Word 2010, track changes, formatting, and misery

Word 2010 hates me. It would shoot me in Reno just to watch me die.

It lures me in, behaves itself for a while, then bam. Utter chaos and torment.

How it starts:

I am writing a document with footnotes. I add a footnote. It is fine. I add another footnote. The font is different. “Huh,” I say, “the font is different.” I change the font. I add another footnote. The font is different. I highlight all of of the footnotes and correct the font. The next footnote’s font is different. The backspace no longer works. Search on the internet. “Huh,” I say, “track changes is on and that prevents the backspace from working.” I turn off track changes. Another font is different. Backspace stops working. Track changes is back on. I turn off track changes and accept all changes and track changes is back on. Footnote fonts have to be changed one at a time.

I am writing an outline. I have a level, then the next level, we go on for a bit. Then it decides it doesn’t like my numbering. Or my indenting. How about a random capital A all the way at the left margin and don’t let the tab work to move it over or, in the more fun case, make it so the tab moves everything in the document over. Because that’s more fun. I start typing in the levels by hand. Backspace doesn’t work. Track changes! I recognize this one! Turn off track changes. Sigh a minute later when it comes back on.

I am writing a plain block document like this post. I start a new paragraph and suddenly I’m in 12 point font instead of 11, or I’m in Arial instead of Times New Roman.

I have to create Word documents, I often have to work in outlines, I don’t have the option of not footnoting, and I can’t set fire to my computer. Can anyone help with any of this?

Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1 on a Gateway laptop.

After 20 years of using WordPerfect, I have been using Word2010 for about a year. i haven’t found it gets any better.

No boring specifics, but I too have had weirdo font changes occur in documents.

As someone who writes and maintains tangled Word documents filled with template links, embedded objects, custom headers/footers/watermarks, linked indexes and tables, hosted on a flaky network server, I feel your pain.

I have developed a Pavlovian cringe every time I press the ‘tab’ key, I swear it is mapped to a random action generator.

My favorite are the random freezes while it either autosaves or talks to the server, while in the middle of clicking and typing. I see it frozen, click and wiggle to get a response, and then have it flash through a pile of queued random clicks and commands turning my document into a scrambled unrecoverable mess.

I have used footnotes, outlining, etc. The only problem in your list that I have seen is Word’s attempt to automatically format things based on what it thinks you are trying to do, based on numbering and tabs. And it usually gets it wrong. Go to File, Options, Advanced, Editing Options and turn off anything except those that you know you need or want.

If you see unexpected fonts, as in your footnotes, I would check style definitions and make sure footnotes are assigned the correct style, rather than making font changes directly to the footnotes.

I have never ever had Track Changes turn itself on after I turn it off.

I have never ever had the backspace key stop working.

The backspace key stops working for me all the time, but only in comment boxes. Sometimes if I highlight the area I want to delete and then type over it, that works. Or wait … on second thought, I think I use the backspace button because the highlighting and typing over doesn’t work.

So I guess the only thing I have to contribute to this discussion is I empathize.

To all above posters: How much formal training or experience do you have with Word?

Here is something from my experience: I had tried using Word a few times, and had all the sorts of ridiculous problems that people are complaining of. It’s truly crazy-making to try to get Word to do you bidding.

Microsoft has made it their ideology to have applications be “discoverable”, that is, easy for you to figure out just by poking around in the app and trying things. This, of course, absolves Microsoft from actually having to, you know, write user manuals for their apps. Leave that to third parties, who write and publish all those 1500-page tomes you see at Barnes & Noble.

In Word, this strategy fails badly.

I swore upon a stack of core dumps that I would never voluntarily use Word! No how, no way. Just totally too insane-making. I’ll just stick with WordPerfect, thank you! Or even troff! I was perfectly happy with troff, back in the day.

Then, once upon a lifetime (any more than that would cause severe brain damage), I actually took a class in Word at the local adult school. With an actual textbook. Which had actual hand-on exercises that walk you through all sorts of document-writing procedures. And (hang onto your seats for this, folks), this book walks us through all kinds of procedures that actually work and produce the results you were expecting!

So the point seems to be: You have to know all the right steps to do the things you want to do, and you have to know all the right keys to press (hint: stay away from the tab key), all the right buttons to click, all in the right order and at the right times. And like magic, Word does your bidding and everything is [del]wonderful[/del] well, tolerable.

But you gotta do the learning curve, and I think you gotta take a class with a book where you are guided through the learning. It’s just not at all obvious that anyone is likely to figure it out all on your own, just by poking around and trying to “discover” how it works. That just doesn’t seem to play, when you’re using Word.

I feel your pain, believe me. I work with Word, among other programs, all day, every working day.

Here’s the thing. Word, despite its name, does not deal with words. It works with chunks of text, which it calls paragraphs (and a “paragraph,” as defined by MSWord, may or may not correspond to what we normally understand a paragraph to be).

So, your footnote problem. Have you defined a style for your footnotes? Styles are the central concept of Word. A style is a bunch of formatting attributes that get applied to a paragraph. Word won’t work right if you just type your text and then try to apply formatting (like line spacing, fonts, indents, etc.) to that text. You can’t make Word work unless you understand styles and how to revise and create them. Word does have a built-in “Footnote Text” style, along with a built-in “Footnote Reference” style. Make your changes there, rather than directly in the footnote.

