Patterico's Pontifications


I Hate Microsoft Word

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:07 am

Howard Bashman wryly notes:

Word processing programs that think they know best: Has section 3553 of Title 18, United States Code, been copyrighted, or is the Second Circuit in this opinion issued today attempting to cite to subsection “c” of that provision, and some word processing program has turned the cite into a copyright symbol, “©”?

Update: Of course, the Second Circuit has corrected this issue in the copy of the opinion now available from that court’s web site. The opinion as originally posted can instead be accessed here.

(Go to Howard’s post for the relevant links.)

I had this problem recently while writing a sentencing memo, and attempting to cite to subdivision (c) of a statute providing an extra penalty for discharge of a firearm. I confess that I ended up just citing to it without the parentheses, because I needed to get the document out the door and I had a million other things on my desk. At my civil law firm, this never would have been acceptable — but here, I knew it wouldn’t change the sentence imposed.

So: do any of you know how to get around this problem in the infuriating Microsoft Word program that so many of us are stuck with nowadays?

51 Responses to “I Hate Microsoft Word”

  1. My only solution is the free and more than adequate for all my WordProcessing needs,

    So, no, that’s not helpful to you, but I wanted to use the opportunity for a plug for anyone who has small business/personal word processing needs and doesn’t want to pay huge licensing fees for a top quality piece of office software that is being continually developed and is easy and fun to use.

    It’s a wiz with tables too — better than Word®, probably because of its open XML architecture.

    What does this mean? A great word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software (similar to, but not as many ready made templates as PowerPoint®), plus more.

    The project is an open source project developed in conjunction with Sun Microsystems® and is also being used in more and more corporate and government environments.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  2. Hit undo (Ctrl+Z) as soon as it turns “(c)” into “©” and it’ll undo the change and let you continue on.

    Timothy Watson (e95e99)

  3. Now that’s what I think the man was looking for!

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  4. Addendum: Go to Tools->AutoCorrect Options and in the “Replace text as you type” section check the “(c) ©” part and hit Delete.

    Timothy Watson (e95e99)

  5. Wouldn’t WordPad do the trick?
    You might also look into AbiWord.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  6. I always disable the autocorrect (see comment #4). It drives me nuts. But I have to do it every. single. day. on my company’s system. Grrrr! Maybe you’ll be luckier, Patterico, and have an office system that doesn’t override your customization from day to day.

    Not Rhetorical (9e7e71)

  7. Booting up from an image, as your company’s system does, Not Rhetorical, is definitely more secure and prevents morons from screwing up the software installations… and it’s also a bitch!

    I like to customize.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  8. simply hit the backspace key.

    EFB (e0db56)

  9. Why am I not surprised that Fikes suggests WordPad!


    Hoystory (b5e448)

  10. Patterico:

    I’m surprised nobody has suggested the easiest and most obvious solution: Stop referring to subsection (c) of any statute in all future briefs.

    Or (r), for that matter, assuming the legislators blathered on long enough to have an (r).

    I swear, if I weren’t here to think of these things for y’all…


    Dafydd ab Hugh (db2ea4)

  11. Patterico:

    “There are no solutions; only trade-offs.”


    Dafydd ab Hugh (db2ea4)

  12. WordPerfect.

    tired (ef0bcc)

  13. type in (x) or any other letter than c – then go back and correct to the c.

    Joe - Dallas (b64bb5)

  14. The only editor you should ever need:

    Simple, efficient, and gets the job done.

    If you need a bit more, I would go with Christoph’s suggestion of Open Office. I’ve been using it for a few years now and it provides me with everything I need in an Office program.

    Evilned (e14b75)

  15. I went into my Word program, clicked on Help, typed in copyright, and the instructions on how to stop (c) being converted to © is right there.

    tired (ef0bcc)

  16. Actually, a better way than deleting the © entry is to change it so (c auto-corrects to ©.

    tired (ef0bcc)

  17. Backspace cures the problem.

    wwren (6bea50)

  18. I taught Microsoft Word for 12 years. There are two choices, buy any good word processing software, learn it inside and out and never upgrade and never modify your software or hardware. In other words, treat your computer like a typewriter. The other option is to spend some time with every upgrade learning what the wizards have stuffed into the new program. It takes a little work but they occasionally add some great features. Auto Correct can be programed so that short codes can be be added to fill in long names and titles. You can, for example, type in BDS and the machine can automatically fill in Bush Derangement Syndrome, thus multiplying your typing speed. Seriously, accomplished users can reach effective speeds of 500 words per minute by using such features. In the meantime, you have done the right thing, ask someone who knows, and get on with the law stuff. Learn one new feature a day and before long you will know the software better than the teacher.

    tyree (f31725)

  19. Why am I not surprised that Fikes suggests WordPad!

    Hi Matt,
    I prefer minimalism over needless complexity, that’s why. Who uses even half the features in Microsoft bloated Word?

