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Posted Friday, April 8, 2011, at 7:59 AM

Which word processing program should you use? There's no real answer to that, of course -- it's what you prefer and what you're accustomed to.

Microsoft Word is my program of choice, but I have three computers that I use regularly for work and each one contains a different version of Word. One has Word 2003, another has Word 2000, and one (the dinosaur) even boasts Word 97. I've long thought I should update to Word 2010, but I'm familiar with the programs I have, can quickly find the features I need when I need them, and don't relish the idea of learning to navigate the newest version. I've seen Word 2010, as it came with a 60-day trial when I bought my notebook--they give you that taste for free, then when you're hooked they reel you in to make the sale. It looked like a unfamiliar landscape to me. So I stick with my old versions. For now.

The main problem with Word and its various versions is that if someone emails me a document in Word 2010, I can't read it if I'm on my older computers. The suffix is easily recognizable (.docx) and when I see that I know that when I open it I'll get something that looks like hieroglyphics.

Another popular program is Word Perfect, which I've used a couple of times and is also incompatible with my Word programs.

My solution to incompatibility issues is to ask (when I see. docx) that the document be sent to me in Rich Text Format. This is a terrific, universal program that's compatible with, as far as I know, all others. I've yet to be on a computer that couldn't open an RTF file. To find RTF, just open your document, go to File and choose Save As; then in Save As Type select Rich Text Format (suffix .rtf), and save your document. Voilą!

If you don't want the expense of buying MS Word or one of the other word processing programs, then you might want to take a look at Open Office Writer: www.openoffice.org. This is a free download and it has many of the same basic features that Word offers.

I'm telling you all this because as you get ready to send your work out--to publishers, editors, or even for contests--you might be asked to provide it in a certain format. It never hurts to know a few of the options.

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I know this is off topic, but I'm working on a book and I've heard it's so much harder to get published now traditially because of the kindle. now I wonder if there's any point to working so hard to finish my book.Is kindle going to change the way books are published?(I use Open Office and I like it a lot)

-- Posted by DHarris on Sat, Apr 9, 2011, at 10:34 AM

It is, undoubtedly, much more difficult for the hard-working author to get published by traditional publishing houses than it was a couple of decades ago. But don't blame the Kindle. (I have one, and I love it)

The culprit most likely is the rising cost of producing, printing and mailing of books. Publishers have become more conservative in their purchases, and more inclined to put their buying and marketing budgets behind their big-name authors.

But don't give up! The world needs its artists. And you need that creative outlet as well. If you didn't, you wouldn't be working on a book and reading this blog.

-- Posted by JTennant on Mon, Apr 11, 2011, at 1:36 PM

My goodness! finally found out what Rich Text Format is! And how to use it! Waalaa!

-- Posted by Firstogo on Mon, Apr 11, 2011, at 9:48 PM

I have open office, and would like to know why I can't send e-mail from there.

-- Posted by rjochims on Mon, Apr 11, 2011, at 10:25 PM

Say, did you know that Microsoft has actually addressed the issue of not being able to open a 2010 Word document in an older version of the program?

There is a compatibility pack that will allow Word 2003 and Office XP to open Word 2010 documents.

Just another option for those who like the previous landscape of the programs. I don't blame you a bit!

-- Posted by Chunky_Monkey on Tue, Apr 12, 2011, at 12:04 PM

Yay! THANK YOU, Chunky_Monkey, I'm always happy to learn something new, especially about a program I use so often.

-- Posted by JTennant on Tue, Apr 12, 2011, at 9:01 PM

RJochims, are you trying to email your document in Open Office directly from the open document? That's the only problem I can think of, that Open Office doesn't have that capability.

You should be able to open your email account first, then ATTACH your document and send it that way. I've send many Open Office documents through my email account with no trouble.

Good luck!

-- Posted by JTennant on Tue, Apr 12, 2011, at 9:11 PM

I have always used OpenOffice and you can now set it up to open DocX and the newer PowerPoint and Excel documents on the first try. Incidentally, we also use GIMP in place of Photoshop and Inkscape in place of Illustrator -- but I have a budding digital artist or two in my house.

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Thu, Apr 14, 2011, at 6:26 AM

That's good to know, Amy. I use Open Office occasionally when I'm at a relative's house, and we haven't been able to open .DocX documents with it. She probably needs to download a newer version and I'm going to get right on that.

Thank you!

-- Posted by JTennant on Thu, Apr 14, 2011, at 8:19 AM

I get a few emails from people who prefer not to go online with their questions and comments. Lately I've been asked by several of them why I didn't end the last couple of blogs with a quote, as I had my earlier posts.

They missed the quotes, said they had enjoyed them, so I'm going to make an effort from here on out to include a quote at the end of each blog.

Thank you for letting me know what you like and dislike about this blog.

-- Posted by JTennant on Thu, Apr 14, 2011, at 8:25 AM

Jean this Blog answers so many questions for me. I've had problems sending out my stories as an attachment.

With a hard copy of the "how to" I will attempt to send more stories using the computer.

-- Posted by wordgardener on Wed, Apr 20, 2011, at 1:10 AM

Jean, I hesitated for quite a long time before I finally upgraded to the latest version of Office. Money was obviously my concern, but -- believe it or not -- it was well worth it. I know it seems confusing at first, but after you start using it extensively for your work, you'll notice that it is in many ways user-friendly and easy to use. I, for one, have found its extended formatting options quite useful, and now my written work (I am a college student and have to do a lot of writing) looks more professional and neat.

And no more worries about file formats: you can open both .doc and .docx, and if you need to save your file in the old .doc format, you can simply select an appropriate option when saving it. Do give it a second shot: you can easily get it from http://buyoffice.microsoft.com/usa - 60 days free trial still available.

-- Posted by pete.sgg on Tue, Sep 27, 2011, at 4:41 AM

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Jean Tennant has been writing professionally for more than 30 years. Beginning with short stories, newspaper and magazine articles, she eventually branched out to full-length work, with several novels published by Warner Books, Kensington and Silhouette. Now the owner of Shapato Publishing, LLC, in Everly, Iowa, she teaches writers' workshops throughout the Midwest, for which her schedule can be seen at: www.jeantennant.com. Jean lives in Everly with her husband, Grover Reiser, and their dogs, Kirby and Dakota. Favorite quote: "Outside of a dog, man's best friend is a book. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx.
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