HELP! A monumental pickle?

Subject: HELP! A monumental pickle?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Kirk Turner <royj -at- alltel -dot- net>
Date: Fri, 06 Jan 2006 10:09:33 -0500

Kirk Turner reports a serious problem: <<I have edited the submissions from 15 different authors into very rough drafts that were uploaded to a Yahoo site for peer content review only. No one ever logged into the site but to look at their own document.>>

That's a problem in itself. For future reference: someone must always contact reviewers to ensure that they're aware of the review deadline and able to meet it. Then you have to nag them until the reviews get done. That won't help in your current situation, but keep it in mind for the future. Also note that you didn't specify or request any deadlines, and thus, the request for a Monday deadline blindsided you. _Never_ work without an agreed-upon deadline.

<<So I began to assemble the manual yesterday. Immediately Word began to crash frequently.>>

There are a few things you should do before going any further. First, delete all the .tmp files that Word creates on your computer. If you've been having regular crashes, this means that there are a batch of these files cluttering your hard disk (Word usually deletes them when you quit), and if the number is too high, Word can't deal and starts crashing.

<<I unchecked the spelling and grammar checkboxes in Options, which usually helps. Word continued to crash at a frightening rate. I upped my virtual memory, and the crashes continued... This morning I think I have found the problem... The "authors," who are the top architects and construction managers in the state, evidently cut and pasted major sections of the old contracts and manuals into their sections. Sometimes the paste WAS their section. When I put the manual together I turned on the "Styles" pane, and saw hundreds of styles in use from the old contracts and manuals... Every time Word crashes, I open the document or recover it, and some of the styles have reverted to their previous state throughout the entire document, and I have to begin anew even though I have acquired the habit of saving the document at a compulsive rate since the crashes began--makes no difference. I can't get through 30 pages without Word crashing>>

If worse comes to worst, you can try saving the file as text, then reopening it and saving it again in Word format. You'll have to recreate all your styles, but at least you'll have a clean document to work with. If you want to try something a bit more sophisticated, but with some chance of wasting your time experimenting, here are a few thoughts:

Sounds like you may have maxed out Word's ability to deal with styles. The first thing to try is to cut down the number of styles. Open the Format menu, select Styles, and select "Show only the styles in use". One at a time, select the unnecessary styles and click the Delete button to remove them. Keep this up until you're down to a sane number. You won't be able to delete Word's built-in styles; it's only the custom ones you want to focus on. You'll have to manually reapply styles, but that's easy enough.

Second, and only if your version of Word won't let you delete styles that it thinks are in use: Try eliminating the extra styles through the search and replace dialog (i.e., replace all the many useless styles with a simpler list of equivalents). Click the "More" button or the "expand this dialog box to show more options" arrow, depending on the version you're using. In the "find what" field, select the first useless style (click the Format menu, select Style, then select the style name you want to get rid of). In the "replace with" field, choose the correct replacement style the same way. Repeat until you're down to your core number of styles. _Then_ delete the files.

A third step that may help: Open the file, move to the end (right before the final paragraph marker), and copy everything before that point into a clean new document. This can solve a range of corruption problems, but if there are simply too many styles, it won't help.

If you can't get even that far, here's a good recovery trick that will let you do this: Save or export the file as HTML. Change the .htm extension to .txt so that Word thinks it's a text file. (It is, but if you leave the .htm extension, Word will try to open it as an HTML file.) Now open this as a text file, and use the search and replace to replace all the unnecessary styles--which should appear as some kind of HTML code, such as <heading 73 kirk's nemesis>--with a shorter set of core styles: <H1> for heading one, <p> for body text, and so on. Last two steps: Change the file extension back to .htm and open the simplified file in Word as an HTML file. Then save it as a Word document. With luck, you can carry on safely from that point.

<<The Governor mandated this manual last January, and the state brought me aboard in November. Even though they have had ten months, and I two, this thing is squarely on my shoulders with three days left.>>

Don't forget that long delays and late projects are an expected fact of life in the government. Ask your project lead whether they're willing to accept an additional delay of a few days rather than pushing this through and producing crap. (Remind them that there was no peer review, and that there's no point publishing something that hasn't been reviewed. That way lies a long and amusing article on the front page of next week's newspaper.) The answer is often that they're willing to accept another brief delay, and if so, that gives you a bit more time to relax and do an acceptable job.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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HELP! A monumental pickle: From: Kirk Turner

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