Weaning myself off Word

We all know that Word has its idiosyncrasies, and they have driven us all crazy sometimes. We also all know that the package has lots of capability that we don’t use and probably never will use….. But are there real alternatives? After reading this blog, I have started playing a little with pandoc and Markdown as an alternative approach to document production. I have got as far as producing a three page document in this workflow – it was a simple one and ironically it has ended up as a docx (so I can share it with colleagues), but the experience was not too horrible. I used Haroopad as an editor, and I can tell already that, if I keep doing this, I will have to improve my typing accuracy a lot. Finding typos in the low-contrast editing pane in Haroopad is too much for my aging eyes….

But there are more serious questions I still haven’t resolved. First I need to be sure that Zotero can be integrated into the workflow. I understand how Markdown handles citations and how I can use Zotero to generate a BibTex file which will feed the data into the final version, but the ease of choosing references using the Zotero plugin or Word is not something I will easily give up. I’m looking at a couple of possibilities, but things start to get more complicated rather quickly…..

Then there are a couple of linguist issues. The first is using IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). The whole process is Unicode based, so the basic problem (consistent reference to symbols) is solved, and I have checked that rendering works (with an appropriate font). The remaining issue, though, is an input method. At the moment, I am not seeing a better possibility than selecting characters somewhere and then doing a cut-and-paste. There are online tools, and offline ones as well. It’s a bit clunky but I am not a huge user of IPA symbols and I can probbaly live with this.

That leaves a last problem that I’m quite nervous about – presenting examples as aligned interlinear text. The best way to make sure that this sort of presentation is stable is to use tables – i.e. doing in a word processor what you would be forced to do in html. But to make it look decent, you need to be able to adjust the size of table columns all the time…. Whether Markdwon can handle this is something I will have to find out. I realise that it may mean writing a specific style sheet at some point and that is a bit intimidating at this stage. Anyway, I will report on progress somewhere down the track and will be happy to share any tricks or tools I come up with.


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