I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

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I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby larrydanger » Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:49 am

I Want my Typewriter Back

Well, of course I don't really. But having been through my annual fit of trying to use various word processors (Open/Libre Office Writer and AbiWord -- this time on Windows 7 instead of FreeBSD) I am sick at heart. I had a lot of potential once, you know.

The problem mainly is that none of these things (I'll throw in Word which is what the others seem to be trying to reverse engineer) is a word processor. They are desktop publishers. If you have built a better mouse trap, you can set up your brochure, write a business letter, drag you spreadsheet stuff over for the sales report, and so forth. Hooray. Mousetrap.

What you cannot do is process words. I know. Everything today is in a GUI, but worse, the alleged word processors are WYSIWYG. This is the last thing the wordsmith wants.

Okay, that's the whine. Here's the beg.

What I want:

1. One font. Maybe with an italic face thrown in (or underlining). 2. One size.

Okay. All GUI fonts are largely illegible. Certainly they are way behind good old VGA fonts. But the best bet would be a monospace font since the kerning in the alleged word processors is terrible. Is there an extra space between the y and the w in Hollywood? And is that word kern or kem? No telling in GUI fonts.

3. Project folder. The first thing a word processor should prompt you for is the name of your project. All the data for that project should be saved to that folder automagically. Windows in particular loves to scatter similar documents all over and mix them up, and given the nonexistence of a functioning file manager, you are very likely to see your stuff again unless your word processor fights the system and stakes out a little ground for your project.

4. Spellchecking. Really this is the only thing a word processor has over a typewriter.

5. One heading for the title, one heading for chapters, and some pseudo-headings for bylines and descriptive captions such as "Other Works," "Dedication," "Acknowledgments," "Contents," and so forth.

6. Master Document. Along about page 245 it strikes you that working with a whole book at once is ridiculous, and unlike typewritten dead-tree pages, stuff in a wordprocessing file is not random-access.

7. Table of contents, made only from the chapter headings. Naturally you want to be able to drag and drop these into a different order if the need arises.

8. ISO-8859-1. Stop wasting bytes on Unicode everytime you want an accented character.

9. And speaking of accents, typewriter-like compose function (brings up a box in which the typewriter equivalent for overstriking characters can be entered, such as " and o for umlaut o).

10. Ability to open another copy of the present document read-only, but automagically updated. You cannot really have the same access to what you have written as you could with paper manuscripts, but you want to be able to look back, and have the looked back part side-by-side with the writable document.

11. Cut to scrap. Cut the block to an autosaved file you do not have to stop and name, but can be renamed if you want to. Scrap files should be indexed by major words and it should be possible to flip through them quickly and of course to copy and paste from them back to the writable document. Naturally, you want a "really do completely trash" function.

12. Some kind of versioning system that you do not have to be mucking with constantly.

13. No soft hyphens ever. No full justification.

14. Indented paragraphs by default. Yeah I wish enter tab would be the paragraph mark, while enter alone would just be saved as a space. And there should be an insert blank line function, but otherwise, successive enters should just disappear.

15. Export to plain text and save to unstyled HTML should be a snap. Documents only contain H1, H2, H3, P, and EM elements.

I don't really need the keys to click or the bell to sound when I hit return.
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Re: I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby Hagar Delest » Wed Jan 22, 2014 8:53 am

Can you tell exactly what you miss? Most of the points above are already in AOO or can be deactivated.
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Re: I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby RoryOF » Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:10 am

Try one of the writer's assistant programs. Scrivener is well spoken of (30 day trial, then commercial).

I have used Plume Creator from
http://www.plume-creator.eu/site/index.php/en/download-en
(Windows/linux versions). I think this will provide much of what you require.
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Re: I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby larrydanger » Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:39 am

Let's just take one thing: a table of contents (in a master document) made of only the chapter headings.

The tutorial in the wiki says chapters should all start with Heading 1. But I want Heading 1 reserved for the title. I also want to use Heading 3 for the various captions (byline, "Other Works," "Dedication," "Table of Contents."

If I follow instructions in the tutorial, I have a document with a bunch of Heading 1s including the title, which should not be a ToC entry. I want only the Heading 2s in the ToC. None of the examples I have seen indicate it is possible to do this, but instead show ToCs with Headings 1-3.

More:

Styles: evidently to get them to work, you have to have Next Style. But this is a drop-down box. So you cannot enter the next style you plan to enter.

What is more, every time you click a tab, the tabs rearrange themselves, so you have to keep a pad and pencil checklist to be sure you looked at all the tabs -- you cannot just open them in order.

Even when you reveal marks, you cannot tell where styles start and stop. This is not at all helpful if you are trying to keep the structure of the document straight. And of course WYSIWYG is worse than useless. You cannot tell anything about the structure of the document.

