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The true meaning of Macros

Recording macros in Word 2001 for the Mac is easy and useful.

If you’re using Word 2001 for the Mac–and, believe me, it’s certainly worth checking out if your work involves heavy-duty word processing–you may want to take advantage of the application’s support for macros to save yourself some time. Macros are a series of effects or enhancements that can be applied with one click of the mouse. In talking about Word, macros are commands and instructions that you group together as a single command to accomplish a task automatically.

In fact, if you don’t take advantage of Word’s automation and macro features, you’re depriving yourself of some real customizing enhancements and time savers. Macros can do things such as enter blocks of text automatically, assign font styles (bold, italic, etc.), or format a paper.

For instance, if you write lots of letters you can record a macro that, with the push of a button, automatically inserts your address. If you regularly write reports that have the same format, but different text, you can record a macro to do the formatting for you. Macros can be used to combine multiple commands (such as inserting a table with a specific size and borders, and with a specific number of rows and columns), making a dialog box option more accessible, and automatically running a series of tasks.

Macros are programmed in Word 2001 (and for that matter, in all of the Office 2001’s components) with the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) scripting language. While you can use programming to set up and use macros, thank goodness you don’t have to. Any set of actions can easily be recorded and played back as a macro. And when you’re recording a macro, you can temporarily pause recording and then resume recording where you stopped.

Note, however, that while Word’s macro recorder handles commands, text entry, and menus just fine, it can’t deal with mouse movements inside document windows. For example, you can’t use the mouse to move the insertion point or to select, copy, or move items by clicking or dragging. You have to use the keyboard to record such actions.

Word’s own macros

Good news: You don’t have to record every macro from scratch. Word comes with lots of them. They’re stored in templates installed in the Templates subfolder of the Word or Office program folder.

To get to the macros in such templates, open the templates in Word, or use Office 2001’s Organizer, a built-in macro assistant, to copy the macros you want to use to another template. If you can’t find a Templates subfolder, or if that folder doesn’t have any templates, just run the Word or Office setup program to install them. To view a list of built-in macros in Word, point to Macro on the Tools menu, click Macros, and in the macros in-list, click Word Commands.

You can copy a macro project to use in another document or template using the Organizer. On the Tools menu, point to Macro, and then click Macros. Click Organizer. Select the macro project you want to copy from either list, and then click Copy. Word displays the macros used in the active document in the list on the left and the macros in the Normal document template in the list to the right.

If the template you want to copy from doesn’t appear in either list, click Close File. To select the template or document you want, click Open File. To copy an individual macro, select the macro in the Macros dialog box (Tools menu, Macro submenu), click Edit, and use the standard editing features of the Visual Basic Editor.

Using the macro recorder

Office 2001 applications come with a macro recorder. The folks at Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit (the MacBU) say that before recording a macro you should plan the steps and commands you want the macro to perform. If you mess up during recording, any corrections you make will also be recorded. But don’t worry too much about messing up. You can edit the macro later and remove unnecessary steps you recorded.

You can store macros in templates or in documents. Word, by default, stores macros in the Normal template so that they’re available for use with every Word document. If you plan to use a macro in a single document, just store it in that document. Individual macros in documents are stored in macro projects that you can copy from one document to another. To copy, delete, or rename a macro project, it’s best to use the Organizer. On the Tools menu, point to Macro, click Macros, and then click Organizer. Once you’ve recorded a macro, you can give it a shortcut key, assign a toolbar button to it, or add it to a menu.

To record a Word macro, cruise on up to the Tools menu, point to Macro, and then click Record New Macro. When the Macro name box pops up, type a name for the macro. (If you attempt to christen a new macro with the same moniker as an existing built-in macro, the new macro actions will replace the existing actions.)

In the Store Macro in-box, click the template or document in which you want to store the macro. In the Description box, type a description for the macro. If you don’t want to assign the macro to a toolbar, a menu, or shortcut keys, click OK to begin recording the macro.

