Macros are small, often home-made programs that run inside your bigger applications, allowing you to automate common tasks. For instance, before I write an Answer Line tip, I run a Microsoft Word macro I created that goes to the end of the document, brings up a text entry box where I type in the title, inserts that title into the document in Word's Heading 2 style, inserts some other text in different styles, then saves the file.
Macros from Word and other Office applications are written in a language called Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). I have to admit that I've never really felt comfortable working in VBA, although more competent coders apparently love it. I stumble through it somehow, but my code would probably horrify a real programmer.
But klutzes like me don't constitute VBA's biggest problem. The real danger comes from hackers who could use a Word document or template to spread malware.
To protect you from this, Word offers four different levels of macro protection. Here's how to get to the dialog box where you set those levels. Once you get there, the levels are well-explained and easy to understand.
Word 2003: Select Tools, then Options. Click the Security tab, then the Macro Security button.
Word 2007: Click the Office orb in the upper-left corner and select Word Options at the bottom of the pull-down menu. In the left pane of the resulting dialog box, click the Trust Center button. Then click the Trust Center Settings button.
Word 2010: Click the File tab, then Options from the left pane. In the left pane of the resulting dialog box, click the Trust Center button. Then click the Trust Center Settings button.