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October 5, 2006

MSWord: I love it less each year
Posted by Teresa at 01:46 PM *


Does anyone here know how to make Microsoft Word start the page numbering sequence with “1” rather than “0”?

Comments on MSWord: I love it less each year:
#1 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 01:55 PM:

Insert, Page Numbers, Format, Start at, then enter 1.

#2 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:02 PM:


There's a button on the Header and Footer toolbar (the one that comes up when you click View/Header and Footer). It's got a little hand holding a page with a # sign on it. Click that to bring up the Page Number Format box. There you can set the page numbering to Start at: the page of your choice.

Check whether your document has sections, and whether the Different First Page option is checked on the Layout page in Page Setup-those options can play havoc with your page numbering.

#3 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:04 PM:

You want your page number in the header or footer, right?

Got to "View" Choose "Header and Footer."

The header of the page should open up, along with a tool bar.

The third icon in will be "Format Page Number." Click on that, and a toolbox will open up, one of the options will be what page to start numbering on. This lets you start with different numbers, also restart numbering with a page or section, etc.

#4 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:12 PM:

Note also that you have the option of starting over at a section break, or continuing from the previous section. And if you Insert Page Numbers, that won't necessarily actually put them in place if you already have a header or footer. If it does you can delete the wrong insertion without messing up the numbering.

I use it both ways, often in the same document. I number the intro pages (TOC etc.) i, ii, iii... and then start the first page of the actual text with 1, 2, 3... Then sometimes there's a page that has to be landscape (architecture diagrams mostly), and that has to be a separate section, but the page numbers continue throughout.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:15 PM:

My problem is that I've got header and footer numbers (both) on a document and I want to remove the header numbers.

#6 ::: JoXn ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:17 PM:

You're going to have to convince Microsoft to rewrite the whole thing in FORTRAN.

#7 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:18 PM:

I did one large document where, knowing it would be getting changes later that would mess up any kind of continuous numbering, I did each chapter as a separate file with its own numbers from page 1. (I had to specify the numbering on each of the sections in a chapter, too. But it worked really well when it was printed!)

#8 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:27 PM:

Re 5: My problem is that I've got header and footer numbers (both) on a document and I want to remove the header numbers.

Go to "View" and then "Header and Footer" as described above, and you can go right into the text of the header to edit out the numbering.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:32 PM:

Stephanie and Ursula nailed it: THANK YOU!

The trouble with this document is that it behaves like it has section breaks, only it doesn't have any. MSWord Help is no help at all. The info I needed, the location of the Format Page Number dialogue box, wasn't findable via any of the search terms I could think of.

The next document has bulleted list formatting I can see but can't touch.

The document after that has opened at 48%, with strikethrough and italics throughout. Heaven only knows what's lurking in the text.

I have twenty-odd documents to process, and between a third and a half of them have bleeping clever MSWord formatting that takes me forty minutes to track down and get rid of.

A couple of days ago, I combined twenty-odd documents of this sort into a single document, and somehow inherited an extra inch-wide margin on the right side that could not be gotten rid of. Patrick finally beat it to death by reopening the document in a different text handler, resetting the right margin, and moving the text back into a new and renamed MSWord document.

I hate this.

#10 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:35 PM:

Oh, and if you have sections, be careful about whether the headers and footers for each section say "same as previous" or not. And if you chose "Different Odd and Even" in the page set-up, you will need to enter your text for the odd and even headers and footers separately. (The journal I edit has different odd and even, footers same as previous so all the even and odd pages are set up the same, but headers NOT same as previous so I can put the author name and article title on facing pages, first page different so headers don't appear on the first page of the article, and no page numbers on the TOC pages...fixing this all up is NOT my favorite part of the process, believe me!) Like P.J. Evans, I start with each article as a separate file then put them all together at the end. Seems to keep it more manageable.

#11 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:36 PM:


It sounds as if you have a virus or some other bug going on. Maybe try the Security Tango?

#12 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:38 PM:

It's possible your 48% size document might be showing markups -- try clicking on VIEW and if Markup is on, toggle it off. Of course they'll all still be there, lurking in the background...I'm not sure how to get rid of them, but if they ARE markups, at least you have a term to look up in the help index.

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:39 PM:

Teresa, is this at the office, or personal stuff at home? I'm kind of a Word maven, and I've fixed a LOT of odd formatting problems in my day. I'd be willing to come over and kill some of these problems for you.

#14 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:40 PM:

Hunh. I can't imagine what version of MSWord you must be using that doesn't bring up the Page Number Format box when you click on insert/page numbers/format, but oh well. *shrug* Maybe you have a mac.

#15 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:42 PM:

You CAN take a file or a highlighted section of a file and choose the text style (box left of font name) CLEAR FORMATTING to see if it will get rid of the bullets. But be careful -- it might get rid of some other stuff too, so check before you save any changes...

#16 ::: Ray ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:53 PM:

Combining Word documents, particularly documents from outside sources, is ALWAYS a big problem for Word. Basically, Word takes the formatting from each outside source and COMBINES it all into your document, causing stylesheet problems, problems between sections, and all sorts or other goodness.

One thing you can consider is, if you are copying the contents of one document into your "master" document, is to use the Paste Special command in the Edit menu and select "Unformatted Text". That will drop the new content into your current document with NO formatting, and you can apply your own stylesheet or other formatting options manually.

#17 ::: Luke ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:53 PM:

One trick I use is to select and copy all the text, paste it into notepad, then open a new document, copy from notepad, and paste back into word. This will take out all of the formatting and let you start the formatting process from scratch. Good luck with it.


#18 ::: Luke ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:54 PM:

Which is pretty much what Ray just said before me. . .

#19 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:56 PM:

You're welcome, Theresa. The way MS Word handles headers and footers-especially the way they're related to sections-is dreadful. The vast majority of formatting questions I get from the (very smart) analysts at work have to do with them. I prefer to do my own writing in Word now, but only because I had to learn to make it do my bidding for my job. Otherwise, I'd run away screaming.

If you select the bulleted text and then go to Format, Bullets & Numbering, and select None, the bullet formatting should disappear, leaving you with list items separated only by carriage returns. If that doesn't work, but you can make other formatting changes, then you may have a virus.

The strikethrough text: go to View, and click Markup to turn it off. Depending on your version, you may also have a drop-down box on your toolbar that will say something like Final Showing Markup or Original Showing Markup. Select Final or Original instead. Your text should go back to normal.

#20 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 02:56 PM:

If Word is so craptacular, why are you using it for these complex documents?

(I know, I know: it's the tragedy of Microsoft domination — everyone gets this crap foisted on them by everyone else. Could you go cold turkey, or is that completely out of the question?)

#21 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:00 PM:

And what Ray said in #16 is spot on. Paste Special is the number one best trick, unless there's a lot of formatting that you do want to keep.

#22 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:06 PM:

Following up on what Ray said in #16, that's why I do MOST of my editing and formatting on each article separately before combining them. Things like font, font size, indented quotes, special characters, kerning, spelling, and even margins (though they will be over-ridden when I put them together) so I can see where the page breaks will fall. Then there's not as much to go wrong when I put them together and do the page numbers, headers, and footers.

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:13 PM:

You can also figure out what formatting you want, set it up in one document, and import it into the others with the Organizer (Tools | Templates and Add-ins | Organizer button at the bottom of the popup). THEN combine them.

#24 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:17 PM:

Ooh, cool, Xopher! I'll have to try that... I hate losing formatting when I combine documents. This might even let me do all my headers and footers before I combine them.

#25 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:20 PM:

Not an option on a Mac (I don't think, anyway, not following that project), but opening the Word document in Open Office, and saving it as some other file name still as Word, will often regularize it somewhat in the case of pesky intangible bullets, etc.

(Open Office is a better writing tool than Word, but going on about that won't help.)

#26 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:23 PM:

Open Office is available for the Mac if you're running X11.

#27 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:24 PM:

On a Mac, there is a tweaked version of OpenOffice called NeoOffice which I use on my G4 laptop when I can get away with not using an MS product.

#28 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:34 PM:

I have StarOffice, which is sort of OpenOffice - its default extensions are ODT and ODS (for spreadsheets). Opens lots of formats, will save to most of them (although possibly not correctly, and they warn you), and *can create PDF files*.

It doesn't have some of the neat MSWord bells and whistles, and some of the formatting commands are less than cooperative (tabs are a major pain; there doesn't seem to be a way to set them for an entire document at once). I will continue using it, though.

#29 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:35 PM:

a virus or some other bug going on

I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft software is doing this all on its own. But it's good to do a virus check now and then anyway. Also, Spybot Search and Destroy is a free download that's said to be good at killing spyware.

It would be interesting to load these crappy documents into Open Offic and see if that makes things better or worse. That's free as well, and works on Windows.

But then, I've had Word documents crap out on me so badly that I ended up taking an old hardcopy, putting it by my monitor as I typed the whole thing in by hand from scratch. So what do I know.