Track changes, well, OK, track changes has its problems. We tend to avoid it here, preferring to use a redlining program.

Outlines? Certainly tricky, but you can learn. Again, you have to know how to create and edit styles, and how to link your outline levels to styles.

Basically, what Senegoid said.

More thoughts:

Don’t highlight your footnote and correct the font. Fix the font in the Footnote Text style.

Don’t use the tab key for outlines. Create your outline numbering scheme, linking it to the right styles (“Heading 1,” “Heading 2,” etc.) and put all the formatting in the style. Then you won’t have to tab over, or back, to change the level.

Track changes has some known issues with footnotes, particularly with footnote numbering. That’s a tough one, and without seeing your document, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to PM me, I can have a look – maybe we can fix all this.

Can you point us ignorant and none-too-swift types to a page which explains what the heck styles are, and how to change them? For being so important, they’re damned opaque to the outsider.

Sure I’ve had backspace not work - usually has to do with tab sets or margins.

“every time I press the ‘tab’ key, I swear it is mapped to a random action generator.” For me it seems to be “enter”.

No it’s not intuitive or useer friendly, yes I’ve had classes, but would find it a lot easier with a reveal codes function like the Wordperfect has.

Any non-novice Word user should turn on paragraph marks. Is that a line break or a word wrap? A bunch of spaces, tabs or a single tab? Is that line center aligned or did someone use a bunch of spaces to put it there? You can’t tell what you’re doing if you don’t have paragraph marks turned on.

Why? Sometimes we do not want to create a damn table, we just want to space a few things, perhaps even on a single line. Are you saying that if I want to format a letter the way I would on a typewriter or on any other word processor, I’m doing it “the wrong way as defined by Microsoft”?

It’s bad enough that I can’t format numbers correctly in their OS or their programs, now they’ve decided that I also shouldn’t use tabulations, ever?

Yes, that’s about right. If you’re a Word n00b and/or you’re trying to type a short, simple document (say, less than 3 pages or so), there’s a strong tendency to try it just like you were typing something on a typewriter. In Word, this strategy fails badly and will drive you insane faster than Rubik’s Cube.

You can use tab stops in a way similar to a typewriter, though. If you set tab stops at various places across the page, then you can use the TAB key to line up your text at those tabs. You can set left-tabs, right-tabs, center-tabs, and I think it also has decimal-tabs (good for lining up a column of numbers on their decimal points).

You CANNOT use the TAB key to indent the first line of a paragraph, because Word will always try to out-think you on that, and it’s a crap-shoot whether you’ll get what you want.

That said, Word also provides an elaborate facility for creating tables of all sorts. For really simple tables, it’s fairly easy but perhaps overkill. For complex tables, it’s essential, but there’s a serious learning curve. You can’t just pick it up easily by “playing around”. You’ve gotta find a good textbook or on-line how-to that covers it.

For sure! When you turn on the paragraph marker, does that also turn on the space/tab/CR markers? Or is there a separate setting for that? (I forget. I took my Word class several years ago, and haven’t used it much since.) You definitely want to turn all this stuff ON – It helps you see much more clearly what’s really in your document.

I wish! I always used Reveal Codes with WordPerfect. You can really see what’s in your document! Word has nothing quite like this. (The Paragraph Mark mentioned just above is about the nearest semblance to that.)

As for styles – That’s right, you need to study up on these to be anything like a proficient Word user. I was only barely beginning to get the hang of them. Still, they’re nothing like the macro facility that in troff, which was practically like a programming language embedded right in your document (like JavaScript embedded in a HTML page).

Here’s one clue that should help a Word user: Turn on the Paragraph Mark, so you will see each end-of-paragraph mark on-screen. Here’s a secret: That Paragraph Mark is NOT just a single byte. It’s actually a whole little packet of information. A whole lot of the formatting information for the whole paragraph is embedded in that Paragraph Mark. If you delete it, you will lose the formatting of the whole paragraph. If you split a paragraph into two paragraphs, the first of those paragraphs may lose all its formatting (since the paragraph mark is only at the end of the second paragraph).

A whole lot of Words frustrating weirdness becomes somewhat clearer when you understand that a paragraph’s overall formatting information is stored there at the end of the paragraph.

All correct. Always good to go into the Normal Style and clean that up, since that is where a lot of the AutoFormat is located.
To recover your screwy document, however, I have been able to “lose” a lot of embedded style nonsense by going to the last word of the document before the final punctuation mark, and press:
Control-Shift_Home (Select text except for the last punctuation) >
Control C (Copy) >
Control N (New Document) >
Control V (Paste).
Someone told me that all the formatting that Word throws in is located at the bottom of the document, but unlike Word Perfect, you can’t press Shift F3 to reveal codes. (In Word it changes case).
Nowadays, I tend to compose in Notepad, then create a Word document and format the document once. Footnotes I note in the text and either create them in another Notepad file, or handwrite them.

It doesn’t, because I don’t turn the space marks on - paragraph is good enough for me. I also turn on text boundaries (really just margins) because I insert a lot of pictures and I need to know how much space I have.

Law review editor here - meaning I have more experience farting around with Word footnotes than anyone could possibly need or want. My (newish) trick is to convert all footnotes to endnotes, then convert them back when I’m done formatting them (and the main body of the text). For some reason, endnotes are less buggy.

Just highlight the footnotes and right click, and the context menu will have a “convert to endnote” option. Then do the same to make them go back at the end.

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