This is Where Mike Gets Cranky About Writing a Document Someone Else’s Way
In the past couple of days, I’ve been forced to use an application that I really absolutely detest. I cringe every time I have to use it and every time it just frustrates the heck out of me. That application is Microsoft Word.
If I just have to write something short and sweet, Word gives me little problems. But, then again, I rarely use it for that kind of thing. I do get forced to use it when I have to write “standard documentation” because that standard is MS Word. When I tell people that I can’t stand Word they are usually shocked. They say, “Oh I like it a lot. It’s so easy to use!”
My answer is always something like, “Really? So you like it when you need to end a bulleted list and Word keeps the list going?” or “Or you want two paragraphs in a list item, but Word stubbornly makes them into two items?” or something with a Table of Contents, section headings or etc. etc.
The answer is generally, “Oh, I hate that.” Well, amen. I guess I just can’t accept that behavior as a fact of life and find something else to use.
I think the problem is that I care a lot about my content and care little about the formatting. I want a list item to be a list item and that only. I mostly don’t care what it looks like, as long as my reader agrees that it is a list item. I shouldn’t have to think about renumbering headings — that should happen automatically. In my dream world, I would write all my important documents in the highly-nerdy yet completely satisfying [LaTeX markup,](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaTeX) render it to a PDF, and let people gasp in it’s simplistic glory. It’s easy to make a [Table of Contents](http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/LaTeX/ltxxref.html#Table) in LaTeX and then [make it clickable.](http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/LaTeX/ltxxref.html#Hypertext) With a little more work, you can [create a Bibliography](http://www.duke.edu/~hpgavin/tutref.tex.html) that will impress all kinds of people. Especially professors and other academics.
Well, anyway, yesterday and today I was forced to use Word. I worked around it the best I could. I installed [MikTex](http://www.miktex.org/) and then [latex2rtf](http://latex2rtf.sourceforge.net/). Latex2rtf annoys me sometimes, because you have to use just basic LaTeX packages and it doesn’t generate a Table of Contents. It can also be a pain to setup. But once you get it working and stay in it’s boundaries, it works wonderfully. And I happily wrote my technical spec in Emacs and it looked fine as an RTF. I opened it up in Word, saved it as a Word Document, and then send it to my manager as my first rough draft. He came back with a few suggestions, and then said that he put an example of a spec on our shared drive. “That’s how it should look.”
So I made the changes my LaTeX source, loaded them in Word, and started the formatting changes. These are the things I had trouble with:
* Headers and Footers. Who was the idiot that came up with Word’s method of doing it that way? I never did figure out how to put one thing on the left side and another thing on the right. I just hit the space bar until it was where I thought it should be.
* Default font. The RTF converted nicely [using styles](http://addbalance.com/usersguide/styles.htm#Overview) but Word didn’t really want to change it. I usually don’t worry about it (Times is fine with me) but the example used something like “Old Book Modern”. So I played the corporate game. Bah.
* Table of Contents. What a joke! It’s a good thing I saved this until last, because then I didn’t have to do that refresh crap. I never did get the style changed to be bolded. Why? Only Bill Gates knows. . .
* The Stupid Paper clip. Help was actually pretty helpful, but the paper clip that bounced around didn’t help my cranky disposition.
 I would prefer a LaTeX distro that doesn’t require any registry edits — just unzip and go. Anyone know any?
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