On Word and HTML

I won’t heap any more scorn on MS Word as an HTML generator; the flaws of Word in that regard are fairly well documented.

If I have a Word document I want to render in HTML, I save the file to a plain-text file, stripping out every little formatting quirk, and then build the HTML coding around the plain-text in an HTML editor. (I use two different editors, depending on what I need to do; Arachnophilia, for quickie jobs, Hot Dog Professional, for heavy duty jobs that require tables, forms, that sort of thing.) If it’s a Trek story, re-italicizing a ship name isn’t difficult; just do a search-and-replace to put the italics tags around the name of the ship. I don’t do a lot of italicizing outside of that, nor do I do much in the way of boldface or underlining.

Style sheets. (I said I wasn’t going to heap more scorn on Word; well, I’ve changed my mind.) The one thing Word doesn’t do is style sheets; the layout of a Word HTML document is embodied in the document itself. One of the truly sucky jobs I did a few years ago was to take a very large HTML document that had been produced in Word and redo it in a style sheet, because the maintainer of the document wanted to be able to update the document in the future easily. The problem was that the signal-to-noise ratio in the document was extremely low–Word puts way too many formatting tags into the document, sometimes in the middle of words–and I spent a week stripping out the document of all the tags, going line by line. Generating a style sheet to handle the formatting took all of about fifteen minutes, and reduced the size of the original document by 70 percent.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a reason I like writing in Word, because it does a lot. But there’s also a reason why I convert my documents over to another format–plain-text or WordPerfect 5.1–if I need to do something else with them. Word produces really bloated documents, when it doesn’t need to.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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