Stumped by software

At the beginning of October I had a severe laptop crash. Everything on my Compaq froze and so far as I know is still frozen. A family member who is an IT expert has taken the offending machine away but has not as yet had time to look at it. Meanwhile, a friend had recently refurbished my old Vaio so I am not actually divorced from the internet.

The good news was that I was able, in safe mode, to rescue all my documents, photographs, music, etc. to an external hard drive. I have been frantically backing up everything to other places just in case the hard drive fails….. But for the time being, all is well.

The bad news is twofold. The Vaio no longer works with a battery and has to be plugged into the mains which means that it isn’t exactly portable. However, I can cope with that for the time being. The software is the major problem. First of all, I am missing most of my software and only realise when I want to use it. At that point I have to use the admin user setting – something I’ve never had to deal with before but which was set up to give an option of more than one user on the machine. So far, I have resisted downloading any photo-editing software and have decided I can manage with online photo-editing sites. I enjoy tinkering with my pictures but I am not a serious graphic artist! I am also missing my bookmarks, which I hadn’t backed up recently… And I miss my beautifully configured Calibre library though I can re-establish it (if it can’t be rescued) once I know whether I can use the Compaq again or whether I should consider buying a new laptop – the Vaio will only ever be a back-up machine because of the battery issue.

My main gripe and the subject of this post: the refurbishment involved taking the Vaio back to factory settings and then installing programs again. For some reason – presumably with the best of intentions – our friend installed Word 10. I am now foaming at the mouth and cursing Microsoft. I was happily using the pre-2007 version of Word and had spent absolutely ages getting used to formatting. I had made copious notes and really thought I had a handle on it all. Word 10 is quite different. Apart from anything else I have to remember to save things in .doc instead of .doc.x or half my friends can’t read them and they aren’t suitable for various purposes., including transfer to my Compaq if that becomes an option. Then, I carefully removed all the auto formatting , changed the default font etc. and heaved a sigh of relief. But I am still having problems with line/paragraph spacing and in a final document all looks well until the text is converted into e-publishing formats whereupon spaces at the end of chapters turn into capital As with accents over them. Is Microsoft insane? I understand their desire to cater for business needs but templates should deal with that and leave the rest of us able to format easily for self-publishing purposes. And even for business documents, it must be irritating for those who keep their files on their Kindles to find strange As all over the place!

I downloaded OpenOffice – and yes, I know it’s less than optimal for self-publishing but I wanted something that would let me at least do posts like this with no problems – but the latest version seems to have copied Word and inserts far too many line spaces.

The trouble is, I don’t really want to spend hours on this, when it’s possible I might get my old system back… Everything is already taking longer than usual, which is why I have been somewhat absent this month.

Meanwhile – do any of you know of any formatting guides that help with Word 10? The Smashwords Guide is brilliant but doesn’t have much to offer beyond Word 20007. And what would anyone recommend if I get a new laptop – are there cheap copies of earlier Word versions available or should I try to adapt myself as soon as possible?

12 thoughts on “Stumped by software

  1. I know how you feel. I use Word 2010 and when I transfer files to my editor and get them back they are completely messed up, with all sorts of strange characters – even stranger than my characters! Word puts in so many formatting commands that are incompatible with e-books. You need to get as close to plain text as possible. You can save Word in plain text and that will strip out all of the formatting. You may lose too much and you will lose the functionality – such as track changes. Try going half way and save in rich text format .rtf. After you have saved the document the fitst time, it will always save in that format unless you change it.

    • The Smashwords guide recommends doing just what you say, stripping out all the formatting. *But* you then have to reformat, using Word and setting your own styles, because Smashwords only accepts Word docs, and Amazon only accepts web pages based on Word docs. You can’t upload either plain text or rich text to either. I’m almost there with most of this, but the line spacing is in a world of its own and doesn’t seem to ‘behave’ in line with the other style stuff. Plus, of course, you have to use .doc and not .doc.x, and then use something else to read the result to check it has worked… which all takes extra time. I’m hoping Smashwords updates its Style Guide but I’m not holding my breath!

      If you’re sending your documents to someone with an older version you should save them and send them in .doc format. The problem with doc.x. is that a lot of older computers can’t even read it, and if they can, the kind of mess you mention will occur if any changes are made. *:( *I am speaking from bitter experience.

      • If you build your e-book at (or you can import your text from a .txt or .rtf file and there are no issues. You then export a .epub file which Calibre can convert into any other e-book format you want.

