When Microsoft Word is best for the job

In the past Macademic wrote about misuses of and alternatives to Microsoft Word. But we also believe sometimes Word is the best tool for the job. In such cases it should be used to its full capacity including captions and cross-referencing, custom keyboard shortcuts, preparing tables, and using cite-while-you-write software. A program for early researchers recently posted a great blog post covering  five basic principles for manuscript preparation in Word (for Mac). In addition to points already mentioned on Macademic, the post stresses the importance of Styles, Templates and Track Changes. We fully agree!

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About Jessica Jewell

Jessica Jewell is a Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
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8 Responses to When Microsoft Word is best for the job

  1. Dellu says:

    Cross-referencing one heck of a pain in Word; Latex does it flawlessly.

    • Jessica Jewell says:

      I don’t disagree Dellu! In long documents it also makes Word unstable. And since cross-referenced captions are stored in similar meta-data, the two can easily get corrupted and mixed up particularly when using a reference manager.

  2. Daniel says:

    The only real advantage of Word that I (still) see is the use of Word for serial letter/documents. For example, to give participants or students of a class feedback you can use an Excel-Table with the values and automatically generate the Word documents/text. Then you can either print it or copy/paste it into your eMail program and send it out.

    • Jessica Jewell says:

      Great point Daniel. The main time I find myself falling back on Word is in multi-author articles and reports. People are just so used to tracked changes and I haven’t found something which can compete. What do you use for these types of collaborations?

      • Daniel says:

        Unfortunately, for the last collaborations we had to use Word, as it was the lowest common denominator between us (in more ways than one). Personally, I would like to switch to Scrivener for serial writing (only one author works on the text at one time) — given that it is hugely superior to Word and the like (and the tracking of changes and the use of snapshots is much, much better than in Word). I’m slowly spreading the program to people I work with, so far, the reactions were positive. But for collaborative writing where multiple authors work on the text at the same time, I would prefer to use Google Docs, as the current version is always available (works great for protocols in phone conferences, BTW). It would be great if Scrivener would implement collaborative writing, something like syncing files and combining multiple versions with tracked changes and the like.

  3. Jessica Jewell says:

    I completely agree on Scrivener for serial writing and Gdocs for simultaneous editing. Keep spreading the word on Scrivener! I have converted a few people but so many people just roll their eyes when I broach the topic. Then we end up with Word as, you rightly said, the lowest common denominator. But if we do use Word I at least want it used correctly. I hate getting documents which are hand formatted without the use of styles. So tedious and then you don’t even have a document map.

  4. Iris says:

    To each his own I guess. I’ve simply gotten so used to Microsoft word and it helps me a lot especially when doing some cross-referencing and captions plus it’s got those custom keyboard short-cuts.

    • Jessica Jewell says:

      Thanks for your comment Iris. I do think cross-referencing and captions is really helpful in the compilation stage but not in the creation stage. Also all programs on Mac can be programmed with custom keyboard shortcuts.

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