Ten things everyone should know how to do with a word processor

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6. Format a Table

Once you have your table inserted, it’s time to make it pretty. Because table formatting can be complicated, these applications offer separate formatting options for entire tables, for individual cells, and for the text that appears within your tables. (The keyboard shortcuts mentioned earlier for text formatting work on table text quite well.)

Word: Word offers a multitude of table-formatting options, all of which you manage using the Tables tab in Word’s toolbar. In fact, Word’s table tool offers nearly the same set of formatting features available in Excel.

Using the toolbar’s Table Options, you can manage the way your table displays headers and footers, add a Total row at the bottom of a table, change the table’s color scheme using predefined table styles, and even draw your own borders around tables and cells.

Additionally, Word offers Table Layout tools you can use to add, remove, or otherwise adjust the cells within your table. You can easily add or remove a single cell or entire rows and columns by selecting a row or column and clicking a single button. But be warned: Word’s tools can get complicated, and it’s easy to find yourself in the weeds once you start digging around.

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Formatting a table in Pages.

Pages: The Format sidebar provides a number of options for quickly changing the look of your entire table or a single cell. Click anywhere on your table, and the Format sidebar will change to a set of table tools. Four tabs appear at the top: Table, Cell, Text, and Arrange.

Click Table and you’ll see six table styles. Click one and it will change the entire table to match the style you’ve selected. With Table selected you can also manage the way the table’s headers and footers appear; make global changes to the table’s font sizes; hide, display, and change the table’s outline and the way the table grid looks; and adjust cell colors and sizes.

Select the formatting sidebar’s Cell tab, and you’ll find options for formatting the data within cells. So, for example, if you want the data in a cell to always be treated as text, even if it’s a number, you can specify that here.

Use the Text tab to change the way text appears within table cells. You can change fonts, adjust text alignment, create lists within cells, and do just about anything else you can in the body of a word processing doc.

The Arrange tab lets you fine-tune the location of the table within your document. In most cases, you’ll drag and drop your table where you want it, but you can use this tool when you want to change the way text wraps around your table or when you want to tweak its location by a couple of pixels in your document.

Google Docs: Select your table, a selection of cells, or a single cell; click the Table menu; then choose Table Properties.

You can then change a table’s border color, change the cell backgrounds, set column width and height to a specific number, change the way the table appears inline in the body text of your document, and alter the way text aligns vertically within a cell.

7. Insert a Chart

For many people, myself included, a table full of numbers is enough to make your your eyes glaze over. A graphic chart, on the other hand, can make cold, hard numbers easier to understand. Adding charts to your documents in all but Google Docs is a simple process.

Word: Click the toolbar’s Chart tab and you’ll see a set of tools for creating and formatting charts. Selecting the chart you want inserts it into your document and opens an Excel spreadsheet with a default data set. Changing this data changes how your chart looks in the document.

If you need to change your chart, Control-click (or right-click) your chart and select the Edit Data menu. This will reopen both Excel and the table containing your chart data.

Pages: Of the three applications, Pages makes it easiest to add charts. Click the chart tool in the toolbar, and you’ll see a menu with a three chart options: 2D, 3D, and Interactive. In addition to chart types, Pages also offers a number of color themes, which you can navigate using the left and right arrow buttons in the menu.

Selecting a chart places it in your Pages document with a default set of data. Click the Edit Chart Data button and a table will open displaying the current chart data. Replace the default data with your own data, and the chart will change to reflect your data. If you need to change the data in your chart again, just click the chart and click the Edit Chart Data button again.

Google Docs: Google Docs offers no way to directly add and update a chart in your document. Instead, you need to create a chart in Google Spreadsheet, publish an image of the chart to the Web, and then insert the image’s URL into your document.

insert chart google docs

Inserting a table in Google Docs is more complicated than in Word or Pages.

