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Since getting Apple's iWork in December, I haven't opened Microsoft Office. Not once.
My MacBook crapped out on me a few days ago, and now I am forced with the harsh reality of composing all of my final papers in Word. I am currently rewriting a paper on J.M. Coetzee's Foe for my English class, and the experience has been, shall we say, less than ideal. I thankfully had my papers from this semester saved in the storage that Rice gives me, so instead of having to re-type the entire paper, I was able to copy-paste the entire thing into Word. Here's where it begins.
Word apparently can't interpret ligatures, so every instance of "Th" was replaced with an exclamation point. "tt" became an inch glyph, "fi" a percentage sign, "ft" an octothorpe. I had to go through my entire document and figure out which instances of punctuation were misplaced ligatures and which were actual punctuation marks. I used the Find>Replace function, but Word recognizes the inch glyph as the same as quotation marks, so I had to go through each instance of a quote in my English paper in addition to the misplaced tts.
Then I decided to set my paper in Hoefler Text (I was using Arno, but very few of this school's computers have CS3). My title is bolded, but there is no bold Hoefler Text on the computer I'm using — only black. Word doesn't tell me that. All it says is that I'm using Hoefler Text with bold option enabled. I decided to play around a bit, and I soon realized that Office organizes typefaces by hiding the bold and italic version of whatever precedes it. So I can select "Gill Sans" and "Gill Sans Light," but I can't select "Gill Sans Bold," "Gill Sans Italic," or "Gill Sans Bold Italic." Worse yet, if I enable the bold function on Gill Sans Light, Word fakes it, because it doesn't see a bold version of Gill Sans Light (because clearly Gill Sans Light and Gill Sans are not in the same family).
I used to live with this, because I didn't know anything better. I had used InDesign, but it was a bit impractical for just writing academic papers. Since using Pages, which is beautiful in its simplicity and quality type management, I can't stand Word. I yearn for a nice drop-down menu for typeface families, with another for the different fonts within that family. I want a word processor that is smart enough to recognize that Helvetica Neue, Helvetica Neue Light, and Helvetica Neue UltraLight are in the same family. I want easy management of leading (although leading by points rather than multiplier in Pages would be nice), and goddammit I want ligatures.
I had a recognition last week of how much Microsoft Office has hurt (or at least how it hasn't helped) understanding of type. I was rambling about something having to do with type design, which usually warrants rolled eyes from my friends, when my friend Kevin said, "You know what I really like lately? Gill Sans Light." My initial reaction was, "Hey, I like Gill Sans Light, too! My friends are finally starting to appreciate good type." But as I thought about it more, I realized that he was talking about Gill Sans Light as though it were its own typeface family, not as part of the family Gill Sans. The way Pages handles typeface families is so intuitive and simple that it also manages to create an understanding of how families work.
I guess I'll have to live with Word through this week, but I'm certainly not enjoying it. I can't wait to get Pages back.