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Microsoft office rant

Why do people still use this buggy-ass piece of offal known as MSWord?  It seems every version is buggier than the last, while including features I have no interest in.  I've been writing a doc for a week now.  It was pretty much done last thursday except for some minor formatting issues.  Turns out, I'm not sure I'll be able to ever finish this damn thing.

Select a block of text that is represented as a pair of columns.  Put a tab mark such that the columns are lined up nicely.  Now, a few pages later, do the same thing.  Go back to your first block. Gee, where did my tab mark go?  Re-set it.  Back to the second block.  Uhhh, where did my tab mark go?  WTF?

Select a paragraph, change the font.  Watch the whole document change.  Hit undo and hope you get what you want.  This is a bug that has been there for years.  It has many symptoms (numbers, indenting, etc)  Why don't they fix it?

Make a text box.  Put it where you want it.  Go format other parts of your doc.  Scroll back to your text box.  Notice it's either changed size, or moved, or if you put it in a different font than the rest of the document, it's now got the same font as the rest of the doc.  Or hey, sometimes it does all 3!

I swear to god, formatting this thing is like squeezing a parially inflated balloon.  Get one page like it should be, and something else is hosed.  Fix that, something else gets broken.

Oh yea, I'm on WinXP  with Office XP, or Office 2004, or whatever they call it now.  The one where Outlook automatically uses MSWord to fire off a 2 line email (WTF is up with that crap?).  Everything is up to date on it's patches.

I've been using Word for 10 years now, and every time I update either OS or Office I cringe.  The quality of Word just gets worse and worse with every passing rev.

That's enough, I'm gonna see if I can find a secretary with time to dork with this damn thing, I have deadlines to meet.

Snotnose
Monday, June 28, 2004

I should have added, I think the root of the problem is the fact you have to undo so often to get what you want.  I suspect when I change a font, then undo so only the selected text has the new font, a lot of stuff offscreen also gets undone.

Snotnose
Monday, June 28, 2004

One of the problems, believe it or not, is that you use Word for so long! I'm not kidding, just that you are used to do things the hard way. Why select a paragraph to change the font? Maybe it was the only way in Word 6.0 for DOS ( can't remember), but by now you should be using styles for pretty much everything.

If you update software, and use it as before, you can't complain about the lack of new features. I do this all the time. For example, I recently moved from Delphi 3 to Delphi 7. I know all the limitations of Delphi 3, and use Delphi 7 as it was 3. True, I discovered a new feature or another, but I can't say that the update was worth it. Mind you, I got a software, FOUR generations more advanced, and am not getting the best of it because of my previous experience. I bet that a novice Delphi user is more knowledgeable about Delphi 7 than myself, an user since Delphi 1.

If you buy a book about Office XP, and deal with your ego enough to re-learn it (even how to avoid some bugs), it may become an useful tool.

Mauricio Macedo
Monday, June 28, 2004

"One of the problems, believe it or not, is that you use Word for so long! I'm not kidding, just that you are used to do things the hard way. Why select a paragraph to change the font? Maybe it was the only way in Word 6.0 for DOS ( can't remember), but by now you should be using styles for pretty much everything."

Just because they added a new feature does not give them free reign to break the basics.

BadgerBadgerBadger
Monday, June 28, 2004

Mauricio,

Why should it be necessary to define styles for everything.  Perhaps a font change is only required in one place?

Besides, if Word offers the ability to change a font on one paragraph, then it should be possible to change a font on just one paragraph.

If they want to enforce the use of styles, then they should remove the ability to do it any other way.

Punishing your user with random results because they are not using exactly the way that you want is not acceptable.  Either make an option work or take it away.

Ged Byrne
Monday, June 28, 2004

I saw an ad for a class at a community college here called "Formatting Tables in MS Word."  I wouldn't want to take it and risk lowering my GPA.

jk
Monday, June 28, 2004

Of course Word lets you change the font of only one paragraph without screwing up the other paragraphs. It's the simplest thing to test and it works.

Usually, when you have this "problem" of cascading font changes and is when you are using a document template (or you've fudged with the styles) where the default paragraph style (usually body text) has been set to auto-update. Basically, this setting means that you want to make a change in one place and have every paragraph with the same style update to the same setting. It's the same effect as cascading style sheets.

Ankur
Monday, June 28, 2004

"The one where Outlook automatically uses MSWord to fire off a 2 line email (WTF is up with that crap?). "

Tools|Options
Mail Format tab
Uncheck "Use Microsoft Office Word 2003 to edit e-mail messages"

HTH,
Philo

Philo
Monday, June 28, 2004

I'll accept the 'you're having problems because you don't understand it properly' excuse from the Java crowd.