#30 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:38 PM:

Ursula #8: Thanks!!!

#31 ::: Samantha Joy ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 03:39 PM:

The default for Word page numbering is to start with 1. Do you remember what you did to make it start with 0 in the first place?

#32 ::: Georgiana ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 04:02 PM:

If you want the same effect as Ray's suggestion at 16, but don't want to mess with copying and pasting, you can just save your document as text only.

Our NYC office has mostly macs, I have a PC and I get some strange formatting stuff from the reporters in NYC like little tiny 1s or 2s and 3s instead of apostrophes and quotes. I used to do a find and replace to fix them but other junk showed up all the time so now I save all files as plain text on my desktop then format them from there.

#33 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 04:09 PM:

Janet #24, it's mostly Styles that come across that way. I don't think you can do the headers and footers with that technique; they're part of the document text, rather than its formatting, even though they repeat throughout the section.

What you CAN do is stick all the documents together, after making sure the first one has the header and footer that you want, then go through the headers and footers and select "Same as Previous" on each one. Then all of them will be the same.

Just deleting section breaks should work, but I'm not sure offhand which section's headers/footers are kept when you do that, so own risk there.

#34 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 04:11 PM:

#25: There's this. (I haven't tried using it, yet, but I think Charlie had some good words to say about it.)

#35 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 04:12 PM:

#27 beat me to providing a NeoOffice link.

#36 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 04:37 PM:

For the bullets or for numbered lists that you want to format by hand (always do this; never trust Word) here's what to do.

1. Select the passage in question. You should, in this instance, be sloppy in the selection, starting in the middle of the first line of text, and ending in the middle of the last line you wish to affect.
2. Go to Formats --->Bullets and Numbering
3. Click None.

#37 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 04:39 PM:

Is Word standard with Windows? Or just Office?

I ended up with some OTHER MicroSoft word processer (MS Works) when I got my laptop and I hates it more than Word. HATES!

#38 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 05:14 PM:

I can remember when word processing and desktop publishing were two separate applications. Word's problems began when they started incorporating DTP functionality into a word processor. Word is a crappy desktop publisher; FrameMaker is a crappy word processor. But 95% of users are stuck with whatever the Purchasing Department dictates.

For big documents I recommend defining all your styles up front. Keep the number of defined styles small, and use them consistently. Pretend your styles are like XML elements, and apply them structurally, rather than by appearance. You can always redefine styles later.

If possible, create a custom template and make sure all your authors use it. This will really speed things up.

One reason for formatting to go haywire is if someone takes a paragraph using e.g., Heading 1, and turns it into, e.g., body text by manually changing the font size and family. It might look right, but it's still a Heading 1 paragraph, and if you copy it into another document, everything will blow up spectacularly.

In Word 2003, if you drag-and-drop text from one document to another (rather than copy-and-paste), you should see a little Paste Options icon at the insertion point. Click it to select from Keep Destination Formatting, Use Destination Styles, Apply Source Formatting, or Keep Text Only. It takes some trial and error to find the one that works, depending on your source and target documents.

A tip: If you want to copy all the text from one document into another, do not use Select All; Select All will also copy some document-wide settings like paper size, margins, headers and footers, etc. Put the cursor at the beginning of the document and press Ctrl-Shift-End. This selects all the text and paragraph settings, but not the page stuff.

Paste Special is your friend. Try Paste Special-->Formatted Text (RTF) to preserve text formatting without accidentally importing goofy paragraph and page settings and whatnot. Paste Special-->Unformatted Unicode Text will paste as text but preserve any special characters that might be lost if you past as ASCII text. IIRC, Unformatted Text and Unformatted Unicode Text use different end-of-line characters as well.

For post-paste cleanup, remember that you can use the advanced search options (click More in the Find and Replace dialog box) to search for and replace nonprinting characters, styles, or text formatting. For example, to get rid of extra carriage returns, you can search for the string ^p^p and replace it with ^p. Keep clicking Replace All until you get the "No Matches Found" message. Similarly, search for ^b (section break) and leave the Replace With box empty to remove all section breaks. Click Special to see a list of all searchable nonprinting and special characters. Using the Format pulldown, you can replace one style with another. For example, you can replace all Normal paragraphs with Body Text paragraphs.

I'm not actually a huge fan of Word, I'm just a long-term Word survivor. One reason that MS has so little sympathy for our complaints is that Word actually does have an optimal way to solve just about any problem. But Word is so bloated, and has so much overlapping functionality (AutoText vs AutoCorrect; Index and Tables vs Field codes), that finding a solution to the problem is a Sisyphean task. Then they build so much looseness into their workflows that you can't predict any kind of optimal sequence for reaching your goal. I know from experience that when the software does not enforce efficient workflows, it becomes almost impossible to provide truly helpful Help. My professional sense as a tech writer is that Word's Help is remarkably good, considering how much of Word's UI defies real end-user expectations. I've certainly seen much worse.

(All comments refer to Word for Windows. Word for the Mac is a different beast, no matter how similar the UI looks.)

#39 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 05:17 PM:

I really miss WordPerfect's 'View Code' option.

#40 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 05:17 PM:

Teresa, because I have 15 years of Word-wrangling with documents formatted wildly by others... I feel your pain. Really. You have my deepest sympathies.

The weird page numbering may mean there are hidden section breaks -- if they're at the end of a line that goes out to a margin, they can lurk unseen. You can Find a section break by going to Edit, Find..., and then in the Find and Replace box, select More and Special. The Special button will display a list of odd things you can search for, including section breaks.

The document after that has opened at 48%, with strikethrough and italics throughout. Heaven only knows what's lurking in the text.

That sounds like the Track Changes function was turned on. You might try saving it under another filename and then accepting all changes... then making sure the Track Changes feature is turned off. You'll still have the original to refer to, should Track Changes be incorrect.

#41 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 05:25 PM:

PiscusFiche #37: Works is a castrated version of Word, sold for the "home" crowd and often installed by OEMs or resellers so that they can bump the price (or claim they're giving extra value).


What everyone else said, about Paste Special into a new template, as the best solution. Other things about Word: don't try to paste too much at once, especially from Word doc to Word doc (this can cause your document to corrupt; a symptom of this is that bulleted styles no longer display bullets. At that point, you essentially must Paste Special into a clean doc). If you must paste from Word doc to Word doc, see if you can reconcile styles (with identical names) before you paste, so the formatting doesn't shift when you add the new material to the old.

Finally, be careful handling Word documents from versions of Word prior to the one you're using; Microsoft often makes internal changes between versions that manifest in serious ways. (I work doing DTP; when my then-employer switched from Word 95 to Word 97, our department spent approximately half of its man-hours decorrupting documents as a consequence of one of those changes. Worse, Microsoft made it nearly impossible to determine why that happened; when we found out, a simple macro made prevention and cure trivial.)

#42 ::: BethN ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 05:36 PM:

When Word docs become intractably uncooperative, the problem is often corruption of something in the mass of hidden code that lives in the final paragraph mark of the document.

The cure: add a few extra blank paragraphs as a buffer to the end of the document, then copy the whole document *except for the last paragraph* into a new blank document.

(You will probably have to copy the headers/footers into the new doc separately, or recreate them from scratch if they're simple.)

The new doc, since it doesn't include the most evil bits of the old one, should be much better-behaved.

#43 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 05:50 PM:

All of this advice is excellent.

Displaying hidden characters is also a good way to get sneaky section breaks (etc.) out in the open. (The command doesn't seem to be in any of my menus, but it's the button with the paragraph mark on it.) You'll see all the spaces, paragraph marks, tabs, and so on.

Also, I don't know what version of Word you have, but on mine (2002) you can show a Styles and Formatting panel (go to the Format menu, then click Styles & Formatting) that really helps you sort out what the *&%$ is going on in the document.

You have my deepest sympathies. Word does so many crazy-making things. Unfortunately, people who don't really know how to use Word also do crazy-making things with it (like using spaces instead of tabs or tabs instead of tables, or, say, not accepting all changes in the document before sending it on to the next person).

linnen at #39: I miss that too -- mainly because of what BethN posted at #42. In Word, or so I've read, the formatting isn't inline; it's ALL in that paragraph at the end.

#44 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 06:04 PM:

Warning: Word Bitching to follow, not a single useful piece of advice.

Beth Friedman is my Word guru. She can make the damn thing dance and sing, understands the macros and the micros, and can't understand why I can't understand the styles.

Completely baffled by Help and every option Word offered, I called her from work, explained my problem in detail, and said, "How does Word handle master documents?"

After a pause, she said, "Very badly."

I have a vague recollection of being able to understand and use styles. Then there was a new version of Word, and I was suddenly at sea without so much as a compass. It seemed as if the new styles were trying to do something exactly different than what the old styles did. Frankly, I can't remember anymore how the old styles worked, but I haven't really figured out the new ones.

