Word 97 - report from an adopter

Subject: Word 97 - report from an adopter
From: John Cornellier <john -dot- cornellier -at- CARDS -dot- DELARUE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 1998 15:42:51 GMT

Someone asked about upgrading to Word 97. (What are they going to call it at the
millenium - Word Zero Zero ??)

A while back I was thinking about going from Word 7 (or 95) to Word 8 (or 97). I
like being an early adopter. It's true that Word 7 wasn't broken, and Word 8 was
famously buggy at first. Everybody said that if I changed to Word 8 my
productivity would collapse as I spent days salvaging files and debugging
macros, leading inevitably to my being fired, and finishing my days in disgrace
and poverty, to which I replied "sounds neat, let's go for it".

I installed Word 8 and the patches about 3 months ago. No regrets. Yes, there
was a few minor glitches, but on the whole the new functionality has improved my
productivity.

Word 8 allows me to put hypertext links in docs. I now have a central doc where
I keep track of a project. In this doc are lists of source documents which I
click on to open. Click on the name of an SME to send a msg. Groovy!

The file format is totally different from previous versions, but I've had no
problems with backword (ho ho) compatibility. Anyway the thing about different
versions is to try to avoid moving files from one version to another. Get
everyone to pick a version and stick to it. Otherwise just use RTF - it's
bulletproof. I'm exporting to PDF all the time, no probs with that either.

The Word 8 user interface is more flexible - e.g. you can mix the menus and
toolbars. Also you can create a repository of links on the toolbar to often-used
docs, just like a favourites menu on a web browser. This and the hypertext
links, mentioned above, have radically improved everything to do with file
management.

Revision functions are definitely better. Table editing is way better. VBA is
the bee's knees. Trashed my previous knowledge of Word Basic, alas. No problems
with stability on my old Pentium with 32MB RAM, Win 95.

Disadvantages I have encountered so far: huger files, and there is a problem
with updating template styles from a doc. I always update styles in the template
itself. Having said that, if you have designed a good template then you should
only change it rarely if ever. I've seen some bizarre behaviour with headers &
footers, but nothing titanic. I have not had any of the commonly-reported
problems with numbered lists.

The drop-down style list has a representation of the style which is slow, takes
up space, and, bizarrely, displays styles in _random_ order! This could
drastically reduce the productivity of someone who uses this means of defining
styles. Me, I don't care, because I always define kbd shortcuts or toolbar
buttons for defining styles -- much quicker.

As far as compatibility with Robohelp (or Doc2Help) is concerned, I couldn't
tell you. Seeing as the macro language is totally different, Blue Sky and
WexTech must have had to review and test their products substantially.

In French there is an expression "nobody talks about the trains that arrive on
time". People who have a complaint are going to be more vocal than people who
don't. There is also a lot of people who want MS to fail. So, for the record,
count me as one person who has adopted this new version and is not going back.

In any case, resistance is useless. You're all going to have to upgrade
eventually.

John Cornellier, tech writer, Paris, France.




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