Something that’s bugged me about LaTeX is the insane difficulty of installing new fonts. I guess that’s just a sign of its age, but I have all of these great fonts that I can’t use because I don’t have the time or patience to learn how to change fonts from OpenType to TeX font metrics. Another thing that’s bugged me is how hard it is to position things, to draw things, and manipulate things that aren’t text.
Today, I suddenly decided that I didn’t want my fonts to go to waste, so I looked back at OpenOffice. I’d been hearing for a while that OpenOffice’s (and Office’s) Styles feature acts a lot like markup. You just label sections of text and they become associated with a style. The difference is that there’s no markup visible, because it’s all WYSIWYG.
So I spent a lot of my afternoon messing around with the template and styles. I’d settled on Frutiger Light for my headings and headers and footers and Minion for the body text. I also made up some templates for reports and a template for essays. I love taking advantage of all the features of a program. I’m going to have a look into styling the worship slides later on.
Once all of the text is associated with a style, like “Heading 1″ or “Footer”, it becomes much easier to keep a consistent look and feel across the document. All you need to do is change the associated style. If you change the font size of the third level header, then instead of going through the entire document, changing it, you just need to change the style, and all of the third level headers get changed.
Not only does this help keep things consistent, it also helps to give the author a sense of structure to the document. Instead of thinking visually, in terms of the weight of the font, the size, or the face, the author can concentrate on how the document is going to be organized. That way, after the important work (content) is finished, the author can retroactively apply styles to the document.
High school is not a place that’s known for quality. One of my pet peeves is getting handouts (whether it’s from teachers or students) that has the type change for no reason at all. I’m not even talking about changing font faces (which happens too), but haven’t you ever gotten those handouts with line breaks in the middle or a sudden change in font size? It’s bad because it’s hard to read and hard to follow. Teachers take off marks for shoddy handwriting; why don’t they do the same for crappy typesetting?
I remember when I used to use Word to type up essays and reports. I remember sometimes when Word decides to change the font back to the default Times New Roman, 10 pt inexplicably. Then I’d have to highlight it and change the font again. That’s styles kicking in.
Everything that you change outside of styles is a manual override. When you start up your word processor, you’re always in the ‘default’ style, usually Times New Roman, 10 pt. If you don’t change styles and just change it to become Gill Sans Bold, 24 pt, you’ve made a temporary change to the selected text in the default style. What ends up happening is that the entire document you format is in the default style and you just have a lot of temporary changes.
I can see that Microsoft really intended for Word to be used with Styles. I can also see how, with subsequent versions, they tried to push styles onto users and the users just keep ignoring them. I guess it’s just human nature to make like electricity and follow the path with the least resistance.