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Perfecting WordPerfect
Tips to help maximize the benefits of using WordPerfect.
By Paul A. Toth
May/June 2001 Issue

WordPerfect is one of the most popular and powerful word processing packages available. Not only is it a tool that enables document production, it’s also a toolbox that can transform the way an office handles information. Its ease, efficiency and speed can save time, money and headaches, but only if the program is used to its potential. Otherwise, it merely hogs memory, gobbling valuable computer resources.

Why waste those resources when they can help make your job less stressful and more satisfying?

Having used WordPerfect for more than 15 years, I have seen it grow from its clunky origins to the smooth product of today.

However, only when I started working as a legal assistant in a sole practitioner’s office did I come to understand its true capabilities.

With the approval of my attorney, I spent a year restructuring how things were done. I reprogrammed the keyboard until dozens of operations could be performed at the touch of a key or two. Then I reorganized the data storage system to make it more accessible and easier to manage. By the end of the year, document production and storage had become easier and more efficient because of WordPerfect.

However, with the program’s power comes a price: It chomps memory. Even the oldest versions once caused hard drives to shut down faster than an office on New Year’s Eve. If all you want to do is type a document, spell check and print it, WordPerfect is a waste of computer resources. You would be better served using a cheaper and simpler program.

Yet how many law offices actually have such meager needs? Few, of course. In a trade reliant on information, it makes sense to use a powerful program such as WordPerfect. Instead of making another to-do list, why not start ticking off tasks?

Here, then, are some tips on maximizing use of WordPerfect. Please note these tips are specifically designed for Version 6.0, probably still the most prevalent version in offices today. Almost all of these tips apply to the newer versions, but the WordPerfect people have moved some features to different areas in the menu, depending on the version. The tips box on Page 73 tells you how to find key features that have been moved in WordPerfect 9.0, the latest version. Owners of versions other than 6.0 and 9.0 should consult the User’s Manual if unable to locate a feature. You should then be able to follow the rest of the directions herein.


A macro is simply a recorded task the computer performs when instructed to do so. First a task is recorded as a macro, thethe macro is assigned to a combination of keys, which triggers or “plays” the macro.

If you use WordPerfect, then you already use macros. For example, CONTROL-B causes text to be bolded, and CONTROL-I produces italicized text. Even the TAB key is essentially a macro, causing the curser to shift over a few spaces. The program’s default keyboard has dozens of macros already assigned to it, but as many new ones as desired can be added.

Recording a macro is simple. First, under TOOLS, select MACRO, then RECORD. The prompt will ask for the macro’s name.

For this example, the macro’s job will be to produce the words “Should you have any questions, please contact me.” A good name for the macro, then, would be “question.” Type that in as the name, then choose RECORD.


WordPerfect 9.0 is more complex and powerful than earlier versions. With numerous differences between Version 9.0 and its predecessors, use the these tips to point you in the right direction.

To make changes to the keyboard, select “Tools-Settings-Customize-Keyboards.” WordPerfect 9.0 lacks a keyboard
facsimile. To remove a macro, click “Remove Assignment.”
To assign a new macro, select “Macros” in the top right portion of the window, then “Assign Macro to Key.”

To create new directories, select “My ComputerC:FileNewFolder”. Name the file “Open”.
Then, within that file, create individual files for each case.
Follow this same procedure for the “Closed” directory.

Choose “Tools-Settings-File.” Both settings are found within this window. It may be unnecessary to adjust the backup setting on a system that can handle WordPerfect 9.0.

Access “QuickFinder” using the “Start” button, then select
“Programs-Your WordPerfect Folder-Utilities-QuickFinder
9 Searcher.”

There is no power bar in Version 9.0. To edit the bars available, right-click in the gray area surrounding the buttons. Choose “View-Toolbars” to hide or display the available bars.

It is unnecessary to adjust the printer settings on a system that can handle WordPerfect 9.0.


