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Productivity and Word XP? Not for This Writer
by Shirley Kawa-Jump
The ads whispered to me, promising the
advantages every writer dreams of: increased productivity, ease of working,
advanced research capabilities. I bought into it all, believing Bill Gates had
finally created the solution I, as a busy writer, needed: Word XP.
I'd bought a new computer and ordered not only
Windows 2000, but also the entire Office XP package, figuring I might as well
get the whole enchilada. Okay, I admit it. I'm a software junkie. I upgrade
annually, seeking that perfect fix that actually works with the bells and
whistles it promises.
Word XP was not it. Productivity? I'm still
waiting for that. Actually, I'm still waiting to talk to a human who can make my
printer work with Word and my Zip drive realize it's a part of the computer. In
the five days since I installed Office XP and Win2000, I've spent half my waking
hours on the phone with technical support, and am now a test bunny for Microsoft
because of the unique set of glitches I came across.
This is anti-productivity.
It started with the printer. My HP G85xi is not
compatible with the latest Microsoft software. It required editing of the BIOS
file, a few tweaks to the registry and a sacrifice of my first-born to the
computer gods before I could get it to print.
On top of that annoyance, one of my favorite
time-savers in Word--the ability to right-click on a document name and print
without opening it--doesn't work anymore. I get some message about that shortcut
no longer being available. When I asked technical support about it, the
highly-educated person on the other end of the phone said, "Gee, I don't know.
It doesn't work for me either."
That first day with Word XP was a nightmare. I
couldn't get the field codes to disappear, kept getting into arguments with the
more-persistent Paperclip Pal that came with the program, and spent a frustrated
hour trying to figure out how to accept changes in a document. In the meantime,
every program I tried to load brought up the HP installation screen, a glitch
that has stumped Microsoft and HP, resulting in my exalted guinea pig status.
Translation: I get to spend extra time on the phone with technical support.
I got nothing written that first day. I did,
however, spend four hours on the phone, making new friends with people who
couldn't help me. The second day, after performing a few uninstall and reinstall
calisthenics, I was ready to get to work.
I quickly realized that Word XP was designed to
make *other* people productive. The Seattle geeks apparently never asked, nor
talked to, a single writer before designing the software. Sure, there are some
cool new options like the Smart Tags and the Office Clipboard (which saved hours
of time in creating the glossary for my book because it allowed me to copy 24
items at a time). But, they also made some frustrating changes that I'm
convinced are part of a conspiracy to keep stringing me along until the next
Want to know what line you're on in a document,
so you can place your chapter headings in the right place? Only possible in
print layout view now, my least favorite way of looking at a document. In fact,
the only way to know how many pages you've written or whether the bolding
actually took, is to look at everything in print layout view. Normal view is for
people who want the least amount of information about how their piece actually
If you work for Microsoft, listen up. Writers
are the biggest consumers of word processing software, so if you're smart,
you'll start accommodating them. Make the template folders organizable so
writing templates can go in one folder, personal templates in another. That way,
the general template folder can't hold all the custom ones hostage in the main
category. Make Word Count an automatic thing that keeps a running tally at the
top of the screen, and give the Office Assistant a pair of pom-poms so he can
cheer me as I approach the article finish line. Also, make it possible to view
earlier drafts so I can laugh at my first attempts, or recover that great line I
accidentally deleted yesterday.
Alas, no one at Microsoft asked me what my
vision of productivity is. They just developed their own and expected the world
to adapt. By the end of my first week with XP, I finally figured out what the
ads meant when they promised more work out of Word: the frustrating hours spent
learning the program and making it cooperate with other software keeps plenty of
people productive at Microsoft. Hey, at least someone is getting some work done.
© Copyright 2001, Shirley Kawa-Jump
Shirley Kawa-Jump (www.shirleyjump.com), the author of How to Publish Your Articles: A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publication Say Yes, wrote her first published article at the age of eleven and was hired as a freelance reporter for a weekly newspaper at the age of twelve. In the ensuing years, she has written more than 2500 articles that have been published in national and local magazines and newspapers.
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