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Welcome to The Lotus Position, an intermittent collection of extempore navel gazings, ponderings, whinges, whines, pontifications and diatribes.

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The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter

The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter
Ponder, Scribble, Ponder (Photo Erdotahi Aron)

Guest Nutter/Kindred Soul: Bill Bailey


Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Suggestions for Microsoft Word 2007

I'm only doing this because Microsoft are limiting me to 650 characters on the Office.com suggestions page - and I bet it can't count accurately anyway (web pages never seem to count characters properly, never allow enough space so you can see what you've written - Office.com has a miserly 3 line display and seem generally set up to discourage detailed and specific suggestions; I wonder if that's because they typically get "Your app sucks!" and just don't want more of the same? Chickens and Eggs here I suspect).

So, away from the chickens and on to the sheep!

This is almost entirely about the way comments are handled as "mark-up" in Word 2007; whilst I quite like the new Ribbon UI, I shan't be using Word 2007 - and hence any Office 2007 products because of (persistent) shortcomings in the way it handles comments. Pity. What has been done since Word 2002/XP in the comments area is... negligible it seems. Minimal comment handling probably goes even further back, but I can't check, so I shall make an unsupported assertion and claim that it's never really been thought through.

Firstly, W07 now highlights commented text automatically - and does so in a colour corresponding to the reviewer who created the comment, unfortunately either you accept colouration by reviewer name or you choose from a woeful palette whose colour content hasn't changed in living memory.

Would it not be a marvellous thing to have Categorised commenting via some sort of tagging system, and for the user to be able to create their own categories/tags? For example, one tag for "factual error", another for "dubious fact", another for "unclear phrasing"; or one for "minor issue", one for "medium issue", one for "major issue" - and so on.... with the specific ability to be able to apply multiple tags to a single comment. It would, wouldn't it? I've already done the same thing for Word 2002 using VBA. If only I had the choice of comment colours...

Then one can add (as I have done) features to selectively show and hide comments according to the assigned tags, which makes reviewing a lot easier; and to sort the reviewers list (more of a work-around really...); and to selectively review comments by category and and and...

One should also be able to control whether highlighting of the commented text is on or off, where applicable (done that - it's dynamic... click in the comment and the "scope"is highlighted, click elsewhere and it unhighlights). I mean, really! This is Microsoft at it's most nannyish - you must have comments highlighted, all the time... it will only end in tears if you don't!

And one should of course be able to delete the content of a comment without deleting the comment itself; as it is, try Ctrl+A in W07 with the selection point in a balloon comment and hit Delete or Backspace. It doesn't work because Ctrl+A has picked up the trailing paragraph mark, which is undeletable. It would be easy to fix - and it should be.

Of course the comment pane is now in the right (or maybe you can choose where it goes, I'm just going by the Test Drive default presentation) - all I can say is I hope it deals with large numbers of comments... I have about 5,000 now in "IT" (the book) - all automatically numbered starting at 1 for each category. I don't see any reason why there should be any limit on the number of comments and I haven't hit one yet, but repagination is a pain on a large document when it keeps doing it because of changes to comments - I can understand it for footnotes, but comments? [Hope I'm right about that - I think so, but...]

Alas my VBA ain't perfect - because I haven't had time to productionise it - otherwise I'd sell it as an add in... along with outlining for tables similar to the way Excel does it (no, you still can't use the document map to navigate within tables. But that's another topic.)

OK - I can send them the URL now!