Word Hell

So far, this working vacation is less fun than I had hoped. And the culprit is clear: Microsoft Word.

I am a dyed-in-the-wool WordPerfect guy. I've been using WP since version 4.1. Back in the DOS days, I could practically speak macro language. I made the switch to the windows versions somewhat reluctantly, driven to by the need to import/export to HTML, and stayed for the great integration with PDF. (And I never did get fluent in the new macro language, which needs to be compiled and is ust too fussy.)

I basically only ever use Word when a law journal makes me, and if the program has feelings it knows how I feel about it. A couple of days ago I got the first edited version of my latest article back from the journal. They converted it from WordPerfect to word, which they'd warned me they would do. There's one thing — only one thing — that Word does better than WordPerfect, and that's the “track changes” feature, so I'm reconciled to the idea, at least in principle.

But the practice! All the converted footnotes are in the normal style; when I make a new footnote, they are in “footnote” style — which in this document doesn't have superscripts, full justification, or single-spacing. Messes up everything. (In the last document I worked on, new footnotes came out in four-point type. I have no idea why, and the help desk couldn't fix it.) Similarly, when I drop in inserts from other documents, the formatting in the notes goes all funny. I know there's supposed to be a way to copy formatting from one place to another, with a little paint brush icon, but it only seems to work erratically for me.

And then there's the way the cursor jumps about, the constant opening of new windows (e.g. to read a comment) that must be dragged to be closed, and the general frustration of expectatoins built up over many years.

Switching costs are not a myth.

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7 Responses to Word Hell

  1. Donald A. Coffin says:

    While I’m more tolerant of Word that you are (it’s the first word processing I ever used, so some of that’s simply falimiarity), Word 2007 is just weird. I will copy text *within a single document* (e.g., symbols with subscripts) and when I paste it within the same document, the formatting (of the subscript) is lost. When editing a test, if I move a question from one place to another, the block I move loses its formatting (indents on question sub-parts; spacing after paragraphs). This just started happening, so maybe it’ll just as abruptly stop happening…

  2. Joe1 says:

    Since Word (aka turd) give you so much trouble, why not just print the edited article after you receive it, make the changes in Word Perfect, then send it back and let the other party convert the corrected document? I hate Word, also, and I don’t allow it on my machines at home. Word Perfect is so much easier to use, and it makes much more sense. I’ve always thought that Word was a poorly written computer program, because it continues to do strange things on my work machine. I started using Word Perfect in 1986. Remenber Wordstar and Displaymate?

  3. jeremy says:

    I do not use word much at all. I use mellel mostly, though I’m thinking of migrating to emacs. Beyond that, you can use wordperfect 5.1 pretty perfectly in dosbox on osx….

  4. John Flood says:

    Or if you want a program that will let you move documents into various formats without too much trouble and wonderful built in databases and writing styles, try Notabene (www.notabene.com). It’s actually designed for writers.

  5. BroD says:

    I’m also a WP hold-out (was a veritable Macro Master in 5.1) I admire track changes in theory but find it a nightmare in practice (only in part because it allows my collaborators to butcher my exquisite prose. ;~)

  6. Rhodo Zeb says:

    I am sorry to have missed this great thread.

    One of the major reasons I can’t stand Microsoft is my experience with Word in law school. There were so many bugs and it was so frustrating. This was right when M$ was throttling WP, Netscape and the others.

    Then when I clerked I used WP, and it was night and day. Ever since then I have intensely disliked MS, and now I consider them a joke on security grounds anyway. But if they had actually bothered to go back in and make a decent Word product things would be different.

    But they didn’t. They prefer to spend their time making new proprietary formats in order to limit compatibility between their own products, in order to (nakedly, I might add) get more money out of their users.

    How about this: Find some well-situated plaintiffs and sue M$ for the botnets created by their lousy software. Then, if they can’t finally provide some security, they will die a death of a thousand cuts.

    Sigh. One can wish, at least.

  7. Conferencing says:

    I haven’t used Word Perfect since I had a computer with Windows 3.1 on it. Word takes a little getting used to but it does a decent job. I get a bit irritated with it trying to be too helpful and trying to take over my formatting though.

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