The Pleasures of the Occasional Tiny Improvement

I use and like Microsoft Word (now 2016). A lot of online commentary indicates that that makes me crazy, dumb, or a replicant.

Did Word throw you again?

Did Word throw you again?

I've mentioned this before, but when devotees of Scrivener (among which I number myself, to be clear) talk about it, they say how much better it is than Word. Way better. Immensely better.

But they never actually get around to saying what makes it better, and in what way Word falls short. Now, it's true, a lot of Word's biggest advantages are for corporate work, like organizing documents, organizing and managing versions and revisions, and incorporating spreadsheets and data, so fiction writers may not gain as much benefit.

The Parable of Phaethon

Now that I mention it, most people in the corporate world have no idea of how to use Word either. All MS Office programs are insanely powerful, and most of us, like Phaethon attempting to drive the chariot of Helios, find ourselves overmastered by them. I provide my clients with guides on how to most effectively provide me with comments and edits so I can ensure an accurate document, and they almost never do anything of the sort, leaving me to do a document compare to figure out who wants what, and often never figuring it out. I don't charge by the hour, so that might be part of it. Why should they care how much longer it takes me?

And sometimes you look at the Styles in a document and see dozens of them, with each heading slightly different in some weird way, so the styles are not useful for organization. Currently Scrivener does not do styles in that sense, and I'm hoping Scrivener 3 for Windows will have some sort of capability for it. But then, even OneNote, a Microsoft product, does not do styles, so don't get me started on that.

And, for heaven's sake, kids, at least learn to use paragraph styles, so that each paragraph is indented properly without having Tabs, or at least tab stops, have their uses, but doing brute formatting isn't one of them. Converting to electronic formats is a nightmare, with Calibre or Jutoh having heartburn and showering error messages all over yours screen.

But that's not actually what I started writing about.

Sometimes smart quotes get even smarter

Recently, Word had an update, and a pet peeve of mine vanished, giving me a feeling of slight but distinct joy. I do write a lot of fiction, and one thing I do is sometimes end dialog with an em dash (the long one), showing that the speaker has been interrupted without completing their sentence.

For years, Word would put an opening quotation mark at the end after the dash, not a closing quotation mark. It drove me nuts. I finally developed a reflex where, if I wanted to end with a dash then close quote I would type the dash (two hyphens, which Word, if set that way, will covert to an em dash), then a letter, then a space so that the two hyphens turned into an em dash, then the close quote. Then I would delete the letter and the space. It got to be pretty reflexive.

But after the update Word now seems to know to put the right quote in.

Yes, this is exactly as interesting as most writers turn out to be.

What minor improvements have recently made your life a tiny bit better?

A lot of people are working on these things behind the scenes, and it is worth noting their efforts.