Certainly! The word “quick” says it all: you can work quicker with Quick Parts. It is a collective name for various smart functions that allow you, as a technical writer, to work more efficiently.
“So why don’t all technical writers work with this?”
Well, that’s probably because Microsoft has hidden this feature somewhat. It is behind a tiny button and a pull-down menu on the ribbon “INSERT”.
“This has sparked my curiosity. Please explain, how does that work?”
Actually it is very simple once you know how. Or as Johan Cruijff once put it: “You will only see it when you get it.”
The term “Quick Parts” is a collective name for all kinds of smart functions that make working with Word easier, faster and more consistent. How does that work? You add reusable pieces of text, images, tables and other elements to your manual. For example, you can create a safety warning once and reuse it without much hassle. A kind of ‘write-once-and-use-many-times’ action. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Study this blog before you start working on your manuals.
In MS Word, there are the following Quick Parts that are important for a technical writer:
1. Building blocks.
1. Building Blocks
Working with building blocks in MS Word is just like playing with blocks. Who didn’t do this when they were younger? Stacking blocks to create the ultimate structure. Luckily, you can also do this in MS Word! But digitally, of course. Enjoy building your manual with reusable blocks, the digital building blocks.
A building block is a ready-made component for a document. And that includes all formatting. Building blocks can contain tables, images, formulas and complete paragraphs. MS Word has standard building blocks for, for instance, watermarks, the layout of page numbers, headers in many variations, cover pages, etc.
But why use those boring building blocks when you can make your own fantastic ones? Consider, for example, your own disclaimer, safety warnings or waste disposal texts including illustrations. And what about your own quick tables?
“There’s that word ‘quick’ again! Now we’re really starting to notice!
Yes, that happens to be what it’s called. And it is true. Create a standard table like you want to use in your manuals. Save this correctly as a building block and retrieve it when you need it. Before you know it, you have reused a table as a quick table. Complete with formatting, cell properties, shading, fonts, and more. And that throughout the entire document. Sounds pretty quick, right?
“Yes, I now understand the part about the building blocks. Those are indeed very handy blocks which I can use to build up my document. But are there more hidden functions as well?”
Quick Parts also include the so-called ‘fields’. You are probably already familiar with the fields for page numbers, author name, subject, etc. But MS Word has even more useful fields! Some examples are:
- Print date : 26 February 2021
- Time worked on document : 10:39:13
- Document title : MS Word for technical writers
You can use fields in your texts. Imagine: you have a product name that is often mentioned in your manual. Then take a field with the property “Subject”, for example, and insert it wherever you want to mention the product name. Under water, these fields are connected to each other. Every field with the same property is given the same content. If the product name is changed, you only need to do it in one place.
Also consider fields for, for example, StyleRef. This allows you to link a field to the text of a heading 1, heading 2 or heading 3. Extremely useful if you want to let the reader know in which chapter he or she is reading in the header of your manual. This way, not only are you faster, but the reader of your manual is too!
The use of templates in MS Word
“So we have building blocks and fields that allow me to create better documents faster?”
That certainly is the case. And it’s even more fun if you can incorporate all those quick parts into a template. A template is often associated with difficulty. But when whittled down, a template is nothing more than a perfectly written and designed document that you save for reuse.
Imagine having building blocks and fields available in your template. No more extra steps to create a safety warning, no more inserting and designing specific tables, no more renaming of product names, and so on. If that is not quick! In short, reuse in optima forma.
Our Foxiz Academy training course; MS Word for Technical Writers
“I would love to know more about that.”
That’s possible. In our training course MS Word for Technical Writers, we explain more about the use of Quick Parts, tables, images and the use of styles. We cover many of the possibilities of MS Word that are important for your profession!
Writing well in MS Word is still a profession in its own right.