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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. Yippee.

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 upgrade.

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 looks.

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.

Other articles by Shirley Kawa-Jump :

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