    I’m typing this reply on an old Win 98 machine that does everything I need, and is faster booting up than a much newer machine at work that runs Win XP. I’ve got other old PCs at home running Debian, Xandros and Ubuntu. And as for Vista . . . I won’t go there.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  20. Turn off all the autocorrect, spelling and grammar check, etc etc stuff under Tools Options. That should do it. I like, but still use MS Word most of the time.

    gp (72be5d)

  21. I knew the USA was doomed when it went for Word instead of WordPerfect.

    Intentional lemming-like self Luddization. Is that a word? The spell checker in my Firefox says no, but it oughta be.

    Anyway, Bill Gates must be a hypnotist.

    BlacquesJacquesShellacques (324683)

  22. Pat, I have a suggestion for you.

    In addition to my computer, I have in my home office a refurbished IBM Selectric. Anything that most people would, say, type for printing on the computer…I type on the Selectric.

    There are multiple reasons for this, but the main one is that I spent my early adulthood working for my father as his receptionist. He had an old, black Selectric that we used for filling out forms (this was before you could print forms on a PC printer). He was an accountant, so I spent a large part of my days in the summer typing 1040’s and 1120’s. I also spent a good amount of time typing financial statements, one of the reasons that I can use the numbers above the letters as fast of faster than the keypad.

    But, of course, I also had to work on audits, with adding machines, so I can ten-key quickly as well. Later, when I went to college and had to write term papers (this being 1990 or so before most students had home computers), I wrote most of my papers on a used Selectric (IMO the greatest typewriter ever devised…the feedback was perfect, you could never go faster than the machine, and the ribbon kept up with you as well). And there were ways to do things like superscript (for the TM thingy) or perfectly center lines (there’s actually a lever that allows you to go back a half-space but you have to hold it down while you type the letter).

    In short, I am the master of that machine, and I have tried to use Word and other word processor programs, but there is nothing they can do that I cannot do faster on an old fashioned electric typewriter.

    And, while I could never duplicate the RatherGate memos, I could get you pretty damn close, if I had the right font cartridge.

    …and yep, I still use Courier font for emails and just about everything else.

    So…long story made short, Pat, I know you’re old enough to probably have an old typewriter laying around. Use it. Flex those muscles. Hell, I can put out 65 wpm on mine, and I can only crank the high ’40’s on my PC.

    …but then again, you can’t really play Half-Life on a Selectric. There’s a place for everything. :)

    otcconan (0bb609)

  23. oh don’t worry, even if the statute were copyrighted, you’d be allowed to cite it once in awhile as “fair use”.

    assistant devil's advocate (fd8ece)

  24. Ugh. It just reminds me why I originally went Microsoft-free 12 or so years ago*. OO works fine, but I only ever use that when I need to print out something to sign. I spend most of my time in Vim, the worthy successor to the One True Text Editor. When formatting is required, I use InDesign. (I realize that’s probably overkill for many, but I used to do magazine production, and lived in Quark. And really, why use a crappy tool like Word when you can have a real layout tool? I don’t drive a Honda, either.)

    Their software just keeps moving in the direction of having a Baptist preacher on your shoulder at a party. “I know you really didn’t mean to do that. Here’s what you want to do.”

    * OK, I lie, a little. I have a copy of XP that runs under VMWare that I use for software testing. Being a software developer, I can’t really get around that.

    fishbane (fbe4d4)

  25. Perhaps you can change your auto-correct copyright symbol to correct “(cc)” to the ©. That way you have easy access to the ©, and you can refer to “(c)” w/o getting the ©.

    Just my two ¢.

    steve miller (cd7cac)

  26. If you don’t “register” Word or Excel after opening a new laptop, do Redmond agents appear at your door?

    steve (976cda)

  27. I think that Watson’s comments are most helpful.

    Morgan (70241a)

  28. Attorneys do not use their computers to type but to write. It’s a bit different when you’re job requires you to compose and compile complex documents, which require numerous edits and rewrites, complete with tables of contents and authorities and the ability to save and distribute copies quickly and easily.

    tired (ef0bcc)

  29. Wow, what a bunch of pessimists. Can’t anyone see the glass half full here?

    If you learn the auto-correct features in Word as you should, you can have a lot of fun. I personally enjoy sneaking into my co-workers office and quickly setting the auto-correct so that every time he types his own name it gets misspelled or changed to something else. I especially like the really subtle ones, substituting a number ‘1’ for the letter ‘l’ in a common word – or changing words like “church” to “chruch”.

