Strong Response, Weak Software

I think I remember with whom I was chatting the other day — I think I remember, but I won’t guess for the record — but one of my friends was trying to wrestle some appropriately-paginated footnotes out of Microsoft Word. I remember thinking, years and years ago, that I couldn’t believe that MSFT couldn’t make Word perform this simple task effectively; over the years, I’ve seen countless student papers and journal submissions whose footnotes were offset by a page in a way characteristic of Word. If my friend’s colorfully-expressed testimony provides reliable evidence, Microsoft still ships an expensive word processor that misplaces footnotes.

I don’t use Word, so I can’t speak from experience as a user, but as a reader and editor, I find that absolutely infuriating. There may well be a workaround, but users shouldn’’t have to figure that out. Word processors exist in order (among their very most brain-dead basic tasks) to place footnotes at the bottom of the page to which the notes pertain. If Microsoft can’t make the global standard word processor perform that function adequately, they should stop development on every other feature until they get that right.

10 thoughts on “Strong Response, Weak Software

  1. Amen! It is shamefull to sell such functionally-challenged-ware as a finished product, they ought to label it MS Word 99 Beta.

  2. I really hate to be the one to defend Microsoft, but they have fixed this bug. It has been repaired since 2001 for Mac, and since Office XP for PCs. See here for an explanation. Or, here if you don’t trust MSFT internal documentation.

    The problem I’ve had recently is in the interaction between my non-standard word processor and my bibliographic software. Sadly, when I caved and went with Word and Endnote, my thesis formatted perfectly. Sadly, that is, from the standpoint of despising MSFT. From the standpoint of doing the job, it’s the only thing that worked. I still love the non-mega software, but sometimes the bigger companies can do the job better than the smaller providers.

  3. I fully accept the premise that this bug has been fixed — I just seem to be running into a regular stream of people who haven’t upgraded yet.

    And is 2001 an adequate response time for fixing a bug such as this?

    That being said, a bug that no longer exists shouldn’t prevent one from using a company’s software. An attitude that still exists, maybe, but not a bug that no longer exists.

  4. One of the chief differences between MS Office 2000 and MS Office XP or 2003 is this:

    You can make and install (illegal) copies of MS Office 2000.

    That is one of the reasons, I think, that so many are still Office (and Word) 2000 users – despite XP and 2003 being out for a while.

    I also am a big open source fan. I can comment on a few Linus distros, love, Firefox, Thunderbird, GAIM, and so on. But yes Virginia I have MS Office 2003 on my machines. Because they work. And there is not quite yet a good open source replacement for Outlook.

  5. yeah, having similar issues with MS Office; EVERY TIME my wife had a paper due at school it was inevitably both of us behind her computer (MAC OSX) trying to figure out formatting for 1 – footnotes, 2 – file/picture inserts (shes an art teacher now) and 3 – how to turn off the damn ‘office assistant’ for good.

    Trouble is, I dont know of any other software that is better than MS Word/Excel – Any suggestions?

  6. This is as good a place as any to share a Microsoft joke I heard lately:

    Microsoft has some good news and some bad news. The good news is that they have finally shipped a product that doesn’t suck.

    The bad news is that it is a vacuum cleaner.

  7. Okay– here it is {insert angelic singing here}: 1. Select the text in your document (Ctrl+A being the fastest way)
    2. Go to Format|Paragraph…
    3. This will open a menu box. Go to the Line Spacing drop-down box and select “exactly”.
    4. In the next box put in your spacing. If you are using a 12pt font and want it single spaced, put 12 in the box; for double spaced, 24.

    Voila! Footnote problem fixed. [No clue *why* it works, but it does.]

  8. I have ME. Have always used Word… never had that particular trouble.


    Um, yeah, so I really have no idea what you are talking about. I trust that the bug is real, but I have never experienced the bugginess.

  9. I’d love to make a transition to OOo. Except. There is totally insufficient bibliographic support. The OOo bib unit is primitive, can’t support different formatting styles, can’t access online database catalogs, etc., etc. And the integration with commercial products like Endnote is kludgy, at beast (requiring re-saving of files in RTF format, and so forth).

    I wanted to become a committed OOo user, but the lack of this facility means it’s just not possible, if you’re an academic. And I joined the OOo bibliographic project, but it looks like it will still be 12 to 18 months before there’s something workable in the program.

    (And I’m not gonna go the laTeX route. Too high a learning curve. I’m an organized person, and I know how to use word with outline styles and master documents and such, which eliminates many of the reasons that LaTeX evangelists push for switching over to that markup system.)

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