Click Toolbars to assign the macro to a toolbar or menu. In the Commands box, click the macro you’re recording, and drag it to the toolbar or menu you want to assign it to. Click OK to begin recording the macro. Click Keyboard to assign the macro to a shortcut key. In the Commands box, click the macro you are recording. In the Press New Shortcut Key box, type the key sequence. Click Assign, and then click OK to begin recording the macro.

Once you’re finished recording your macro, click Stop Recording. To pause and restart recording a macro, suspend recording by clicking the Pause Recording command. Then perform any actions you don’t want to be recorded. Ready to start up again? Click Resume Recording.

Of course, just because you create a macro doesn’t mean you have to live with it forever. To delete one of the outdated macros, go to the Tools menu, point to Macro, and click Macros. In the Macro name box, click the name of the macro you want to trash and click delete. (If the macro doesn’t appear in the list, select a different document, template, or list in the Macros in-box.)

You can also rename a macro project or an individual macro by using the Organizer. On the Tools menu, point to Macro, click Macros, and then click Organizer. Choose the macro project you want to rename from either list, and click Rename. Word will display the macro projects used in the active document in the list on the left and the macro projects in the Normal document template in the list on the right. Type a new name for the macro project in the New Name box.

Now, before you start recording macros helter skelter, see if Word’s automated tools can tackle the chores you wish to automate. Word has a Project Gallery, similar to the Starting Points feature of Apple Works 6. The task-based Project Gallery (a Mac first Office feature) provides a central point to access new customizable templates and wizards for any of the Office applications, letting you browse document samples such as business cards, greeting cards, or calendars.

The concept formerly known as Mail Merge is now called Data Merge, which is designed to simplify the process of using data to conduct a mass communication, regardless of whether it’s mailed or e-mailed. For example, a user can conduct a Data Merge between a newsletter created in Word 2001 and information for the mailing stored in the new e-mail and personal information manager’s Address Book.

Completing a data merge in such a process can take as few as 10 mouse clicks, compared with over 50 clicks for mail merges in previous versions of Word. You need only drag and drop the Address Book into the Data Merge Manager, which then completes the merge. You can even preview a data merge before implementing it in this new feature.

There’s an AutoCorrect feature to detect and correct typos, misspelled words, grammatical errors, and incorrect capitalization. Word comes with a list of built-in corrections (called AutoCorrect entries), but they can be added or removed. Plus, you can use the AutoCorrect exceptions list to prevent unwanted spelling corrections.

Word’s AutoComplete feature can automatically offer suggestions for the rest of the word or phrase you are typing, including dates and AutoText entries. The AutoSummarize feature can automatically summarize the key points in a document. Word analyzes your document statistically and linguistically to determine the most important sentences, and gives you a custom summary based on this analysis. I don’t find it that effective, but others do.

Word 2001 can automatically create a style for you when you apply new formatting to your text. It can automatically redefine styles to reflect your recently applied changes. And, being polite, Word even gives you an instant preview of each style from the Style list on the Formatting Palette. Finally, there’s a Letter Wizard that can help you quickly write a new letter by changing and adding elements in your existing letter.

If you really get into macros, you may even want to invest in a specific macro utility that can make these goodies for just about any application–and for the operating system itself. My favorite is QuicKeys from CE Software. This $99.95 utility lets you record and play back any action you make on your Mac. You can rename every file in a folder, enter blocks of text, reformat text, navigate to certain Web sites, and more. You can do all this in a variety of ways: with a keystroke, with a desktop icon, through a menu, or now with version 5, by speaking the name of the macro.

Another popular utility, OneClick from Westcode Software, can record and play back keystrokes, type text, open applications, select menus and dialog box options, and more, automating your work in any application. This $59.95 goodie lets you assign your macro shortcuts to keyboard commands or buttons.

Dennis Sellers writes for several Mac-specific publications.

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