    Small minds are easily amused. Sounds like a lot of you larger minds could use some entertainment. Wish I worked in the next cubicle! Ha!

    don (68241f)

  30. For word 2003 try right click on the © , then select the option “stop automatically correcting (c)”
    Works best for me.

    Charlie Roy (178dde)

  31. The “backspace” suggestion works perfectly well. Just type the sub-c citation, then immediately backspace. That gives you a proper (c), but be careful: if the statute in question was copywrited, your brief or motion may run afoul of intellectual property laws if you backspace.

    Steve Smith (72a7af)

  32. Their software just keeps moving in the direction of having a Baptist preacher on your shoulder at a party. “I know you really didn’t mean to do that. Here’s what you want to do.”

    That is Bill Gates’ belief in intelligent, predictive, controlling software in action. I’d rather have a Baptist preacher on my shoulder than Clippy, now mercifully defunct. But his legacy lingers on.

    Anyone remember Microsoft Bob?

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  33. Ahhh, Microsoft Bob. I knew him well, Yoric.

    Bill M (55e5bb)

  34. The single most annoying feature of Word is the grammar checker. The people who wrote it must be ESL types. Among other things, it cannot correctly match the plural subject with the correct form of the verb if an adjective intervenes. The nuns taught that in fourth grade.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  35. MS’s prob – shared by other s/w co’s – is that eventually all s/w products top out. They get good enough and we don’t want anything more, but the Sorceror’s Apprentice must do something, and so we get version after redundant version with built-in nannies and accompanying bloat. When you’re running low on good ideas all you can work on are the lesser ones.

    Meanwhile, the open source equivs gradually catch up. Why buy a fancy database, for ex, when the free ones are so good now? Why buy Word when the free alternatives do everything you already need and don’t report your activities back to DRM Bill while they’re at it?

    Vista’s a good example. If anyone else had released it, it wouldda bombed as badly as “Redacted” did. Even with MS-Inertia behind it, it’s being eschewed wherever possible. There’s just not enough reason for most people to wanna switch.

    What bugs me is that it’s hard to buy a new machine these days that doesn’t come pre-bundled with Windows. I’d much rather they unbundle it and give me back the retail price of Windows as a discount, rather than insist that I have to buy it along with the hardware, which is pretty much the norm in most stores.


    ras (fc54bb)

  36. I knew the USA was doomed when it went for Word instead of WordPerfect

    Nah, all the people who buggered Word would have buggered WP instead and you’d just have the same problem.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  37. The problem isn’t the software, it’s the fact that every user has different needs and the system (software, group policies, etc) conspire to require one-size-fits-all.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  38. What bugs me is that it’s hard to buy a new machine these days that doesn’t come pre-bundled with Windows.

    Tell me about it. I had to go out and buy a laptop fast and ended up with Vista. It wouldn’t be so bad it they hadn’t lied and told me my two excellent printers would work under Vista. They do but the quality of printing sucks. I went around and around as MS, HP, and Epson finger pointed. My scanner also won’t work. And WP has lost a lot of functionality. I could have upgraded WP but at the time it was not working with Vista, either.

    The computer was relatively cheap. However, with all the new peripheral hardware and programs — not so much.

    tired (ef0bcc)

  39. Any problem you have with Word is easily solved by typing your question into Google. That’s the best way to handle computer problems that don’t keep you off the internet.

    Openoffice is not really any better, by the way. In fact, my copy of Open Office autocorrects badly sometimes, just like Word does. It’s a pretty good ripoff of MS Office, if you don’t want to pay for Microsoft’s expensive program and don’t need the best, but Office Microsoft’s core and best program, and there really is nothing out there as good as Word and Excel.

    Jem (9e390b)

  40. Jem’s point about using Google is good for a lot of software, such as Excel. Google knows more about how Excel works than does Excel.

    I didn’t know how to transpose rows and column in Excel. Its “help” feature was useless. Google gave me the answer in a minute.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  41. My low tech solution is to type “(c )” or “( c)” – making sure to leave a space between the parentheses and the letter “c.” After I type at least one more character, I go back and correct it by removing the space.

