Microsoft Word Complaints

[Please note that most of the following rant is aimed at old, old, old versions of Word running on OSes from the last millennium. The bulk of complaints listed here no longer apply. YMMV.] {Though they can easily be replaced with an entirely new set of even worse complaints... If you're planning to use Word, even the latest version, to create book-sized documents with complex (i.e., publication quality) formatting, here's a word of advice: Don't. In this situation try LaTex}

Why object to Word? Well, speaking for myself... We have some copies of FrameMaker and as soon as things die down I'm gonna push people toward using it; the time spent learning the program will be more than repaid by the time not spent overcoming Word. The people I'm supporting are graphic designers, by and large, and the Macs we're doing this on do not lack for memory, power, or disk space.

-- GrahamHughes

Gratuitous file format incompatibilities... Amen. I wince with pain whenever anyone sends email with an attached Word document. After booting up my Windows machine to open it, I invariably find that my version of Word will not open it. I then have to email the sender back and request a specific format version. This renders any arguments of 'standardization on Word' to mere nonsense. Some conspiracy theorists will suggest that MS does this to keep the format a moving target so that competitors can't build tools that import and export Word documents. I admit I am one of those theorists... -- TimVoght

I believe in the conspiracy against competitors, but in this case I also believe in the conspiracy to induce loyal users to upgrade, which in turn forces less-loyal users to upgrade, which in turn forces people who hardly use Word at all to upgrade... -- MarkSchumann

I think one thing to remember is that someone who has been using Word for 10 years (and I used it then, and it stunk, as did Windows) probably has figured out how to do the things they usually do, and customized it to their tastes. It is an enormous program, with lots of features which are either hidden or work in a unexpected way. In my opinion, it is best suited for people who are going to use it a lot and have to build complex documents.

Anecdote: We couldn't get a search and replace to work last week - dialog came up, but after it ran, nothing had changed. We ended up converting to text, and running a perl one-liner. At the time I couldn't figure it out, but now I suspect it was because it was "fixing" the style, and putting it back the way it was. (we were trying to add extra spaces after a period) Some people might find that irritating, even if there is a way for a knowledgeable user to circumvent it. It also does weird things to HTML that I don't like, such as mucking with the fonts of hyperlinks. My rule is that unless I have to make a very complicated document (and I avoid having to make very complicated documents) I find Word causes more problems than it is worth. But if I used it all the time, and needed its advanced capabilities, I would probably have a different opinion. I think the biggest problem with Word is that it is vast overkill for a very large percentage of the people who use it. But the file format stuff is unforgivable.

-- MatthewWilbert

On that note: MS Word 2007. The traditional menu, toolbar and document interface was replaced with a ludicrous main menu, tab, toolbox and document interface. Thousands of people who struggled to get the hang of Word 97/2000/XP/2003 were left without a clue on how to use the new Word, so they went to their local pirated software dealer and purchased a clandestine version of Word 2003. And now, you have a whole hoist of people who can't open a Word 2007 document in Word 2003.

I still remember the day when I had to help a psychology student convert his thesis from Word 2007 to Word 2003 format... the poor lad was sweating with fear of not turning in his thesis in time, because he was trying to print it in our college's computers (which rightfully don't have Word 2007 nor WindowsVista), and he couldn't open it no matter what!

-- AcoyaniGarrido?
Here's some advice if you get a Word document on a *nix machine: use the 'strings' command to get more-or-less readable text. Sometimes amusing information comes out not visible in the original document - such as who owned the original Word copy of which this is an illegal clone ;-). Anyway, `strings' tends to reduce the Word file by a factor 100 in size - even if the original file contained nothin but flat text.

-- StephanHouben

That's a useful hack, but Word has a habit of including "deleted" parts of a document in its output file. You might recover more than you want by using "strings". (Or you might recover exactly what you want... -- MarkSchumann
Word's graphics handling is braindead. Perhaps not surprising, given that it's a word processor, but still: IfaJobsWorthDoingItsWorthDoingWell?. In particular, it has confused ideas about where the selection point is, so when you paste some graphic, it can appear on a random page. Worse, if the selection point is on page X, and you draw something directly on page Y, it appears on page X. That's just not on.

I'd also criticize Word for just being a text editor with formatting, rather than a real document editor (ie something with some clue about document structure), but that's a conceptual flaw that's common to all WordProcessors.

