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Last post Author Topic: When your word processor begins openly mocking you, it's time to call it a day  (Read 7140 times)

cthorpe

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My wife and I spent 7 hours today fighting with Microsoft Word 2010 as we attempted to get her dissertation into the specific, random-ass, ever-changing format that her university requires for final submission and publication.

Word's more impressive moves included:

  • Deciding to liberally and randomly sprinkle sub- and super-script formatting throughout her endnotes.
  • The "section break jumble" every single time we saved the document.
  • Completely corrupting half the references section with random garbage after a save.
  • Insisting that we use quadruple space on one single page of the document.
  • Regularly ignoring specified pages when printing small portions to attempt to fix pagination issues caused by Word.
  • Turing on Windows' built in Text-to-Speech just in time to capture a bevy of full-on, modernist, William-Faulkner-would-be-proud stream of consciousness profanity.  Oddly enough, it got most of the more colorful words right and failed miserably on everything else.
  • BSODing both my desktop and her laptop when trying to use the built in Save to PDF function.
  • When not BSODing, telling us "File Not Found" when trying to use the built in Save to PDF function.
  • Generating over 300 pages of margin to margin garbage text when using the full version of Adobe Acrobat 9 to create the required PDF.
  • Replacing her name with my name in the document metadata when we tried to use no less than 3 other PDF generators.


Seriously, Word, what the hell?  What did we do to deserve that?  I defend you - you and Excel and Powerpoint and even Windows.  And this is how you repay us?

F'n Ingrate!

« Last Edit: June 20, 2011, 12:55:40 AM by cthorpe »

mouser

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Well that at least made me chuckle.. i can sympathize.. Microsoft Word often seems to have a mind of it's own.

Just think of it as part of a final exam.. If you can survive formatting it in MS Word, then you are ready to graduate.

skwire

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Turing on Windows' built in Text-to-Speech

There's your problem; where Turing's involved, the app may as well be sentient.   :P

cthorpe

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In the end, the beast was tamed, and I managed to wrestle a well-formatted pdf out of it.  It did require completely uninstalling Office 2010 from her laptop and reinstalling 2007, but it is done.

Now it is up to the thesis and dissertation office to approve it, or to send back absurd demands for ridiculous formatting corrections.  No doubt at least one of the corrections will involve converting every third line to Comic Sans or replacing her footers with ASCII drawings that are actually a flip-book depicting a young woman who is so close to her PhD, only to have her diploma snatched away by a cruel man in a funny hat.

I swear, the folks in that office must have had the worst time possible in grad school, as they clearly get their jollies out of tormenting every PhD candidate that goes through the system.

Jibz

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In the end, the beast was tamed, and I managed to wrestle a well-formatted pdf out of it.  It did require completely uninstalling Office 2010 from her laptop and reinstalling 2007, but it is done.

So, basically the doc format is so obscure that even Microsoft can't read it? :D

My sympathies, I've had some fights with Word in the past involving inserting blank lines in obscure point sizes to get sections to not jump around randomly.

app103

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My daughter had similar battles with Word 97 back in the day. She had to save her reports and reboot before printing, otherwise it gave her a BSOD and she would lose whatever wasn't saved.

One time she forgot to do this and it not only gave her a BSOD that forced a reboot and lengthy scandisk check, upon attempting to open the report again to print it, the file was corrupted...she lost the whole thing. She didn't get any sympathy from her teacher and ended up having to pull an all-nighter rewriting it for only 80% of the grade she deserved.

That was when she discovered that AOL email windows are pretty good for formatting reports, as long as you didn't fill in the sendto and subject boxes. That's what she ended up using for the rest of her high school years. (she still hates Word and would rather use Notepad than to ever trust it again)

40hz

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Word 2010 doesn't openly mock me. It ridicules my entire existence - and insults my family to boot!

I thought Office 2003 was a very good release. Especially from a support perspective since they finally seemed to get Outlook fixed to the point where you didn't need to worry about it blowing up on you every three weeks.

I liked 2007 a lot less.

I can't stand 2010.

So I gave up. Now I use Softmaker Office and I'm perfectly happy with it. Especially now that it's multiplatform and comes in a piquant penguin flavor. I like it enough that it's replaced Libre as my 'go to' NIX wordprocessor.