And now, in the most recent version of Word, they've done something so weird to Mail Merge that I have to use the wizard in order to get through it, and even then it defeats me about 10% of the time. I wanted to use an Excel spreadsheet the other day to supply the info to the document. After 30 minutes I gave up. This is a _solved_ problem. I've done it numerous times in the past. This is my work computer, so they're down right paranoid about security. _Not_ a virus.

The very first time I saw Mail Merge, I thought, "form letter," and never had a problem with it. Until now. What seems genuinely peculiar, even for Microsoft, is taking interfaces that work easily for their users, and adding a half dozen extra steps making it more complicated and less explicable.

It's very odd. It's like taking a basketball and carefully wrapping it in saran wrap, then carefully gluing multiple layers of mylar to make it pretty, and then applying a handle to make it easier to, well, handle. Then, they hand it back to the ball players, and are utterly confused when the players ask "What the fuck is this thing, and how the hell are we supposed to play basketball with it? For god's sake didn't you notice that the handle makes it impossible to use it as even a half-assed basketball cause it bounces every which damn way?" You, as Microsoft, say, "But it's so much easier to move down the court, and look at how shiny it is. More people will come to your games."

#45 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 06:06 PM:

When my friend was working on coding Word at Microsoft, he told me "everyone I meet tells me Word has too much stuff in, then asks for 3 more features".
What I want is a document editor whose native format is HTML+CSS, as CSS, unlike Word has a sensible style inheritance model and a clean separation between structure and layout.
I had hoped Apple might do this, but they went the opposite way, releasing Pages and iWeb that make really nasty HTML derived from the RTF-like data model instead.
This would mean you could use all the version tracking and differencing tools us programmers use for ourselves.

#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 06:10 PM:

Yeah, it's sometimes called 'creeping featurism' (or 'feeping creaturism'): that urge to put in all those neat things you thought of, after the last release (which was full of problems from the misfeatures added that time).
I wish they'd either do a thorough debug (which means not having a new version every year) or go back and redo the whole thing from the bottom up, or the top down.

#47 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 06:24 PM:

#20: Maybe Teresa is having to deal with all these Word documents because she is an editor?

Teresa: You've probably already tried this trick, but when all else fails, I have often been able to get the content out of weirdly munged Word documents by doing Select All (Ctrl-A), and copy-n-pasting it into a freshly opened Word document, then resaving the latter and editing the new copy from then on. That preserves a lot of the formatting and styles, but not necessarily the weirdness.

Making a round-trip through RTF sometimes works too; I've been able to strip off Word's moronic edit-protection by saving into RTF, opening it in OpenOffice, and then resaving it in Word document format.

I suspect a lot of the people who are saying "but isn't this set in such-and-such place like always" have not had the recent pleasure of working with 3 or 4 different releases of MS Word. Every recent version since Office 2000 MS has been making wild changes to the interface, mostly putting heavily used features (like styles) into totally new locations and layouts and making it significantly harder to use. While I'm thinking of it, I need to find where I can buy a legit copy of Office 2000 to put on one of my computers, because I really don't want to deal with the Office XP insanity.

#48 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 06:37 PM:

Oooh, you know something else infuriating the latest version of Word does? (That talk of XML reminded me.) Smart Tags! What are they for? Who asked for them? Why are they enabled as the factory default, thus requiring me to strip them out of every document I get from a person who hasn't figured out how to turn them off yet? Why must they carry over so brilliantly into eWebEdit Pro, along with a lot of other crappy code that I don't want? WHY? WHY DO YOU TORMENT ME, WORD?

Also, they're not actually very smart.


#49 ::: sharon ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 06:51 PM:

45: You want LaTex. I tried it and loved it almost as much as I love HTML/CSS; the whole separation of content and structure thing rocks. But nobody in the humanities uses it, so there's no point in me learning to do it properly. It almost makes me wish I'd gone into the sciences instead of history.

My advice with Word is always the same: turn off every bloody Auto feature except the ones you *know* you need; remember that a single backspace/Undo usually gets rid of whatever weird auto-shit it just did to you; and what everyone else said about learning to use Paste Special and Styles properly. Word is bloated, but half the trouble is that MS sell it as something simple that anyone can use straight out of the box whereas the reality is that it's a complex tool that you need to take some time to learn.

#50 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 06:55 PM:

Long ago, when I was tearing my hair out during my office's transition from WordPerfect (which made sense) to Word (which didn't), someone explained to me that the source of my problems was that the basic design of Word documents is entirely different from that of WordPerfect documents. But I never found out what that basic design difference was. Does anyone outside of Microsoft really know? Is there a white paper available somewhere that explains how Word documents are actually structured?

#51 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 07:23 PM:

Word is a frustrating program. I taught it for a semester at the Art Institute of Los Angeles (teaching logic to art students - not fun), but still have problems with it. Luckily the help files have gotten marginally better. Nowhere near as helpful as Lotus (real examples with people's names and situations, common non-tech language, definitions and descriptions of intended use - makes me wistful just thinking about it), but not as infuriating as before. At least now when I search for a menu name that I'll get something distantly related to the menu function.

I got to talk to a MS programmer at one point who, while praising MS up and down, bitched about the redundancy in programs like Word. For instance, a user can save from the file menu, the save button, the right-click contextual menu, or keyboard shortcut. Instead of those methods all pointing to a block of "save" code, they all point to their own duplicated block of "save" code.

Pure insanity!

#52 ::: RuTemple ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 07:55 PM:

What Mary said in the first comment, only you may wish or need to Insert / Break / Section / New Page (or Next Page, depending on your edition of Word).

After the first four years of editing dissertations, I put together a workshop for diss. writers at the first school whose short list I'm on, in sheer self defense, and to give folks these tools at the front end.

A dissertation, being book length, has front matter pages numbered in romanettes (i, ii, iii), where the first three pages are in that count but the page numbers don't show (you kludge around that by Inserting a Break, Section, Next Page, and then Insert / Page Numbers and click the little box to have the number not show on the first page of the section, between each of the first few pages.

So when one has made a place for where the TOC will be autogenerated (the whiz-bang part that the workshop leads up to, suddenly saving folks more proofreading and fussing time than the length of the workshop has taken), it's that again with the Insert / Break / Section / Next Page, and Insert/Page numbers/ DO show on the first page of the Section, and Format to arabic numbers (1, 2, 3); and clickety in the box to Begin with Page 1.

I swear, it's time to learn Open Office, and offer the same workshop to folks using that application. Any users with advice, support for same?

#53 ::: Kieran ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 08:15 PM:

I like it that the first four comments offered four different solutions, each of which would work.

I need to find the menu option that bans people from writing 1-page announcements or fliers in Word and then emailing them as attachments to hundreds of people.

#54 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 08:16 PM:

While we are on the subject, a review of Word users by Verity Stob. (h/t Epicycle)

#55 ::: RuTemple ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 08:19 PM:

I guess that'll teach me to read the comments first next time: now downloading NeoOffice, with thanks to all above.

PJ Evans, I often recommend (or aid in) braiding all the working files together in one flow: not only do you save "what page does this chapter I just changed end on now" and bumping the rest of the chapters down manually, you can also do global searches (and fixes). If it works for a 350 page dissertation...

I also swear at by the Paste Special / No Formatting tool: useful thing, that.

And on setting Styles: don't reconfigure the pre-packed set; create and name your own.

Anyone wishing a set of APA's five headings, plus text, block quote, and references styles drop me a line and I'll be glad to email a quick template.


#56 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 08:24 PM:

My answer to #20: MS-Word is a very annoying program, but every word processing or document processing program I've tried is annoying. Yes, I've tried MS-Word, Word Perfect, OpenOffice, LaTeX, TeX with various other macro packages, LyX, Writely, Scribe, nroff/troff, Framemaker, and several flavors of Wikis. They're all annoying, in different ways. I've hand-edited HTML, both with and without CSS. Annoying. I've hand-edited PostScript. I've kludged up a few homegrown document markup systems of my own. That's annoying too.

You choose the least bad system. Either you make the choice once, or you learn a few different systems and choose which one to use on a case by case basis, or you use what the people around you use. There are good reasons for various choices, but it's still good to recognize the flaws in whichever system you've chosen.

#57 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 08:36 PM:

Does anybody know if it's possible to configure Word sch that "Paste Special: Unformatted" is the default?

#58 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 09:43 PM:

Does anyone outside of Microsoft really know? Is there a white paper available somewhere that explains how Word documents are actually structured?

Does anyone inside Microsoft know?

(Or rather, in a way other than: ``Use the source!'')

#59 ::: Stephanie Zvan ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 11:07 PM:

Xopher, the section headers and footers from the section after the break are the ones that are kept. Of course, if those are set to "Same as Previous," it will look like something else entirely is happening.

Working for a company that has done quite a bit of customizing templates and other Office features, I have a fair amount of appreciation for what it can do when used well. That being said, it's far more of a tool than most people need or want to use, and I shut most of it off when I just want to write.

