The Holy Word

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

What is it about Microsoft Word that people love so much? At the place we don’t blog about, there are people who do everything in Word. I’m not kidding, even if they’re just going to copy and paste the text into something else (for example, a form on a website), they’ll compose the text in Word.

When I want to compose something offline and post it into a form, e-mail, or similar, I use Notepad (I swear, Notepad is one of the greatest legacy programs on Windows). It starts up faster than Word, it saves in a much more universal format than Word, it doesn’t try to be smarter than me by automatically fixing my spelling or grammar (that’s right, Word, I meant to spell organize with a “s” instead of a “z”).

Quick aside: Most of the cost of modern computers is the software. If you buy a computer that has Windows and a bunch of Microsoft programs pre-installed, price will be significantly higher than one without the software. In these modern times, that’s not such a big problem, since you can run open source alternatives such as Linux and OpenOffice.

In trying to make decisions for my business, I thought that a good way to save money would be to forgo buying Microsoft Office and using OpenOffice instead. It’s a pretty tidy plan, except that Word and OpenOffice render .doc files slightly differently, so I wouldn’t be assured that what I see and what the client sees are the same. And since Microsoft Word has (for some reason) become the de facto standard for word processor software, it looks like I’m stuck with Word for now. Anyway, back to why I don’t like Word…

One particularly bothersome “feature” of Word is its use of “smart quotes.” Here’s an article that explains what they are and why they’re bad.

When I code something big, complicated, and useful (for example, a content management system), and everything validates and looks fantastic, it really gets to me when something as stupid and Word’s smart quotes comes along and buggers the whole thing up. It’s kind of like when you’re on an airplane and you’re thinking, “wow, this giant metal thing really flies. How cool is that?” Then, suddenly, someone farts and you can’t roll down the window to get fresh air. It’s like that. It’s not a flaw in the design of the plane, it’s the user’s fault because they just =had= to eat Indian food for dinner the night before.

There are countless chunks of code out there that help to smart quotes (and other invalid characters that Word assumes you want) with their valid counterparts. I’ve tried to implement them in my code, but just as having windows on a plane that roll down would cause the plane to crash, so too my program failed. I have no idea why, and I haven’t had time to try to figure it out, but it’s as annoying as a gassy passenger.

Gassy passenger? That would make a great name for a band…

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  1. I can see how Word would be problematic when writing code. I use Word because, when writing papers, it’s the easiest thing to use.

    Gassy Passenger would be a band that I could get behind. Or wouldn’t want to get behind. Whatever. Totally off-topic: a friend of mine suggested that, when I start my own opera metal band, I should call it Flood of Iron. What do you think?

    And you were sleeping, not blinking!

  2. For writing papers, letters, books, et cetera, Word is actually pretty good (that stupid paper clip even helps you out from time to time). For making web pages, it’s worse than FrontPage.

    Flood of Iron, huh? Not bad, but you had better practise more; you’re a bit rusty. Huh? Yeah? Rusty?

  3. Boo

    I had that trouble with quotes too. Sometimes a person tells me they still see the jumbled bits when I copy and paste things.

    However, at least at Xanga they’ve cleared that hassle and the editor there finally recognizes both the curly and the straight quotes.

    So, I thought it might be the browser causing trouble for them, but I tried out two and it was fine for me.

    What I hate is that the two Microsoft Word programs I use (one at work and one at home)are not compatible. I have to save things differently and that is an added waste of time. ugh!

    Hey, thanks for stopping by again and leaving your link. it is so much easier to get back here that way!

    Gassy passenger? Must have been eating beans!

  4. Oh, THAT’S what that garbage is I see on web pages from time to time…someone who didn’t turn their smart quotes off.

  5. It isn’t just smart quotes (single and double), but dashes (such as em and en) as well. There are probably other invalid characters that Word uses that I’m unaware of, but the quotes and dashes seem to be the most common.

  6. With respect to your business-puchasing decisions:

    I am in a similar spot, being Mac-based and all. While Microsoft has certainly given it the old State-College try to ensure 100% compatability between the Windows version of Office and the Mac version of Office, there are problems.

    I don’t correspond with clients in .doc format. I ONLY use PDFs. PDFs work every time. Honestly, unless there is some dire reason that you need to be using MS Word, I would reccommend using a free/inexpensive alternative and exporting out all files as PDFs.

    Just my $0.02.

    Gassy Passenger: I can only assume you’ve heard of this story…


  7. Word was never intended to make webpages. Microsoft may have added some features for computer illiterates who want to have a webpage to show photos of their cat or something. I would never, ever, ever try to code a webpage in Word.

    I think the awful-est thing with Microsoft is how pages saved in Microsoft Works are tricky to open in Word.

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