Got the 2008 version for free. Liked it so much I bought the 2010 version, which was offered at very generous discount. (And I bought it despite the fact I already have a license for 10 copies of Office 2010)

------------
Note: freebie 2008 version still available here.

« Last Edit: June 20, 2011, 06:37:02 PM by 40hz »

Stoic Joker

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I have a client that was having issues with Word files (.doc) self destructing after they'd been passed around the office a few times in the process of being finalized. The documents were quite large training event reports that contained several groups of pictures in the frequently over 50 pages of text. Office versions were all 2003 & 2007 (2010 wasn't out yet back then), but no common points were found for who was most guilty (think "Hot Potato") of breaking the document. After so many trips through the office it just went boom on who ever was unlucky enough to make the mistake of hitting save.

As it turns out Word Documents are extremely sensitive to formatting. While it doesn't matter how you choose to format the document ... It is extremely critical that you do it consistently. As it seems that it standard method of dealing with change is to react much as you described.

The client had a meeting, at which it was decided how everybody was going to deal with various formatting type instances ... And the problem has not resurfaced again in well over a year.

So given that you were stuck futzing with fanatical formatting fiats. That's probably what caused the problem.


That was when she discovered that AOL email windows are pretty good for formatting reports, as long as you didn't fill in the sendto and subject boxes. That's what she ended up using for the rest of her high school years. (she still hates Word and would rather use Notepad than to ever trust it again)

Well that's a clever (and somewhat frightening) solution. I take it WordPad didn't quite do what she wanted?
« Last Edit: June 20, 2011, 06:47:51 PM by Stoic Joker »

app103

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Well that's a clever (and somewhat frightening) solution. I take it WordPad didn't quite do what she wanted?

Wordpad on Win98 vs the beta of AOL 6.0? No comparison! I know it's hard to believe but AOL's email formatting options were better, easier to use, and more reliable.

cranioscopical

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I can't abide Word. Didn't like its first-ever incarnation, haven't liked it since. Their sales force in the corporate world has a lot for which to answer!

And as for P*werP*int, the world's choice for turning meaningful information into comic books…

Carol Haynes

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I have to say I like Word 2010 ... sorry.

Having said that it does sometimes feel like you are playing Portal .... maybe that's why I like it  :Thmbsup:

Stoic Joker

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Well that's a clever (and somewhat frightening) solution. I take it WordPad didn't quite do what she wanted?

Wordpad on Win98 vs the beta of AOL 6.0? No comparison! I know it's hard to believe but AOL's email formatting options were better, easier to use, and more reliable.

Makes sense (been a while since I used 98), I just have a bit of an aversion to all things AOL... :)

Stoic Joker

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I have to say I like Word 2010 ... sorry.

It tries my patience at times, but I'm getting used to it.

Jibz

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So I gave up. Now I use Softmaker Office and I'm perfectly happy with it. Especially now that it's multiplatform and comes in a piquant penguin flavor. I like it enough that it's replaced Libre as my 'go to' NIX wordprocessor.

Got the 2008 version for free. Liked it so much I bought the 2010 version, which was offered at very generous discount. (And I bought it despite the fact I already have a license for 10 copies of Office 2010)

Same here. After their very generous offer to upgrade the free version of 2008 to 2010, I ended up uninstalling Office and am now using SoftMaker instead.

It doesn't have quite all the fancy stuff, but it's enough for my use, and it feels a lot faster. I only wish they made a Danish localization (there's dictionaries and all, but the application is in English).

iphigenie

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This is indeed my only problem with word - the formatting jumps around so much I cannot use it to write anything of substance in it. It hijacks the writing process and before you know it you spend more time cleaning up bullet lists that have gone broken for the 5th time this hour, and not writing.

Now I need more to organise my thinking than the one screen "focus" writers that exist, so am exploring a few alternatives, and it is interesting, once you start looking, how many "small business" word processors are still out there

Else i'll just reinstall Word Pro from 99 ;)

iphigenie

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and for the curious here's some I found, havent checked them all yet

Xiosis Scribe
Jarte (odd concept with some clever ideas I havent seen elsewhere)
Atlantis
Scrivener windows beta

of course a few of the open source ones - and I should revisit softmaker, good point

I tried some of the "idea managers" "mind mappers" and other outliners that can export to word, because capturing reusable elements and reusing/reordering/fleshing out is a great idea... but havent found one that could do that without the mother of all  messes (i.e. you can't edit a thing once in word without the whole thing going ridiculously so messed up you might as well retype). That includes onenote up to 2007.

« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 06:14:11 AM by iphigenie »

tomos

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Yeah, it would be interesting to hear how other office software compares.

I use Softmaker but normally only minimally.
I did try using the 2008 version to do a sample layout of a chapter of a book (!) - double-column, lots of illustrations. I did run  into a few bugs with the combination of full-page-width illustrations with the double-column text - but, in fairness, no office word processing program is really designed for that.
Didnt have any problems with text formatting though :-\
Tom
« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 06:19:05 AM by tomos »

40hz

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I did try using the 2008 version to do a sample layout of a chapter of a book (!) - double-column, lots of illustrations. I did run  into a few bugs with the combination of full-page-width illustrations with the double-column text - but, in fairness, no office word processing program is really designed for that.

It amazes me the amount of calls I've received from clients that ran into very serious problems (as in permanently garbled documents) trying to use a wordprocessor (especially MS Word) as a desktop publishing app.

OhNooooo.jpg
What do you mean it's damaged and do I want to
try to recover it? It's 600 pages and took 3 months!


I know Microsoft says you can because Word has "desktop publishing features" built into it. But IMO it's a prescription for disaster with WP apps. At least from what I've had happen to me. And also from what I've seen happen to people who are far more expert in Word than I'll ever want (or need) to be.

If you need to do serious page layout, do yourself a favor - get a DP app. It doesn't need to be something as heavy duty as Quark or InDesign. But even an inexpensive SOHO type desktop publishing program is a safer bet. Especially once you decide to start using columns or footnotes.
 :)

« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 06:55:13 AM by 40hz »

superboyac

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Yeah, I'm really interested in learning a new way to write and publish stuff.  As some of you know, I've created several threads related to Indesign, Word, typography, etc.  Last year, I really learned about Word's styles which made me like Word a little better.  But I still can't shake the feeling with Word that something bad can happen at any given time.
After reading Zaine's word processor review, I'm interested in going back and checking out Wordperfect.  It was my preferred program back in the 90's.  I also like Softmaker, but never got around to using it regularly, but it's portable!  I'm not that big a fan of OpenOffice, although for no real good reason.  I like Atlantis as a simple alternative for quick n dirty work.

But for me, I like the idea of styles so much, that I'm in the middle of figuring out a good workflow involving database, xml, and indesign.  Indesign will give me the frontend preview and fine tuning ability that we expect from our word processors today, but xml and a database will give me a powerful way to organize content and keep the idea of "styles" and structure without all the issues Word has with such things.

40hz

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I liked WordPerfect too. It had a powerful feature where you could look at, and directly edit, the text strings and and tags in what was almost a debugger window. It was great for fixing things and doing stuff beyond what the primitive wysiwyg of the time would allow...  :Thmbsup:

« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 09:48:47 AM by 40hz »

40hz

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^If you combine text, styles, XML, and a database haven't you just created another wiki? ;D



superboyac

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^If you combine text, XML, and a database haven't you just created another wiki? ;D
have I?  I don't know!  I've never understood how the wiki works.  What I was picturing was inputting all the elements (text, graphics) in the database, then export it to xml and tag it with the appropriate styles.  Then, import that into Indesign and fine-tune it while being able to preview it.  I really feel this is the best method for the way I work.  if wiki does this easily, I'm all for it!

40hz

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^Hmmm...actually, now it's starting to sound more like a CMS - but with a hardcopy output option.  

Sounds pretty cool now that I'm thinking about it. Kinda like that wikibooks thing Wikipedia has.   8)

@SB -  sorry. A wiki won't do what you're looking to do publishing wise. At least not any wiki package I'm aware of.  :)
« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 09:55:02 AM by 40hz »

Carol Haynes

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Best approach to Word is to turn off all the automated stuff - then just do what you want, when you want. For example I don't like it that when you start a line with a number it automatically assumes you are starting a list. Just turn that feature off and you can format lists the way you want without Word second guessing you. Same with recognising dates automatically and reformatting them.

oblivion

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I liked WordPerfect too.
There were two sorts of people in the world, back then. Those who liked WordPerfect, and the more superior sorts who liked WordStar (because you could do everything from the home keys and the function keys were mostly not required.)  ;) Oh, and those who liked Multimate didn't count. They were just weird.  ;)
-- bests, Tim

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