24 things I learned about MS Word 22:36 on Wednesday

As you — the committed reader of my irregular blog blurbs — probably already know, for the last year I have been co-authoring a book. It will be out next Monday.

With the experience I now have of writing a lengthy document in a word processor, I can share with you 24 things I learnt about Microsoft Word that either didn’t work, automagically fucked up or otherwise were painful and hindered the writing of our book. To be honest, this is just a subset that I gathered at the last minute, but here goes in random order:

  1. Word constantly forgets that I don’t want to see the comment bubbles for formatting changes and the bubbles keep reappearing.
  2. Deleted images appear full size in the comment bubbles and slow down screen redraw enormously. Scrolling down one line can take up to 10 seconds.
  3. If you hold the mouse still over the Accept/Reject buttons of comment bubbles for too long (like, a second), a non-helpful tooltip appears directly underneath the cursor and obstructs clicking the buttons.
  4. Different page sizes mysteriously appeared in our document.
  5. When there are different page sizes inside a document, the “Fit Width” zoom level doesn’t automatically adjust the zoom to actually fit the page to the window.
  6. The tiny print preview display makes opening the Print dialog slow. Like wait-for-minutes slow. You would imagine even a Microsoft developer could squeeze more power out of a dual-core Intel processor. (Yes it’s probably politics rather than developers’ skills I should blame.)
  7. When I select text and highlight it with the marker tool, the text doesn’t stay selected. Selections don’t get deselected when bolding, italicizing or otherwise changing character properties. Why it works differently with highlights is beyond me. I always want to add a comment in addition to highlighting, so this is annoying.
  8. When you accidentally press a link embedded in text, Word freezes up (so what’s new), then opens the Internet Toolbar, then notices the toolbar doesn’t fit and makes room by resizing my document window, then ever so slowly proceeds to open the browser and bring it to front. To clean things up I have to close the browser window, go back to Word, close the Internet Toolbar, and carefully resize the window back to a size of my liking. It doesn’t help the links in my document are not formatted in any special way. Apple Pages at least has a checkbox to toggle off all links in a document.
  9. When entering a comment close to another reviewer’s comment, it might appear that I’m writing under the other reviewer’s name. Word seems to correct this after you blindly click around, but nevertheless it is confusing to say the least.
  10. If Word doesn’t have enough space on the page to display the comments inline, it will open up the Reviewing Pane — and when doing so, close the Document Map or Split screen mode, if either is active.
  11. Speaking of which, selecting Split screen mode also closes the Document Map.
  12. And vice versa.
  13. And you can’t have Reviewing Pane and Split screen mode active at the same time either.
  14. I have a comment, followed by a formatting change. The lines from the bubbles to the position pointers within the text are crossed, for some reason. I want to reject the formatting change, but if I try rejecting it, word removes the comment above it. If I try to remove the comment, Word does what I ask. The only way to get rid of the formatting change and keep the comment is to accept the formatting change, then re-edit and fix the formatting by hand.
  15. When I want to reassign a different keyboard shortcut for “Go To…” menu item, Word allows me to do it… but it doesn’t work. Cmd+G is stuck to the “Go To…” menu command.
  16. Word lost a caption for an image. I checked all the document versions (we have many) from the one that did not yet have the caption, up to the last one sent for review. And after returning from review, the caption was gone.
  17. When I try to print pages 21-30 of a document, using a layout of six pages on one sheet of paper, Word prints out something like 24 pages. How does it end up with this number, I do not know.
  18. When I choose to print a 9 page document using a layout of two pages on one, and press Preview, Word gives me a preview of only six pages. Meanwhile, it starts to print out the three remaining pages without previewing them. Turns out a section break in the document makes this happen. Why it’s only the second section break in the document, not the first, is beyond me.
  19. Trying to print the selected text only (Word gives this option in the Print dialog) consistently crashes Word.


Finally there’s Word’s endless need to repaginate a document. That is, to re-check where page breaks will occur. This repaginating is slow. For a 260 page document, it might go in less than 20 seconds. But more often than not, it might take over 2 minutes. When you get this mandatory coffee pause after every few keystrokes, it gets really, really, really annoying.

  1. Selecting wether to show formatting changes or not causes Word to repaginate the document, even though this cannot affect paging.
  2. Selecting wether to show insertions and deletions also causes Word to repaginate the document, even though this neither will affect the paging of the document.
  3. Choosing the innocent “Keep text only” item from the contextual menu which appears after pasting text… well you guessed it, repaginates the document.
  4. Replacing a word with another and pressing undo — yes, Word has to repaginate, even though there is absolutely no chance of the earlier pages being affected (Word only seems to paginate up to the current page).
  5. And of course, choosing to restart numbering of a list also causes word to repaginate, although this doesn’t change paging either. Well, theoretically it could, if your styles sucked a lot. Now that makes me think wether it’s possible to create styles in Word that don’t suck.

That’s it. Needless to say, I do not recommend Word for anyone writing anything with more than a few pages. Actually, I don’t recommend Word for anyone — I’ll keep it a that.

5 Responses to “24 things I learned about MS Word”

    Links from my other posts:

  1. /personal » Blog Archive » Why we settled with using MS Wrod for our book

  3. *nen Says:

    Now this was a good post. Hilarious, although of course only in a sad way. However, as I’ve recently begun to drag my iBook to the university to work on my thesis – what word processor should I use instead? I’m not that confident Google Docs is really going to work either.

  4. Niko Says:

    I started to write a reply, but decided to blow my answer up to a full blog post. Enjoy. :)

  5. Peter Bowers Says:

    Ran into some of the same issues and some others. Here’s my post on the subject:


  6. G Says:

    MS Word gets suckier all the time. I lost documents because I continued typing during the repagination process. I asked my help desk at work to help resolve the issue of repaginating, and they didn’t have a clue … they said it was because some open documents were in the old 97-2003 vesion of Word. (BS! it still repainiates even in the new version!)

    I work on large documents with lots of tables maps and images. I’m sure this affects repagination. But, come on Microsoft. You’ve had years to make Word better, and it just gets wierder and worse! What’s up with that?