechanism for making content (building blocks), functionality (macros) and controls (UI / toolbars / Keyboard shortcuts), available to documents which are attached to it. Whilst documents created from templates inherit content, styles and page setup at the point of creation, there is no enduring link between these.

Templates are not a ‘style sheet’ for the documents created based on them.

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I have written a number of posts in the past regarding the hidden dangers of cut ‘n’ paste, particularly in regard to corrupting styles and crashing documents. However, lets forget that for a minute while I tell you about SUPER cut ‘n’ paste!

It is sometimes necessary to copy content between documents that has track changes applied to it and you want to keep those tracked changes in the target document, but you can’t do that with the normal clipboard. What you need is Spike – a clipboard with some significant differences to the regular clipboard.

First of all, if you copy content from a document onto the Spike which has track changes, when you paste that content into another document, the associated track changes will still be there… wahoo!

But that’s not the only difference. You can also copy multiple, non continuous sections of text or other content onto the Spike. Once you’ve placed all of the content you want from the source document onto the Spike, go to the target document and when you paste the Spike, you’ll get all the selections you made pasted into the new document at the same time. The Spike will then be empty until you add something further to it.

So, how do you use it?

Use CTRL+F3 to place something onto the Spike. (Note that this is a cut ’n’ paste function, not copy ’n’ paste, so the content will disappear in the source document. If you want to retain the content in the source, just use CTRL+Z to undo the cut). Further CTRL+F3 iterations will add to the contents of the Spike until it is cleared out when you paste it’s contents.

Once you’ve put everything you need onto the Spike, use CTRL+SHIFT+F3 to paste the contents into the target document.

There is no way to paste the Spike’s content unformatted (see previous posts), so care needs to be used, but a useful tool nonetheless.

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Okay, so you have done the right thing, setting up styles in your Word template and creating documents based on it. Why is it then, that these documents occasionally seem to take on a mind of their own; style properties are no longer what was set up in the template, they have mutated!

This can happen with documents as they are being populated, usually as a result of cutting and pasting something into your document that still has formatting or style data embedded within it (See my post – “Cut and Paste – The easiest way to corrupt your Word document”). Indentation and paragraph spacing seem to be particularly susceptible to corruption.

So, how do you get your styles back to how they were setup in the initial template without updating them all manually, or creating a new ‘clean’ document, pulling all the content into it and reformatting the whole thing?

Here is a piece of macro code that will do it for you:

     ActiveDocument.CopyStylesFromTemplate Template:=ActiveDocument.AttachedTemplate.FullName

Running this code will copy all the styles from the attached template, back into your document and should fix any anomalies.

If you don’t want to get involved with such witchcraft, but would like to see how a bit of magic could transform the way you and your team produce documentation (without even knowing that it’s actually macro functionality doing the work behind the scenes), feel free to get in touch. You’ll be surprised by what is possible.

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Tables in Word often cause users problems, taking up valuable time and causing frustration. This is not helped by the fact that sometimes tables exhibit truly bizarre behaviour.

There are many gotchas lurking for the unwary. I will at some point compile a list of common problems that people have when working with tables, but in the meantime here is my current ‘favourite’!

When creating a table style, be careful about specifying fonts with formatting such as Bold or Italic turned on, particularly if you have paragraph styles set up to format table contents.

When we create a template, we usually set up styles for Table heading, Table text, Table bullets etc., in order to make the formatting table contents easier. But, if you create a table style and, for example, you set the header row to be a particular font and select Bold, you could end up with some rather unexpected results! If your Table Heading paragraph style is also set to be Bold, guess what happens when you apply that style to cells in the header row. That’s right – the resulting text style is not bold.

Don’t ask me why this is the case. My best guess is that because Bold is a toggle control, the table style sets the header row to be bold, and applying the paragraph style triggers bold again, effectively toggling it off. I have to assume that this is unintentional behaviour, as I cannot think why this outcome would be beneficial to, or expected by anybody.

It certainly caused some angst around here for a few hours!

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The Bid, the Formatter and the Troublesome Word user

Perhaps “troublesome” is unkind – some are, but most are just inexperienced. Not everybody wants to be a Word expert, and why should they have to be?

On many bids there will be at least one, sometimes many, occasional or reluctant Word users. Or even worse, a competent Word user that always wants to do their own thing, because they know best.

The problem is that this increases the burden on the formatting team, as the documents are in such poor shape when they receive them. Being essentially the last link in the production chain, the time available to formatters is always squeezed by eleventh hour changes anyway. So the last thing that a bid needs is more work to do at this critical stage.

For many clients, we now provide enhanced Word templates with a customised ribbon. The effect of this is two fold:

  • firstly, it stops authors and contributors from doing their own thing by locking down access to the styles (and any other functionality we don’t want them to use).
  • secondly, it makes it really easy for occasional or reluctant users to use the template properly and effectively.

Every approved style that should be used in the document has it’s own button available on the ribbon. Users cannot create their own styles, or modify existing ones. We can even disable some, or all, of the direct formatting controls if we need to. This makes it easier for the users to do the right thing, than the wrong thing.

We have also incorporated time saving functionality, such as re-formatting tables, inserting case studies or staff profiles, even inserting landscape or A3 pages at the click of a button. This allows the authors to spend more time focusing on what they should be – the content – rather than trying to get Word to do what they want it to.

While all this does not eliminate the need for the formatting process, it does mean that when the formatters receive the documents, they are in much better shape, making the final format less stressful.

If you’d like to see an enhanced Word template in action, you can download a demonstration template from our website.

Of course, the other way to significantly reduce the pressure during the final delivery phase, is to tell all the writers that the delivery date is a week before the actual date!

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Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing the usefulness and importance of Cut and Paste, far from it. After all, CTRL+C – CTRL+V are probably the most widely used shortcuts in any software. But, there is a dark side to it that you should be aware of. You may not just be pasting what you think you are.

When you copy something from a Word document (or indeed another source) and paste it into another document, it may not just be the text or an image that is being pasted in, but all sorts of unseen flags and metadata as well. Much of this is benign, but some of it can lead to unexpected behaviour, corruption of documents and the infamous – being unable to save your document anymore!

Paste text unformatted
When using Word with templates and styles, as is best practice, unless the document you are cutting from has been created using the same template, with the same naming convention for all the styles, you should paste text unformatted. Even then, you should be absolutely certain of the provenience of the document; did the person who created it know what they were doing!

If you are copying text from other software or a web browser, you should definitely paste as unformatted text.  There could be all sorts of stuff lurking in there, none of it useful to correct formatting in Word.

Re-applying styles to unformatted text may seem like an unnecessary and tedious step, but believe me, it will save you lots of heartache in the long run. It’s a pretty simple task and there are tools available to make it even quicker and easier.

Make sure images are just that
Images can be placed within documents in many different ways, and they can come from many different sources and applications.

Ideally, images will already be saved as image files on your computer or network. In this case, you should use Insert Picture and choose the image file you need.

If you do have to cut and paste an image into a document, you should always use paste special, and insert as a bitmap, jpg, png or gif – a format that is just an image and not an object, or something with metadata behind it.

If you end up with a document that won’t save anymore, it is very likely that the cause is one of the images in the document. The problem, and I know from personal experience, is that if you’ve got 50 images in a document and you don’t know which one is the culprit, going through and removing them one at a time is an arduous process and best avoided.

So, be careful what you paste – you might get more than you bargained for!

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