August 10th, 2007 • 12:46 pm
Ah, Microsoft. What would we do without you? Your ways of irritating us are so plentiful…
I never use Word’s automatic bullets feature myself, but of course, I frequently have to edit Word documents created by other users, which do use automatic bullets, so I have no choice but to deal with them sometimes.
And of course, each time this happens, it confirms me in my decision not to ever use the bloody things myself.
Here’s yet another example of the multiple ways in which Word’s automatic bullets manage to make life unbearable.
I have this list of items, with an automatic dash in front of each item:
As you can see, the list items are in Garamond, but for some reason the automatic dashes are in Courier New. I doubt very much that the author of this document did this on purpose (use Courier New for the dashes on purpose). More than likely, it’s something that happened when this Word document from the PC world was opened by Word 2004 on my Mac. My experience with automatic bullets over the years indicates that Microsoft stores the “bullet” character itself (the dash here) in a non-standard way, and that a simple switch from the PC to the Mac can cause Word to lose track of what font the bullet character is supposed to be in.
I know this, because I frequently get Word documents from other people which contain bullet lists with “?” as the bullet character. Somehow, I just don’t think there is a single Word user on this planet who would use “?” as the bullet character intentionally. (My apologies to ancient Greeks if they ever did.)
Now, if I didn’t have to edit this document, the fact that the dash is in Courier New wouldn’t be too much of a problem. After all, a dash in Courier New does not look much different from a dash in Garamond or in any other font. It’s just a line. (The exact length and weight might vary from font to font, but it doesn’t really matter here.)
The trouble is that I do have to edit this document. I actually have to translate it, so I have to replace each item in this list with the French equivalent. And of course I also need to preserve the same formatting, with the same automatic bullets. So here’s what I do:
I place my cursor at the beginning of the list item that I want to translate, and then I press Return to insert a blank list item above the item I need to translate. (I need to keep the English visible while I translate it.) Then I press the Up key to put my cursor at the beginning of the empty bullet item:
Look at what the font field in formatting toolbar above the text says: I am now in Courier New!
So you know what’s going to happen if I start typing my French text now, don’t you?
The text is in Courier New!
Grr, grr, and double grr.
It’s bad enough that a bug in Word 2004 causes the dash to be in Courier New in the first place. But what does the font formatting of the automatic bullet have to do with the font formatting of the text of the list item? The latter should not have any impact on the former, and certainly not after such a simple text editing action.
This is just so irritating. Because translation is my work, and I constantly have to deal with Word documents created by other people, I encounter this type of problem all the time, of course. It probably doesn’t happen in Windows, so Microsoft won’t even do anything about it, because the Windows people don’t care, and the Mac people are basically either incompetent or powerless.