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Sunday, March 30, 2008

In the Beginning there was the Word, and the Word was: Crash!

Arghhh!!! What is wrong with Microsoft? How has one of the biggest software companies in the world got it so wrong?

As you may know I recently escaped to a Mac to avoid the problematic and unappealing MS Vista, unfortunately I still do a lot of document editing and so one of the first installs on my shiny new MacBook was Office 2008 for Mac. On XP I had already noticed that Outlook 2007 had some nasty interface bugs, but these pale into insignificance compared the the hideous crashfest that is Word 2008 on the Mac.

I'm working on a significant document at the moment (its a bid for EU funding so its relatively big - 70 pages or so - and complex - tables, figures, references, etc.) and I needed to do some editing in Compatability Mode (thats what Word 2008 does when you load up a .doc rather than a .docx). I quickly noticed that Word was a bit unstable, crashing in flames and losing all changes about once every 20 minutes. I adjusted my workflow (repeat after me: save your work frequently) and soldiered on; however the crashes increased in frequency and by the time I got to one crash per minute I gave up, and used my precious minute of teetering instability to save out sections of the document in smaller chunks.

This seemed to do the trick and I managed to complete the sections, however on returning to the big document to incorporate my changes Word upped its game to an effective lifetime of ten seconds, rendering it useless. Honestly, Team Fortress 2 would have been a more effective way to write a collaborative document.

I sought Solace in some MS Office forums (Hello everyone, my name's Dave and I'm a Word user) and noticed that there was an update to Office for Mac that was supposed to address some of these problems - however the MS Autoupdater wasnt picking up on it for some reason.

I diligently downloaded the 114MB update by hand - 114MB! Christ on a Bike, what's in that thing! - however when I tried to install it the updater said:

It turns out that this is a known problem with the update, and that the problem is that the MS Autoinstaller is buggy. So I downloaded and installed the new version of that - but still no joy. I had a buggy version of Word, and a patch that refused to install. In the end I had to follow the advice on the forums and uninstall Office, reinstall Office, reboot, and install the update.

Only problem was that this didn't actually make any difference to Word's seizures every time it sees some text. Nowhere in those 114MB had an MS developer managed to fix the problem I was having.

In the end I had to take the extraordinary measure of using NeoOffice (a Mac open source office package based on OpenOffice) to read and edit the proprietary document format that the official software could not read without falling on its face.

Now that is an extraordinary state of affairs :-( And what's worse, losing several crucial hours with a deadline looming has made me so angry at the stinking thing that I've wasted another 30 minutes writing this blog post.

Bill - your company needs you back at the helm, and if you cant fix it, then at least you could have the decency to go down with the ship!

1 comment:

Alicia said...

Ahhh..I can't say much other than welcome to the 'wonderful' world of Word. Ah..loathe it. I had use jpgs in the text of my PhD thesis text so I had to break up the text in blocks of 8 pages because otherwise Word would crash and everything would be lost. Needless to say all my chapters if they contained image files were broken up in numerous parts and printing my thesis was a nightmare.