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What Are the Best Tips for Document Formatting?

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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Document formatting can sometimes be very transparent to a user, and other times it can be very frustrating. One way to achieve good formatting results with minimal effort is to be very familiar with the program being used. Another tip is to keep the formatting as simple as possible and think beyond the basic functionality of the available tools so they can be used to their fullest potential. Knowing the target of the formatted document, whether it be a printer, handheld device or web page, can help to avoid document formatting mechanisms that might not translate to the end medium. Understanding aspects of how the document will be used can assist in defining objects, such as images, so it looks professional and has excellent quality when one outputs the document.

Knowledge of how the document editing software works is vital for using even moderate document formatting. What might seem like a simple set of tools can become increasingly complex as their interactions with the text and each other start to produce unpredictable results. Text wrapping, line breaks, layers and inserted objects such as spreadsheet cells can all be thrown off by particular styles or elements. The formatting might even appear perfect until either exported or sent to a printer. Knowing how and why a program works the way it does can eliminate much of this frustration.

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It is important to design document formatting with the end result in mind. There is little purpose in using color clip art in documents that will be printed in black and white. Some complex formatting, especially linked objects between office suites, might not translate well into a HyperText Markup Language (HTML) file. Electronic books, reports or promotional pamphlets all have specific requirements for their formatting that can change the amount of content and nature of the design. Using templates or plotting out the layout of a document before starting can save time and prevent problems.

Most often, simple document formatting is the most effective. Complex layouts that involve frames or tables nested inside other tables might not be rendered correctly through another device or program. Likewise, it is never a good idea to use individual spaces for formatting. The formatting tools in the editor should be used as they were intended for formatting, without shortcuts, to ensure the highest chance of flawless output.

Developing document formatting and content need to go hand in hand, though they should be individually plotted out before moving to the editor. Creating formatting on the fly can cause a user to lose sight of the larger design. Attempting to create content for the format while jumping from one element to another can lead to errors or breaks in the formatting. With a solid plan for document formatting and content in place ahead of time, the final result can be completed within minimal problems.

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