However, we are talking about Microsoft Word.  This is an application aimed at end users with very little skill.

Here we have programmers who are finding it difficult to manage.

As I have said before, I was employed for several years as a Word expert, so I know the app well.  I have given up on it, because it is pissing me off too many times.

Ged Byrne
Monday, June 28, 2004

Most of my doc is a style of some sort or another.  My font changes are due to trying to get examples to fit on one line wherever possible.  This is a doc for newbies, having line breaks where the actual tool doesn't want one is A Bad Thing (tm). 

I still hold my contention I should be able to highlite a line, or paragraph, change it's font, and expect only that line to change.  If I want to change the style I can damn well go into the format->style menu.  I know where it is, I know how to use it, I like it.

And Philo, first thing I did was turn that (mis) feature of Outlook off.  But thanks :)

Snotnose
Monday, June 28, 2004

"I still hold my contention I should be able to highlite a line, or paragraph, change it's font, and expect only that line to change"
---------
I don't understand what your problem here is - you're explaining the default behavior.

Ankur
Monday, June 28, 2004

I would probably copy all the text and paste as unformatted text into a new doc. Then use STYLES, man. They do work and in the long run will make your life simplier...

DJ
Monday, June 28, 2004

"Formatting Tables in MS Word"

I call this "Excel".

Rob VH
Monday, June 28, 2004

Dear Snotnose,
                        The secret to writing long documents in MS Word is to use copious section breaks. Then when you change font only the section will be changed.

                        You should also bear in mind for a long document you should consider using distinct styles.

                          And finally, remember Word is a Word Processor, not a desktop publisher. MS Publisher (or indeed Corel Draw) should be used for the latter task.

Stephen Jones
Monday, June 28, 2004

Remember some fonts take up less space than others. Times New Roman takes up a lot less than Arial, and Arial less than a monospaced font.

So, when you reformat one paragraph, everything else in that section will move, and if your section goes over one page your pagination will go to hell.

Stephen Jones
Monday, June 28, 2004

(1)  I would like to applaud Ged Byrne.

(2)  I notice that whenever someone points out what a pain Word is to use, someone else says, "You should be using styles!"

Apparently the latter someone forgets that you used to be able to have a word processor just work.  It's like saying that you can use a computer until you learn how to type; sure, learning to type will help immensely, but it shouldn't be a requirement.

(3)  My advice on how to do great formatting in Word is this:

Do your document in WordPerfect.  Use its far superior formatting capabilities and get the document exactly the way you want.  Once it's finally done and perfect, select all, copy to Notepad, select all in Notepad, and copy into a blank document in Word.  Then format everything.

The biggest problems in Word come when you _change_ formatting, and this way you don't have to change any formatting because it's done already.  All you have to do is copy what's in WordPerfect already; you don't have to deal anymore with issues like what will and won't fit on a page.

Kyralessa
Monday, June 28, 2004

My solution for techical writing is http://openoffice.org.  I like OO for several reasons:
- it is predicatable.  It just does what you tell it without a lot of fuss.
- you can actually set it up to use multi-level outline headings:
    1. Heading #1
    1.1  Heading #2
      1.1.1  Heading #3
I know this is also possible in Word, but it is a real pain to set up.
- Styles work in a predictable logical way.

Cliff Brake
Monday, June 28, 2004

I was staggered when I found that Office XP has a severe data-loss buck that goes back to at least Office 97.

As far back as Word 97, it would sporadically fail to save, declaring that the drive was out locked or out of space. At that point, you're hosed. No documents can be saved anywhere; Word is fully convined that all storage media is filled up.

The only solution is to copy the entire document (hopefully you're only working on one), quit Word, relaunch, then past back into your original document and save it.

This is stunningly huge bug that can cause substantial data loss! How has this persisted for more than seven years?!?

DaveF
Monday, June 28, 2004

Everytime I use Word I'm amazed about how much fighting with it you have to do something. 

I long for the Wordperfect F11 Reveal Codes button sometimes, because at least then you could go and figure out where the stupid BOLD attribute was being set and remove it.

Alex
Monday, June 28, 2004

Snotnose, there is an option (mentioned by someone else above) that styles are automatically updated if the text in a given style is reformatted.  That way, you can change your "Normal" style on the fly and the entire document will change.  You haven't addressed that question: any chance that option is enabled?

That said, can you return to LaTeX for your serious documents?  Easier in the long run, especially if you already know it.

