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Why Word hates you

Now I know why sometimes Word hates me:

"So, we had a problem, and it had a deceptively simple solution. This is exactly the kind of problem Word’s Auto Formatter was designed to solve. The fancy name for Word’s Auto Formatter is a “rule-based inference engine,” which really means that it’s like pattern matching on steroids. It takes into consideration the current state of the document, and interprets various keystroke input sequences in terms of a set of rules. It’s designed to work very fast, so that users don’t notice any effect on typing performance...."

"To summarize these rules, if the insertion point is:

1.      In an empty paragraph--always inserts a tab character;

2.      In the middle of a non-empty paragraph--always indents the whole paragraph; and

3.      In the first line of a paragraph:

3.1.  If there are no tab stops set, then indents the first line of the paragraph; or

3.2.  If there is a tab stop set, then inserts a tab character.... "

I suggest you read the whole post for the full set of gory details..

This whole auto formatter thing is especially problematic when one starts to use Hebrew and English mixed together (am I'm sure most Hebrew writers can attest to). It's sometimes as if Word does everything in its power to keep me form doing what I *want* to my text.

The book "The design of everyday things" touches this point nicely by distinguishing hardware interfaces from software interfaces. In hardware, each thing does one thing, predictably. You pull a door knob. it opens. You press something, it is pressed. In software, depending on context, each thing can do many other things, which is why it's so confusing. Essentially, that's the main problem Word (and any other advanced editor's users) are struggling with - the multitude of facets each action might have on the document in editing. Personally, I'd like Tab to always be "Tab" and nothing else.

Funnily enough, there's a solution for that as well. In order for 'Tab" to always be "Tab", you need to press "Ctrl+Tab".  Now *that's* design ;) I know the folks on the Word team are doing a great job, always thinking of us, customers. But really, a good design should be simple, and the interface should be negligible. You should "know" what’s going to happen when you do something, intuitively. This sort of perplexing design can occur in many other places as well. For example, how many times have you seen stereo closets, where you have to "push" on the top corner of the glass door in order for it to be opened *outwards*? That's bad usability design (although the casing might be beautiful). For the same reasons people still have problems programming their VCRs, and don't even get me *started* on washing machines! You'd think after 20-30 years, this product would actually be understandable to an inexperienced machine-washer, but no. It's like reading cryptic hieroglyphs, with all sorts of international standard symbols plastered on various knobs. The ultimate in non-usability.

(Noticed how this turned out to be a simple rant-post?)


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