MS Word: If everyone used it right…

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
March 11th, 2003 • 7:12 pm

A realisation today as I was working on yet another document created by someone else without “properly” using styles, bullets and numbering, etc. : if everyone used Word properly (systematic use of paragraph and character styles, proper use of tabulations, space after, keep with next/keep together options, etc.), then it probably would be a half-decent tool and using it would not be so frustrating.

But Microsoft has done such a poor job of encouraging people to use Word properly, instead adding features that go in the exact opposite direction (Format Painter, Formatting Palette, Click and Type, etc.), and Word behaves so annoyingly when you are trying to work on an existing document for which it was not used appropriately — that using it to work on anything but the cleanest, meanest documents feels like a constant battle against the elements.

Case in point: I have a document whose different sections are summarized in a TABLE at the beginning of the document. The TABLE already contains the text of the various section headings. I have translated the headings in the table, and am now encountering them again within the document, as the actual headings. So I just want to copy my translations and paste them. The headings in the body of the document are in the “Heading 2” style. The heading text in the summary TABLE is in Normal style, but manual formatting has been applied to it, include a special font size setting (13 pts). So each time I copy some text from this TABLE and paste it in the paragraph formatted in “Heading 2” style, the text takes the character formatting of the “Heading 2” style, but retains the custom font size (13 pts) instead of taking the font size of the “Heading 2” style. And I have to change it manually, each and every time.

Now, the author of this document did things half-right: He actually did use the “Heading 2” style instead of manually formatting the headings, and even changed the “Heading 2” style definition so that it would be 20 pts rather than the default font size. (He could have manually changed the text to 20 pts in each occurrence. That would have been worse.) But he still used manual formatting for the text in that summary TABLE at the beginning of the document. Had he defined a proper text style for the text inside the table, then copying and pasting the text INTO the “Heading 2”-styled headings would have worked seamlessly. But he didn’t… Of course, I could now create a new style and apply it to the TABLE contents. But why should I have to do this? Furthermore, he’s used automatic bullets in that table. Have you ever tried to create styles that use automatic bullets in Word and got them to work reliably? Eeek. So it would take me a while to try and reproduce exactly by using styles what he achieved by using manual formatting. And I simply don’t have time for this.

If everyone used Word right… But almost no one does.

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