August 13th, 2005

krazy koati

You make a grown man cry

That's a quick way to spoil my lingering pleasant post-visit mood. As you might guess, the ruin is thanks to Microsoft. I was editing a department document. The document began in Microsoft Word, and the iMac in my office wanted to edit in that, and I foolishly let it, and barely escaped with my life.

The file dialogue boxes are, for some reason, in Chinese. I inherited the Mac, so don't know what the first owner did to get Chinese symbols on the file-open and print boxes. The menus are English. Is there a way to change it? Well, on to the help window ...

The help window has an index and list of questions it thinks you'll want to know. Setting the language is not among them. Ah, but, there's a Search Help text area, which you can ... not type in. I thought I just mis-clicked, but no, I tried several times and can't type in the Help Window Browser. The text goes into the original document. I guess they don't want questions.

On to spelling. I was trying to use British spellings. Word didn't like that. It kept 'fixing' things to American spelling. I'm sure this is a helpful feature when one's in the mood of typing `hte', but when you mean to write `organise' this is just infuriating. To turn this feature off? Or set it to British English? Apparently, nobody has ever wanted to do such a thing before, and I'm sure there are people in Redmond who, hearing of my desire, would cry out, ``The mad fool!''

There's helpful red underlines of misspelled words that somehow slip through; there are also more greyish underlines of randomly chosen phrases. This might be evidence of a built-in and very stupid grammar checker, one which cannot handle sentences that simultaneously contain two prepositional phrases.

On the bright side: I didn't see any creepy peeping paperclips. But Word wanted to use random sound effects. OS X Tiger added some nice sound effects -- a `whoosh' for e-mail going out, a `thump' for files being moved or copied, crinkling paper for emptying the trash bin. What unites these is they are subtle, understated, and mnemonic to the task performed. Word, I think, wanted to show off some cool MP3s.

Add to this the refusal of double-clicking on a word to pick the entire word -- or even necessarily pick the spot the mouse points at -- and random choice of how much will be selected by hitting shift-option-arrow key (which in every other program picks a word at a time) and, really, I want somebody to make the User Interface Division stop using Robert Sheckley short stories as inspiration.

Trivia: The 1,100-ton Trades Increase, commissioned by the English East India Company for the 1610 trade mission, had the greatest tonnage of any pre-steam vessel. Source: Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Giles Milton.

Currently Reading: Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 12 (1950), Isaac Asimov, Martin H Greenberg, Editors. And I've got a new latest date for the survival of the United States (discounting the possible exception of Futurama's Earth government as a United States-derived product). Ironically, Cyril Kornbluth gives the latest date I've seen yet for the US surviving; ``The Little Black Bag'' lets the nation survive in some form to 2450, according to a patent notice.