Office 97 - Shudder

Subject: Office 97 - Shudder
From: "Jacobson, Avi (PBD)" <Avi -dot- Jacobson -at- PBDIR -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 1997 13:40:48 -0700

I am reposting this article because it was rejected the first time: I
had forgotten to populate the "Subject" field.

In article <c=US%a=_%p=CTP%l=IMPALA-971008214941Z-17920 -at- impala -dot- ctp -dot- com>,
Deborah Gallagher <dgall -at- ctp -dot- com> wrote:
> I've started this week working on the Word 97 SR-1 (Windows NT version
> 4.0). We will use it along with Visio, Excel, and PowerPoint to
> gang-write tech docs. At present, our templates are in Word 6.0. Is
> there anything I ought to be aware of before updating the templates? I
> wish we used FrameMaker.


Coincidentally, I have just (a month ago) started working as a Tech
Writer at the San Francisco support site of an international software
firm after several years at their development center in Israel. By and
large, the company-wide standard is Office 95 with Windows 95; certain
straggler sites are still using Word 6 with Windows 3.11. This site,
however, uses Office 97 under Windows NT 4.0.

Over the course of the past month, I have noticed several compatibility

There are two sources of evil, as far as I can see: One is the fact
that the file structure itself is different, so files saved as Windows
97 cannot be read by earlier versions of Word. Microsoft appears to
have solved this problem in a haphazard way, enabling the Word 97 user
to specify Word 6/95 as the "default save format". However unless you
have downloaded the new, improved converter (available from the "Free
Stuff" page at Microsoft's website), the generic converter that comes
with Word 97 will tell you it is converting to Word 6 format but will
actually convert to a form of RTF (rich-text format). True to form,
Microsoft did not warn users of this, nor of the possible drawbacks.
One drawback is that saving to "Word 6" (alias RTF) format tends to
inflate the file size. The other is that Quickview will not read the
file. (By the way, it will not read the file from Word 97 format
either, which I happen to find scandalous.) The new converter seems to
solve this problem.

Another problem is that even if you have specified "Word 6/95" as your
default save format, it is very difficult to tell when looking at a
document in Explorer or in an Open box, whether it is in Word 6/95 or
Word 97 format. Same file extension, same icon.

The other major source of evil is the switch from Word Basic to Visual
Basic for Applications as the applicatoin's macro programming language.
I have installed the corporate templates (Word 6/95) on my machine in
the appropriate templates directory. When opening documents created in
Word 6 at other sites under those templates, Word 97 takes a long time
(about 30 seconds) to open the document. This is because it must first
convert the Word 6 documents (and that takes no less time than, say,
converting from Word Perfect!), and then convert the MACROS, one by one,
in the template to which the document is attached. Usually most of the
formatting comes out right. Tables of Contents sometimes put everything
on page 1, but that can be corrected by "updating the field" (i.e.,
regenerating the Table of Contents). Other fields can also become
garbled but often can be recovered by regenerating.

A third problem is that many of the superior functional characteristics
of Word 97 documents disappear when you save down to Word 6 format. (I
do not recall this having been the case, at least not to such a drastic
extent, when we used to save Word 6 documents down to Word 2.)
Vertically merged cells in tables, for example (yes, Word finally caught
up with Word Perfect in that area), are not supported in Word 6. You
would expect the converter to find some aesthetically-pleasing,
supported alternative (like creating a stack of cells with invisible
borders between them so they look like one vertical cell), but alas, the
developers didn't bother.

I know this is a superficial, shot-from-the-hip response, but I hope it


Avi Jacobson, email: Avi -dot- Jacobson -at- pbdir -dot- com | When an idea is
or: AviJ -at- amdocs -dot- com | wanting, a word
| can always be found
Opinions are those of the poster, =NOT= of | to take its place.
Amdocs, Inc. or Pacific Bell Directory. | -- Goethe

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