Scribbler’s Saga #66 – Go Around Word

Posted: July 7, 2018 in Uncategorized


img_3480© 2018 G.N. Jacobs

Microsoft is at it again, doing everything they can to make mobile writing without signing up for the Office 365 service next to impossible. Sometimes I forget when I last bashed Microsoft over their need to convince me to rent the writing equivalent of a screwdriver (where I will rent something big that I’ll use once in ten years, like a tile saw). Bashed it once before the introduction of the new column format (it’s buried deep in the archive site) and commented again once the mobile apps released most of the usability restrictions, maybe two years ago. And now I must bash again…

This time I got a double whammy. The big one came when upgrading to my brand spankin’ shiny new iPad Pro just a few weeks ago. Yes, the app I had  on the old iPad carried over copying all my local files and then they spring a complete shutdown of doing any new work on me. Can’t edit any old works. Can’t start any new works.

I brush the metaphorical dust from my feet and start looking for alternatives for Word and the rest of Office while keeping my apps on my trusty iPhone 6S Plus. I haven’t upgraded my phone because what I have is good enough (especially with the camera) and even using Sprint’s two-year plan option to get the best purchase price the newer phones are ridiculously expensive. The buy more dongles like for a headphone jack design issues didn’t help either.

At this point in answering the how do I write mobile question, the phone versions of my apps are still letting me write the way my patterns say I should. I can still Cut and Paste a chapter into the larger manuscript file after tapping the Page Break button and removing my standard automatic first line indent formatting so the new chapter pastes clean, exactly as I wrote it. I’m not thinking that much about it.

While still only dealing with the iPad issues, I try out Apple’s Pages. I work up a format for blogs and a format for chapters that looks exactly like what I already use (don’t reinvent the wheel). And I get a-tappin’. Very quickly  I find out that many times you get exactly what you pay for with free stuff.

For me the issues with Pages were the little things like the system deciding to guess at centering chapter headers and post titles. And I’ve known for years since the introduction of the software that talking to people on Word needed a serious Cut and Paste and universal translator to work without too much hassle. On the plus side with Pages, you can work mobile if you like Apple’s gear (I do) and you tie in through your iCloud account. I also didn’t notice anything about the typing action to make me go nuts. It will work for somebody with slightly different requirements and less snotty fussiness (I might be legendary in that regard).

The experiment with Pages ends before the second Microsoft whammy. There had been several updates to the mobile app. I’m pretty sure they count on us treating updates as routine and automatic; I’m not sure when they did this, but I woke up one day unable to add a page break for the new chapter. You  guessed it, the message read something like – THAT IS AN ADVANCED FEATURE  REQUIRING AN OFFICE  365 ACCOUNT. And now I’m  angry.

I quickly check out Open Office, something I’ve heard about for years. I have friends that like the software. But, working mobile is still a key part of what I do and these guys will let you download something for PC and Mac, but have no mobile copies for download. Okay, catch you when you do.

I’m also doing searches for the other mobile word processors I used to use before Microsoft briefly won the Internet with their mobile apps. Is Documents to Go still a thing? Couldn’t find them on the App Store. And there was another one that folded into Google Docs. I forget the name.

I’m also looking at what the new apps in the store promise. Some are really typing skins to work with other apps when you want to finger type on your phone or tablet, but waste your time when using a Bluetooth board. I check this and that and still learn that the unnamed app that folded into Google Docs had the right idea.

Google Docs, as it currently exists, has most of my answers. I emailed my four most common templates over to the app: chapter, blog post, radio script and a comic book form. I also sent over my active files that use these templates. Through a small handful of sessions, I’ve learned chapters…Good, blogs…Good and don’t push your luck with that comic book form. I haven’t tried the radio script, yet.

Google Docs seems to like text without very much formatting. My automatic first line indent based on a standard tab chapter template is meant to just type. I do the chapter and then Cut and Paste it into the larger manuscript. Rinse, Repeat. And things have mostly gone well since moving all of my active files and downloading the apps.

But, there are many quirks that might piss off someone as legendarily less patient as I. When typing we’ve been taught to write the word and hit the spacebar, but sometimes when I have a Word file open on it seems on a random basis that hitting the spacebar has a way of pullingthe previous words into their true spacing. Basically, writing becomes a little more of an adventure. But, one reason I still have the Word app on my phone is to use as the final proofread before cutting the text into WordPress, I can still fix any double spacing issues that show up in the transfer.

The single most annoying quirk of Google Docs used on my iPad has got to be the arbitrary decision that the 12-point Roman type I use to write is too large and will be resized as 10-point type. This happens like clockwork approximately every two paragraphs. I think I’ve had to resize my text back at least ten times in this very document. And sometimes the command doesn’t take requiring doing it again until it does.

And I hope that my discovery, today, that the automatic M-dash/N-dash switch that accurately guesses whether you should use the short N-dash or the larger M – dash doesn’t seem to work without switching off your Bluetooth board and entering the punctuation manually. Not making friends, here.

Using Google Docs the original way on your computer also has a few quirks to it as well. Editing a document from your main browser has an automatic Save as Google Doc feature to it. This is, of course, reversible the minute you open up a mobile device to tap Save as Word Doc.

I had to delete my comic book template from Google Docs simply because using the numbered bullet feature common to nearly every version of Word since forever just doesn’t carry over all that well. Numbered bullets are how I handle panels and it just doesn’t look the same in Google Docs as it does in Word.

But on the plus side, I’ve got my page breaks for the Cut and Paste back, especially on the iPad where I do much of my work. I have the ability to continue speaking with regular copies of Word that live on computers. And a decent amount of typing quirks.

One last app that should be spoken of here. Final Draft has always billed itself as being a decent word processor underneath being the center of the Format Nazi phenomenon that is part of screenwriters’ daily lives since the invention of the camera. All versions of Final Draft have a work around for those of us willing to tell Big Bad Microsoft “to take your Office 365 and shove it!” Open up a new screenplay, click General in the element tabs and start typing single-spaced text.

The one hitch, either the writer Cuts and Paste from Final Draft or buys the desktop version of the software to translate the files to the more common Word or a PDF formats. The mobile app that I bought for $10 is now $30 on the App Store (I’m so cool, you may touch me), but the desktop version trades at nearly $300 unless you keep up with the $80 upgrade every couple years route. You may  want something cheaper.

So there it is, as we close out this round of me perpetually taking Microsoft to the woodshed over its assault on customers trying to see what we’ll rent for tools that you really should buy. If Open Office figures out how to go mobile, I’m there if nothing more than to write another pos. Until then, I have Google Docs quirks and all. Happy writing to you!

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