Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Learning New Things

There was a VP I worked for several years ago. He was a WordPerfect man, and we had standardized on MS Office, so he had some growing pains when he was hired. The business manager was obsessed with Quattro Pro and refused to use Excel, so we had all kinds of resistance we were dealing with. Everyone had both office suites on their computers, because a lot of legacy stuff was in WordPerfect, but people weren't supposed to create new files in WordPerfect. Yeah, that worked out well.

The VP was putting together an agenda for a meeting, and he was trying to be good and use the right software. He called me in to ask about a hot-key that wasn't working. Apparently WordPerfect had some hot-key you could press, where if you were typing something on a line, hit the key combination, then it would automatically add a right tab to the far right margin and add leader characters (periods) all the way over to it. The effect is you have something like:
Review schedule of upcoming events...................John Smith
...where the agenda item of reviewing the calendar starts on the left margin like usual, dots all the way across, and the name of the person leading that discussion on the right margin, right aligned. The number of dots automatically increase or decrease depending on how long the right-aligned name is. Fair enough and a nice effect.

But Word doesn't have a shortcut for that. I might be able to write a macro that does the same thing, but it's probably not worth the time. I just told him that Word didn't have the shortcut, but we could set up the same effect manually. Just click here, change the tab type, select the type of leader characters, click okay.... And in the middle of me demonstrating how to do it, he says - forget it, I'll just have the secretary create the agenda.

More than about three clicks was too complicated, I guess.  Really, just change to a right tab and select the leader characters.  It's not much.  And use the format painter to apply the effect everywhere else once you've done it once.

Of course, most people, rather than setting appropriate left or right tabs to get text to line up right will just space over and kind of eyeball it, but due to variable width fonts, you can never quite get everything lined up perfectly. Please do the OCD among us a favor and learn how to set tabs, because I guarantee we're not listening to what you're saying - we're angrily staring at the printed agenda with crooked text, or if you saved paper and sent the electronic file out, we're actually fixing the spacing and tabs on our own copy and wondering what excuse to give that would justify re-sending the fixed file out to everyone. At least the VP wasn't actually typing in a bunch of periods and trying to get the text to magically line up by getting just the right number of periods in there, so he had that going for him.