Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Create Your Own 'Quick-and-Dirty' Handouts

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Create Your Own 'Quick-and-Dirty' Handouts

Article excerpt



You don't need to have

professional layout programs

or to be a design guru

to create good-looking

brochures and handouts.

If you use PageMaker or MS Publisher, you probably know how to create wonderful handouts. If you are highly skilled in using MS Word, you can probably create some great materials (see, for instance, Jennifer Sharkey's Training Handout example of a Word document converted to Adobe PDF at jsharkey/research.html). And, if you have expertise in using Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, you probably have some dynamite designs incorporated into those works of art.

But what about the rest of us? Yes, maybe we have MS Office, but we may not be fluent enough at using Word to incorporate fancy columns or to know how to insert images that float in front of text. What if we want better-looking handouts, guides, brochures, instructional materials, and the like? Are we stuck with plaintext documents with only font changes to garner attention? Not at all.

Practice Makes Perfect

Sometimes it's easier to start with the basics. Because Word creates things in a document-generating format, it might be simpler to find a way to practice drawing in an application that is more conducive to drawing. No, I don't mean Paint or a graphics program. I mean that little program right there next to Word on your hard drive-PowerPoint.

Yes, PowerPoint is a presentation application. If you've used it, you've probably noticed that by default it will try to set up slide designs for you, but in fact all of that is customizable! PowerPoint can be used as a blank canvas upon which you can easily draw almost anything, which is why it makes for a perfect medium with which to practice.You'll be able to insert clip art, create autoshapes, draw lines and boxes, and insert images that you've saved from elsewhere. And if you practice in PowerPoint first, you'll soon get the hang of things and be able to incorporate more artistic creativity into your Word documents later.

Open up PowerPoint, and it asks: 1) if you want the AutoContent Wizard to walk you through steps to set up an outline for your content, or 2) whether you want to just assign a background design from a group of templates, or 3) whether you want a blank presentation. If you select the last option, it then asks which kind of slide you want, and if you choose the little blank square, lo and behold, you will be presented with a slide that really does look like a blank canvas. And check this out: If you go into the File, Page Setup menu, you can select Portrait orientation for your slide and it will look like an 8.5 x 11-inch page! (Or a reasonable facsimile, for those of you reading this in England.) One final thing: Be sure to turn on your Drawing and Picture toolbars (i.e., go to View, Toolbars)-if you've never used them before, they might "float" in the middle of your page. Drag them to the top, bottom, or side to position them where they're convenient to you. While you're at it, turn on the Ruler and Guides, too, since they can help keep things aligned.

Tools at Your Mousetips

Start with something simple, like click once on the rectangle icon at the bottom of the page, and then move your mouse cursor into the blank slide. Notice that the cursor has turned into "crosshairs" to indicate that you can start drawing. Hold down the mouse button to start laying out the rectangle, continue moving and then release the button when you have a rectangle the size and shape you want. Don't worry if it's not perfect-when you select (i.e., click on) the object, you'll notice those little squares on its sides called sizing handles. Hold your mouse cursor over one of them and when it turns into a double-headed arrow, hold down the mouse button and move the handle to re-size the rectangle. To size the object proportionately, choose one of the corner sizing handles and hold down the Shift key before you begin re-sizing. …

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