Re: feature usage in my office

Subject: Re: feature usage in my office
From: Ron Ross (
Date: Sun May 06 2001 - 22:14:15 CDT

Randy Kramer <> writes:

> I'd like to request that, for future surveys, we also include the
> category "Headings". I'd like to get a feel for how many documents use
> the collapsible outlining feature, but I don't know a good way to do
> it. Using headings is not a good indicator,

This is a really great point. It also underscores what I have to say
about styles. The use of headings is a styles issue. The fact that
headings give you an outline view in Word might be expected to encourage
the use of headings, and of styles in general. This does not seem to be
the case.

headings/style (47 docs):
   1 - simple, 1 heading-1
   7 - confused, inconsistent headings

Of the 47 documents, only 8 showed any application of styles. Of these,
7 were hopelessly confused and inconsistent: heading levels did not
match the intended structure of the document, styles were misapplied,
the formating of the text at any particular point sometimes did and
sometimes did not reflect the formating resulting from a reapplication
of the style ostensibly in use...

The remaining, eighth document was very simple, structurally speaking,
consisting of lots of body text ("Normal") topped by a single heading
("Heading 1"); the fact that reapplying the "Heading 1" style to the
heading produced no change of formating -- the formating properties of
the Heading 1 style matched the formating in place -- indicates that the
author actually thought out its use.

Mostly working with more complex documents, the other 7 authors
obviously also thought about style usage, and often seem to have put
considerable effort at defining particular styles, but they were just as
obviously incapable of consistency in their definition and use of
styles, sometimes thinking in terms of style, sometimes not, sometimes
defining a style for a particlar heading or caption when they had
already defined or used one for the same type of structural element by
another name.

Note, also, that if you apply _no_ styles, _no_ headings, then my copy
of MS Word 97 does a reasonable job of showing a rather flat outline of
the document, indiscriminately picking out the short lines as unordered
headings. Thus, seven of the eight authors who used styles would have
done better, in terms of such simple outline layout, to apply no style
at all and leave everything to MS Word.

I am not very surprised by the results of this small survey, although I
was not expecting up to 8 people out of 47 to have actually thought
about styles -- that's 17%!

This is *not* an indictment of word processor users. The authors of the
documents I've reported on are educated, intelligent people, and many
have a long publishing history. If educated and intelligent people are
still confused by style usage in the word processors they've been using
for years, then the onus is unquestionably on the design of those word


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b25 : Sat May 26 2001 - 03:51:25 CDT