Feature Request

Let’s come out and say it: Developers have gratified users’ fascination with using different typefaces, but have not made it easy to control the results. A vigilant designer can deploy styles carefully so as to assure that changes can go forward without typographic chaos, but users who don’t live and breathe page design specifications will almost always cross the wires somewhere. It’s next best thing to impossible to control for absent typefaces, for mis-assembled type families, for clashing style specifications, for hand-done formatting in place of style-driven formatting. There are very many more ways to screw up a long manuscript than there are of controlling a manuscript suitably.
So here’s a feature request: Next-gen word processors should offer the possibility of a style-locked document mode, where one and only one type family functions for body copy. If you want to change typeface, it changes for the whole schmeer, that’s it. Because really, most projects shouldn’t have more than one typeface, especially if you don’t know for sure how to control the ones you’re adding or deleting.
‘But what about non-Roman characters?’ I hear you cry. (I’m listening carefully — that’s how I can hear you from Glasgow.) Answer one is that an increasing number of typefaces already incorporate non-Roman type, so for certain typefaces it’s becoming a non-problem. Answer two, though, is that instead of using a ‘font’ menu to choose typeface and size, the menu bar offers a style menu that includes ‘Greek’ or ‘Hittite’ (which would then be locked to the specs of the Body style).
This approach is a best-practice approach already, I know. But it’s so wildly counterintuitive, if not utterly unknown, to many users that it would be well worth formalising in the application software. Of course, then people would devise ways to defeat the locked-down styles. Maybe the feature request should stipulate a one-typeface word processor with no features whatsoever except limited tabs (that always apply for the whole document) and footnoting. There must be some way to make it possible for users to produce final copy that isn’t a tossed salad of type, styles, and other formatting specs. There must be.

5 thoughts on “Feature Request

  1. A word processor that simply processes words, what a novel idea 😉

    Seriously one where the only formatting was through paragraph styles, plus a few extras like emphasis and which used a markup like HTML so people could not (easily) adjust positioning using spaces… Wow, that would make editing a breeze, focused on content not on undoing all someone’s hard work to make it look like THEY wanted it to…

  2. Ummm, LaTeX does that. And it allows you to make exceptions for non-standard characters (there’s even plugins for East Asian characters). It’s one of the reasons why I use it. Also, you can set it to use one typeface for titles and another for body text.

  3. Yeah, Christopher, I really oughta get around to kicking the tires on LaTeX someday. Point taken.
    Later: This is why I’ve never gotten far with LaTeX. As soon as it’s installed, as I start getting acquainted by following the directions in the MacTeX installation, I start getting unintelligible error messages. I could devote time to figuring them out and making LaTeX work — or I could get on with my other work. So far, I vote for the latter; the Uni doesn’t give bonus points for having learned how to tame an unruly application.

  4. Have you tried easier-to-install packages such as BasicTeX? I’m not sure why the installation would be failing since the Mac platform has become very popular for TeX users… This is one reason why I like using a package management system like Debian’s: I can just type `aptitude install texlive` and it’ll do everything for the lazy me.

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