If there is an open - read only feature I cannot find it. You constantly have to scroll or page back and forth to see what you written and so far as I can tell you cannot compare that with the current page side-by-side.
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Re: I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby larrydanger » Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:43 am

I think I still have a copy of WordPerfect (for DOS) 5.x. That was the last functioning "word processor" I know of. At least when you revealed codes you could see the start and end tags for the styles. Maybe I can run it in DOS box.
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Re: I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby Villeroy » Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:17 pm

OK, let's rewrite everything.
Please, edit this topic's initial post and add "[Solved]" to the subject line if your problem has been solved.
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Re: I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby Mark Nelson » Wed Jan 22, 2014 7:27 pm

Shouldn't take more than twenty five years to get everything rewritten though. Or you can learn a new way that concentrates on styles and have potential again.
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Re: I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby floris v » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:27 pm

@larrydanger: You should read [Tutorial] List of styles. That will show you that the heading styles were added for a very specific purpose, just like so much else.
The point about headings styles is that they can be easily, almost effortlessly, used to add structure to your document. Nine heading levels deep is a lot. The nice thing is that they're automatically used for a TOC (and you tell how many levels you want in it, that's all you have to do, you don't have to create a lot of fancy named heading styles and then in the TOC dialog/wizard tell which styles you want to use).
The point about heading styles is that you can change pretty much any setting in it that you don't like. I assume that you want to use Heading 3 for certain headings because you don't like the default settings for Heading 2. Now that's bad style, pun intended. You should use the Title style for your book title, Heading 1 for your chapter titles, Heading 2 for the next lower hierarchy heading and so on. Why? Because that's the easiest way to use them, that's why. It's the easiest way to sort out the settings in Tools - Outline numbering. Why create more work for yourself by skipping levels? It just doesn't make sense.
Next is to make a default template with the styles in it as you want them and save that, from then on you are as close to your typewriter as you can get it. Just remember to disable the formatting tool bar to prevent that you start changing the font name and size and you're set.
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Re: I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby Villeroy » Wed Jan 22, 2014 10:45 pm

Again: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markdown together with your favourite plain text editor is as close to a type writer as can be.
Please, edit this topic's initial post and add "[Solved]" to the subject line if your problem has been solved.
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Re: I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby larrydanger » Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:05 am

I found Plume Creator interesting. There are some obvious glitches, but the big ones are: being advertised as a RTF editor, it does not seem to support exporting/saving as RTF, and exporting html seems to result in an empty document. The only plausible export format seems to be .otd -- which is a loop back to the main problem.

Now the reason not use a Title format for the title and Heading 1 for chapters is that a well-formed document should only have one top level heading. Unless there is some kind of fix in the export function, having chapter titles as Heading 1 cannot possibly result in well formed xhtml or xml.

This is, of course, a flaw in my scheme of using Heading 3 for what I have called captions (byline, "Acknowledgments", "Table of Contents," "Dedication," etc.: They would not be properly nested, since Heading 3 should only occur under a Heading 2. So I suppose they have to be special paragraph styles.
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Re: I Want my Typewriter Back [Rant]

Postby rudolfo » Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:19 am

As the title of this thread is screaming I want my typewriter back I guess a very simplified markup language (as Villeroy suggested with Markdown) would be the most appropriate for you. When I was reading through your first points my first thought was "Why not using Tex/LaTeX?". Although I don't know to much about Word Perfect I still think that Latex together with LyX as frontend for it resembles the features of WordPerfect quite closely.

LyX and LaTeX offer more formatting options because they are closely related with printing. There final output will mostly be a PDF or PostScript file. But if your focus is not on print outs you will rather experience this as drawback compared to markup languages such as Markdown, reST (restructured Text) or even BB-Code (the markup used for the postings on this forum).
These markup languages are meta languages that can be used to generate several output formats: PDF and PostScript for printing, HTML or Slides. reST is the favourite markup in the Python community and hence a lot of tools like docutils are based on Python (this is not a bad thing, because OpenOffice comes with a Python interpreter). And you surely want to have a look at pandoc, a processor that can convert between several different markup languages and became quite popular in the last time. There is also a page (markdown-and-rest-compared.html) that gives a good overview about markdown and reST and discusses the Pros and Cons of both.

Personally I am a bit biased for GNU Emacs as the text editor. And hence I use the markup languages that comes with this editor: muse-mode and org-mode. The following is a screenshot of the first draft of a Tutorial I wrote for this forum and for which I used muse-mode in GNU Emacs. It has the different heading levels, shows pictures directly within the text, can generate a table of content based on the headings and can use any spellchecker that Emacs can plumb in.

emacs-muse-mode.png
Simple markup in Emacs


The big plus is that Emacs can also work directly with the .odt files if you configure it to treat ODF files as zip archives (what they actually are). You use Emacs as filesystem browser and can directly access the XML files inside the .odt documents. It comes with a built-in validator for XML files that can use the OASIS RelaxNG schema to help you to avoid serious mistakes when manually editing the Content.xml or style.xml. But frankly the XML of a typical ODF document of 3 pages is too complicated and you don't want to work directly with its XML files.

There are other editors, some of them are specialized on working with pandoc: UberWriter is one of them, but it seems like it is only available for Linux and Mac at the moment.
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