#60 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2006, 11:41 PM:

I learned how to format documents using a typewriter. I do most of the early stages of writing using Notepad (plain text editor). I edit in .rtf format (it's portable, and I can be reasonably certain everyone can read it). I blame all of these for my complete lack of troubles with Word when I use it, because nine times out of ten, I'm copying and pasting a very blandly formatted document onto a plain page.

Of course, the other reason is because I'm almost religious about my use of OpenOffice, which I find preferable, partly because it has a much more reasonable attitude to user error (and it doesn't have that #$%& paperclip!) and partly because it saves things as smaller files.

#61 ::: Unnamed Groupie ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 12:36 AM:

Mellel rocks my socks. Opens Word doc format with minimal glitch, exports to doc, RTF, plain text as well, extensive formatting options for academics and a wide variety of languages - you can switch the direction of the text, if you want. It lets you choose what codes you want to view! (I missed WordPerfect until it came along.) You can't really do much html stuff but there's BBEdit for that, or LaTex, or Text Editor.

It's Mac only, it's forty bucks, and I'm proud to say the Microcrap will never clog my hard drive again.

#62 ::: Joe in Australia ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 12:44 AM:

There's lots of good advice here, but here are two shortcuts:
Mark an area you want to clean up, then Ctrl-space to remove all formatting. If you want to remove all styles then mark the area and Ctrl-Shift-N to set it to Normal style.

As to how Word documents are stored, I don't know for a fact, but I've programmed using VBA and WOrd and this is how it seems to me:

Word documents are linked lists of linked lists of linked lists. The top list consists of each document presently open. Inside each document is a linked list of sections. Inside each section is a linked list of paragraphs.

Inside each paragraph is a linked list of fragments of text, each fragment being identically formatted. If you format part of a fragment differently (say by italicising it) then that fragment is split into three new fragments - one fragment before the italicised portion, one fragment that is now italicised, and one fragment after the italicised portion.

Each member of a list can store formatting values. Documents can store authors' names and so forth. Sections can store margins. Paragraphs can store indentations and paragraph styles. Text fragments can store character styles - font, italicisation and so forth.

OK, this model is simple enough, although a bit cludgy. Inline images (ones that move with the text) are easy to handle: they're an element in a linked list like any other. What about floating images? Well, they have to be associated with a particular spot in the text - that's what the anchor is for. So Word pretends that the images live on their anchor, even though it's forced to ignore this when it displays them and it has to put them in the location specified by the image.

Then it gets really messy. Lists are easy, each element is a paragraph with a style that says "number me with the nummber of the last paragraph (the previous element in the list) plus one". What happens when you interrupt a list and restart it, as you can? The next element has to say "Number me with the number is in paragraph xxx plus one." But the whole point about linked lists is that the elements aren't numbered, so we now need a mechanism whereby Word can keep track of which paragraph is which and find it by reference. This is a pain.

All this was bad, but now the wheels start to fall off. Word has the ability to include other documents via fields or (sinister music) ... Master Documents. There are formatting values associated with each document and you get severe problems when you try to merge them without dropping the values from at least one of them. Imagine having two paragraphs with different indentations that pretended to be a single paragraph. How would *you* handle it? I have no idea how I'd do it.

When you have several documents, each with different formatting, and collectively pretending to be a single document, Word can't cope. This is why you get document corruption when you use Master Documents. The heavily-kludged linked lists above are why you get document corruption when you use numbered lists. And the reason you get document corruption when you use neither master documents nor numbered lists is because the fundamental structure of a Word document was probably invented by a CompSci student who had never contemplated the fact that linked lists are flexible ways of storing data, but they're really bad if you want to arbitrarily change the structure of that data.

#63 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 02:06 AM:

Oy oy oy--I'd forgotten what a mess word processors can be. I've stayed with WordPerfect for decades (a review of ver. 4.1 was one of my first tech-journalism jobs), partly because it was every shop's standard until MS started forcing Word onto everybody who bought a bundled system. WordPerfect has its twitches, but every time I've tried to use Word I've gotten a toothache. Of course, I'm so retro that I use a 101-key keyboard, which also lets me use the old WordPerfect function-key combos that are still programmed into my left hand. If Corel ever abandons WP, I may have to give up writing and retrain as a cat groomer or something.

#64 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 02:26 AM:

Kevin Marks (#45): What I want is a document editor whose native format is HTML+CSS, as CSS, unlike Word has a sensible style inheritance model and a clean separation between structure and layout.

This isn't quite the same thing, but's default format, the Open Document Format, is essentially a zip file containing a bunch of XML files; one file for styles, one for content, other files whose purposes I don't remember offhand. (I don't think XHTML+CSS are really the right answers for print yet anyway, though I hear they're getting closer.) There are good, standardized APIs for interacting with and generating ODF files. It shouldn't be impossible to come up with a way to make the standard suite of text-processing tools and version-control packages understand ODF, too, though it might not be easy.

That said, if you want /real/ control over every element of what goes on your printed page, you can't get any more control than LaTeX gives you. LaTeX is a typesetting language -- you input plain text and compile a nice PDF of your document. It's not for everyone, there's more of a learning curve, and you'll still need a wizard the first time to show you how to do the more complicated tasks. If you really learn it, though, you'll end up being a LaTeX wizard at the end, instead of being someone who knows the right sequences of clicks, incantations, and chicken sacrifices to make Word fail to suck.

(I'm not anywhere near LaTeX wizard status, yet -- I still pull out OpenOffice if I need reasonably complex formatting in a short amount of time. But I'm getting closer.)

#65 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 03:06 AM:

In 49, sharon wrote:

45: You want LaTex. I tried it and loved it almost as much as I love HTML/CSS; the whole separation of content and structure thing rocks. But nobody in the humanities uses it, so there's no point in me learning to do it properly. It almost makes me wish I'd gone into the sciences instead of history.

As I had my stint in the private sector (10 months software designer for the mobile telephone manufacturing industry), I had intense contact with Word - since all design documents, all communication with customers, all documentation, everything was done in Word. I actually -did- discover that it's possible, almost comfortable, doing semantic markup in Word. You'd need a modern enough version, and an intimate contact with one of the palettes (is it "Styles" it's called? I'm back in academia, so I cannot look it up right now...)

It almost managed to make Word as comfortable as LaTeX - as long as the amount of mathematics displayed was kept to an absolute minimum.

I know of at least one academic historian who uses LaTeX for all his writing - he combines it with a bunch of very custom-rolled style sheets for bibliographies and citations in order to conform to the German customs.

As for decent LaTeX/TeX editing facilities, I'd recommend anyone even vaguely interested to go check out the latest version of AucTeX - and more specifically the preview-mode. Me? I'm madly in love with the feature.

#66 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 03:19 AM:

And when Kevin says that you can't get any more control than (La)TeX offers, he's completely, utterly, down to the letter correct.

You just have to write InDesign in TeX first.

Actually, LaTeX is really, really good, if you are willing to put in the time and effort. At the end, you'll know exactly why your document looks like it does. You'll be able to change the look easily, quickly, and quite without touching the actual content.

You also have the best, rock-solid reputation for buglessness in the world, backed up by real hard cash.

#67 ::: Eimear Ní Mhéalóid ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 05:26 AM:

Beth N. at #42: In the same vein, the best MSWord advice I've ever got was that the formatting for each paragraph is attached to its ending paragraph mark. If you hit the button for "Show/Hide (paragraph mark)"* and delete the paragraph mark, your paragraph now has the formatting of the succeeding paragraph (not the preceding one as your intuition would lead to you to expect). This often happens by accident when blank space is being deleted and the unseen paragraph mark is deleted too.

You can also copy and paste paragraph marks to change the formatting of a recalcitrant paragraph to that of an obedient one.

Iain Coleman at 57#: I usually set up a macro with a button to Paste Special - Unformatted Text. It's a while since I've done it but as far as I recall recording the macro is easy, setting up a button for it is a bit fiddly.

*if this button is not visible, you can also do this from Options/View/Formatting Marks/All

#68 ::: Eimear Ni Mhealoid ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 05:28 AM:

Drat, the name looked ok in the comment preview. I'll have to go back to my Usenet ways until I figure out the HTML for i/, e/ and o/.

#69 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 06:04 AM:

#47 (& others): sure. Hence my comments in brackets.

<completely unsupported speculation follows>
However, unless Teresa is doing final document preparation in word (surely not?), she's presumably interested in the content of the documents she is putting together, not their associated styles, sections, formatting etc etc etc. Hence the suggestions of others to use Paste->Special.

So why use Word if it's so unsuitable to this kind of master document setup?
<end speculation>

(There are probably perfectly good reasons of course: using Word annotations for collaborative editing for instance. Which is another example of the benefits of network effects trumping other otions.)

#70 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 07:13 AM:

I'll observe that Teresa is almost certainly working in Word because that's what the publishing house she's working for demands. So exhortations to switch to $EDITOR_OF_CHOICE will fall on deaf (indeed, somewhat irritated) ears. And I suspect exhortions to change her workflow won't work either (because it sounds very much as if she's bolting together an anthology -- right?).

