Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It's all about style

Microsoft Word (at least on my Mac) has three different lists of styles: one is a bunch of boxes above the document, one is a pull-down list in the upper left corner of the window, and one is available from the "Format" menu. Here is the thing: each of the three presents a different list of styles, with some overlap between them.

I have spent over twenty years using (and advocating the use of) MS-Word styles.(If you format your papers "by hand," for instance, by indenting each blockquote one-by-one, you really ought to stop.) And yet, I still have no clue as to why some styles appear on list A, some on list B, and some on list C, or why there should be three different lists at all. Note: I am not saying that there is no explanation: no, I am sure there is. But good software should "explain itself": after working with it for a time, the user should have an intuitive grasp of why the features work the way they do. Word does not do this.

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