How I learned to relax and love free software.

Maybe I should say, how I’m learning to relax and love it. It’s progress, not perfection.

As I’ve shared before, I’m an Office 2003 guy, been using it since 2003. It’s good. But sometimes I look at the new stuff – Office 2010 – and I want it. So precious, my precious, etc.


I can’t have it. I can’t put it on my PC. I ran the Office 2010 Free Gratis Beta 2 years ago, and uninstalled it. It wasn’t ready yet. But it left some change in my machine that not even Microsoft’s best registry cleaning programs can fix. Now the latest 60 Day Free Trial of Office 2010 will not install.

Yes, I’ve tried everything except calling Microsoft on the phone, which I’ll be damned if I’m going to do.

By posting so often and so vehemently on this blog on the subject of Microsoft’s onerous and predatory proprietary ways, I drew a line in the sand. Then I stood on this side of my line, with all the free and perfectly acceptable open source software for which I have advocated. And I jumped back and forth until Microsoft gave me a good shove. I mean they crossed they line.

Up with this I shall not put, is my point. So in the noble last words of General George Armstrong Custer, “F–k ’em if they can’t take a joke.”

…OK, that’s a little racist, but it’s funny.

This post was composed in WriteMonkey in plain text and posted to Google’s Blogger using Gmail via Posterous. All free stuff.

Now I’m going to go write something nice, using LibreOffice. I’m relaxed, really.

Hey Bill Gates, you Assclown, you can keep the kool-aid. Grumble grumble. And go pound it up your … sideways. Grumble grumble. So there.


New Blogger

Blogger has a new interface for composing posts. It’s pretty cool. PC Magazine calls it “airy,” which seems right. Here’s their complete review, and they have screen shots so you can take a look at the new product. 

I’ve been using Microsoft Live Writer, a free desktop-based program, for quite a while. That’s because the Blogger writing interface was basically crap. It felt more like leaving a comment on a post than actually composing one. This new one seems much better.

You’ll notice the editor has been moved away from a box on the left, to a page view in the center of your screen. I hate typing in little squares of screen space. The post settings are on the right where you can get to them, instead of at the bottom. And all the formatting tools are conveniently arranged across the top.

Blogger automatically saves your work frequently, so you can relax.

There is still a problem entering a paragraph break, and that’s a significant concern. When you reach the end of a paragraph and press Enter to move down, nothing happens. You have to click your mouse button the current cursor location, or press the arrow key on your keyboard, then press Enter again. And I have to tell you, that in itself – if it’s not remedied – could become a reason to keep using more stable software. 

The new blogger is in Beta and not rolling out automatically to users right now. PC Magazine says that will happen this month or next. To try it now, go to I think is well worth a look.

words fail us

If you use Microsoft Word, I hope you will read this.


Microsoft Word makes and saves documents in a file type called Doc. Every version of Word uses Doc just fine, including all the newest versions of Word.

Microsoft has added a new format, called DocX. For 99.9% of us, it’s not better, it’s just new. It’s an option for those who need it, but most people don’t. 

Now they have original Doc and new DocX, both just as good.

To make new money, Microsoft makes new versions of their software, right? People who don’t have the software they need will buy the new, especially when they get new computers.

But how to convince people who already have perfectly good software to buy the new stuff for $150 – $450?
By creating the illusion that their existing software is becoming obsolete.

Creating the Illusion

Being sorta evil, Microsoft programmed new Word to make the new DocX format by default. And it still makes good old Doc too. 

Microsoft could have made the new software to keep using good old Doc as the default, and everybody using any version of Word could keeping working together fine. But they didn’t.

When you make a document with the new Word, you can save is as either DocX or Doc. The option is there when you save the document. Piece of cake.

People with the newer Word don’t know this, so they’re out there making DocX files, and the people with older versions of Word can’t open them.

If you have new Word, you can change it to always make Doc files as the default. It’s really easy to change, only takes about a minute. 

People with older Word don’t know they can ask for a Doc file and that it’s easy to make. Instead, they’re buying new software they don’t need. New Money for Microsoft!
Why Not Just Upgrade?
What’s the big deal with buying the new stuff? 
  • A lot of people don’t like it. I got a fee trial version of Office 2010, I tried it and it’s OK. But it looks a lot different, so you have to learn some new ways of doing things. And it’s not more powerful, it’s just more cool. It’s got fancy ribbons instead of simple buttons and toolbars…. That’s just a matter of taste I guess.
  • Word 2003 and the rest of Office 2003 are still a powerhouse. It does everything I need and a thousand things I never will need.
  • It’s perpetuating Microsoft’s proprietary monopoly. They’re just going to keep making newer and cooler, and tempting us to stay on their hamster wheel.
  • Bill Gates has enough money. Do you? 
3 Solutions

1. Use a converter. Microsoft, being only sorta evil, makes a little piece of software you can download. People using older Word can use it to convert DocX into Doc. It’s free gratis.