-- TomAnderson

Amen to that. My digital electronics teacher used MS Word to write our manuals, and I actually had to print them as PDF's in order to read them properly! -- AcoyaniGarrido?
"Instability. ... We do books periodically in Word on Macintosh"

When I was writing my PhD thesis a fellow student had terrible trouble with Word. He eventually discovered that Word was not supported when used for documents larger than some surprisingly small number of pages. I vaguely recall that it was around 12! I used Framemaker for writing my thesis and had no problems.

I read somewhere that Word is used for Microsoft's internal documents, and as a result they have a 'special' version which can handle large documents, but this fix has never been released commercially. Does anyone have any information to confirm or deny this?

I am not much of a fan of Word, but the above is pure FearUncertaintyAndDoubt. I will hereby attest that I have written Word documents with more than 12 pages. Lots more. To test it out, I just used Word 2000 to create a document with over 13000 pages. I have encountered problems with large, complex Word documents, but never a hard page limit.

Read again. It wasn't asserted that there is actually a hard page limit. The hard limit is in what Microsoft will officially support. I have that from a Microsoft employee who refuses to be identified. For reference, I have consistently had problems with Word 97 on documents of 20 pages with complex diagrams and tables.

I used Word to try to write some books in 2001. (Really they were "work books"; some portions of them were intended ultimately for publication but I also had copious notes in the same files.) One of these books was fiction and discussion of fiction. The formatting didn't go much beyond regular and italic, and blockquotes, and headings. It ran to 90 pages and never actually became unstable. One of them was about programming, and I used different paragraph and character styles to highlight code, and variables in the code where you should substitute your own values, and stuff like that. It made it to 93 pages and then began to become disturbingly wobbly. I also had problems with another programming-related file where I drew some Word diagrams on a couple of pages. Those diagrams seemed to make the file less stable. So, my conclusion is that text does not make Word unstable. Formatting makes it unstable. Drawings make it really unstable. -- EdwardKiser
Some of the liabilities of Word for large documents, such as books or thesis, are more liabilities of word processors in general. Although some (like Frame) are better than others, word processors simply aren't very good at this type of content, IMO.

Sorry, no. The other major word processor for the PC, WordPerfect, handles book-length documents quite well.
What about when you embed an image in the document and some time in the future it just deletes it and puts a big red cross. This makes you paranoid about the document's stability, so you end up saving all your images separately on their own somewhere in case it deletes them.

This bugs been in it for several versions, I'd rather they concentrated on fixing stuff like this than those massive EasterEggs they put into all the office products.

ThatsNotaBugItsaFeature! If you use graphics and Word you'll quickly learn to save graphics separately anyway, since once an image is embedded in a Word document it's hard to extract. Call them concordant bug^h^h^hfeatures.

If, however, you have to e-mail documents, transfer them to other directories, clean up files from directories, etc., you'll quickly learn to save the graphics embedded in the Word document. It is hard enough to manage 1 file containing documentation, much less 20, 50, or 100.
First thing I always do when using a new copy of Word is to head on over to Options->Save and uncheck 'Allow Fast Saves'. By default this is enabled, and does indeed speed up save time, but at the expense of huge file bloat. As I understand it merely appends the file with new changes, this extends to images. It allows changes to be tracked and undone, but at a huge cost in space and stability. This could be the reason some people experience a document meltdown after a period of time.


A blank document was created and saved in Word 2002: 20kB

With 'Allow Fast Saves' unchecked an image was added and the file saved: 40kB

The image was deleted and the file saved: 20kB (I know, I know)

'Allow Fast Saves' checked. First image reinserted and saved: 64kB

The image was deleted and the file saved: 64kB

Alternate image added and file saved: 80kB

Alternate image deleted and file saved: 80kB

Not having Allow Fast Saves checked: priceless

So not only are image sizes larger when 'Allow Fast Saves' is enabled, but as you can see you only have to change your mind a few times with a large image and you will ratchet up your filesize enormously.

Ug.... My microsoft word 2000 is always shutting of on me!!! I type a 20 page paper and it goes and quits on me!! So frustrating!!!! -- JonathanFitt?

It's not Microsoft, it's you. You've failed to hit Save sufficiently often, and your computer is no doubt old, poorly-maintained, and probably rife with viruses, spyware, and general collapse. You have no one to blame but yourself.

    By my calculations, you didn't just type 20 letters, you typed 96! Congratulations!

Some comments moved from here to TheRightTool.

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