      • That only works for indie publishing like you intend to do. Smashwords and Amazon *only* accept Word docs (Amazon in web-page form) for upload, and do the conversion themselves. Smashwords warn specifically against using Calibre even for checking as apparently there are aspects of Calibre conversion which don’t ‘agree’ with their conversion processes. Calibre don’t reconvert to Word, so they aren’t really an option. Though I absolutely love them for converting epub or pdf to mobi for my Kindle.

        I would never cope with the extra hassle of marketing, sales, etc. that you will give yourself. I know some people – you, obviously – don’t regard it as hassle, but I do! I need the option of Smashwords or Amazon as a publishing/marketing platform.*g*

      • I understand that Smashwords formatting is a pain. However you can upload an epub file to Amazon and I will be selling my books there.

      • I haven’t done the US tax exemption thing yet, though I now know how, and until I do, I have no access to Amazon’s publishing site (you need an exemption number to get into the UK site) so have no real idea of how they do things – I was going by what Smashwords said about Amazon which is maybe not totally correct. I’m going to phone the US IRS next week, after which, I should be all set to ‘go’. But even with e-pub you need to deal with mad line-spacing!!

  2. The only guide I can recommend for Word 10 involves matches, or a bomb… The best advice I can give on the line spaces is the replacing paragraph marker with manual line break that I mentioned to you before – you have to go to ‘replace’ and use the ‘special’ option. Don’t know if that will help for your conversion though. I’m at a loss to understand why we had to be saddled with having such a complex looking and confusing (not to mention stupidly pre-formatted) Word version either, I’d happily go back to the old version.

    Hope you find out whether your Compaq is salvageable soon!

    • I’m beginning to think there’s no way to check whether the line spacing has actually worked or not without a great deal of hassle involving transfer to .pdfs, Calibre, mobi conversion and my Kindle… There should be some more straightforward way, surely? I know I thought the BB fic was fine until I downloaded a mobi version from AO3 and found the strange As still sneaking in at the chapter breaks. And I can’t use that route to check original fic because to get the mobi conversion and download you have to ‘publish’.

      I suppose even if the Compaq is OK, it won’t last for ever and I have just done some more research and found it is almost impossible to get hold of an old version of Word – and they are both expensive and unsupported… So it looks as if I will have to get to grips with Word 10 sooner or later. Grrrr!!

  3. Uff, so good the documents were saved!

    I am also missing my bookmarks
    I can understand it perfect, it’s must be very disturbing indeed.

    had spent absolutely ages getting used to formatting
    Yes, I was rather shocked too, seeing 2007 layout for the first time… It wouldn’t be so bad, if it could be customized as the older versions. *growl*

    Apart from anything else I have to remember to save things in .doc instead of .doc.x or half my friends can’t read them
    Ha, this! *another growl*

    Alas, I don’t know any good guide. As for me, I usually try to adapt rather than keep the old habits, but it’s mostly for the compatibility of files, rarely for the advantages of the new software.

    • Yes – the safety of all my documents was a terrific relief!!

      I gather I will have to try to adapt, because it’s impossible to get a cheap and reliable version of the older Word. I just hope to get some more advice on the formatting for Smashwords and Amazon. It takes me a while to learn a program and then when it changes as drastically as Word has, I’m really ‘thrown’ for a while. I learnt Word on a course way back in 2003 and of course that learning became ingrained and my reactions and clicks are automatic. So the newer versions seem very alien! But I wouldn’t mind if it was just getting used to different tools etc. – it’s the doc.x. format that annoys me most, and this hidden line spacing too. I cannot see any advantages to the new Word – I have disabled all the autoformatting and feel a little more comfortable. I think many of my writing habits are virtually automatic and it really doesn’t help to have Microsoft trying, usually unsuccessfully, to second-guess what I want!

  4. I’ve had similar things happen to me. I have learnt, the hard way (the very hard way) to do frequent backups. I have several external disc drives and put my stuff on them regularly. Like daily!

    As for WORD …. I’ve been using Open Orifice and the new version hasn’t been working. So I went back to WORD, and ma oath, the hidden formatting is driving me berserk! And you have to save everything as .doc, as you say.

    • I’m using an external disc drive, various CD-RWs and emails to myself at my gmail address. I also put things on my LJ and on my website under a password. I’m considering asking for more external drives, or maybe the new huge capacity USB sticks, for Christmas. Have you tried any cloud storage?

      The new OO is trying, I think, to emulate the new Word, and failing. The guys who upgrade Word clearly aren’t writers… I have no idea why they think hidden formatting might be an advantage to anyone!! I just know it is driving me insane.

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