Here is a link:
2. If you use original Word and someone sends you a DocX file, ask them to send it again, as Doc. All they have to do is open the document and do this:
File > Save As … > doc. It’s a 10 second job.
3. Stop sharing Word files. Word is for making documents, not sharing them. Sending someone a Word document is like handing someone a bowl of flour and sugar and claiming it’s a cake. 
Unless you really need someone to collaborate on your document, send them a PDF. I have previously posted how to do this
If you do need someone to work on a document or finish it, there is an etiquette involved. At least ask them what kind of software they use. Don’t assume. 
I’m not the only one who feels this way. There’s a movement sweeping the planet, to end Microsoft’s illusions of monopoly. Here’s a sample: 
We should all stop believing the myth that we need any version of Microsoft Office to make any documents, ever. There are many different programs for making documents, and many of them are free to all. And many don’t present the problem of others not being able to open your documents. 
Microsoft should compete by making the best stuff, not by creating the illusion that they have no competition and you have no choices. 
Microsoft Office is admittedly the biggest and arguably the best. But sometimes the biggest and best of something is like with cars and trucks – you aren’t going to need or notice the difference unless you’re in a race or going off road. 
Maybe you’re somebody who doesn’t need the Microsoft Monster Truck of computing and would be happier with a Honda, is my point.  

how to print document comments

One of my favorite writers, Kent Haruf, has shared that he writes in a small semi-basement “coal room,” in his home, where

“I have brown wrapping paper taped up on the wall, on which I make notes about whatever novel I’m working on ….”*

I can see where that would be effective. I keep a lot of notes when I’m writing too. And for a long time, I’ve struggled to find a method like that, which can work effectively for me. I’ve tried sticky notes on a big mirror, which is similar.

Most recently, when I’m writing and editing I use the comments features of the word processor. And Evernote, Google Docs, and a tangle of associated Word files. If the notes are large and not associated with a place in the existing text, then God knows. But if I’m making small notes about my existing stuff, I can insert them as comments in the manuscript itself.

Both Microsoft Word and Writer have a feature that one can use to create such comments, which appear as mark-ups. I’m sure this was designed for getting feedback from the boss, or Engineering or whatever, and I’ve used it that way at work.

In Word, comments can be viewed as balloons in the margin or as hidden boxes which appear when the cursor is moved over the relevant portion of text. In Writer, only margin balloons are used.

The comments that the writer, editor, or other collaborator have made in the text can be useful – even critical – to the completion of the work. So rather than scrolling through the document looking for the comments and reviewing and handling them, a list of comments might be made for review. Here’s how to do that.

Word 2003 
Do a Print command in your usual way; whatever you do when you want to print something.

When the Print dialog appears, you’ll see an option in the lower left that says, “Print what.”

Word print markup list
       [Click images in this post to view enlarged]

Change the Print what option to “List of Markup,” as shown in this figure.

This tells the software that you want to print out mark-ups – Comments – not the whole text of the document.

Note: In that figure above, you’ll see that I’ve selected my favorite PDF printer instead of my paper printer. Unless you need your list of comments on slices of dead tree, I recommend PDF. And Mother Earth thanks you.

Proceed with printing normally. Writer
 Do a Print command. The Print dialog appears.

writer print dialog

Click the Options… button in the lower left corner. The Printer options dialog appears.

writer printer options

One of the columns there says, “Comments.” You can select to print Comments only – just the comment in the manuscript – as we did in Word, above.

Proceed with printing normally. 

And this is cool: Writer lets you choose to print the complete document (PDF is an option here again) with its comments gathered at the end, or at the end of each page.

Hope this comes in handy. It does for me.

* Kent Haruf’s column on the habits and methods of writing, To See Your Story Clearly, Start by Pulling the Wool Over Your Own Eyes, was published in the NY Times, 11.20.2000.

they’re not trying

Won’t you try just a little bit harder?
Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?

One of the things I love about Grateful Dead lyrics is that they so often speak to the mundane hours of my life. Tonight, I have come much closer to the firm belief that Microsoft isn’t trying anymore to do anything but rake in piles of money, and that we should all try to help them see alternative perspectives of existence.

