Thursday, November 26, 2009

XR #67: Pain In Ass

It was difficult but I finally got the latest edition of my zine published. Once again, the CTS (computer time suck) factor.

With my budget I can't afford to buy Microsoft Word. Also, I have tried the latest version of MS Word, 2007, and it's an overcomplicated piece of shit. Too many options, too many chances to screw up or find yourself in a dead-end.

I tried three freebie wordprocessing programs: Abiword, Jarte, and OpenOffice Writer. What I want in a wordprocessing program is capability with MS Word, the ability to save in the .doc format. I would format a file with a text box in Abiword, save it as a .doc but when I opened it later, the text box was was all fucked up. I won't bore you with the problems I had with Jarte.

By default I ended up with OpenOffice Writer but that also has its quirks with .doc compatibility when it comes to frames/text boxes. Take a MS Word document with text boxes and when you open it up with Writer, enjoy the jumble.

And then there's the learning curve, trying to find a command within a particular program. One program hides it here, the other over there, or you don't find it anywhere. Time is sucked away by compatibility problems and the lack of standardization. Imagine cars made by different manufactuers and each company places the gas pedal in a different location, anywhere it wants – including the steering wheel. You want to speed up, your foot keeps pressing the floor, but you're supposed to be using that lever on the steering column. And as for the brake...

Anyway, I think I've found a decent trade-off with OpenOffice Writer. On the plus side it does an OK job of converting a file into a PDF format from the ODT (open desk text) format. (I have a scanner that is supposed to convert hardcopy into PDF but the files come out too dark.) On the negative side, converting ODT to .doc sucks: headers with issue and page numbers disappear.

Over at (AKA I just uploaded the PDF file for XR #67 if you want to read my stuff in a zine format. Unless I hear any complaints, I won't be uploading any more issues in MS Word format. I've decided to try to simplify my efforts, concentrating on a few projects, using only a narrow choice of programs.

That should mean more time for writing. And more time to write about something besides my CTS problems.


X. Dell said...

You might want to get an older version of MSWord. You can find them just about anywhere online (check out this at Amazon.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

ThanX for the link. I do have Word 2000 on my old desktop computer but so far I can't install it on my new notebook.

My problem is - and I should've mentioned it in my rant - is that I try to learn how to use an unfamiliar program during a project instead of just screwing around with it, trying it out, before tackling a job.

With the last issue of my zine out of my way, printed and mailed, I've taken some time to familiarize myself with OpenOffice Writer and also the free version of Jarte. Jarte is easy to use - it's a souped up version of Wordpad with wordprocessing features like frame insertion, spellcheck, headers, etc.

But OOW wins out over it because unlike the free version of Jarte it can convert a document into PDF.

Like I mentioned in my post, I'm going to have to keep things simple. What was giving a headache was trying to have a fancy masthead like I did with Word with three different overlapping frames. So now I've simplified the masthead.

Also, I was trying to insert a frame/table for a separate article and didn't know how to do it with OOW. Now I do.

I just have to accept compatibilty issues. And if things turn out to be a real problem next issue, I'll just print out the text minus the fancy images and graphics. That works for Flying Saucer Digest by Rick and Carol Hilberg.

ThanX again for your help. I'll keep the option of getting another copy of Word 2000 in mind.