Word 2004: Still inserting spurious ‘OLE_LINK’ bookmarks after all these years

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
November 9th, 2007 • 11:56 am

I might bitch about Leopard’s 3D Dock or curved stacks, but when it comes to crappy software, Microsoft still takes the cake.

Consider the following bug, which has been with us for years and which I am still, after all these years, encountering on a regular basis.

I have a Word document sent to me by someone else. I select a string of text in it:

Selected text in Word document

A pretty innocent activity, isn’t it? Then I press command-C to copy the text:

Copied text in Word document

Again, it’s not exactly an acrobatic, UI-stressing activity that I am describing here. And yet, do you notice anything in this second picture? Look carefully. Or maybe you’ll see better if I deselect the text:

Bookmark in Word document

What the hell are these square brackets now?

Well, I’ll tell you what they are. They are frigging indicators of the presence of an invisible bookmark applied to the text that I have just copied.

Where on earth do they come from? All I did was copy some text. I never asked for Word to create a bookmark or anything!

Since Word is never crappy in halves but always goes all the way when it comes to sticking its vomit-inducing ugliness in the user’s face, these spurious bookmarks are not easy to get rid of. You need to know that, in order to view an existing bookmark and delete it, you actually have to look under… the “Insert” menu, where there is a “Bookmark…” command.

That’s right: In order to view and edit an existing bookmark, you actually have to pretend that you want to insert a new one!

Once you open this “Insert Bookmark” dialog, you get a list of existing bookmarks, with buttons to insert a new one or to use/edit the existing ones:

Insert Bookmark

As you can see, where there was nothing prior to my little innocent copy operation, I now have a bookmark called “OLE_LINK4.” (It’s the fourth one, because I have been able to reproduce the same problem multiple times in the process of taking screen shots for this blog post.)

I think it is quite obvious, at this stage, that, as a Word user, I never meant to create a bookmark called “OLE_LINK4.” It is obviously something that Word itself has decided, of its own accord, to add to my document. And, with this particular document that I have here, it keeps doing it again and again, each time I select a bunch of text and try to copy it.

And of course, after a few more times of the same insanity, Word just unexpectedly quits on me, for good measure.

There would probably be someone at Microsoft to argue that this happening because I am working with a “corrupted” Word document of some sort.

Honestly, I don’t give a flying dung about whether the document I am working on is corrupted or not. It’s a document that was sent to me. I have to work with it. I have no choice. And Microsoft Word is the only word processor I know which is liable to create corrupted documents in the first place, and then utterly unable to deal with them in a gracious, transparent manner without intruding on the user’s work.

And this, in a word, is why I say that Microsoft Word for Mac OS X is and has always been and always will be a piece of utter crap. (If anyone believes that all these bugs will be eliminated in Word 2008, they are seriously deluded.)

I am telling you, next to this, having to deal with 3D Docks and curved stacks is positively pleasant. Some of Apple’s engineering choices might be idiotic, but at least they are easy on the eyes—and they don’t corrupt documents or cause application crashes either.

5 Responses to “Word 2004: Still inserting spurious ‘OLE_LINK’ bookmarks after all these years”

  1. adamrice says:

    Oh, Word 4 was a good program in its day. I stuck with that until Office 98 came out.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    I’ve been a Mac Word user since version 3.0, back on my old Mac SE. And I am afraid my memories of cursing at the stupidity and unreliability of Word are just as old. I don’t buy the line that “Word 4 was a good program in its day” or that Word 5.1 was the best ever word processor for the Mac. It was possibly the least awful version of MS Word, but I distinctly remember almost losing two weeks of full-time work once because of document corruption in Word 5.

    Basically, MS Word has always been crap. There have just been variations in the degree of crappiness.

  3. danridley says:

    Agreed. Word has always been crap (on DOS, Windows, Mac classic, and Mac OS X).

    (WordPerfect actually was a good program in its day, but is no longer. As far as I can tell, all word processors are now hideous. I long for someone to emerge from a time machine with an unholy fusion of Lotus Word Pro and WordPerfect 6.)

  4. adamrice says:

    Hmm. Perhaps my memories of Word 4 just seem rosy by comparison by today’s status quo. I will say this: With Word 4, I don’t remember documents becoming corrupted for no apparent reason, and when there was a formatting change, it happened for predictable reasons. Perhaps I’m setting the bar too low.

  5. fud says:

    Thanks for posting this Word bug. I have a Word outline I have used daily for 20+ years, just cleaned out 2000+ OLE_ bookmarks, one-by-one [didn’t find any bulk delete option]. Now the whole doc is more responsive. Word is far from perfect, but I have yet to find anything better for my use.

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