Sunday, June 01, 2008

Microsoft Word and Organizations

Microsoft Word sucks for any sort of team report creation exercise. Strong leadership is required and short projects can suffer from a lack of standardization, without getting into classical Microsoft Word problems.

Silly people that dress up their contributions of text and bulleted lists with custom bullets and funky fonts should be put in stocks.

Next time I am telling everyone to give me an ISO 8859-1 compliant text file.

The benefits to LaTeX are enormous. Separating content from the display of the content allows consistent formatting and reformatting if required. The fact that it is a text file allows you to merge and track changes easier (for example, with tools designed to help you do that and not manually).


Spatchcock said...

Out of curiosity, how do you manage notes and edits from the copy editors and proof readers?

Placing comments in the LaTeX itself is a possibility, though finding the relevant text in the source can be a little daunting. Nothing than a little sed or egrep can't handle, but those familiar with sed and egrep aren't the sort who have time to proof your documents, in general.

MS Word advocates point out that it's possible to embed notes [in a red font, no less] within the actual document.

sstc said...

Notes and edits are normally from the output, like a pdf. They would be referenced by page number. Often you give someone a hard copy to edit. They can mark it up, and it is easy to find it.

Otherwise you could give them access to the repository and let them edit the latex itself.

I haven't been in a case where someone edited the document that wasn't on the team without wanting a hard copy to edit.

The big problem comes when you send out the MS Word doc for editing by a few people at the same time. Then you still have to manually merge all of the comments.

Spatchcock said...

Yeah. You have to merge the hardcopy comments as well, so I suppose the "big problem" extends beyond MS Word edits.

I suppose sufficiently advanced tools exist to be efficient at this if people are willing to learn how to use them and are sufficiently integrated in the project. But that's never the case.

Anonymous said...

you can always make a template and distribute it to everyone, too.

sstc said...

Part of the problem was that I had to use a specific template, but no one had it.

There was a reference to this mythical "standard template". It was supposed to be posted on the website for the class, but never was. In the end I found something, and by then it was too late to tell everyone to use it.