Having said that, I've been using NeoOffice for some months now on OS/X. It's good enough that I neither want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon, nor strangle the developers, nor go back into Word. As NeoOffice is an OS/X GUI port of OpenOffice, which is available on the other main desktop OS platforms, I'll leave it at that.

More usefully: there is a hidden gem of a tool in OS/X 10.3 and subsequent releases -- a command line gadget called textutil. (The link is to an O'Reilly article on using textutil and friends). Among other things it lets you convert between text, RTF, HTML, and Word files. And the HTML it produces is well-formed and has inline CSS formatting, infinitely better quality than the bletcherous mass that comes out of either OpenOffice or MS Office when you select "Save As HTML".

I suspect that a brisk trip from Word into HTML (via textutil) and back again should strip out most of the cruft -- then re-importing them into Word might hurt a little less.

#71 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 08:03 AM:

You also have the best, rock-solid reputation for buglessness in the world, backed up by real hard cash.

If I were the first to find a given bug in TeX, I'm not sure I'd actually cash the check that Donald Knuth would send me. (I always wonder if he has problems reconciling his bank statements.) Of course, I don't think anyone has found a bug in TeX in a decade.

TeX is certainly what I'd use given a choice. One of the few things I miss about leaving academia is, when I left it at least, LaTeX was the standard. (La)TeX possibly more palatable now since mark up languages have entered the mainstream. (Unlike HTML though, I'm fairly certain that TeX is Turing complete.)

As Charles Stross point out, of course, none of this is the least bit relevant to Teresa who is undoubtedly stuck using Word through no act of her own volition. But I find that TeX fans, including me, tend to plug it whenever we can.

Thanks for the tip about textutil. Why does Apple not tell people about these things? Not even a man page.

#72 ::: Michael M. ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 08:06 AM:

#70: "I'll observe that Teresa is almost certainly working in Word because that's what the publishing house she's working for demands. So exhortations to switch to $EDITOR_OF_CHOICE will fall on deaf (indeed, somewhat irritated) ears."

Indeed, and it's this reluctance to challenge the status quo that Microsoft counts on. By the same token, I find myself somewhat irritated at the never-ending grumbling about this or that deficiency in Word (or any other Microsoft product) when there is an obvious way to improve the situation. As long as people like Teresa don't bother raising the difficulties inherent in forcing everyone to use a proprietary format, and thereby ceding control of the marketplace to one very powerful and corrupt company, nothing changes. It doesn't really matter what the $EDITOR OF CHOICE is; what matters is the format the document is saved in. By insisting on using .doc, you ensure that Microsoft preserves it's hegemony. Using .odt (an open standard) instead means Microsoft gets to compete fairly with every other application that can save to that format. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft would prefer not to, because that would mean it actually might have to improve its product. That would be a win for everybody.

But when people like Teresa don't bother, and when people like Charlie characterize exhortations to switch as fruitless and churlish, the situation doesn't change. So I say, you people made your beds, now go format it yourself.

#73 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 08:28 AM:

Michael M: I do not characterize exhortations to change as inappropriate and churlish; I characterize them as irrelevant at this point.

If you want to get your publishing house to change, go lobby the chief technology officer or whoever is responsible for the Microsoft fetish. Lobbying the editors is (a) annoying to the editors and (b) wasting your time on the wrong people.

Hint: also remember that most publishing houses are divisions of bigger companies. In the case of Tor, you'd also have to convince them that changing the default word processor was compatible with everyone in their supply chain -- both downwards (to the authors) and upwards (to St Martin's Press, and then Holtzbrinck). And if you go to that level, you're going to encounter push-back from Microsoft's corporate marketing specialists. (This is the main reason why, five years or more after it was sufficiently mature to serve as a platform for corporate desktops, Linux still hasn't made huge in-roads into Microsoft's territory.)

"Kicking whales down the beach" doesn't begin to describe this process.

#74 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 08:41 AM:

Charlie's points about staying compatible with the rest of the organization are all correct --- but they do leave the question of whether OpenOffice or derivatives thereof (NeoOffice, etc.) are compatible enough that someone could swap them out without the rest of the organization noticing. Charlie's own experience is a data point that I'm tempted to mention --- but it's only one data point anyway; as an author, at one end of the production chain, he may be subject to fewer constraints than someone like Teresa who's in the middle of it.

But LaTeX is just about right out.

(And, as a further caveat, even with OpenOffice, it's probably still the case that getting a bunch of documents with their own wildly different stylesheets to play nice together probably still involves a trip through cut-and-paste buffers into something notepad-ish which strips out the original formatting...)

#75 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 08:45 AM:


Thanks, I'll give that a go.

#76 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 09:10 AM:

Can I give a pitch here for the O'Reilly book Word Annoyances ISBN 0-596-00954-2

If you have to use the fershlugginer thing (Word, I mean), it's nice to have some solid help. There's also a Word Hacks. The latter is macro-heavy, and may not be to every taste.

#77 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 09:42 AM:

I suddenly understand why nobody's rushing to receive slush submissions in electronic format.

#78 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 09:43 AM:

You also run into situations like the one where I work: even if we weren't an MSOffice house by fiat, some of the software used in my workgroup uses Access for its database (why, yes, there are a zillion tables, thanks for not screaming) so we're stuck with it.

Now if there was some way to get the system password changer to also reset the Outlook password at the same time, that would be nice. [/wishing]

#79 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 09:53 AM:

My favorite (but alas, most likely apocryphal) story about the bloatedness that is Word goes like this:

Microsoft set up a bunch of focus groups to figure out what new features people wanted in Word. After analyzing the data and ranking the top ten most-often-requested new features, they found that all of them were already there.

I have nothing to add (except kudos) to the good advice already given: viewing formatting, export-then-import, paste special unformatted. These are the keys to avoiding Word-induced insanity.

#80 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 10:46 AM:

Are there any other word processors that have a feature similar to Word's "Outline View"?

I've become quite addicted to Outline View, particularly since I use my laptop to take notes in class, and can easily make them into a functional outline that way, move outline sections, etc.

I'm trying to break the Microsoft habit, and that's the monkey on my shoulder stopping me...

#81 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 11:39 AM:

#73 ::: Charlie Stross wrote:
Michael M: I do not characterize exhortations to change as inappropriate and churlish; I characterize them as irrelevant at this point.

I'd have to agree. For all that I'm obviously a *nix adherent (and doesn't it just stick (it) to you sometimes...), at the end of the day it's all about dealing with what you've got for operating parameters. I've recommended Microsoft products for a small office environment before - because what they needed was file and print sharing, and the ability to interchange documents with customers in a commonly understood format.

The thing that many of us forget in our zeal and advocacy is that - well - most people don't give a damn what OS or program they're running, as long as it lets them do what they want to do.

"Kicking whales down the beach" doesn't begin to describe this process.

Ooooh! Can I borrow that phrase?!? I have a few things that it describes perfectly (including the dreadful smell of rotting blubber).

#82 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 11:46 AM:

#80 ::: Ursula L wondered:
Are there any other word processors that have a feature similar to Word's "Outline View"?

I don't want to sound dreadful here, but I'm very confused about what's special about the "Outline View". I've gone and brought up Word here, so I could figure out what you were talking about, but it doesn't seem any different from a million other WYSIWYG word processors. Is there any chance you could point at some other word processor that doesn't/didn't have that feature, for comparisson?

#83 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 11:58 AM:

Tor is an MSOffice company by fiat. So exhortations to get a new program are bootless.

I'm pretty much a Word fan, though I have had to learn how to turn things off in order to use it in my preferred manner. The installation process takes a long time, most of it spent turning things off.

If, as I suspect, T was formatting Viable Paradise materials, what I would have done is save them as .rtf files to get out the more outre formatting and embedded crap, and then bring those files into a Word document and apply standard manuscript formatting.

But that's just me.

#84 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 11:59 AM:

You have my sympathy. My job is software support for my University, and by and far Office is the biggest troublemaker as far as people calling in a panic.

Things to check in screwed up documents.

1. Check the style of your problem text in the formatting toolbar--is the text formatted as a "Heading" or some more bizarre thing instead of "Normal"?

2. Check and see if Track Changes is turned on. If it is, accept all changes and then make sure track changes is turned off. (All done through the Track Changes toolbar.)

3. Paste special is the best friend you will ever have in Office. First try pasting a troublesome document as RTF (rich text format) then try pasting it as unformatted text. That will often solve a lot of problems. (Also, if you're using Office XP or 2003, when you do a normal paste, a little icon appears at the end of the text that allows you to choose between the formatting of the source document, or the formatting of the destination document.)

4. Page numbering in Word is just plain screwed up. If you have section breaks, look in your header/footer and check the status of the "same as previous" button. If you want something to be the same, make sure the button is selected. If you want it to be different, deselect it. (It's a lot more complicated than that, but since you solved your current problem, you probably don't want ten pages on general page numbering.)

