Education And Debate


BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 22 July 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:245
  1. Nicholas Lee,
  2. Andrew Millman

    Word processing is almost always the first facility people use on the computer, and for many people it is the main reason for buying a computer. The tremendous flexibility of even the most basic word processors has ensured that they have almost totally replaced the typewriter. Word processors allow you to create and then amend parts of the document before printing so that you never have to retype the whole document.

    Advantages of word processors

    • Text is fully editable

    • Work can be saved and stored

    • Documents look professional

    • Writing tools such as spell checker

    • Mail merging

    • Macros for doing repetitive tasks

    • Automatic indexing

    • Graphics, spreadsheets, and charts

    Document display

    Until recently, most business word processing has been done with DOS based programs that use character based screens. These programs load, run, and print quickly even on old computers but have the disadvantage that you cannot see exactly what the page will look like when printed without switching to a preview screen. However, newer programs have moved to graphical screens with a WYSIWYG display (what you see is what you get). This means that you see exactly what the printed page will look like as you type it, which is invaluable with more complex documents.


    Typing is a keyboard activity, and all word processors allow functions to be selected by pressing various keys. This is both a strength and a weakness. Once you have learnt the key strokes of a particular program most people are reluctant to learn new ones. The Windows environment is starting to introduce uniformity between programs, with the same key strokes performing the same action. The mouse pointing device, which is used with windows and other graphical interfaces, is used to simplify adjustments to the page and to duplicate control of many standard functions. Although it is easier to learn to use, the …

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