The curser is now flashing. Any key struck, or functions performed with the mouse, will be recorded, just as a tape recorder records everything it hears. Type (without the quotes), “Should you have any questions, please contact me.” When finished, again choose TOOLS-MACRO-RECORD.

Recording is now stopped and a macro named “question” has been created. To test it, choose TOOLS-MACRO-PLAY, then under the alphabetical list of macros find and select “question.” The macro will play just as recorded and the sentence you typed will appear on the screen.

To best use macros, begin by compiling a list of commonly typed statements used in the correspondence issued by you and your office.

Anything that frequently appears in letters is a good candidate for a macro. Statements such as “Thank you for your attention to this matter” and “I look forward to hearing from you” can be recorded, never to be typed again.

Make a list of all these statements, and jot down a macro name beside each. Then record each macro as noted above. Keep your list for later, when you will assign the macros to your keyboard. Next, repeat this process with entire letters that are frequently sent.

Examples include letters to courts enclosing pleadings, letters to opposing attorneys enclosing deposition notices, etc. One of my macros is named “Stipulation” and produces the following letter to the court:

Enclosed is a Stipulation and Order of Dismissal for the above-entitled case. Please present this Stipulation and Order of Dismissal to Judge _____ for his signature and return two true copies in the enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope. Thank you for your time in this matter.

By carefully typing that letter once as a macro, I’ve spared myself from ever having to type it again. I just play the macro, type in the appropriate judge’s name, and the letter is finished.

Macros can record tasks beyond mere typing. For example, sometimes I wish to delete everything on a page of text. I recorded the following macro: EDIT-SELECT-ALL (which highlights all text), then EDIT-CUT (which cuts the highlighted text). I now have a completely blank page, at the touch of two buttons, rather than a series of motions. That brings to mind another advantage of macros: If the demon of word processing is carpal tunnel syndrome, that demon’s worst enemy is the macro. Every keystroke, every click of the mouse saved is less wear and tear on the arms and wrists.

Keep an eye on your word processing throughout the day and more macros will come to mind.

Years after creating my first macro, I still stumble across ones I can’t believe I never thought to record before. The list keeps growing, making my job increasingly easier.

First, however, the new macros have to be assigned to the keyboard.

Keys to the Keyboard

The keyboard is a much more versatile tool than it appears at first glance. The SHIFT, CONTROL AND ALT keys are powerful allies in the fight against drudgery. Your keyboard can be personalized to make the most of macros, shrinking the job of document production to its rightful size.

Take a look under FILE-PREFERENCES-KEYBOARD. A short list of keyboard choices will pop up. Each has its own layout. Click EDIT and the selected keyboard layout will appear. Now, click CONTROL-B on the small keyboard on screen.

The window above the keyboard will display the function assigned to these keys: Attribute BOLD.

This and any keyboard layout can be altered in almost any way desired. All the default macros can be deleted and new ones assigned, or some of the default macros kept. The latter is the best method, since almost everyone uses a few of the preassigned macros. If CONTROL-B has been used for years to produce bold type, then better not to delete that one.

To start, make a list of each and every macro already in use. If necessary, maintain this list for a few days until certain all macros in use are listed — the rest will be deleted, making room for new ones.

A cautionary note: These instructions assume you are the only person using your computer. If someone else uses it, be sure to inform him or her of the changes being made.

Unless the co-worker agrees to use your new keyboard layout, always switch back to the default keyboard layout at the end of the day; otherwise, that co-worker is going to begin the day extremely baffled … and irritated.

To create a new keyboard layout, select FILE-PREFERENCES-KEYBOARD. Choose CREATE and type in a name for the keyboard (your first or last name will do).

After clicking OK, your new keyboard layout will pop up. The window in the upper left corner displays all the currently assigned macros.

Simply scroll down that list, and for each macro you do not use, highlight it, then click the UNASSIGN button beneath the window.

That will clear each combination of keys for reassignment to the new macros you assign.

