My dearest MS Word,

Thank you again for a wonderful day. You know I've always loved your little quirks, like having to

ADelete all but the first character of a paragraph I’m replacing, then when I’m finished go back and delete the first character, because as punishment for deviating from this sequence you will change the entire paragraph to an arbitrarily-selected combination of size and font, which is 1) not the style I have currently selected, 2) not any of the registered styles, 3) not the Word default. Also, being careful to resist the temptation to press delete at the end of the paragraph where I just know all these stray spaces are hiding, because doing so will fuck up either this or the next paragraph’s formatting in weird ways and for reasons unknown to mortal men. You’re a harsh Mistress, Madame Winword. Thank you, may I have another?

But today, when I was trying to put together a short whitepaper for a project at work, you reminded me throughout our time together of how much I still mean to you after all these years. Typing over that bi-column text of someone else’s whitepaper from another project from two years ago (I’ll figure out how to do that myself someday, honest… I’m still working on my six-year Doctor of Using Microsoft Office’s Advanced Formatting degree), carefully preserving the paragraphs and their headings as described {Insert->Cross-Reference->Numbered Item->include-above-below} above), deftly making my incision into the paragraph with my cursor, replacing one character after another with ninja-like surgical precision. Carefully restoring the formatting when you decided to munge it anyway, clicking away those lovely little windows asking if I’d prefer the default action of destructively overwriting the style currently selected in the drop-down menu with the bizarre combination of three different fonts and justifications you’ve chosen for the currently selected sentence, rather than the option of forcing said sentence’s formatting back to said currently-selected style in said drop-down menu. Fond memories of sanitizing tri-format text by cutting it, pasting it into Notepad, then copying it back to Winword as glorious plain old ASCII text.

I remember the text was long enough to just barely spill onto the last page, resulting in maybe four lines of text on the left followed by three lines on the right, looking like total ass. Even Jeff, when I asked him to run eDocPrinterMaDealy on it to generate the .pdf, commented on how much it looked like ass: “Dude, this little thing spilling over onto the last page looks like total ass.” So I cut, scrimped, optimized until the paper ended on the last line of the third page. It was a work of art. So, back to Jeff’s machine to run the eDocDealy magic. It grinds for a moment and spits out a beautiful .pdf, except for a big blank fourth-page-from-out-of-nowhere containing a company header, a footer, and NO TEXT (since the text ends on page three). Smack myself on the forehead, jump to the last visible character of the Word doc and hammer on the delete key until all the invisible tabs-spaces-linebreaks-control-characters at the end are gone, page 4 disappears and the last paragraph drops two points of font size and becomes left-justified, then “undo” once because I’ve clearly forgotten Rule #1 above*, and been reprimanded for it. Page 4 still gone. Save. Page 4 still gone. Print to the eDocPrinterDealy again. WTF? Blank Page 4, pop! Back with a vengeance.

So now it was a logic puzzle, and being engineers, we would rise to the challenge. Jeff and I spent probably a good twenty minutes printing the document to various real and virtual printers, experimentally determining which ones would cause the blank page to come back when printed to. HP 8150, no. HP color laser, yes. HP 9000 PS, no. eDocPrinter, most definitely yes. The act of printing should not change the file! Now, maybe there are some fiddly differences between printers that would cause text to reflow slightly differently on the pages they print, but those differences should not cause modifications to crawl back down the printer cable and be back-ported into my friggin’ document, which then asks me if I would like to save my “changes”.

Enable display of hidden control characters, none to be found. Continuing the experiment, maybe if I delete more text, it’ll stop happening. One line. Two lines. After deleting about six lines from the last (righthand) column, an orphan first-line-of-paragraph from the left column jumps to the beginning of the righthand column as part of some automagic orphan-control voodoo (nevermind that this misfeature is not actually enabled), and now no Page Four is generated, no matter which printer is printed to. But fuck you Word, no way am I shortening six more lines out of my paper to make you happy. I decided maybe if I printed to a known-good “No Page 4” printer but captured the output to a PostScript file on disk, and run GNU pdfwrite on the file, it would work.

So, Winword, it seemed your submissive microserf was getting all high and mighty, and you had no choice but to accept. But as a last act of defiance, you pre-filled the PostScript file output dialog with *.prn, even though it was a PostScript file (*.ps). “.prn” in a filename makes me cringe, because this has been a reserved console keyword since about DOS 1.0, and in the DOS/Win9x days filenames containing these (CON/PRN/etc.) were a recipe for hard-crashing-freezing-locking-up-hung-wedged disaster. (Ah, the glory days of embedding “file://CON/CON” links into web pages to insta-bluescreen any unpatched Win9x machine that tried to view it…) So I changed it to, and hit save. Out comes to my desktop, four pages long.

But Ghostscript let me select a page range to convert to PDF, so I could get rid of your nuisance blank header page from my final document. Nyaaarrr. Just goes to show, hon, that after all of our time together, we still get along as well as the day we met.

*tear* I love you, Mistress Winword. <3


*Error! Reference source not found.


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