Awhile back, my partner and I took on a project to create a series of Word templates for a design firm. They provided all the specifications, measurements, fonts, etc. All we would have to do is make the templates fit to their specs. We knew from the beginning that they would be using the templates in a Mac only environment and that they were not concerned about cross compatibility. We proceeded to create the documents in a PC environment since neither of us had a Mac readily available to us. Between us we were able to create the documents to function just the way they requested. The end user would be able to tab through fields until they reached the main part of the document where they could type text, apply formating and retain the ability to use the auto spell check functions. Several fields located in the headers and footers that would update dynamically by using a simple macro that ran when leaving a form field and whenever the document was opened or saved. It was a complex solution that required a good bit of research to put together but it all worked.
The documents were sent and tested in the Word 2004 environment. There were a few issues that would require the use of a Mac to correct. My partner ordered a Mac mini and the project paused for quite some time. The new year began and it was time to get back on the project. During the pause Office 2008 for Mac was released and the client migrated the entire company to the new version. We corrected some of the minor details in the templates and assumed that all would be well with the world. We were wrong.
Several major issues arose within the templates. The section breaks were broken, the entire document became protected which meant the body area could not be edited while the form fields were in protected mode. In addition to this the header and footer fields would not update, and the spell check was non-functional. The documents were completely unusable. The client has made it clear that they will not be rolling back to the previous version of office and that we will need to come up with a solution for the templates.
I’ve studied the new software with what little available information I can find. I have found only one forum that mentions the problem of not being able to protect only a portion of the document by using continuous section breaks. This forum suggests that it is a bug ather than a intentional change in the software. This would be somewhat encouraging except that it seems to be a bug that nobody cares much about. Except for me, that is, since It is the key to the entire problem. If the section breaks worked then the spell check would be operational, and the form fields could be locked to enable the user to tab from one to another and the body of the document could be edited and formated freely. the headers and footer fields can, then, be updated using Apple Script just as they were updated using VBA macros before.
The client, unfortunately, is going to have to sacrifice something in their request. My current plan is to suggest the use of a table which can be tabbed through or arrow keys can be used to navigate for the portions of the document I had used form fields in the original templates. I will still need to learn enough AppleScript to update the Header and Footer fields. Assuming that I’m not missing anything in my plan this should resolve the worst of the issues.
One of the biggest challenges through this whole ordeal is that, because the software is so new there are very few print resources. In fact, I’ve only been able to locate 2 books available.
Ultimately, for me, this problem means that I will end up just breaking even on expenses for this project, if I’m lucky. I don’t know when I might have another project that would require a Mac. What really gets me cranked, though, is that Microsoft has started to make it clear that they don’t care about cross platform or backward compatibility. Another example of this is how poorly Vista communicates with XP computers on a network. There may be ways around the issue but they certainly are not simple. The entire office suite has changed the document structure in such a way that older versions of the software can’t even open documents created in the new version without a compatibility plugin for the computer with the older version installed. So we have expensive software that has been changed so drastically in a single version change that it’s practically an entirely new piece of software. To top it all off the new version makes it so much harder for a power user to work with the software. Did the desire to make the software easier for a completely new user to learn make them forget that they have a user base that has already taken the time and energy to learn what was there before? Now why are we not all just dumping Microsoft Office and moving to something that cares about maintaining some form of standards and has the minor little benefit of being available for FREE?