Monday, February 14, 2005

Whining about computers.

(Originally posted on Monday, February 14, 2005 by Cathy)

having major issues with assembling large documents in Word. I just
assembled a three chapter research proposal that included 5 hours of
swearing and ultimately printing (to PDF) the 65 page document in a
dozen small chunks, reassembling in a different order with
then manually editing the pages in acrobat to fix the page numbers.
Utter misery.

The crux of my problem is that The Desired Format for these
things is body text, then endnotes, then tables/figure legends/figure
(any of which may include references which must be included in the
afore-mentioned endnotes). I used to do my endnotes with
which didn't mind much if I picked up the endnotes and plunked them
down in the middle of the file. (It wouldn't do it automatically, but
at least I could do it manually.) Unfortunately, EndNote is
expensive, and I no longer am in a place with a site license.

So I figured I'd use Word's built-in endnotes. How bad could it
be? Bad, very bad. Word doesn't let you move endnotes around in the
document (putting them at the end of the section doesn't work, since
I need some endnotes to show up BEFORE the section that references
them). It doesn't let you cut and paste them to another document so
that you can print the pieces in the right order (unless you want
them all renumbered to '1'). It doesn't handle multiple uses of the
same endnote in a nice way either.

(Word also likes to majorly screw up formatting if one dares to
use a master document to join together separate chapters, but that's

I tried yanking my word documents over into OpenOffice
as an 11th hour solution to my problem. No luck, in fact,
OpenOffice's conversion of my Endnotes made them their own separate
sections (I think?), and I couldn't move them in OO either. This
isn't OpenOffice's fault, since it was dealing with my stupid word
file, but I haven't been able to find much about what OpenOffice's
native endnote capabilities are. (I see that it has some, I'd like to
hear from Chez Modi's extensive readership how well they're working for you.)

So here's my question: Suppose you need pretty powerful endnote
and cross-referencing abilities. And you need to deal with 200 page
documents (including figures) without too many hiccoughs, preferably
as sub-documents. And it'd be nice if captioning figures and
cross-referencing to them was less of a pain than it was in Word.
(It's entirely possible to get some adjacent text included in the
figure caption, which makes cross-referencing it VERY strange.)
Should I be using OpenOffice? Should I buy EndNote and just deal with
Word's lousy handling of figures (which might be tolerable if Word
wasn't also screwing up my endnotes). Is there a better piece of
software that won't totally break my (impoverished grad student)
budget? (Aside: I write on a newer machine running XP and a 3-year
old machine running Win 2000.)

P.S. to those keeping track - I'm on a plane to Caltech on Thursday to defend my props at long last!