Saturday, September 14, 2013

On "Dumb" Quotes and the Necessity of Code-Switching

This may be a mind-numbingly boring discussion about fonts, menu's on MS Word, and such. You have been warned...

I got a new laptop recently and installed my good, old 2003 version of Office which I've assumed--for maybe the last 10 years--I like better than newer versions. I've been using the computer at my office a lot which has the pre-365 office or our Mac, which has 2011, and I've never gotten used to the Calibri, 11pt font and all the other jazz that has changed. Or thought I hadn't anyway. Turns out, I've grown really used to a lot of the changes in Office over the years. Although I definitely like opening a document and not having to change font style or size or the spacing between paragraphs, there are definitely some things getting on my nerves.

The one that really prompted this post is its use of "dumb" quotes. You can see them there. The straight kind. I know some people prefer them and they work better in a lot of internet situations, but that doesn't keep them from being annoying to me or make me think of some copy and pasted--and thus probably plagiarized--piece of writing. I've gotten a lot of them over the years, and its become a tag for plagiarism or, at the very least, bad student writing. So, it's annoying to have that kind of conditioned response to my own writing... cause my own writing rocks. Give me my beautifully curly "smart" quotes back!

The next thing is why on earth did they have the ability to change border width under "Page Setup" in the "File" menu!? What's it doing all the way over there? Makes perfect sense to put it under the "Format" menu, but no, all you can do there is give your borders lines of varying styles and widths. Clicking on the "more" box under the paragraph menu is way easier and intuitive.

The review tab in the recent versions of Word? Love 'em. Just click on the tab and turn the track changes settings on or off. Click to insert a comment, delete a comment, delete all comments. All these are very easy in more recent versions of Word. You can never go back again.

Ok, so what? Why does this matter or what am I saying? It kind of reminds me of an experience on my mission where I went back to my first area--where I'd assumed for the year since I'd been there that I was a better missionary then, a way better missionary--but getting there I shocked a member out of her slippers I'd changed so much, and it seemed for the better. Way better. I was so off on my views about the past.

But maybe hating Word 2003 is not quite that significant. Maybe I'm just seeing that Microsoft has really made some improvements over the years. Sure, they've made some missteps--one last dig at Stever Balmer before he goes, right?--but really, I think the interface has really improved in A LOT of ways. Bravo men and women of Redmond, WA.

But maybe it's something else, still. Maybe it's something about code-switching and all the codes we have in this digital world. Do you use Windows or Mac? A lot of people will just go with one or the other because of the slight differences that require you to remember a different set of protocols or "moves" when doing one or the other. My desktop is a Mac, like I said, but most of my other computing is done on PC's, so I'm often missing the command button when I try hot keys on the Mac. Or I have a couple different kinds of mouses that I use which causes mix-ups here and there. Touch screen interfaces verses non-touch screen, the tap=click on most mac trackpads that will often not work on pc touch pads. Or the different ways you scroll on touch pads. And then there are the andriod vs. iOS vs. linux.. DOS... or with the mild web design I do, there are codes for html, CSS, Java, Flash, and they're all a bit different and require the brain to think in slightly different ways. At some point, it's a lot to take in. It gets easier to just stick with what you know and not bother with the other company's stuff which is probably the point.

So, just some thoughts on all the codes and patterns that my brain is asked to think in in this digital world, and which, for the most part, it does really well. One summer when I was traveling through Europe, I had to learn slightly different patterns for each country's keyboards. I don't remember all the slight differences, but I know the German keyboard had the "z" in an odd place. And I'd make a couple mistakes, but then my brain adapted, patched in the new code, and away I went. The human brain seems well-suited to codes and code-switching, and why not? They're all just different languages basically.

Oh, the mad proliferation of codes, though.