And as to why help doesn't help--you have to use Microsoft's terms. If you know the correct term for whatever MS calls the thing you're having problems with, then help brings up the correct answer most of the time. Unfortunately, the correct term is hardly ever intuitive.

I don't love Word--in fact I regularly want to throw my computer off the roof because of some stupid thing Word is doing. But I've worked with it for long enough that I know how to solve different problems. So feel free to e-mail me if you run into something you can't solve.

#85 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 11:59 AM:

With outline view, I can use tab and shift-tab to move between heading styles, and click on the plus sign by a heading to select all of the text sub-headed to it, and move the lot up or down the page, or up and down in heading levels.

It's not strictly WYSIWYG, it indents differently from page view, and also lets you show only certain headings (eg, only through level 3) and then open just the text below a specific heading.

I'm the only person I know who uses those features in the way that I do, so I have no idea if I am making sense or not.

#86 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Works is evil: Not just because it's a castrated version of a bastard child, but because (at least when we were suffering a machine that had it, but not Word) Word doesn't like it.

I took to notebooking text, and then sending it as e-mail, so that it could be started anew.

And I hate, "track changes" we were working a manual, on a deadline, when a new guy was tossed in the mix. He diecided to send me a new doc, with that turned on.

I'd never used it, and it seemed useful, until (with the deadline looming) it was sent to "paste up" where they caused all sorts of hassle.

Happily I'd saved everything, and the clean copy was creatable, but it added about 12 hours to the work time, and the damned thing barely got out the door.

#87 ::: Catja (green_knight) ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 12:28 PM:

Teresa, sometimes Word Happens. I find that saving to another format and reimporting (or cut-and-paste from another application into a new document) usually fixes things.

re: making 'paste: special' default: editing menus is something that Word does well - Tools: customise: keyboard allows you to arrange things at will, or you could set up the button in your list of annoying buttons...

Ursula (#85): if you like Words Outline view, you'll like Claris Works even more. Claris works is not the best text processor in any other respect (though it plays nice) - but it allows an outline view _while keeping custom formatting_. Which, for me, beats Word hands down three ways before breakfast.

Otherwise, much as I dislike aspects of Word, I like it. Styles - love them. The comment feature has turned on-screen editing into a doddle - I can read, mark whatever strikes me, type a comment, and read on. I like the search-and-replace of styles, the ability to navigate from one found instance to the next (not only can I spot that I've used an odd word *too often* I can jump to every instance), and 'open as text' will retrieve text in need of minimal markup from any, even the most obscure format...

Yes, M$ is Da Evil Empire. Having acknowledged that, I'm willing to give NeoOffice a try, but only if it offers me all those features.

And Excel's Donut Diagrams rock, too.

#88 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Ursula L: what you're describing is Word's half-assed attempt at emulating a real Outline Processor. All outline processors do that, at a minimum, and a whole lot more. I'd suggest you might want to go looking for a real outline processor, rather than trying to coerce Word into doing the job -- as long as your OP exports either RTF or OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) you should be compatible with the rest of the universe, and it'll bring you a bunch of other handy features which -- by the sound of it -- are the sort of things you need.

Note that OpenOffice/NeoOffice/StarOffice don't have an outline view as such, but they have a rather useful widget (the Navigator pane) which lets you view/collapse headings and jump around the text (in the main editing window). It's not as powerful as Word's outline mode, but it does most of the job.

If you use a mac, I'd suggest trying out OmniOutliner or even a document management/text retrieval/outlining system like DevonThink. (There are tons of outline processors for OS/X.) I can't make Windows recommendations, and IIRC Linux is rather short on OP packages but GNU Emacs has an outline mode ....

#89 ::: Cathy Krusberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 01:18 PM:

Another possibility (I don't think I saw it mentioned anywhere upstream) for fixing Word formatting weirdness: "maggie" the document. Select the entire document EXCEPT the last paragraph mark (you of course have to be viewing nonprinting characters to do this), copy the selected part, paste into a new document. If the document is in sections, it may be necessary to perform this process for each section. This works because Word formatting gunk accumulates in the final paragraph mark.

The "maggie" process is so named for Maggie Secara. I doubt she invented it, but I'm told her name got attached to it on the Word-PC list.

#90 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 01:35 PM:

Outline mode is the one thing I miss about Word. I haven't yet found an outliner that works well as a word processor, and I really liked being able to hop back and forth between the two modes back in the Mac Word 5.1 days.

#91 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 02:03 PM:

#77: Mary, I suspect the insistence on hard copy for the slush pile has more to do with a) the vast superiority of printed paper over current screen technology for reading large quantities of text and b) ease of processing.

But I'm not a publisher, so what would I know :)

#92 ::: Steven Gould ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 02:06 PM:

A reasonable supposition, Charlie, but Teresa is about to spend a week teaching at Viable Paradise (as are seven more instructors.). The documents in question are e-versions of mss to critique.

Charlie Stross said on October 06, 2006, 07:13 AM:

"I'll observe that Teresa is almost certainly working in Word because that's what the publishing house she's working for demands. So exhortations to switch to $EDITOR_OF_CHOICE will fall on deaf (indeed, somewhat irritated) ears. And I suspect exhortions to change her workflow won't work either (because it sounds very much as if she's bolting together an anthology -- right?)."

#93 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 02:34 PM:

Iain Coleman in #57: Does anybody know if it's possible to configure Word sch that "Paste Special: Unformatted" is the default?

Not that I've been able to find. I've managed to set a key combo to "Paste Special", which pulls up the appropriate dialog box, but I don't think it's possible to make it go the rest of the way.

#94 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 03:07 PM:

I've used Word since it was for Dos, since my 8502 powered machine gave up the ghost and I lost the use of another WP, also called Word. I don't have many problems with it, except when I do and then its because it does something I didn't know I told it to do (after all, its too dumb to make a mistake) Intuitive? I don't think so.

As for formatting something like a script . . . I don't think so either.

On the other hand, I do remember using Wordstar and WordPerfect, amongst others. Usually when I'm having a nightmare.

#95 ::: Douglas Davidson ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 03:20 PM:

Thanks for the praise of textutil. (It does have a man page, I promise.) I should note that while it does a good job of extracting text and character-level formatting from Word documents, it has significant limitations in handling higher-level document structure--much of which, of course, does not have a straightforward mapping into HTML and other formats. If you look closely at the arguments, you'll see that you can actually exert a great deal of control over the kind of HTML that it generates; this may be useful if your goal is to strip off certain sorts of formatting.

#96 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 03:31 PM:

Eimear in #68: I'll have to go back to my Usenet ways until I figure out the HTML for i/, e/ and o/.

I'm reading that as your needing í, é, and ó, yes? Those would be &iacute; , &eacute; , and &oacute; .

#97 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 04:22 PM:

#95:Thanks for the praise of textutil. (It does have a man page, I promise.)

I actually did type "man textutil" and come up with nothing before I wondered about the lack of a man page. Perhaps my environment is set up wrong?

However, it does give very useful help text if you invoke it with no options. I think it's definitely going to come in handy for me.

#98 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 04:23 PM:

As for formatting something like a script . . . I don't think so either.

Why not? Set a style for Character Name, another for Dialogue, and set the Character Name style's "Style for following paragraphs" to the Dialogue style. Then when you type a character's name in the Character Name style and press Enter, you're in the Dialogue style. And you can use the Format Painter to apply the Character Name style more conveniently than having to go back to the style selection box, which is a pain.

Or if the script is formatted with character names to the left, it's just a Table. Turn off the borders, and it's formatted beautifully.

#99 ::: Xopher testing Eimear Ní Mhéalóid ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 04:31 PM:

Let's see if that works. I know it works in the comment body: Eimear Ní Mhéalóid. Let's see if it works in the name field. This is with the &iacute; etc.

#100 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 05:25 PM:

Xopher at #98: That's exactly how I used to format my scripts. I also assigned each style to a function key, so I could change them quickly and easily if I wanted to.

I know other people who used autocorrect to automatically insert character names into the text: "A;;" would become "Adamanski", "B;;" would become "Bartholomew" and so on. I was always too lazy to implement that sort of shortcut, but the option is there.

#101 ::: Georgiana ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 06:13 PM:

Harry - what do you use now?

I used Word for my first 2 scripts then switched to Movie Magic for the next 3. I downloaded Celtx recently but haven't really explored it.

My Movie Magic CD broke when I moved a couple of years ago at the same time I switched computers so I have a bunch of work in a format I can't open. That's why I want to try Celtx, it's open source.

#102 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2006, 06:32 AM:

Xopher - thanks. This old dog is going to have to learn some new tricks. Still not what I'd call intuitive, but when you're dealing with a dumb machine you have to go some way to accomodating its deficiencies to make use of its undoubted capabilities.

I not only remember using Wordstar, I remember the first, manual Olivetti typewriter I ever bought. However frustrating Word (and all other processors) can be, it is still unimaginably preferable to what I used to use.

