July 2001 Issue  Volume 2  Number 4

Book Review

Word Wise 2000: An Intermediate Guide for Blind Users, by Sharon Monthei. Boston: National Braille Press, 2000.

The best thing about Word Wise 2000 is that it is not a tutorial; it is simply an easy-to-use reference book for Word for Windows. In general, tutorials have proven to be remarkable tools for independent blind computer users wishing to build comfort levels with Windows applications and the keyboard itself. You can work at your own pace, proceed lesson by lesson, and focus longer on the areas that are of personal interest. A growing number of tutorials in the assistive technology field provide solutions for people of varying learning styles, too. You can read lessons from a braille book, listen to a friendly voice on tape, or sit at your keyboard progressing through an interactive curriculum that engages your attention and input as an active participant in the learning process.

Sometimes, however, you are just plain too busy to spend time with a tutorial. Using the computer as a blind person means using the keyboard to accomplish tasks, and sometimes you simply want to know which keystrokes are required to accomplish a specific task. How, for instance, do you print an envelope? Move a file to a different folder? Change the color of only one paragraph? Or look up synonyms for "impatience"? Word Wise 2000 is a refreshing approach to providing just those sorts of answers quickly for the intermediate user of Microsoft Word 2000. No one can memorize the myriad keystrokes for every possible formatting or style option in one given program. With Word Wise 2000, you simply look up how to perform a task, such as how to make a label, and the steps appear in sequence, so readers do not need to wade through verbose pages of explanation.

The book is organized into 25 chapters, moving through the Word menu structure and thus from simplest to most complex features of the program. In the table of contents, all techniques covered in a given chapter are itemized, enabling the reader to locate a specific feature quickly and with ease. Once you've located the technique of interest, concise numbered steps take you through the process, keystroke by keystroke, for the immediate and specific results you are seeking.

Say, for example, that you've forgotten how to search for a word in your document. A quick look through the Contents page reveals that Chapter 5 is the "find dialog box" chapter and that Item A tells you how to "find text quickly." Under that item, you find these instructions:

  1. Press Control-F, or go to the Edit menu with Alt-E and press F.
  2. Type the combination of characters you are looking for.
  3. Press Enter.
  4. Press Escape to leave the Find dialog box.

Although Word Wise 2000 is not a tutorial, it is the sequel to a tutorial modified for blind users entitled Word for Windows Quick and Easy, also available from National Braille Press. For blind users already comfortable with Windows applications and Microsoft Word, Word Wise 2000 is an excellent approach for delivering "just the facts" in the information-on-demand manner we all sometimes want.

Word Wise 2000: An Intermediate Guide for Blind Users is available in either 3 braille volumes or one floppy disk in Portabook format. The book can be ordered for $22.00 from National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115; phone: 800-548-7323; e-mail: orders@nbp.org.

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