W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-ig@w3.org > October to December 1998

Re: Why Word?

From: Joe Night <joe.night@gateway2000.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 15:41:53 -0600
Message-Id: <3.0.6.32.19981216154153.008c79b0@mail.gateway2000.com>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Why or Why not?

I use Microsoft Word on a daily basis. I need a spell checker! I do not use
it to create HTML. I gave up on the conversion utility years ago, shortly
after it was made available. As a reality check (things do change for the
better occasionally), I loaded a complicated, multi-page, multi-column,
graphic-laden document into Word and then saved it as HTML.

The conversion lived down to my expectation.

Word inverts the document and places the footer above everything else. Thus
the most inconsequential material becomes the lead paragraph. Then Word
eliminates the multiple columns and changes the appearance of the overall
document in a way that essentially renders the document in an unflattering
but functional manner. But all is not lost. Word continues to generate web
pages that render better under Microsoft Explorer than Netscape Communicator.

A sample of what it produces:

"<P ALIGN="JUSTIFY"></P>"

That's white space. I guess it's better than an invisible spacer GIF. A
"BR" would be a little more economical. Justified white space is an
interesting design concept.
It does no harm. It's just silly.

"<UL>
<P ALIGN="JUSTIFY"><LI>..."

The original list within the Word document used justified text. The HTML
version uses the paragraph tag as an attempt to retain the justification
even though the justification is meaningless once the two column layout is
destroyed.
It does no harm, it's just silly.

"<FONT FACE="Arial Narrow" SIZE=1>"

This works fairly well under Microsoft's operating systems. But the small
font is way off target and most of the document is rendered at a painfully
small size. (I have roughly 20-20 corrected vision and a 21 inch monitor at
800X600 resolution). What was almost too large to read in the original
document has been reduced to near nothingness.

The pictures and illustrations which were created within the Word document
-- using the picture editor -- have been converted into meaningless gifs
(without alt tags).

The imported images which were scaled to appropriate and functional sizes
within the Word document have been reduced to arbitrarily smaller images
(without ALT tags) in the HTML document. Images containing important
information have been reduced to unreadable sizes. But the byte size of the
images hasn't changed because the images were only scaled back by the image
tag formatting -- so the ones that take forever to download could always be
saved to disk and read separately.

That reminds me of the porn site I saw years ago. The designer didn't know
how to scale an image in a photo editor but he wanted to use thumbnails for
a menu... So the twenty or so thumbnails on his main page were really the
fullsize images -- but reduced by the width and height tags. I think it's
an interesting way to eliminate smut on the internet -- by frustration and
fatigue. But it's a poor way to write a web page.

Sorry. I'm getting off track here. I don't hesitate to use Microsoft Word
as a word processor. When I've finished with a document I cut and past the
whole thing into my HTML text editor (not a WYSIWYG) and add the necessary
formatting. It takes almost no time and I almost always get what I want.
Adding a few paragraph tags is pretty easy using the hot key paste function.

The arguments I keep hearing about how people don't always need to know
HTML in order to produce a document just don't hold up for me. It takes
about as much time to pursuade someone to remain ignorant as it does to
teach basic html. OK. I admit it. I exadurate. I learned HTML at the
laundromat while the clothes were in the dryer. It takes about 20 minutes
to get a good grasp of functional HTML.

I'd estimate that it would take about as much time to go back and fix the
errors on the document I was playing with.

Is it possible to build a really good conversion utility? Probably. Is it
possible for authors who lack basic HTML skills to understand which
expectations are reasonable when designing their pages? I have some doubts.
Received on Wednesday, 16 December 1998 16:42:11 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0+W3C-0.50 : Tuesday, 19 July 2011 18:13:41 GMT