Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Microsoft Word, rants and the future

I am a Microsoft apologist. Although I use macs and linux professionally, for gaming and writing I try to use Windows and Office. Ever since office 2007 introduced the ribbon I have found it intuitive, powerful and capable of producing beautiful documents. When it came to start writing this blog, I chose oneNote for notes, ideas and planning and Word for actual writing. There were bunch of reasons for this, other than my like of the product. It has features such as 1-click integration so I can publish my blogs with a single click, it has a built in thesaurus and dictionary and grammar checking that I find useful. Unfortunately though, I have run out of patience with its flaws. Chiefly amongst these, is the save functionality. I tend to leave whatever I am working on open from day to day and when my computer inevitably crashes, word doesn't do a great job of getting me back to where I left off. The document recovery system is abysmal, there is no diff, I get very confused about which version I need to save and frequently lose stuff. It's not that I don't save frequently. In fact, while typing this sentence I have pressed control + s at least six times but Word for some reason never uses these saves and instead picks an old version. This is a solved problem in my industry; version control, but to get proper diffs, I need plain text files, not the tortured xml that word produces. Tortured xml causes other problems, if you inspect the source of my previous blog posts you will notice it is all over the place. Word does not send clean html to blogger and it's not just about being pretentious about clean html, it also produces slightly weird alignment and spacing differences not just between blogs but also within a single document. I have other problems with Word, but too much whinging is not a good idea. Instead, let me summarise where I can go from here. There are plenty of document formats I can use, but ease of blogger integration, ease of writing are the priorities. Markdown is the obvious modern choice for writing and I am most familiar with the git version control but blogger integration is not going to be easy. For the moment, I am publishing this post via stackedit.io because of it's blogger integration. Hopefully I can figure out my own system though, because I don't quite trust it yet. My lack of posting recently is not actually down to frustrations with Word. I was working on a timeline for the city when I decided it would be more fun and useful to build a timeline generator for settlements. It has turned out to be quite the task, but I hope to publish it sometime in the next few weeks. Apologies for the off topic rant, but hopefully that last paragraph whet your appetite about what's to come. I am certainly excited about it.