Not for the faint of heart…

not for the faint of heart ~ unsuitable for people who are squeamish or for those who are sickened or disturbed by unpleasantness or challenge

I am first in line to say I appreciate the functionality of industry standard products such as Microsoft Office and Adobe’s Photoshop and Acrobat (I especially admire Adobe’s marketing genius in offering Adobe Reader as a “freebie,” thereby establishing their Acrobat product as the leader in the PDF [portable document format] market).

I’ve been working with Microsoft Office since the late 1980s (when the separate programs—Word, Excel, PowerPoint—could be installed on either PC or Macintosh platforms using only one or two floppy disks). With that amount of experience, I’m rarely alarmed when I encounter a new feature (problem?) in these programs because I firmly believe that someone, somewhere has already dealt with the same issue, and I’m only a google search away from a solution.

That said, I’m here to report that the programming for Microsoft Word’s headers, footers, page/section breaks, and page numbering is definitely not for the faint of heart. I spent more time than I care to remember during the mid- to late 1990s searching through aftermarket books at the local bookstore looking for clues on how to work with these Word features. It turned out to be time well spent because I was able to solve most of the work-related header and footer challenges I faced at the time, and I’ve been able to employ those hard-won skills many times since then. However, some fifteen or so years later, I am sorry to say that while Word’s overall interface has improved, it is still way too difficult to accomplish advanced header, footer, and page numbering tasks.

A case in point: I’ve been working lately on a couple of technical reports that require a separate numbering scheme for appendix pages (i.e., Appendix A-1, B-1, etc.) compared to the standard 1, 2, 3… numbering for the main part of the document. An additional complication is the client’s insistence that page numbers for landscape-oriented pages need to be set in a way that they print on the same edge and orientation as regular portrait-oriented pages. The last requirement is that the appendix numbering scheme has to be compatible with Word’s auto-updating table of contents feature.

It’s taken a week of on again, off again internet searching and lots of trial and error, but I’m happy to report I finally figured it out! It’s a way-too-complicated, multi-step process that produces a couple of extraneous commands and characters, and the table of contents results require additional manipulation before they are ready for publication, but the end product is still easier to deal with than trying to accomplish the same thing manually. And, though I am thrilled to know how to do this within the constraints of the current programming, I do think Microsoft should invest sufficient R&D funding in this feature set to make it an easier and more intuitive process.

In closing, I will add an additional “n” phrase to this week’s post: never give up, especially with software because there is almost certainly a solution—though, as in this case, it might take an extraordinary amount of persistence to find it!
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Posted for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday study of the letter “N.” For Round 5 of this long-running meme, I am focusing on colloquialisms and idioms—words and phrases that are unique to a region or have meanings that aren’t necessarily discernible from the combined meanings of the individual words. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s exploration of American English as much as I have.

14 thoughts on “Not for the faint of heart…

  1. Oh girl! You said exactly what I’ve been thinking lately…

    …in a much nice way than I could!

    I am so frustrated by all these changes.

    Honestly, I feel nimble minded sometimes (sorry…trying for a “N” word there) trying to handle all these quirks!

    Thanks for voicing my frustrations for me!

    Be strong.


  2. I break out in a cold sweat whenever a message comes in from our IT fellow at work regarding ‘updates’ and ‘improvements’. I know that it means a few days of frustration and a steep learning curve for me!

  3. Oh, I feel your pain. I used Word professionally for over 20 years and had a love-hate relationship with it the whole time because of situations like yours. For me, the latest “improvements” have ruined it altogether. That “ribbon” interface requires a half-dozen steps to perform functions that I used to do with a single click on my customized toolbar. It’s a pain in the…well, never mind. Now that I’m retired, I can retreat into my own little retro world at home and stick happily with my 2003 version! 🙂

  4. It’s so funny, I was going to post a rant last week about the stupid bugs with Excel. I’ve been having non-stop problems with that program. It seems when they get one bug ironed out, there are 4 more to replace it! AGH! I would think a mature program like Excel would be bug-free at this point. Not for the faint of heart indeed!

  5. I guess everyone who deals (and who doesn’t these days?!) in some way with computers runs into software related problems at one time. I am happy for you that you resolved yours in such an elegant way and I agree: Never give up!

  6. I am in awe at those who can zip/zoom/zag around the workings of the computer. I have mastered the basics and can get my posts onto my blogs. I concede defeat when it comes to anything more complicated! In my case it would be ‘N is for Not me!’

  7. Wanda. thank the stars above your my good friend. When I have a page numbering problem. which I will, (on some of my longer blogs) I am coming straight to you to fix and or resolve. This is a great post, — Bill

  8. I know exactly what you are talking about and have run into that very same issue. I didn’t do the research like you did though, I made separate files and managed it that way. It was more of a time issue for me, because it was for a school project and was very limited on time. I have been using Office since 1995 and have found a few issues that bother me, but I always seem to find a way around them. You are right though, after all these years, you would figure that MS might find an easier way.

  9. Sometimes it seems that you practically need a computer science degree to work with MS Office products. Powerful but not for the faint of heart, as you said!

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