Still no luck getting Word 2007 running again, and even Microsoft seemed stumped when I talked to their tech support about this. They were supposed to escalate my question to the next highest level of expert, but they lost my call while I was on hold, and I couldn't bring myself to spend another half hour on hold in the hope that I'd eventually reach one of their real experts. I suspect that the problem lies in some obscure key in the Windows Registry. Some preliminary spelunking revealed a couple possibilities, but neither of them panned out, so I restored the original settings.
Mucking about with the Registry is not for the faint of heart, since you can really mess up Windows if you're not careful. This "feature" is one of Microsoft's worst design decisions in 30+ years of world-class questionable judgment. The problems with the Registry begin with the notion of putting all your eggs in one basket (a single Registry file); on the Mac, if a Preference Panel gets corrupted, it only affects the program that created it, and deleting the file causes the software to create a clean new one rather than rendering the software unusable. The problem is exacerbated by the notion of the Registry using complex and user-hostile names like "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE" followed by a long string of gibberish words to refer to various properties of the software. After all, why would anyone consider choosing a graphical user interface with clear names like "This is where the Trust Center settings are stored" when they could stick with names from the bad old days of assembly language programming? (To be clear: the underlying code and data bits could still look this hostile and still be friendly only to programmers, but there's no reason to throw that hostility in the face of the system's users.)
On the plus side, I've now had a couple days to play with Word 2010, and on the whole it's been a pleasant experience.
Several interface oddities from Word 2007 have been resolved. For example, the Style Manager dialog box now combines the "which styles do you want me to show?" options with the "and what order do you want me to show them in?" options. That's simple and logical and much easier to explain when I teach the course on Monday. It's also nice to see Microsoft belatedly recognizing that their effort to replace all menus with the Ribbon was just stupid. (It would have been trivial to retain the menus, make the Ribbon an option, and see whether people who had spent 20 years learning the menu system would embrace the new interface. For those who didn't, no harm/no foul.) There's now a clearly labeled File menu, back where it belongs. My cup runneth over, or would if Word 2007+ retained the other menus above the ribbon, as it does in Word 2011 for the Mac.
Some new mysteries have arisen. It's not clear, for example, why the "Customize" group of options has been relabeled "Customize Ribbon", even though this part of the dialog box is also where you customize the keyboard settings. It's equally unclear why the Developer tab has disappeared after everyone with Word 2007 has had 3 years to learn where the Macro functions were stored. Now lacking a home, they ended up in the View tab of the ribbon. One assumes that's where the role of the dice landed them, since they have nothing whatsoever to do with viewing. Some puzzling mysteries remain. AutoCorrect options are still stored under "Proofing", when nobody in their right mind would use them while proofreading a document. And the Building Blocks organizer retains the kind of useless interface that would earn you an F- in any programming 101 course.
Thus far, no dramatic new bugs, though I'm not pleased that Microsoft has once again shuffled the locations of the AutoCorrect entries and building blocks. It's still not clear to me whether they're stored in an ACL file, as in previous versions, or in the Normal.dotm or Building Blocks.dotm templates -- or possibly both. Plus, of course, a few are now stored in the Registry... because that made good sense to someone.
A word of advice to Microsoft: create a simple XML file called "all the customizations in Word's world", store all the user customizations in that file (instead of scattered through a half dozen files), and never change that file name or its location. If you feel the need to futz with the interface that provides access to that information, knock yourself out. So long as the file and its data don't change, nobody but your programmers will care.
As I noted, it's only been a few days. We'll see what new mysteries time reveals in 2014 when I start work on the 3rd edition of Effective Onscreen Editing
. But on the whole, Word 2010 seems a worthwhile step up from Word 2007, possibly because it's had 3 years to mature and be debugged before I courageously adopted it. I have high hopes that by 2016, when I finally make a leap of faith and upgrade to Word 2013, only 3 years after everyone else has made the switch, it will have similarly had its rough edges sanded off.
Yes, I'm a bright-eyed optimist, unjaded and undaunted by decades (!!!) of battle with Microsoft Word.
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