First, create a new Google spreadsheet by opening Google Drive, clicking the Create button and selecting Spreadsheet. In the resulting spreadsheet, enter your chart data. Select the data by clicking the first cell containing your data, and then Shift-click the last cell of data you want to include in your chart.

Next, click the Insert Chart button that appears on the left side of the Google Spreadsheet toolbar. That opens the Chart Editor. If you don’t see the type of chart you want, click the Charts tab or click the More link that appears next to Recommended Charts. Once you’ve selected your chart, click Insert.

To add the chart to your document, click near the top of the chart, look for and click the small Edit Menu arrow in the upper-right corner, then select Publish chart. In the next window, open the Publish Format menu and select image. The window will change displaying a few lines of HTML text. Select and copy only the text that appears between the quotation marks. This text will start with https:// and end with a series of text characters.

In your document, open the Insert menu, select Image, then choose By URL and paste your image’s URL into the URL field. Your chart should appear in the window. If it doesn’t, make sure the URL is correct. When you’re done, click the Select button and your chart will appear in your document.

Note: Because this chart is an image, it doesn’t change if you change your table data. If you update the data driving your chart, you will have to republish the chart and insert the new URL into your document.

8. Interact With Graphics

In addition to charts, you may also want to add pictures or other graphical objects to your document and then gussy them up so people take notice.

Word: Click the Insert menu and select Photo. You’ll see two options: Photo Browser and Picture From File. The former allows you to select images from your iPhoto or Aperture libraries; the latter, an image from the Finder. From the browser, select the image you want to use and drag it into your document.

To make changes to the document, select the image in your document, then click the Format Picture tab in the toolbar. By default Word inserts your image inline with the text, which means it cannot initially be dragged where you want it on the page. To change this, click the Wrap Text button and choose one of the wrapping options, then drag your picture where you want it.

Like Pages, Word offers a number of preset picture styles—all available in the toolbar—that you can use to add shadows, borders, and other effects to your image. In addition, you can create your own borders and shadowing, correct a photo’s color, or apply filters. The toolbar includes a tool for rotating your images using a button, but that appears just above the image will let you rotate your image by hand.

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Pages' graphics tools.

Pages: Click the Media button in the toolbar and choose Photos from the three tabs at the top of the Media menu. (Alternatively, you can open the Insert menu from the menu bar and select Choose. Then you can choose anything you want from the Finder and not just from your iPhoto library.)

The image you select will appear in the document. To resize it, click and drag any of the tiny boxes that appear at the edges of the image. (If you don’t see the boxes, click the image and they’ll appear.) You can also drag the object anywhere you want it on the page.

To change the image’s appearance, click the image and look at the Format sidebar, where you’ll see three tabs: Style, Image, and Arrange. Style is where you change borders either using one of six predefined styles or by creating your own using the Border, Shadow, Reflection, and Opacity options. If you create your own style, you can save it for later use by clicking the plus button in the Image Styles section of the Styles tab.

Use the Image tab to replace your current image with a new one, adjust exposure and saturation, create a mask, or to use the Instant Alpha button to make parts of your image transparent. Use the Arrange tab to make adjustments to where and how the image appears on the page and to change how your image interacts with text on the page. In most cases, the default setting will work for you, but if you want your text closer to your image, or if you want to rotate your image slightly, this is the place to do it.

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You can insert graphics in Google Docs by URL, by uploading them from your Mac, or by using your Mac's built-in camera.

Google Docs: Adding an image in Google Docs is exactly the same as inserting a chart: Open the Insert menu and choose Image. As was the case with the chart, you can insert an image using a URL, but you can also insert images by uploading them from your Mac or using your Mac’s iSight camera (you must have Adobe Flash installed).

Google Docs inserts your image inline with the text. To change this, click the image and then click the Wrap Text link. A new menu will appear to the right, which you can use to set the margin around your picture. You can now drag your image where you want it to appear in your document.

Google Docs doesn’t offer any way to add extra formatting to your images, but you can resize your images by clicking and dragging one of the squares that appear around the edge of the image.

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