Document incompatibilities

2007-01-12

in Geek stuff, Rants, Writing

The members of the M.Phil in International Relations programs have collectively embraced Macintosh computers. The only machines you ever see during our seminars are MacBooks, Powerbooks, and my lonely iBook. At the same time, Microsoft Word has generally been embraced by the academic community. I get about half a dozen Microsoft Word attachments from fellow students, instructors, and mailing lists every day. Every academic journal with which I have had experience (both editing and submitting) has used MS Word as their normal document type.

As such, the following error is especially infuriating. If you add images to a Microsoft Word document being produced on a Mac (in this case, a Venn diagram for my failed states paper), it will may load in Word for Windows with the following error:

QuickTime and a TIFF (LZW) decompressor are needed to see this picture.

First off, shame on Microsoft for not making documents from two pieces of their own software properly interchangeable. Secondly, shame on Apple. They say that Macs are machines for use in serious professional environments, and yet problems like this exist in the single most essential piece of professional software. This, and some other weird incompatibilities relating to fonts and formatting, make me a bit nervous about writing my thesis on a Mac, to be taken to a print shop that will almost certainly be using Windows machines.

People will say to switch to OpenOffice, but that is like replacing your car with a buggy because you don’t like the controls on the stereo. OpenOffice, like Linux, simply isn’t worth the bother in a world where everyone is using a near-ubiquitous alternative.

On a semi-related note, I am strongly considering using a non-standard font for the thesis (either Bembo or Perpetua, perhaps). Is it possible to have a document printed in a font that isn’t particularly standard, or will I get back something switched over to something generic but similar? If you turn a document using a non-standard font into a PDF, can people who do not have that font view and print it properly?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan Laing January 12, 2007 at 11:32 pm

Incidentally, Kate recieved a camera from her father for Christmas – his old canon Eos 650. She has the same 50mm F1.8 lens as you.

I think I do have mortal enemies – high school (in this case emily carr is a high school) photography teachers. “If the scene is bright, open two stops. If dark, close to stops” – completely ignoring the fact that according to kate most of the students have cameras with evaluative (Canon Rebels) meters or matrix (various nikon AF cameras) meters. Many students will get poor grades on their first role precisely because of insane instruction. Luckily I was there to explain to kate why exposure compensation with evaluative metering is usually a bad idea unless you know in this perticular case that your evaluative meter over or under exposes.

Milan January 12, 2007 at 11:37 pm

Tristan,

On my Elan 7N, I virtually never use exposure compensation.

On the A510, I usually just change the ISO so that the shutter speed is 1/20″ or faster. If it is nice and bright out, I just set it to ISO 50 or ISO 100 and use whatever aperture and shutter the P setting chooses.

The more photos I’ve taken, the less attention I actually pay to the numbers and controls. Most of that is probably because cameras are smarter now.

RP January 13, 2007 at 8:56 am

the simple solution is, as you suggest, to use PDFs – then the fonts will be embedded. I use a handy piece of software called PDFCreator. I’m not sure if this is available for Macs, but it is free and very handy – you can make PDFs from any program you can print from. Think it’s on sourceforge.

Alex January 13, 2007 at 12:59 pm

“The members of the M.Phil in International Relations programs have collectively embraced Macintosh computers. The only machines you ever see during our seminars are MacBooks, Powerbooks, and my lonely iBook. ”

There is a nest of resistance: Have you never seen my VAIO laptop? James Bond was so impressed by mine that he used one as well during his recent Casino adventure :-)

R.K. January 14, 2007 at 10:37 pm

People will say to switch to OpenOffice, but that is like replacing your car with a buggy because you don’t like the controls on the stereo. OpenOffice, like Linux, simply isn’t worth the bother in a world where everyone is using a near-ubiquitous alternative.

That’s the tension, isn’t it? You want something polished, but open and flexible. Linux is rotten because the fonts are bad. The iPhone is rotten because it cannot be toyed with.

As polished Unix, OS X manages to live in that zone. Who knows if future products will. The temptation for the leader is always to lock people into your control.

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