Thursday, August 13, 2009

Petty Frustration

I hate Word. Not words, but the program, Word.

I went to the office today to try to rough out the calendar for my writing class. It's going to be significantly different this year, since I've dropped the old rhetoric and we're using a new common text. Nonetheless, there's also stuff I can use from last fall's calendar.

A couple of weeks ago, when our admin assistant was bored silly, I asked her to do up a basic calendar for me. It's just a list of dates and days, with some campus activities. Thus, for a Monday/Wednesday/Friday class:

8/10 - Mon -
8/12 - Wed -
8/14 - Fri -

To which I'll type or paste in reading and writing assignments, due dates, class activities and so forth, so that students will know what's happening on a given day from the get go. It also helps me keep on track with what I need to have prepped and if I need to make copies or whatever.

I started pasting: introductions on the first day, an activity that I'll hand out. It helps to work from a previous fall's calendar because I don't have to totally rework the timing for assignments and such.

I pasted in a journal assignment, something about what they like to write about, what sorts of topics, assignments, and so forth.

And all of a sudden, when I pasted, the line went all crazy and changed fonts on me to an ugly one without serifs. (Yes, I'm a fogey, apparently.) I tried to delete here and there to straighten out the mess, but it didn't work. And after a couple minutes, and doing it a couple times, I realized that each time it was using the center function for what I was pasting (though it's not centered on the old document), and changing fonts whenever I pasted anything over a line break. So I selected the whole document, did left justify, and Times New Roman, thinking that would help. It didn't.

Rather than get totally frustrated, at this point I decided to call our computer help desk. I got a young sounding person on the line. (I'll call him/her X.) I explain the problem to X, and s/he asks my username. I spell it. S/he asks again, and I spell it again, because my name always looks mispelled, so people tend to "correct" to what looks right or something. I spell it again, and finally s/he finds me. (B-A-R-D-I-A-C. Brad? B-A-R-D-I-A-C. Bradic?. You get the point.)

They've got this neat function where they can share control of my computer and see what I'm seeing somehow, so we do that.

X asks me to demonstrate the problem, so I do.

It shouldn't do that. [no kidding? really?]

X decides I don't know how to cut and paste, and does the same thing, getting the same lousy result.

Oh, it shouldn't do that. [yeah, I got that part.]

X tries again.


I ask if there's a way to see the coding, to see what's happening and where, so I can delete it. But, no, there isn't, really. At least not that X can tell me about, besides, s/he is almost off work soon, and doesn't have time to look. [How I miss the old WordPerfect function!]

I suggest that maybe I should just save it as a text file, and see if that clears things up, because it would be easier to redo the few formatting things already on than to reformat with every single cut/paste I do.

X says that would work, but it should be fixed with just a few more key strokes. It's not.

So X plays with some stuff, and when I ask what s/he's changing, so if I don't like it I can change it back, s/he says this is the advanced stuff, and I shouldn't have to change it. [Because, yeah, I totally trust you.]

X is stumped, and I'm frustrated by the program and by X. Seriously, if we supposedly force everyone to use this program, at least be able to solve the problems, please?

We give up.

I saved the document as a text file, and then reformatted it (adding italics and such to titles). Amazing how that works.

I'm thinking whatever the admin assistant did in making this calendar, it didn't actually save me much time, did it. (I'm guessing she was playing with centering things and uses this "cute" font, perhaps, so both are somehow coded into the original?)


  1. You've written this up wonderfully. I would have laughed, if the experience wasn't so heartbreakingly familiar that I wanted to cry.

  2. I have similar frustrations with my PC version of Word 2007(?) -- whatever the new one is. My Mac version is much better.

  3. ack, how frustrating!

    i still use wordperfect when i have a choice, because it is easier to wrangle into doing what i want, and to get rid of unruly code.

  4. richard10:54 AM

    It sounds to me like Word's automatic formatting "features" have run amok. Some of the auto-formatting features scan what you type and then modify what you've done. The obvious settings are for special characters--the program sees you begin paragraph with an asterisk, says to itself, "Hey, Bardiac must be intended to create a list of bullet points," and proceeds to change the font, alignment, tab settings, etc. to whatever the current Bulleted List style has in it. Furthermore, one of the things a style controls is the style of the next paragraph, so auto-formatting can screw up all kinds of things. If you then try to fix the formatting, and the setting to change the style definition as you modify a paragraph tagged with that style is turned on, what you do propagates backwards through your document. Just to provide a final annoyance, some of those changes can't be undone with the Undo command (like changes to tab settings), for Bill knows what reason.

    My advice is go through all the preference dialogs you can find and turn off anything that smacks of auto-format or auto-correct unless you absolutely know you always want (for example) the "th" in "9th" to be superscript.

    I feel your pain with the tech support you got, by the way. It's the same here. There seems to be some sort of reverse IQ test for the IT support people, and reverse training to boot, so they end up dumber and less knowledgeable than before they took the job.

  5. This is a much more intelligent rant about WORD than I've ever written, but it sums up my feelings. I use WordPerfect when I can, but it's hard when you are collaborating with people. (And while Word Perfect is great for fixing format issues because you can REVEAL CODES, it's not as good at collaborative editing stuff.)

    My take is that the tech people know real tech stuff, but how WORD works is kind of soft... But they do assume your stupidity. Whenever I call tech support they will say, do X, and I say, I have. etc.

  6. This is why I never ask (or let) anyone to do anything for me. It always ends up making me spend more time on the task than if I'd done it myself.

    I actually will have two TAs this year -- for the first time in my life. I'm very worried about delegating things to them because I wonder how much I'm going to have to re-do. I figure I'll have them pass out papers and take attendance, but more than that and I feel like I'm asking for trouble. Ugh.

  7. Sigh, oh Corel.

    But try OpenOffice...I do ok with it.