#103 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2006, 07:38 AM:

Tor let me submit in ascii. Everything can read ascii, and it reformats really easily.

#104 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2006, 10:25 AM:

If you have unintended section breaks, using the tiny up and down arrows on the lower right hand side of the screen to browse by section will jump you from section break to section break, so Word will be telling you where the heck they are.

Probably first turn on the hidden characters using the "paragraph character" button on the tool bar. Or Ctrl + *

Then, click on the dot between the up and down browsing arrows in the lower right hand corner (the ones I mentioned above.) The second button on the first row of the toolbox that opens should be the one to browse by section, instead of the default "page", or your latest "find" search.

Between these two things, you should be able to find, see, and then remove unwanted sections fairly easily.

#105 ::: Hank Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2006, 06:21 PM:

#106 ::: Hank Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2006, 06:26 PM:

#107 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2006, 06:30 PM:

Martyn at 102: my parents sent me off to college with a brand spanking new Olivetti typewriter, manual, of course. It was my high school graduation present.

#108 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2006, 09:07 PM:

Thanks to Charlie Stross (and others) for mentioning NeoOffice - I'd had the vague idea in the back of my mind that there was an implementation of OpenOffice for OSX that wasn't reliant on X11 (I've got it loaded on my new-to-me Powerbook, but find relying on it... inelegant... for most apps, especially those that I'm going to be using a lot.

Still not a big fan of the fact that NeoOffice still isn't a properly native app (written in Cocoa) - so I'll still be looking for a more day-to-day application for word processing - but I won't have to install a copy of Office for Mac just so I can process files that are using Track Changes.

#109 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2006, 09:59 PM:

Georgiana at #101: I don't write scripts anymore.

I did use Movie Magic 2000 (I won it in a contest), but only because we were producing it ourselves and it has useful bells and whistles for producing.

For scripts only, I used Word. Even with the one we produced, I wrote in Word and imported it to MM2000.

Sorry I wasn't clear.

#110 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2006, 01:58 AM:

JC (#97): I don't have a 10.3 box handy to test that, but the man page comes up fine in 10.4.

To see if man is just failing to find the file, look for /usr/share/man/man1/textutil.1; that's where it lives on my machine. If the file is there but man didn't find it, run 'man -w' to see what directories it's searching.

#111 ::: Bernard Yeh ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2006, 06:40 AM:

re: #110
I have a Powerbook running stock 10.3.9 right here. Textutil does not appear to be on it. Finder does not find it on the hard drive. Looks like yet another useful widget included with Tiger, but not included with any Panther update. (Googling: looks like it relies on new Cocoa features in Tiger, so probably won't work with Panther if you copied over the binary.)

(aside: annoyed that there is Mac software out there that I want (but don't need) to use but won't work with 10.3.9, but too close to Leopard (10.5) release to think it worthwhile to upgrade my system to 10.4 at this point.)


#112 ::: Douglas Davidson ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Yes, textutil was new in 10.4. It would be fairly straightforward to prepare a version that would compile on 10.3, but it would be missing some of the functionality, notably including HTML output, which is a 10.4 feature.

#113 ::: Vir Modestus ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2006, 04:47 PM:

::sigh:: I am SOOOO glad I still use WordPerfect!

Eric (#50)
The difference between how WordPerfect formats documents and how Word does it is this: For WordPerfect, a document is a stream of text with formatting tossed in, kind of like rocks in a river. For some formatting, from the point where that format code goes, until it is overridden by another code, that formatting is in effect. So, you can change the indent of a series of paragraphs, or the margin for pages, by going to where you want the new indent to start and adding the correct format command. From that point on, all paragraphs will be indented, until you put in another code to out-dent.

For Word, the concept is one of a hierarchical series of containers: the paragraph, the section, the document. Change to formatting take place ONLY in the "container" you are currently working in. So, for indenting a paragraph, you have the insertion point in a paragraph, hit the Indent button, and that ONE paragraph is indented. You have to select EVERY paragraph you want indented (or, indent manually every single one). If you want to change a margin for a series of pages (or the header information) you have to insert a section break to separate the old container from the new one.

Also, paragraphs carry over formatting information from the paragraph before it. Example: when you hit Enter at the end of that paragraph you indented, the next paragaph will ALSO be indented: it carries the formatting over from the paragraph you are in to the new paragraph created. That's why it is a great idea, when you open up a new Word doc, to hit th Enter key about half a dozen times. Then you will have that many "normal" paragraphs to go back to when you make a specialized paragraph.

A few more things (I used to train people on both Word and WordPerfect -- I stuck with WordPerfect):
-- Styles are your friend. Learn them. Use them.
-- Word sucks at large documents: it was created for the single page letter while WordPerfect has been aimed at law firms and handles multiple files and large docs effortlessly
-- Save often and have multiple copies everywhere. Word seems to corrupt it's own files more than anything I've seen

::grin:: and now I get to go back to using WordPerfect. Have fun, you poor saps!

#114 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2006, 05:52 PM:

Thanks for the suggestions about outline processors - I hadn't realized there was such a thing. I tracked down a few, and I think I've settled on KeyNote for note taking in class. It works easily, and being freeware, it fits my budget.

For papers, I think I'll be sticking with Word for now - like Avram, I tend to switch between outline and word processing work frequently, and I need access to footnotes, endnotes and the like while working.

Outlines for paper writing made absolutely no sense to me until I figured out how to make Outline View work in Word.

#115 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2006, 06:00 PM:

Outlines for paper writing made absolutely no sense to me until I figured out how to make Outline View work in Word.

They don't teach outlining in school any more?

#116 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2006, 08:39 PM:

PJ, just because they teach something doesn't mean it makes sense to me.

I find I generally get good results from starting a paper in the middle, then going back and writing the intro and the conclusions after I get the meat of it down. I find trying to outline everything first the way I was taught in school to be an exercise in frustration, though sometimes it helps me to outline after I've started writing.

We'll see how this method works for the dissertation....

#117 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2006, 08:53 PM:

Oh, they taught outlining.

But working an outline on paper, trying to guess how much space to leave between sections, having to rewrite the whole thing if you decided to add a section in the middle, not being easily able to move the sub sections around, etc. made it seem like more work than it was worth. You'd start with a basic outline, have to re-write it as you added more detailed sections, perhaps re-write a third time as you worked in specifics, then write again for a proper draft.

Outlines, I think, are a writing tool that was just waiting for the computer to make them as flexible and useful as they were promised to be on paper but never managed to be.

I understood the concept perfectly, but I couldn't figure out why anyone would bother.

I'm not sure about "any more," since I learned outlining on paper in the mid-1980s.

#118 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2006, 09:33 PM:

When I outlined on paper, I mostly used index cards. But I do find that relatively few people understand outline view or use an outlining tool.

#119 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2006, 10:00 PM:

Outline view in Word is the part you need to do master documents. IIRC, the top level is pretty much just your title; the second is chapters, the third the sections, and so on down. (I did my rebuilt manual as a master document, just to see how it worked. Then I used the separate-file version because the maintainers didn't know that much about Word. Even with a document template included (another Fun Thing to Do in Word), they have trouble ....)

If you have to do weird stuff with Word, try to find a copy of one of the humongous books on it from Que. They cover pretty much everything you need to know, in English, with examples. You can put it in a box and use it for a doorstop, too.

#120 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2006, 10:45 AM:

I don't know if anyone else out there still uses PageMaker. Locus switched to something else some years back, so I have to translate anything I send them into Word now, but I find it excellent for formatting and seeing a page as a page (rather than endless blocks of text), as well as doing spell checks -- despite the immense number of common words and names it doesn't recognize! Once upon a time I also had WordPerfect, and I do miss it, but PageMaker works well enough in most cases.

#121 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2006, 02:17 PM:

About outlining: When I was teaching, it became apparent to me that for most people, outlining is better for analyzing the structure of existing material (and maybe then re-organizing or editing it) than for generating new material. When I was product-reviewing, most of the outlining apps I saw seemed reasonably competent at expanding and collapsing and producing formatted copy and such, but I whenever I tried using them to, say, write a review, I always returned to my old ways, which are more like what Nancy C. describes in #116.

#122 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2006, 02:53 PM:

Russell: I have been known to use outliners to write a detailed outline of a novel I was working on ... preparing the outline for each chapter after I'd finished writing it. Just so I knew what happened where and when, for subsequent editorial purposes.

#123 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2006, 08:59 PM:

Don't mess with Master Documents in MS Word unless you're backed up with multiple reduncies.

It's an excellent way to corrupt the files.

Which reminds me:

Go to Options or Preferences, depending on the version of MS Word you have, then Open and Save and turn off Fast Save.

It saves fractions of a second, and does it in such an idiotic way that it's a miracle more files aren't corrupted than actually are corrupted. Fast Save is a Very Bad Idea.

