Office 12

So tell me, faithful citizens of the net – Microsoft’s Office 12 beta, and its new interface: does it make it any easier/more obvious to apply consistent paragraph styles, or will the average user continue to do everything with the bold, italics, underline and bigger/smaller buttons? As a trivial example, is the Modify Style command set still modal?

I’m guessing that it’s been so long now, we’re kinda stuck with nobody knowing how to use a word processor properly. Which annoys me intensely. Much to my disgust, all the new-fangled AJAXy online word processors I’ve seen borrow the buttons-for-character-styles approach, to the exclusion of paragraph styles entirely.

This is, I believe, a débâcle. We’re twenty years into the WYSIWYG world, and still an overwhelming majority of users don’t know how to do basic formatting. This drives me up the wall.


    LaTeX looks ever more attractive. Seriously.
    Except it then turns you into a typographical snob and causes social unrest – witness me at coffee explaining to an honours student why she should be using an em dash in her essay title. . .

  2. Oh, you can have typographic dash arguments all over the place – I had one recently in which a web designer claimed you couldn’t do them in HTML. I pointed him to this site. After which he claimed he just didn’t like them.
    But LaTeX? Ugh. When it’s the right tool, it’s The Right Tool, end of story. But for most of what I do, I just don’t want to see markup at all. Markdown is as good as anything, in fact.
    I’ve taken to using Pages, and pretending to people that, sadly, it can’t export to Word. It can, and even does a rather good job, but don’t tell my collaborators.

  3. I don’t know of anything does a particularly good job of editing a document’s logical structure, textual content and typographical appearance together, but in a well-factored way.
    Somewhat inevitably, I use LaTeX with serious semantics-driven macro self-discipline on top. It feels like hard work. Back in the dumb terminal days I evolved a keen pair of xdveyes, but now the real thing fits on the screen next to the xemacs. Pretty clunky, really.
    I think WYSIWYG is important but not enough. I want to be able to inspect the local structure of a document and edit the styles and templates in play. I fancy some kind of magnifying glass thingy which outlines the structure of the part of the document you view through it and gives you direct access to the details of styles, alignments etc. It’s something I could get very interested in fiddling with, if only I had time or a spare graduate student.

  4. Interestingly, the Mac kbd layout is set up for this already:
    – – —
    that’s dash, alt-dash and alt-shift-dash. Only the third and first look different here, but in Turd and elsewhere (e.g. TextEdit) you get appropriate behaviour.
    The thing is about LaTeX that it does separate content and presentation in much the same way as HTML/CSS. I think that’s a good thing, and my FAR from humble opinion is that (e.g.) Word tries to do far too much, and you have a much better chance at control if you do separate them.
    Word sucks; film at 11.

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