Walt Mossberg

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Sorting Paragraphs Alphabetically in Word

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about sorting paragraphs alphabetically in Word, whether some viruses are a “necessary evil” and using laptops to organize and edit digital photographs..

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

In WordPerfect, it’s possible to sort paragraphs alphabetically. For example, in a bibliography you could rearrange the entries, which are short paragraphs, in alphabetical order, even if you didn’t enter them in that way. Is there a way to do this in Microsoft Word?

Yes, though Word makes the command a little hard to find. Just go to the Table menu and choose “Sort…” From its location, you would think this command sorts only entries in tables, but it also sorts paragraphs that aren’t in tables.

When you click on “Sort…” a little window will appear. Make sure the “Sort By” box in this window is set to “Paragraphs,” and the “Type” box is set to “Text.” You can choose to sort your paragraphs in ascending order (A to Z) or descending order (Z to A.)

By default, the command selects and sorts all your paragraphs. If you want to sort only some of them, select the ones you are targeting before you click on the command.

Lately I’ve been running antivirus, antispyware, and fix-it programs daily. Now I’m hearing that some viruses are a “necessary evil” to keep some programs running. Is that true?

No. By definition, a virus is a malicious piece of software that sneaks onto your computer to cause mischief or do real harm. I know of no legitimate program that in any way requires a virus to function. If you did have some program that required a true virus to operate, I would delete that program, because it would be, by definition, malicious software itself.

It’s possible, of course, that your antivirus program is mislabeling as a virus some piece of software you intentionally installed and that you need and want. But that’s a different matter. In that case, you could use the options in the security program to allow the misidentified program to live in peace. But you’d better be absolutely certain what it is, what it does, how you got it, and that you need it. Virus writers are always trying to outwit antivirus programs by creating viruses that pose as legitimate programs.

Early on in the digital photography era, at several seminars I attended, the speakers strongly recommended using a desktop Mac or PC as opposed to a laptop for processing digital images. Is this still the case or are laptops with similar power and memory equal to the task today?

I’m not sure what you mean by “processing” digital images. But if you are referring to organizing and editing images, most laptops sold today would do the job fine, whether they run Windows or the Macintosh operating system. They have enough power, memory and hard-disk capacity to handle the digital photo needs of mainstream consumers.

The exception might be a case where a professional photographer, or a very serious amateur, is doing extensive editing in Adobe Photoshop of hundreds or thousands of images — or the laptop is a low-end, lightly equipped model. In those cases, I’d advise using a costlier, well-equipped laptop, or a powerful desktop.

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Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com


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