#124 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2006, 10:39 PM:

They taught me outlining in high school (on paper; this was the early '80s), and it didn't make sense to me till my senior year, when I was in the middle of some big final exam, and I realized that I didn't really know what I was going to write for that essay. So I jotted down some thoughts on a piece of scratch paper, breaking them down into sub-thoughts, and hey! it actually worked!

#125 ::: Douglas Davidson ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Word's "Fast Save" feature is a holdover from the days of saving to floppies. It doesn't really make much sense today; it significantly increases the complexity of files and therefore the risk of corruption, and the time saved is not particularly significant on today's machines. Fortunately, it usually seems to be off by default when I check it, but I don't know under what circumstances that is true.

By the way, if you do have a corrupted Word document, you may be able to recover some or all of the contents by opening it in an application other than Word--OpenOffice, Abiword, or what have you. These all have independent implementations of Word document handling that are generally significantly more robust than Microsoft's.

#126 ::: murgatroyd ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2006, 05:18 PM:

From the department of esoterica, this late-breaking news:

All of Word's text formatting is contained in its paragraph markers.

If you "show paragraphs" you can actually copy the mark from a paragraph that is behaving nicely and paste it in front of another mark to change formatting (be sure to delete the misbehaving paragraph mark), and to carry formatting around. It's a quick and dirty way of replacing formatting if you can't figure out through the menus how to fix what is going wrong with blocks of text.

I've used WordPerfect, Word, ClarisWorks, AppleWorks, and mainframe word processing programs, and I still like WordPerfect best. I used to work for an engineering firm producing proposals for Superfund cleanups, and I could not imagine the horror of trying a Standard Form 255 in Word.

I've always liked the fact that in WordPerfect you can see, and run global search-and-replace on, all kinds of codes that come from HTML text and e-mails.

I have to produce news columns for two bimonthly journals, and bits of text come from everywhere, and I still edit them in WordPerfect (circa 2002) and save them as RTF to send on to the production team.

#127 ::: slobbit ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2006, 09:45 PM:

I saw LaTeX mentioned a couple of times up there. I know this isn't an option for Teresa, but I do all my writing in a LaTeX frontend called LyX. There are versions for Linux, Mac, and even Windows. It's a What You See Is What You Mean program, meaning it doesn't really care about visual formatting but about the purpose of a given text element within the document. It outputs in HTML, RTF, PDF, etc. There is spell-check and word count and a change-tracking feature. I can produce submission-quality PDFs for printing with ease. And I don't have to worry about line-spacing or double-returns as I'm typing -- I just write.

#128 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2006, 01:19 PM:

Speaking of Word, is there any way to tell it to change what page of a linked file object it's pointing to? It appears that Word's only willing to point to the page that the file object was open to when it last saved ... which means doing the open/select page/save&close dance with the linked file for every single bloody object.

It also means that modifying the path/name of the linked object sticks you with going through and redoing every single link. Nrghhhh!

#129 ::: typodiatry ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2006, 02:18 PM:

Google's online word processor,, lets you import documents and then save them in other formats, such as RTF, Word, OpenOffice, and PDF. This makes it easy to convert troublesome files even if you can't/won't install OpenOffice.

You can import Microsoft Word (.doc), Rich Text (.rtf), OpenDocument Text (.odt) and StarOffice (.sxw). Also, makes free pdfs FTW!

Even cooler: you can email documents into the text editor as inline text or as attachments.

#130 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2006, 06:18 PM:

Who in their right mind wants to use an online word processor?

#131 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2006, 06:20 PM:

Marilee, no one, but an online document converter is a Very Cool Thing.

#132 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2006, 09:27 PM:

Who in their right mind wants to use an online word processor?

People who are collaborating on a document. (Both Writely and Writeboard are designed for collaborative editing.) People who want to be able to access the same document from work and home, and doesn't want to keep track of a floppy or thumb drive. People who aren't you.

#133 ::: typodiatry ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2006, 10:59 PM:

Marilee, no one, but an online document converter is a Very Cool Thing.

Xopher FTW!


Xopher FTW!

==>you have won one {1}
"teh intarnets"

#134 ::: typodiatry ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2006, 11:01 PM:

alas, I lose, for inadequate preview usage

#135 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2006, 07:16 AM:

Marilee (130): I'm planning on examining the utility of Google Docs shortly. Not as a primary writing tool, but as a tool for (a) getting novels to my agent and editors, (b) letting said agent and editors redline those novels, (c) as a tool for collaborating on short stories with a writer on another continent, (d) as a tool for allowing translators to grab the latest bugfixed version of a given manuscript, and (e) as an online file conversion tool.

In other words, it's useful for just about everything except full-on word processing ... and even there, it's a useful emergency tool of last resort.

#136 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2006, 12:34 PM:

typodiatry, thanks...but I'm not sure quite what I did that was so great.

#137 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2006, 08:27 PM:

Charlie, you don't worry about security?

#138 ::: typodiatry ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2006, 09:38 AM:

Xopher, you agreed with me. Major victory for me on the net! (Actually, you instantly saw the coolness of the cool thing I was trying to point out, which was very gratifiying. So many online discussions miss that step and proceed directly to disagreement or being off topic. This is why I love you MakingLight people.)

#139 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2006, 02:19 PM:

Marilee: why should I worry about security?

(a) The accounts are password-protected, not open to the general public by default.

(b) Google's hopes for basing a business model on this product rely on ensuring a reasonable expectation of security for their users. Part of this involves not accidentally disclosing one user's documents to another without permission. As I understand it, their business model is an extension of their existing method (in GMail) of generating advertising targeting data -- data stored on their system may be read by 'bots looking for keywords, but that's about it. As I already send novels back and forth to my editors and agent via unencrypted email, nothing Google does is likely to impinge on my security more than, say, continuing to use Gmail. Don't want robots to scan your mail (or documents)? Run your own private SMTP server. If you let some ISP carry your mail, then the horse has already bolted.

(c) Finally, I'm not worried about random snoopers "stealing my novel" and hawking it to the highest bidder, for numerous reasons that I'm sure our hosts can explain (if they can be bothered).

Things you will not find me putting on their system include: my banking/credit details, my will, my annual accounts, or any other documents that belong in a locked (as opposed to an unlocked) filing cabinet drawer.

#140 ::: RuTemple ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2006, 03:59 PM:

On Google Docs:
Thanks for the pointer to Google Docs, folks.
The interface is pretty, especially including the feature for looking at changes and differences between two versions of a document (it might be ideal for two or more folks collaborating who each thought they had the "live" version - normally a situation any editor would respond to with "bleargh!" or worse). Not that I'd ever wish the situation on anyone, but I'll bet the designers of this system have been there...

One problem I have with it immediately as a potential tool for passing work back and forth with my editing clients is that the file size is limited to 512 K.
That would do for some but by no means all of my dissertation-writing editing clients; I've got a few files that run up to 1.7M, and that's just writers using tables and no graphics.

Alas: arbitrary leg-shackles like that place it in the category of Not Useful for my work, compared to being able to simply email a file back and forth.


#141 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2006, 08:15 PM:

I just don't like having my data on other people's computers.

#142 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2006, 11:03 PM:

typodiatry, I may have agreed with you, but there was a reason for that.

You were right.

Keep doing that, and more and more people will agree with you.

#143 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2006, 12:28 AM:

Some other online word processors:
Zoho Writer

These are all, like Writely, a little rough; save often and keep a local copy.

#144 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2006, 06:49 PM:

Predatrix and I took GoogleDocs for a test drive this afternoon. We have a specific use for it, in that our collaboration method involves a document being visible on both desktops at once, and we talk to each other over a VoIP link, with Predatrix doing most of the actual typing but both of us doing the generation of words. We used to do this with Netmeeting, but can't any more. A chat client has been a poor substitute for working directly on the document. Verdict is that it's less than ideal for real-time collaboration, but it's still a lot less annoying than the chat client kludge. Thanks to those who mentioned the collaborative work facilities and thus prompted me to go and take a look at it.

#145 ::: W. Kiernan ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2006, 07:02 PM:

Yeah, sure, go to "Start Menu," then "All Programs," then "Accessories," then click where it says "Notepad."

True, it's not quite as entertaining to use as vi, but it does come pre-installed on all Windows computers, whereas you have to download and install vi.

#146 ::: randy bunkley ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 03:55 PM:

I would like to have and different header for the even and odd pages. Like those in publication of manuscripts.

#147 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 04:06 PM:

randy bunkley #146: File | Page Setup. Select the Layout tab, and check the box for Different odd and even.

#148 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 04:17 PM:

And if you're going to bind or staple it, don't forget to readjust the margins so you'll have a decent gutter.

#149 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 04:27 PM:

On the Margins tab of the Page Setup popup, just set the gutter. The space you assign there will be assigned appropriately to odd and even numbered pages.

#150 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 04:30 PM:

A decent gutter, Teresa? Ah! I've been thrown out of better menu bars than this.

#151 ::: Rasheed ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2007, 02:48 AM:

not able to see specail characters inthe Autotext of msword 2000 .Is there any solution for that?

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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