INDEX BY: Edition / Title
Word 97 Basic Skills.
By S. Coles & J Rowley.
Published in 1998 by Letts Educational.
200pp ISBN 1 85805 221 1 8.95.

Word 97 Further Skills.
By S. Coles & J Rowley.
Published in 1998 by Letts Educational.
200pp ISBN 1 85805 222 X 8.95.

Word 97 Basic Skills and Further Skills

'Word 97 Basic Skills' and 'Word 97 Further Skills', have been compiled to help build on your knowledge or lack of such in Word 97 and are filled with useful word processing techniques that will encourage the user to create documents of a highly professional standard.

The book covering the 'Basic Skills' includes a section on the screens found in Word so that a complete novice would be able to easily recognise these features and gain confidence within this environment. Furthermore an excellent guide to the key operations and terminology found in the Windows environment can be found in the appendices, including a brief explanation and illustration of the Windows toolbar buttons, along with a quick reference on how to customise these. Perhaps, as the authors are also aiming the exercises at complete beginners some of this information may have been better placed within the relevant exercise. This technique would ensure that the user could identify and comprehend the tools required to complete the exercise without having to flick to the back pages for reassurance.

The 'Further Skills' volume goes on to explain the dialogue boxes the user would come across when tackling the exercises in this book. A section on file management is also included in the appendices. This may have been something that could have been approached in the basic book, as it covers finding previous files; a procedure utilised intensively to order to complete the exercises.

Each of the units begins with a brief introduction that clearly outlines the learning outcomes that should be gained from that section. The user is then guided through the exercises with concise step by step instructions that will enable them to gain skills for simple document creation through to charts and images in multi-column documents in the first edition, and creating templates to design elements in HTML documents in the second.

Although it does say on the back cover that the exercises could be done in isolation I found this was not entirely true for all of them. The exercises are methodically introduced to enable the user to step up their knowledge in each individual unit. In actual fact all the exercises had to be completed, including opening a file created in a previous unit, so the user is unable to learn more about a particular part of the unit without completing all of the parts previous to that section. This is not helpful, and could cause frustration for confident and competent users that may just want to cover a specific technique to gain that particular skill. Even a number of individual exercises within a unit could not be done in isolation as they involved opening files created in earlier chapters to be able to continue. This could be confusing to a novice and result in them abandoning the exercises all together. I feel that the exercises should have been given more thought as to how they would be best placed in conjunction with the aims of each exercise and the whole book. Some of the exercises did not fully explain the effect or point of the exercise. An example of this is can be found in unit 4 of the Further Skills book, I tried this exercise whilst creating this document but could not get the correct layout by following the advice given in the exercise.

Although the books were neatly bound in a colourful glossy soft back cover, upon opening the first pages the reader is greeted with pages filled with dull flat images in several shades of grey. Words that needed to be emphasised had been highlighted using a dark box so that I found the text could not be read in certain lights or angles. This was very frustrating; when working through the exercises I had to stop to pick the book up to be able to make out the word, and I have good eyesight. Although it might add to the cost, printing the book in colour would have been more helpful.

I have used this book during my teaching practice as an ICT student and found the topics adaptable to KS3. As a teaching resource I have no hesitation in recommending the books to a teacher of ICT. Indeed any teacher confidant in using ICT could utilise the topics within the books to allow them to implement ICT into their subject curriculum. This could be achieved by adapting the units to suit the ability of the students, but would not be so ready to recommend to a beginner to work through under their own steam. The price of 8.95 for each the book makes them a welcome addition to any ICT department's resources and a useful reference in the Library for other users of ICT.

Neil Stanley
Reviews Editor