The Wyrdness that is Word:
So today I finish editing 29 pages of mathematical analysis on the evolution of boards of directors in Chinese corporations. In looking it over one last time, I notice that in table 1, our authors have italicized the math terms listed in column 1; in table 2, they’ve left them roman. So I enter a comment next to the first item in table 1, column 1 to the effect that they should make these consistent.
Because this is not in the “Edits” version that I’ve just generated by running “Compare Documents” on the file I’ve cleaned up vs. the original unedited document, I go over to “Edits,” turn on “track changes,” and enter the same comment in the same place in the table. Hit “Save”….and Wyrd hangs.
So it appears.
In fact, though, it hangs my entire system! EVERY PROGRAM THAT IS OPEN hangs.
To avoid having to retype the contents of the comment, I copy the squib and try to paste it into Excel, which is open for the purpose of calculating the bill. That’s when I see that Excel is jammed, too. Figuring it must be Office that’s hung up, I go over to Mac’s “Mail” program, by way of emailing the comment’s content to myself.
No. Mac Mail is frozen, too!
I crash out of both Office programs and out of Mac Mail. Interestingly, the Mac does not demand a system reboot: when I reopen the three programs, they come back up. The only data lost from the clean copy is the comment that caused the hang-up — probably because these days I hit “save” after about every third character I type in Wyrd.
HOWEVER….the “Edits” version that shows all changes — generated through “compare documents” and which indeed has been manually saved many times — is GONE. Disappeared. Not visible in the subdirectory.
Did I save it somewhere else by accident?
No. It is ERASED.
Fortunately the data is saved in the “clean” version, so all I have to do is rebuild a new “edited” file in Compare Documents. But you understand, that file WAS saved, both manually and automatically, and it was saved in the correct directory.
It was there when I sat down to work on it again this morning. It should NOT have been “disappeared.” What happened to it, I do not know. Fortunately, Wyrd didn’t give me any static in generating a new document. But it was a startling episode.
The paper is 29 pages long (10.5-point type!) and it does contain a number of math formulae. Unclear whether it was generated from LaTex, but I don’t think so. I suspect they created this thing in Wyrd from the git-go, but how they got the math-lingo into it escapes me. WhatEVER, it seems to have maxed out Office’s (or possibly the Mac’s) memory.
Evidently a one-sentence comment was the proverbial straw.
So: what is the moral of this story?
In using the Weirdness that is Wyrd, don’t just save:
Save, Save, and Countersave.
The only reason two and a half days’ worth of work was not utterly lost is that I set Wyrd to save every five minutes.
Normally I don’t set it also to make a back-up copy automatically, because we have SO much content — thousands and thousands of files in Wyrd, Excel, PowerPoint, and graphics formats. In the first place, that’s all being backed up regularly to DropBox and to TimeMachine; in the second place, duplicating all that data on the computer’s hard drive would quickly max the thing out. But these days, even with the auto-save running every five minutes, I hit Command-S whenever I enter anything new.
It’s easy to set Wyrd to auto-save. On a Mac: Go to Word Preferences > Save > Save options > Save autorecover info every ___ minutes. Fill in the desired interval. On a PC, of course, nothing can be simple. Check out this page and follow the instructions for your version of the program.