Living With The Beast

I have to concur with John Faughnan, who writes the following about Microsoft Word:

Microsoft Word is a beast. Word is an evolved creation, the bastard offspring of marketing, some original thoughts on how to create a word processor, and generations of Ziff-Davis (PC Magazine) induced rapid mutation to fit someone’s distorted checklist. It is to software as the Irish Elk was to mammals. It is an inherently incurable mass of contradictory impulses, which are fully evident in Word’s formatting model. It is the single most miserable piece of software that I absolutely must use.

I just spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how to remove a phantom footnote. The footnote had no content. Moreover, it had no “anchor”—nowhere in the body of my document was there any footnote reference. This empty footnote just sat at the bottom of page 3, and refused to be deleted.

Finally, I figured out what the problem was. “Track changes” was on, and an old version of the document had a footnote. (I actually had cleared the document, so there was nothing left from the ‘original’ version). Apparently Word can’t let go of an old footnote even if the reference to the footnote has been deleted so long as it is trying to remember what text you deleted so it can show you the changes you made. The only way, apparently, to actually delete the footnote is to “accept all changes” so the document history goes away. Of course, if you aren’t in a redlined view (to see the original with changes) you’ll have no idea why that footnote is just hanging out on the bottom of the page.

I can’t believe this is anything but a bug, but I’m open to constructive comments as to why this behavior might be desirable.

(Please don’t leave me a comment telling me to use OpenOffice. If I had any choice about it at all I would certainly be using that. It’s not that there are features I need in Word that aren’t in OpenOffice—it’s just that, in the current circumstances, I have no choice about my software.)