    This is similar to EFB’s #8 suggestion to use the backspace key except I usually forget to hit backspace before hitting the spacebar, and backspace only works if you haven’t typed any more characters or spaces after you type the close parenthesis. For some reason I can remember to leave a space but I forget to hit backspace.

    DRJ (517d26)

  42. Don’t complain too much. If it weren’t for that feature in Word, we’d wouldn’t have had the pleasure of seeing superscript “th” in the Rathergate forgeries!

    Steven Den Beste (99cfa1)

  43. Ah, excellent point Steven!

    SPQR (26be8b)

  44. I have to say that I too use OpenOffice for most of my wordprocessing these days.

    I especially like it for the following reason, it forces me not to be lazy and email a Word document to opposing counsel. One of my paranoid practices is that if documents are exchanged by email between myself and opposing counsel – or in many cases with clients – my rule to my staff is that no word processing documents go out. Only documents converted to a presentation format like PDF.

    If I edit in Open Office, I’m confident that it won’t go out accidentally. Interestingly, I have one technology client that only accepts ODF format documents – but hey, that’s Boulder for you.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  45. Let me put it a vote for OpenOffice’s word processor. As of v2.0.3, I think it has all the features I need. The spreadsheet, though, has a charting module even worse than Excel’s, and Excel’s isn’t very good.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (e22df4)

  46. #14 and #24 –

    While Vi(m) is indeed the One True Text Editor, All Praise Be Unto Its Modal Commands, I’d hesitate to recommend it to someone who isn’t at least at the “power user” level. If you enjoy making the computer do things (whether that’s programming or just tweaking it to work “The Right Way”), then Vim might turn out to be a great tool for you. But if you’re the type of person who just wants to use the computer to get work done, and you’ve never wanted to spend the time learning keyboard shortcuts, Vim is not for you.

    Geek or non-geek, though, OpenOffice is a great tool. In addition to the can’t-be-beat price ($0), its open-source license (which grants everyone not just the right to see the source code, but also the right to modify and redistribute it) guarantees that even if Sun Microsystems should decide to give up on the OpenOffice project, the program won’t go away — anyone can pick it up and keep working on it.

    This is a much more important guarantee than most people realize. Remember the early 90’s? Everyone was using WordPerfect. Now WordPerfect is rather hard to find, and it’s a tossup whether you’ll be able to open a WordPerfect document created in the 90’s or not. Even a document created by MS Word 95 might well give you trouble in MS Word 2007. (I’ve heard multiple stories, and seen that sort of thing myself more than once). Will next decade’s Word (or its post-next-gen successor) be able to open today’s Word files? Who knows. But will next decade’s OpenOffice be able to open today’s OpenOffice files? Absolutely — I’d bet my bottom dollar on that one. That’s the result of open-source licenses and open standards.

    Chalk up another recommendation to get off the expensive “upgrade treadmill” of MS Word and switch to OpenOffice.

    (And if anyone else mentioned this, I missed it — but OpenOffice can also read and write MS Word files, so switching to OpenOffice doesn’t mean you’re cut off from receiving files from, and sending files to your MS Word-using colleagues).

    Robin Munn (480a7e)

  47. Vim -> TeX -> Ghostscript -> hardcopy; I’m too lazy to learn new ways to not get things done.

    htom (412a17)

  48. Re #14, #24 and #46 – In the geeky text editing space, I prefer Emacs to VI myself…. It’s much more extensible. Now, granted, extending it in it’s native lisp is a learning curve for most geeks (full-time lisp’ers are rare), but eventually I discovered this module, and have been doing extensions in Perl… which means I can do anything with it, and in my favorite language…

    (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist…)

    Eric E. Coe (662cd3)

  49. WordPress has that same dreadful “feature.”

    Xrlq (c386c7)

  50. i hate windows 2007 at the moment i cant realign text which is a simple function on the previous windows tool bar but this is the most shitest and complicated system ever invented by bill gates. the whole word thing is fucked up for the 2007 version, i hope the next version made does not try to copy another software package as this version is your worst nightmare.

    rosie uk (b0f773)

  51. #46, I’ll tell you that the incompatibility of Word with previous versions of Word is an absolute scenario-from-hell for large corporations with untold thousands of documents. Suppose you’re a drug company with your research in an old version of Word and now you all use Word 2007. What happens if a milligram (m) becomes a microgram (mu) because Word doesn’t handle the font change correctly?

    It’s a tremendous problem for archives.

    steve miller (3c2c90)

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