Word 2010 Rant

This is a rant and I make no apologies for that, since this is my website and I can rant if I like.

There are many rant-worthy features of Microsoft Word 2010. The whole concept of the ribbon is a badly conceived joke, and whoever decided to put save and print on a different page is a… but I wont get abusive, and these are after all personal opinions. Maybe somewhere there are one or two people who find that the ribbon greatly accelerates their workflow. However there is one rant-worthy behaviour that Word has clung to lovingly since it first crawled from the primaeval ooze that was MS-DOS. I'm talking about read-only files.

There are two workable patterns for handling read-only files in an editor, and every other editor I have seen uses one or the other:

  1. If a file is marked read-only, then the editor refuses to make changes to it.
  2. If a file is marked read-only, then the editor allows changes to be made, on the grounds that the file may become writable in the future. If the file does become writable, then the editor will allow it to be written.

So what does Word do? It allows changes to be made to the file, but it never allows the file to be written, even if the file becomes writable. You might hope that you could save the file under a different name, then make the original file writable, and then save the document under the original name. But Word is too clever for that; it remembers the original name and refuses to over-write it. The only way to break that link is to close the file. Word is so stubborn that it makes it as hard as it possibly can to over-write a file that was once read-only, no matter what the user does to dissuade it. Microsoft, you see, always knows best.

If you try to write a read-only file in Word 2010 it now displays this handy list of instructions:

  1. Click the File tab, and then click Save As.
  2. Enter a different file name, and then click Save.
  3. NOTE: Adding "Rev1", or "Mod1" to the original file name may help you to remember it later.
  4. Click the File tab, and then click Close.
  5. Open Windows Explorer.
  6. Browse to the original read-only file.
  7. Rename the read-only file.
  8. Browse to the new file.
  9. Rename the new file to the name of the original file.

Didn't the person who wrote those instructions realise how stupid they were? Is nobody at Microsoft caught out by this behaviour? I cannot think of a single occasion when Word's behaviour was what I wanted, but many, many times when I have cursed bitterly, sighed heavily and saved under a new name, closed the file, and renamed it. I am sure that anyone who has Word files under version control will have the same experience. After two decades one would have thought that someone would have realised how moronic Word's behaviour was. But of course this is standard practice for Microsoft; they don't copy stuff from other people, they copy stuff from other people so badly that it doesn't work.

If I was paranoid I might point out that people may see Microsoft's implementation and assume that everyone's tech was as broken. I might point out that sometimes Microsoft uses the broken implementation as an excuse to build something incompatible.

But with read-only files I cannot be so judgemental. I cannot ascribe to malice something that can only be explained by gross incompetence, pig-headed arrogance and a callous disregard for their customers.

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