3.653 wordprocessors and criteria (157)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Fri, 27 Oct 89 20:36:35 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 653. Friday, 27 Oct 1989.

(1) Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 12:08:46 BST (71 lines)
From: Donald Spaeth 041 339 8855 x6336 <GKHA13@CMS.GLASGOW.AC.UK>
Subject: Software, Documentation

(2) Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 06:43:51 EDT (22 lines)
From: David.A.Bantz@mac.dartmouth.edu
Subject: Re: 3.646 NeXT? Greek and MS Word? (49)

(3) Date: 27 October 1989 (40 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: criteria

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 12:08:46 BST
From: Donald Spaeth 041 339 8855 x6336 <GKHA13@CMS.GLASGOW.AC.UK>
Subject: Software, Documentation

Much as I like Nota Bene, I must respond to Daniel Boyarin's
promotion of it for "foreign" word-processing, in order to save
HUMANISTs from possibly spending money unnecessarily. ANY top-level
word-processor will be able to word-process in German, Spanish
and all other romance languages (but portuguese). Certainly,
Microsoft Word and WordPerfect can, and so can many other packages.
This is because such characters as the s-zed, reverse-? and !,
as well as umlauted, acuted, etc. vowels are in the IBM Extended
Character Set. If you press the right keys, these characters will
appear on your screen, even on the old IBM PC with MDA display. In
Word, for example, the sequence Alt-173 will produce an upside
down exclamation mark.

The ability to print these characters depends upon your printer--
what type it is, whether your wp software includes a driver for
your printer, and how good a job they've done of writing their
drivers. If you have a cheap dot-matrix printer, not all "foreign"
characters will be available at the same time. One of the purposes
of a printer driver is to convert the extended codes (e.g. ASCII 173)
to the appropriate printer codes to switch to the right language
(e.g. Spanish) and print the right character (e.g. upside down !).
You will have problems only if no driver is supplied for your
software or if the makers have been lazy. For example, earlier
versions of Word only had a small number of Epson drivers and
tended to take simple short-cuts--an a-acute might be produced
by the sequence, a-backspace-singlequote, rather than the proper
a-acute in the extended character set. So someone may need to
write a new driver from scratch or modify an old one. (Most
dot matrix printers are EpsonFX80 compatible nowadays, so you
can at least try that driver.) This is an argument for using
a package supported by your Computing Service or known (well)
by friends.

Where Nota Bene scores is in its Special Language Supplements
which make available characters not in the Extended set, for
example, Portuguese, Scandinavian and Central European diacritics
and non-roman alphabets. It's also true to say that the key-layout
is well-designed so that producing "common" diacritics like a-acute
is easier to learn and remember than with other packages. (Alt-173?!)

Nota Bene also scores on its documentation, which is easily the
best for a word-processor that I have every read--clearly written
and complete. It is a model for the industry. But this points
up a problem. I recently heard that WordPerfect deliberately
made its documentation simplistic (and unhelpful) because their
market research told them that secretaries wouldn't want a package
with good/lengthy documentation! And I know that many people
are put off by NB's documentation, too frightened to crack
the 800 page-filled binder and read the clear prose. In fact,
in my experience, most users don't read documentation, however
good or bad it is. They'd rather ask someone for help than
plough through pages looking for what they want. Partly, this
is because documentation is designed upside down, by function
rather than application. But it would be hard to write a manual
which thought of every major application, and in any case manuals
written in this fashion (as most tutorials are) are difficult
to use as reference tools. And, even with good documentation, users
would rather ask. (Lest you think I'm being patronising I'd rather
ask than read, too, and reading manuals is part of my job!)

Don Spaeth
Computers in Teaching Centre for History
University of Glasgow
d.a.spaeth @ glasgow.ac.uk (JANET)
Word can, WordPerfect can
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------33----
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 89 06:43:51 EDT
From: David.A.Bantz@mac.dartmouth.edu
Subject: Re: 3.646 NeXT? Greek and MS Word? (49)

--- Henry J Blumenthal,Classics and Archaeology, Liverpool
...does anyone know of packages that will do Ancient Greek, with all the
diacritics, compatibly with MS Word (latest version = ? 5) ?
--- end of quoted material ---

Allotype Typographics, Ann Arbor, MI, 313-663-1989 sells Kadmos font in a
couple of different keyboard layouts. It includes a screen (bitmapped)
font and a PostScript font for LaserWriter output; both sides include all
combinations of breathing/diacritics and additional characters used in
particular areas of study.

Linguist's software, Edmunds, Washington, sells Laser Greek which has
similar capability.

These are Macintosh products compatible with Microsoft Word for Mac.
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 27 October 1989
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: criteria

I canna resist. For those of you who have heard this before, forgive me.

Some years of using, reviewing, and brushing up against software have
convinced me that we still don't understand very clearly how to sort the
sheep from the goats. The features of a program are certainly important,
but so often we ask only what a given program can do and not how it does
what it does. I don't mean what steps the program follows internally,
rather the logic of its design. Software has grown sufficiently subtle
as a medium that the artifacts we build with it show something of
ourselves, just as Michelangelo's David radiates the artist's vision of
humanity. To say that wordprocessors A and B can both do Greek is about
as sophisticated a statement as saying that two statues both have arms
and legs.

I have often wondered if we could not learn something from the artists,
art critics, and art historians about how to approach the artifacts that
concern us.

I was talking today with a very well educated professor of religious
studies who told me that he found Nota Bene too complicated. I in turn
told him that my son, when he was 11, taught himself how to use NB
without much reference to the manual. My son is now 13 and has been
using it ever since for his school reports. He's a fine boy but not
particularly adept with computers. From this I conclude that the
supposed "difficulty" is really something else -- more nearly an
incompatibility between the mind of the user and the mind manifested in
the software.

The real question is, then, what criteria do we use for the evaluation
of software that will take us beyond the tiresome comparison of
features? How do we describe the mentality of software?

Willard McCarty