For several years, I’ve been making websites using a MS product called Publisher. It’s a component of the MS Office productivity suite, along with Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. Publisher is designed for making websites, flyers, newsletters, etc. Desktop publishing, basically, as contrasted with word processing. It’s good, in the sense that a big Cadillac sedan is good. The problem is, the freeway isn’t running anymore, as you’ll see.  .

Recently, I used Publisher to create a website for a client. I uploaded it, checked it, and all appeared well. Then I got an email from my client, saying the site was messed up. I checked it with Firefox and Chrome browsers – all good – then Internet Explorer (IE). In IE, images were wrong. Some were misplaced, and none were really right.

Normally, when you right-click on an image with a browser, you can view the image separate from the background, and save it if you wish. In IE, it was as if the whole web page was one solid background, and the images on it weren’t images at all.

I rebuilt the website, uploaded fresh files, same result. I spent a long time on the phone with tech support for the web hosting company, and they were stumped too. I tried a lot of different things to fix it. Everything worked in Firefox and Chrome, but not IE. Then very late last night, I uploaded a plain text version of the site, so that visitors could use links to information and at least the website would basically work.

Today I rebuilt the website with an online template-based program provided by the web hosting company. The resulting site looks nice, professional I think, but it’s not the custom, hand-made effect that pleased my client in the first place. It looks made from a template, because it is.

Tonight I did some research into the problem. I was going on the assumption that there was a corruption in my Publisher software, and I was looking for a way to fix it. I know from experience that reinstalling MS Office doesn’t always work, because it doesn’t uninstall cleanly, and problems remain if they’re not repaired.

What I learned really surprised me. On a user forum hosted by Microsoft, I learned that many people have the same program, because – get this – the new version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE-8) is not compatible with websites made with Microsoft Publisher. Their web browser does not work with their web-authoring software. You need to use another company’s site builder, or another browser.

You know me, I’m going to suggest … both. Use Firefox or Chrome. They’re better anyway. And when I find something good – and not expensive – for making websites, I’ll let you know.

Incidentally, my own website – – was built with Publisher too. It’s also wrong in IE. Everything looks OK, works OK, but if you know what to look for, you can see there are problems. I spent a lot of my evenings building that site.

With every passing week, I get sicker and more exhausted with closed-source, proprietary companies like Microsoft and their inept miscreations. Time and again, they rush their crap into shipment before it’s ready, and they design it in ways that make us dependent on continuing to pay for it, whether it works or not.


I support the open source software movement.


foxit is fine

This week on, an editor has reviewed Foxit Reader, an alternative to Adobe Acrobat Reader. Foxit is known for being lightweight and agile, while still offering some features that Adobe Reader doesn’t. For example, the ability to add sticky notes to comment on the text.

I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks, and it’s pretty cool.

As with almost everything I suggest here on Metaphor, it’s free.

Here’s a link.

So how’s the book going?

Well. I’m very something that you asked.

word count 20100508

That doesn’t really tell you much, does it? There’s a lot of writing there, and some of it isn’t bad. A little is pretty good. But it’s lumpy in spots and thin and threadbare in others and it needs a lot of smoothing out and filing in. I think what it needs is a good road maintenance crew, as much as it needs a writer.

Yes, cracks and potholes and places where the pavement’s too thin. And some of the more interesting gaps are in places where the narrative stretches out over jagged rocks and rushing creeks. Don’t look down.

I might share a fresh-baked morsel with you, gentle readers, but when I’ve done that before … well, let’s just say the crickets were coming through loud in here. So let’s not.

Those who have followed my scintillating adventures with software and file management will note note with indifference that I’m still writing with Microsoft Word 2003.  Oh I paddled back and forth between Word and OpenOffice writer for a while, finding arcane and subtle differences between features and processes, customization, etc. And now I’m treading water. I like them both.

Writer has compelling advantages, including the fact that it’s new and free. Word has the advantage that I already own it, which makes the free-ness of Writer irrelevant to me.

Here’s a Web site with lots more comparison info. But the bottom line for today is, Word’s a little better if you’ve got it. Writer’s a lot better than spending money, if you need it.

At the present, I’m working with the manuscript in 38 separate numbered Word files, kickin’ it old school. This is because Word choked a couple of nights ago and crashed and scared me. That’s when it was all one 239 page file, and I was moving chunks of text around. So I’ll let it work on smaller servings for a while.