RE: Using Word for book publishing

Subject: RE: Using Word for book publishing
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Weissman, Jessica" <WeissmanJ -at- abacustech -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2011 12:08:30 -0400



> -----Original Message-----
> From: Weissman, Jessica
[...]
>
> There are two requirements [for successfully using word with large,
complicated documents]:
>
> 1) Learn Word completely. Like other tools, Word has its way of doing
> things. If you just bash away with manual formatting and so on, you
> will be frustrated. If you try to use such features as sections
> without truly understanding them, you will have bad surprise after bad
> surprise. Master the principles and you'll be fine. If you want to do
> columns and sidebars and such, Word can do it but you have to do it
> Word's way using the right features in the right ways.

Many people simply do not have the capacity to "Learn <a big program>
completely."
I hate to admit being one of those, but I remember that I did a
mail-merge with Word in 1996 or 1997. I think I was successful - it
was a small one, for no useful purpose except to see if it worked.
Today I could not repeat that, without relearning from scratch, if
my life depended on it. In fact, six months after doing the one-and-only
Word mail-merge of my life, I could not have simply repeated the exact
task without looking for Help or other documentation.

The same could be said about most other complicated tasks in Word or
any other complex program. Only a very few, excessively blessed souls
are able to learn a thing once, not have any use for that thing for
months, years, or decades, and yet still have it as a skill.

I'm not sure I can even imagine the kind of job where I'd need
(and have the opportunity regularly) to completely know Word
(or InDesign or Flare or...) and use all the features and capabilities
often enough to thoroughly master them.

I know chunks - large or small - of each tool that I use, and even
after years, I don't know that I know.... because every-so-often,
something that I thought I knew rises up and bites me.

Perhaps it's partly because I usually dealt with docs that other
people had started or that I was required to "share" with other
authors/editors that I never had occasion to make Word documents
"my own" and build them from scratch.

By contrast, after a few years of building and maintaining my own
documents in FrameMaker, I was quite confident of my abilities and
that I was doing it "right". But then, I worked in shops where I
was the only FM user, or one of very few.

Flare... well, I still bang my head on it, but I've got a good feel
for how to make it do most of what I need it to do, most of the time,
and I occasionally learn how I should have done something years ago,
if only I knew then what I know now. Ahem. But I use a small corner
of Flare's capabilities, only because there's no call for a lot of
the functionality (or no business case for buying the add-ons/ins).
Despite being an almost daily Flare user, I'd be surprised if I
ever totally "mastered" it. It's hard to master something that you
don't actually have any use for - which describes more than half
of what Flare <says it> can do.

I haven't had formal training in anything, since before the turn of
the century, and that includes Flare. There haven't been budgets
for that sort of thing. It's assumed that everybody uses tools
that can be picked up "on-the-fly".

[...]
>
> There are also three areas where Word can break your heart no matter
> how well you know it:

Er... yeah. :-)

That also applies to what I've used to replace Word - namely OpenOffice
and now LibreOffice.

Personally - and again, I'm sure it's just me - I don't see why one
should have to dig out a mess of "obscure" functions and features in
Word (or LibreOffice), AND at the same time ignore a whole set of
features that ARE labeled as the ones you ostensibly want, in order
to make a proper document.

If, sometime between Word 2003 and Word 2010 (or whatever it's up to,
today), the developers of Word made it into a robust, heavy-duty,
big-doc creation tool, why wouldn't they have also provided a
button to switch from kiddy-toy mode to big-girls-and-boys-tool mode?

Why doesn't the modern equivalent of Clippy pop up with
"My goodness! It looks like you are trying to create a document
bigger than 15 pages!"
OR
"Oh dear! You seem to be trying to NEST lists!"

"Perhaps you should be using Grown-ups mode - click here for an
introduction and comprehensive tutorial on SEQ fields and other
topics that will save your life and sanity, not to mention your
livelihood if you do documentation for a living.
There's also a handy option to disable the Kiddy-Toy features in
your documents so that non-professionals can't mess them up with
manual formatting, thousands of bogus styles, broken numbering,
etc."

OK, I'll stop whining for now.

-k

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Follow-Ups:

References:
RE: Using Word for book publishing: From: Rick_Bishop
RE: Using Word for book publishing: From: Weissman, Jessica

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