debate about Free software for the ACT Government

Alex Satrapa grail at
Thu Apr 25 13:59:58 EST 2002

On Thursday, April 25, 2002, at 10:43 , Simon Fowler wrote:
> You type stuff in, do some formatting with mouse/toolbars/etc, save, 
> print, that kind of thing. How mnay people actually /use/ things like 
> stylesheets in word? And how long would
> it take to pick up those differences when needed?


That's exactly the kind of attitude I don't want to see.  The reason 
Word is so good is that is supports stylesheets.  My favourite 
configuration for Word removes all the "text formatting" buttons from 
the toolbars and leaves me with the useful things - revision, comment 
and index buttons, and the style picker.

HTML uses CSS now.  Latex document production uses stylesheets, Word 
uses styles.

I am almost overcome by violent urges everytime I see someone formatting 
a Word document using "bold" and "underline" rather than setting the 
style to "Heading 1".

> It's not like a switch betwee Word and LyX, where the models behind
> the programs are completely different . . .

If done properly, the models are quite similar - stick to the predefined 
styles, and use stylesheet based formatting, not character formatting.

In fact, I'd like to see at least two separate categories for "Microsoft 
Word" expertise - indicating whether the person is a 
character-formatting troll, or a stylesheet using demigod.

The skills (or more importantly - the discipline) of the latter would 
make them more versatile, since they can carry those concepts across to 
HTML, XML, LaTeX and other tools.  Character-based formatting in Word 
means you end up becoming entirely reliant upon that interface to be 
able to produce documents.

So perhaps part of the process of freeing oneself from the Microsoft 
hegemony is to learn the abstract skills and disciplines such as knowing 
the general structure of "a letter", and knowing how to apply the styles 
(eg: Subject, Address, List Level 1) that are used in "a letter" - 
rather than knowing that in Word, you use this specific template, format 
this line to Helvetica 18pt bold, that line to 13pt Arial Round, etc.


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