After deleting the macros no longer in use, the new macros can be assigned to the keyboard. Exit your keyboard layout for a moment and compose two tables just like figures A and B (see Page 74). These charts will be filled in with the new macro names beside the keys that trigger them.

Later, you can print the charts out and use them as reference guides when word processing. I keep one chart to the left and the other to the right of my computer monitor.

By the way, other combinations of SHIFT, CONTROL AND ALT are available, but the combinations on these tables should do for now.

To begin assigning macros, return to FILE-PREFERENCES-KEYBOARD, then select EDIT. Your keyboard layout will reappear. Begin with CONTROL A, hitting those keys on the keyboard facsimile on screen. If a macro is already assigned to it, write its name in the blank space beside “CTRL A” (see Figure A on Page 74) and proceed to CONTROL B. If a macro isn’t assigned to it, CONTROL A is available for a new macro.

Assuming CONTROL-A is available, we will assign a new macro to it. Still in the FILE-PREFERENCES-KEYBOARD window, look for ASSIGN KEY TO. Below that are four options, the fourth being PLAY A MACRO. Choose that option. Directly below PLAY A MACRO is the button ASSIGN MACRO. Click it. A window pops up containing the names of all recorded macros. Scroll down the list until you have located the first of your macros. Highlight that macro, then click SELECT. Write the name of the macro you selected on your table next to “CTRL A.”

Your first macro is now ready for action. Simply repeat the process until all your macros have been assigned. When finished, click OK to exit the keyboard layout.

In no time, your keyboard will be transformed from a factory clone into a highly personalized shortcut machine. With your charts for reference, you will quickly learn the keys for the new macros and soon fly through word processing tasks.

Easy Access

When I arrived for my first day at the office, the files for each of the attorneys’ cases were stored separately on 3.5” disks.

Not only was this a dangerously unreliable system for data storage (3.5” disks being fragile at best), but it was exceedingly clumsy, requiring constant shuffling of disks with every new task, question and phone call. Frankly, pure frustration led to my reconfiguring the entire file organization system.

I began by devising a fairly simple system of two easily accessed directories of files, one for all open files and the second for all closed files.

(Please note these instructions are for users of Windows 3.1 or Windows 95. Owners of Windows 98 or later versions should follow the directions in tips box on Page 74.)

The first order of business is to create the two master directories, C:OPEN AND C:CLOSED. C:OPEN. These will contain all open cases, as well as pleadings and other materials, while C:CLOSED will be used to store all files which have been completely closed out. They look like this:

        and so on …


        and so on …

To create these, just click OPEN FILE-FILE OPTIONS-CREATE DIRECTORY. In the window, type C:OPEN and select CREATE. Now repeat those steps and create the C:CLOSED directory.

Next, you will want to make C:OPEN the default directory in WordPerfect. Select FILE-PREFERENCES-FILE. In the center of the window that pops up, find DEFAULT DIRECTORY. There will be a small window beside it where you will type C:OPEN. Click OK.

You have made C:OPEN the directory where 90 percent of your computer time will be spent, without the need to jump back and forth between directories. The only time you need exit C:OPEN is when working with closed files, or using programs other than WordPerfect.

Using the same steps, create the directory C:OPEN1-PLEADINGS, where you can store all “boilerplate” documents such as notices, blank subpoenas, etc. By using “1-”, your pleadings folder will stay near the top of the directory, making it easy to access. You may also want to create a C:FILE1-OPEN directory where all other documents can be stored.

Finally, for each open case, create a directory under C:OPEN. For instance, the directory for Jack Smith v Hotel Inc., might be saved as C:OPENSMITH. Do the same for all closed cases under C:CLOSED. Now simply copy the appropriate files into each directory.

After creating the directories and moving all the files — which should take an hour or two — you need to create further directories only when opening new files or moving a closed file from C:OPEN to C:CLOSED.