Eponymous
Monday, June 28, 2004

"Remember Word is a Word Processor, not a desktop publisher."

People keep saying this. I have to ask, what is Word good for then? Clearly, "desktop publishing" includes using the computer books, textbooks, manuals, anything with a table of contents or an index and certainly anything complex enough to require the use of *styles*.

So what is left for Word? Writing letters of less than 15 pages? School reports?

Sure, OK. But TextPad can do that just fine.

When people say that Word was never designed for desktop publishing, I have to wonder why it includes so many desktop publishing features. Most of them are broken or poorly designed, but they are there nonetheless.

Until someone can come up with a list of things Word is good for that makes sense and justifies its very high price, I will have to assume that Word, amoung its many functions, *is* designed to be a desktop publisher.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, June 28, 2004

Styles have been around since Microsoft Word for DOS, and that was several years ago. In that word processor, you had to understand the concept to do pretty much any serious formatting. The WYSIWYG nature of Winword conceals the fact that stylesheets (now called templates) are the basis of formatting, and IMHO causes the kind of confusion seen here.
Each style you define can be auto-updatable, which means that each time you change the formatting of any part of the document that contains that style, every other part formatted using the same style will change. This is what I suspect is happenning to the original poster.
Note that the default styles are NOT auto-updating. In any case, you can remove auto-updating from any style by choosing Format/Styles, locating the style name, and choosing Modify.
Positioning any text (especially columns) using tabs has never been a good idea in Word. At some point in Word's life ,Word 2000 I believe, the tab and backspace keys started triggering indenting. This, too, is a feature that can be turned off, in the Edit tab (no pun intended) of the Tools/Options dialog box.

Mr. Jones, I believe that Word is very good at producing large, well-formatted documents, as nicely as a desktop publishing application. Admittedly, this is just one of the things that a desktop publishing application can do. But I also believe that you have to make a mental context switch between using Word as a word processor and using it as a document processor. I use it at both, as appropriate.

Raj Chaudhuri
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Here is how word is used in the majority of companies:

A new document is created.  There is no time to create a proper template.  The document is created by a secretary or admin work, not a programmer.  They may uses spaces instead of tabs or centres, or repeat the header on each page manually.  It doesn't matter.  All anybody cares about is what it looks like on the page.

Let me reiterate, the document is created by a non technical member of staff.  These people are paid a lot less than programmers, and businesses prefer to use them for this reason.  They don't want to have to outsource their memo writing to India just yet.

When a similar document is needed, they load up the previous version and save it under a new name.  Then the necessary changes are made.

This goes on for years, with the documents getting gradually more and more complicated.

They get improved piecemeal.  A slightly more experienced user may go through and replace

Word used to be able to handle this scenario better than any of its competitors.  This is why Word became everybodies favourite tool for the job.

Now Word falls into a huge pile of mush jelly when encountering one of the well established documents.

Documents that have been around for years, quietly serving their purposes, suddenly become impossible to maintain.

The fact that the same mantra keeps being bleated: "You must create you documents correctly, use styles properly, use styles properly, use styles properly," is of no help.  It just makes the competition more and more attractive.

As I say, this is the most popular method of document management.  Most companies, especially the small and medium sized ones, will change their software before they change the way they work.

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The picture is more clear now...

Obviously these typing-monkeys should never have been allowed near the process of document architecture creation.

What our secretarial engineering industry needs most is a licensing process. When secretarial engineers must be certified and state licensed, then we will stop these untrained boobs from using sophisticated software like Word and we will not see these problems any more.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Ged is right about people copying an old document and then modifying it. At work I forwarded the minutes of a meeting to the boss; I had copied the format from a previous minute, and to forward it I had used the 'send to' feature.

A few minutes later back came an email from the boss. Why had you titled the email "Lots of Love"?

Puzzled I looked in Properties, and sure enough, that was the title. It appears that at some time in its history the document had been a birthday letter , though we never found out who from or to, or who was the mysterious Raja whose birthday it was.

This is still going around the college as the standard minutes template!

It does open up interesting possibilite for computer pranks though.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

LOL

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I'm having lotw of fun reading the rant. Found on Google due to tedious MS Word problems.

Anyone of you document architerct engineers know how to re-activate the ability to use a backspace key to delete multiple selected characters, or to over-type multiple selected characters?
The only way I have is to select the text & use the delete key.

This stupid jinx is making me switch to another computer for email & doc writing, not just another software!

Ciaran Scott
Thursday, July 22, 2004

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