Making older versions of Microsoft Word easier to use

Microsoft Word  is one of the world’s most popular computer programs. However the older versions are also visually very complex and this complexity can be a real barrier for young children, people with learning difficulties, and people with some visual impairments. In fact anyone can lose confidence when they are faced with the complex toolbar icons and other clutter that Microsoft Word displays. This tutorial will take you through the steps required to make Word much more accessible.

Microsoft Word Screenshot

Most of Word’s clutter can be found around the top of the program. Rows of unused toolbar buttons haunt every user. Even if we manage to completely ignore them it is all too easy to accidentally click on one and be faced with peculiar dialogs dealing with Mail Merge or Trust Certificates. And not only are all these icons making the program visually complex, they’re also taking up valuable space on the screen.

Tidying up Word

View Menu

Removing The Rulers

Start with the rulers. They contain loads of graphical detail and are rarely used. Even if you can’t see them all the time they can appear if you rest the mouse in the wrong place and lead to confusion and margin errors. Go to the View menu and select Ruler to hide them. To reverse this setting simply go to the View menu and select Ruler again.

Toolbars Menu

Toolbar Icons

The toolbar buttons are the biggest clutter-culprit. They take up a lot of space and the vast majority of them are never used. I am going to show you how you can move and remove them. In order to play around with toolbar buttons you must have the Word Customize dialog showing on screen. You will need to leave it open until I indicate otherwise. Go to the View menu and open the Toolbars menu. Click on Customize…

Customize Dialog

Enabling Large Icons

Up pops the Customize dialog. Word is very flexible and allows itself to be customised to a degree unmatched by any other software I know of. Click on the Options tab. Put a check in the large icons box and you’ll see the icons dramatically double in size. Don’t close the customize dialog…

Word Screenshot with Large Icons

Removing Toolbar Icons

The icons are large now but there’s far too many of them and there isn’t much space to write. Let’s get rid of some of the icons we don’t need.
To remove an icon, simply click and drag it anywhere towards the Customize dialog or onto the page of the document. When you let go of the mouse button you should see it disappear from the toolbar and into the ether.

Simply repeat this action for all the icons that you don’t need and you’ll soon end up with a far more accessible interface. Don’t worry if you remove a wanted icon accidentally: the toolbars can be easily reset back to their default state.

Word Screenshot with Large Icons - but less of them

Moving Toolbar Icons

In the screenshot on the left I’ve been quite ruthless and left Word with just 12 toolbar items: Open; Save; Print; Spellcheck; Font Style; Font Size; Bold; Italic; Underline; Align Left; Align Centre; Align Right. But lower down on the screen there are still a lot of icons which I don’t plan on using. I may as well remove the entire toolbar, but before I do I want to rescue one fun useful button: WordArt.

WordArt Icon

I can do this by simply dragging the WordArt button and dropping it alongside my icons at the top of the screen.

Screenshot of an Uncluttered Microsoft Word

Removing an Entire Toolbar

Finally we can close the Customize dialog. Word has many toolbars. The one that normally runs along the bottom of the screen is called “Drawing”. You can see a list of all Word’s toolbars by going to the View menu and selecting Toolbars. The toolbars that are listed with ticks next to them are currently showing. To hide a toolbar simply click on its name in the list. To show a toolbar go to the View menu, select Toolbars and click on the desired toolbar.

Open Dialog

Enable Larger Fonts on the Toolbar

You can increase the size of the font in the Font Style and Font Size drop-down lists. Mysteriously you accomplish this by changing the size of the icon fonts on your Windows desktop. This change also affects the font sizes used in the Open and Save dialog filelists (see screenshot).You can follow this vision tutorial to adjust the Windows desktop icon font size.

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