Now, in every case directory, I save the first file as “1-LIST.” This file will contain a heading with all the case information, followed by a list of all letters and documents pertaining to the case. For example, one of my typical case directories might look like this:

x    Smith County Circuit Court
x    Judge John Smith
x    Case No.: 00-111-000-00
x    Our File No.: A-000
x    a1    Ltr to court
x    a2    Answer to Complaint
x    a3    Ltr to client

One of the best features of this filing system is having the ability to search through all your open cases at once if necessary.

If you are not familiar with the WordPerfect QuickFinder feature, I will briefly explain the process a little later in this article.

Need to know how many trials are approaching? Simply use an appropriate search string and the answer will quickly appear.

With every case in its own directory, you can obviously search for information on a specific case in just a matter of seconds.

Meanwhile, the C:CLOSED directory saves the computer from looking through closed cases while performing searches.

This system also allows you to develop such useful information as the flow of new cases by month, how many files are handled by various attorneys, the outcome of cases by specific judges, and so on.

The Search Is On

QuickFinder is an excellent feature that makes finding information a snap. To use it, you need only select FILE OPEN, then click the set of files you wish to search.

For example, to search through all open files, you would click FILE OPEN, select C: and then click the OPEN directory. Select the QuickFinder button to the left of the window. You may limit searches by dates or place various limits on the search phrase.

The Essence Is Speed

When printing a number of documents, WordPerfect can be frustratingly slow in transmitting the data to the printer. However, there is a quick way to rev up that process. Choose FILE-SELECT PRINTER-SETUP-OPTIONS.

Now set the controls as follows:
x    Max Resolution: 300
x    Grays: Line Art
x    Printer Memory: 14MB or more
x    Fonts: Use Printer Fonts
x    Page Protection: Use all memory for printing

While these selections will maximize your printing speed, the difference in quality is barely noticeable. You will especially notice a difference when printing envelopes.

The only time you may want to change these printing preferences is when printing tables, graphs or anything else beyond mere text.

To perform those operations, temporarily change the maximum resolution to the highest dpi available and the “Grays” to “Photographic.”

Buttoning Down the Button Bar — Powering Up the Power Bar

Unless you use the features on the button bar, which include drop caps, watermarks and other functions, it serves only as a distraction.

Why not hide the button bar to clean up your workspace? Select VIEW, then click on and release the “Button Bar” selection. The button bar is now out of sight.

The power bar, on the other hand, is quite useful, allowing easy access to common features such as saving and printing documents. However, it’s unnecessary to have all the features visible on the power bar.

To select the features you wish displayed on the button bar, right-click in the gray area along the power bar, highlight “Preferences” and release.

You can now check those features you want displayed and uncheck those you can do without. While still in the Preferences window, you can also arrange the buttons as you like by clicking on them and sliding them into the desired position.

Shifting Back Up Into Reverse

Backing up files is an important habit to develop, making WordPerfect’s automatic backup unnecessary … if you save your work often enough.

Getting into the habit of saving work constantly is much safer than relying on WordPerfect to do it, and your work will not be interrupted by the slower backup of the program.

For this reason, I recorded a macro to make ALT-4 my save buttons, then trained myself to use ALT-4 every time I had to stop typing .

You might want to record a macro such as ALT-4, accustom yourself to using it a few weeks, and then eliminate the automatic backup altogether. To do so, select FILE-PREFERENCES-FILE.

Towards the bottom of the window, uncheck “Timed Document Backup.” You are now on your own.

Learning Curve

WordPerfect is probably one of the most versatile word processing programs ever designed. For more ideas on how to effectively use this program, leaf through the User’s Guide —it makes for good reading and keep an eye out for those new macros.

Paul A. Toth is a legal assistant and freelance writer. His nonfiction regularly appears in several publications. His fiction has been accepted by numerous literary magazines. His screenplay, “Black as Day,” is making the rounds. Toth lives in Michigan.

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