Invisible Formatting Tags are Evil

I just wrote a 100 page document in Word 2003, cursing the entire time, because of the formatting. Using the Word Styles and Formatting view is a must, but the problem is that passing documents around and giving them to people accumulates all this formatting cruft. I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out why, all of a sudden, my Heading 5 text was tabbed over half an inch – and how to fix it, and it just wouldn’t go.

I hate Word. I hate Visio. I hate Outlook for the exact reason that wumpus mentions. Excel isn’t bad though, probably because I haven’t used it much.

Please, tell what tool you did use to
make that kind of gif-based animated demo ?

In this case, it’s Camtasia, but I’ve used gif-gif-gif before for similar effects. Check out the Donation Coder roundup of screencasting tools for more options:

I’m surprised that no one here has bothered mentioning simply writing emails in plain text. First thing I do with any email client is set editing mode to unformatted text. It’s clean, platform independent and you can be sure that the recepient will see exactly what you type. Besides, the only HTML you really need in email for is for weblinks, and even then, most clients convert plaintext links into hypertext anyways.

You do know about the “zoom” function in most modern word processors? The one that displays the document in 200% or 400% of the actual size.

For as powerful a tool as a WYSIWYG editor like Word is supposed to be, I find it most useful for writing relatively simple documents with uncomplicated formatting. Editing more complex documents becomes a torture as Word tries to “help” me with automagical formatting. Visio is even worse. At least with a plaintext HTML editor I know I can get what I want every time, in markup that I’ll be able to read and understand later. Maybe I should take some time and learn LaTEX as well.

If the only way to format text were through explicit formatting commands

I agree, in theory, but I have yet to see a WYSIWYG editor that actually achieves this goal.

you actually are against WYSIWYG editors

I am against WYSIWYG without the ability to switch to “markup view” to tweak things.

If you really think about it, what’s the only difference between HTML and Word’s internal format? The difference is that Word is a closed-source markup language.

Or it was, until MS decided to implement Office Open XML Formats…

What is this, the 80s?

“Modern” text-processors are style-driven, meaning there are no formatting-marks.

Why morons use non-plaintext eMail is above me, anyways.

Chris Nahr: I have a LCD monitor now and it’s still a strain to read black on white. Also trying to get contrast and brightness set to useful values is difficult: this monitor seems more nonlinear than the CRTs of the past

Mozilla: Zoom helps as far as it goes, but it involves a lot of scrolling. I try to get the biggest monitors I can. Then there is the case of other visually impaired people who need to work in sans serif fonts but have the doc come out in serif fonts for other people (and this seems to apply to dyslexic people, too). Add to this comments by people who prefer to read text off paper to reading off a VDU and it is clear that “WYSIWYG” is “being economical with the truth”, at best.

I can honestly say the only thing that’s more annoying than working with a WYSIWYG program with these issues is trying to rewrite a WYSIWYG editor to not cause these problems.

(I tried to add this reply yesterday but it didn’t work)

Chris Nahr: Yes, this was with a CRT, but even with an LCD display I find the light background uncomfortable. Even with the contrast/brightness
adjusted for maximum clarity this is true. People differ, and photophobia can occur for many reasons, such as post LASIK eye surgery (for a while, anyway).

Mozilla: yes, I know about zooming, but that means a lot of scrolling. Also, it doesn’t solve the problem for dyslexic people who need sans serif fonts, as some do. some prefer to read off a green background, but print to white paper in the final result. Again, this should be configurable.

I think that all formatting should restrict to text, not between text. For example I remember that if I select some header text and delete it, it turns the next chapter into a header. Then my nerves have hard time, because I have to ctrl-z, select the header minus an empty space in the end of the line, and then hit delete. Or something like that.

These hidden format tags are very annoying, especially in Outlook when tidying up an email I am forwarding. The worst part is that Outlook Express has a Source View when editing email but Outlook misses out.

Oddly enough, Outlook Express has a (semi-hidden) HTML source edit view. Pay a few hundred more for Outlook, and you lose this feature. You can view your source, it’s like viewing source in a web page - edits don’t affect the original document.

I use HTML as my default format in Outlook instead of Word, partly for this reason. HTML’s not quite as bad as Word’s creepy internal formatting code when it comes to bizarro document panic.

@Paul Coddington

You might check out “PureText” by Steve Miller. It maps Win+V (or the key combination of your choice) to the “paste without formatting” functionality you describe – the same as pasting into Notepad and copying from there without actually having to go through the hassle of doing that. :slight_smile:

I understand your pain. Because of this I do all of my word processing in plain HTML, mostly 3.2. I can control what items the formatting applies to, and where things begin and end. If I really need a word document because of some crazy PHB requirement, after the document renders like I want, I open it with Word, and save as a .doc file. I still keep the HTML, though for all of my edits to avoid exactly this kind of mess.

Let me specify the structure, then let the machine figure out the layout. If layout is that specific, give me DTP instead.