Is a Paperless Society Possible? - Part II.
We can start with the premise that if you have simple non-technical text, all you have to do is print to Adobe PDF Writer and you will get a most satisfactory PDF file. The same goes for converting back and forth between Word and WordPerfect. The claims on the WordPerfect 9.0 box say you can do all this and embed the fonts. As none of the reviews I saw for WordPerfect 9.0 described any problems, I get the impression that the reviewers were happy doing little more than read the box and then write about what it says. Chemputing is different as our test documents are much more complex. They contain some symbols, a few equations and a bit of graphics, i.e., a typical technical document. Unless you are very lucky, the PDF or Word file that you get can be a real mess. The extensive WordPerfect font collection makes it possible to produce that technical text. This is one of the main features that makes WordPerfect a superior product when compared to Microsoft Word for the production of technical text. You get 1500 special characters with WordPerfect and a meagre 150 with Word. That character set includes many characters that are unique to the chemical profession such as the double-harpoon equilibrium arrow. The great thing about them is that you can access them without going out to special fonts or add-in programs. They can also be used within the equation editor, or at least what's now called the version 7.0 equation editor. Instead of leaving a good thing alone, WordPerfect 8.0 and 9.0 have a new equation editor that is incapable of accessing all these nice characters. Fortunately, you can continue to use the version 7.0 equation editor with the newer WordPerfect versions and even take this choice as the default. I would suggest that Corel should consider rewording those claims or fix their program.
In order to achieve my objectives, the first step was to create a typical page of chemical text, loaded with symbols and equations. This was then to be converted into Adobe and Word formats by a variety of routes on a number of different computers. The text was a collection of excerpts from various reports and courses that I had prepared with WordPerfect 7.0 over several years. It had equations, symbols, Greek characters, graphics and more. The aim was to subject the conversion to a realistic, but extreme test. Throughout the process, I realized that some of the conversions might look reasonable on my system, just because WordPerfect was loaded with all its fonts. This could be one of those examples of WYSINWYG or what you see is NOT what you get. To complete the test, I also sent copies of the files to Word users who didn't have WordPerfect on their systems. Where I saw all the special symbols and characters, they saw small solid circles with the Adobe and a weird collection of odd-ball characters with Word. What was even more interesting was the difference between the WordPerfect 9.0 versions on my system and someone else's system. I attributed this to the fact that I had the original WordPerfect 7.0 fonts on mine and he had the newer WordPerfect 9.0 fonts on his system and that WordPerfect saw them as being different.
I used both WordPerfect 7.0 and 9.0 to generate the Adobe and Word files. 9.0 has a feature called Publish to PDF. Well, don't believe that one. It produced an absolute mess with text repeated three times in a line and all the graphics and symbols gone. I tried printing to PDF Writer and that did a mediocre job as it couldn't handle the special characters. I played around and eventually found a roundabout way to do it. On the Adobe Acrobat CD-ROM, there are two other programs that you will need. The first is Adobe Distiller which is used for printing from Postscript files. If you take the standard installation, you will likely install it without ever knowing or thinking about what you are doing. If you take the custom installation and think about it you might decide not to install it as you don't have a Postscript printer and don't want to waste disk space. Go ahead an install it as you will need it. The other program is called a Default Postscript Driver and it is tucked away in the \UTILITIES\DRIVERS\WIN95&98subdirectory. Install that one as well as you will need all three Adobe virtual printers. When you have a complex document, print it to the Adobe Postscript Driver. It's best to switch from your normal printer first to allow any differences in font or line spacing to settle themselves our first. As you start, you will see the disk drive coming to life and the icon for the Adobe Assistant will appear in the Windows taskbar tray as the Assistant takes the output from the Default Postscript printer and feeds it into Distiller. If you have ticked off the option to go directly to the Acrobat Reader, it will come up and display your document when it is finished. If you didn't, the PDF file is in the C:\PROGRAM FILE\ADOBE\ACROBAT 4.0\PDF OUTPUTsubdirectory with the same FILENAME.PDF as the WPD file. If you print it, it will look similar to the output from your normal printer and all the symbols, equations and characters will be there. It's only when you look very closely that you will see the differences. Certain standard fonts are considered as being present on all Windows and Mac systems and when your text uses one of these, it will be printed as text. Most others aren't considered as standard and they will be converted to a graphics image, i.e., a picture of the font. It takes longer to print graphics than text on screen and if you have a lot of non-standard fonts, the screen write can be quite slow. This forces you, whether you like it or not, keep to Times New Roman and Arial for the main text. Also note that your graphics are based upon a screen resolution of 72 dpi rather than a 300 or 600 dpi printer resolution. Your recipients will be able to print a good sharp image on a 600 dpi laser printer and your cross-hatching will really look like cross hatching, not the texture that is more common. On the other hand, they won't be able to extract a high-quality graphic image from that PDF file. If they try, they will get a low-resolution 72 dpi graphic.
There is one warning I must give about the Default Postscript Driver. This is also the reason, I almost had it, but not quite at press time for Part I. Cheek the version number before installing it. The version on my CD-ROM is 4.2.4. If that's the one you have, it has a bad habit of dropping the endings from words randomly throughout the document, e.g., "cooling tower" could become "cooli__tower". The newer drivers seem to have overcome that problem. Go to the Adobe Web site and download version 4.3 or anything newer if they have it. Install this newer version.
I use WordPerfect 7.0 as my main word processor. I like its ability to handle all those extra symbols, equations and graphics. I have tried 8.0 and 9.0 see no reason for moving to them. As they appear to have added bells and whistles, but no new substance. In the past a full number in the version usually signified a major upgrade and, on that basis, I prefer to call them 7.1 and 7.2. WordPerfect 7.0 is my all-time favourite and probably the best main-line word processor that was ever issued. Some of the features I liked have disappeared in these so-called upgrades. If you have 7.0 or 8.0, don't bother upgrading as there are better ways to spend your money. If you don't have WordPerfect and plan to write technical text, go out and get it. Version 9.0 is the current version, but look for a bargain-basement sale of 7.0 or 8.0.
I have found only one satisfactory way to produce Word DOC files. Use Word 97 or 2000. I have now decided to use Word 97 as my second word processor, especially when I deal with clients who insist upon it. I don't find it any great improvement over 95, with respect to its capabilities, but you have to deal with those people who insist on sending or receiving everything in 97 format as they can't cope with the simple menu choices needed to save down to accommodate others.
If your idea is a universal format to send and receive files over the Net, there is only one way to go. Go out and get Adobe Acrobat 4.0 and send things in PDF format. This is now the universal standard for sending manuals, reports and technical literature. Almost everyone has the free Adobe Reader needed to read it. If they don't, they can get a free one from hundreds of Web Sites. When you go this route, you can be assured that your recipients will see exactly what you sent. I have placed several of the test documents on my Web Site, ready for anyone in the world to download and read them. What do you do about European and North American paper sizes. You just tick off the box in the Adobe preferences menu that tells it to make the page fit the paper size you are using. Is a paperless society possible? I now think it is, but I don't think it's in the best interest of the software developers as they have built their marketing strategies around the incompatibilities between their products and those of their competitors. These roadblocks can be overcome, but it takes a lot of work and then they'll probably introduce some new ones.
The names of the software mentioned in this review are trade marks of the respective developers.
Score One for Mediocrity
A few years ago, I took a page of text and printed it with a dozen or so different fonts. I brought these to the Toronto Local Sections' AGM and passed them around asking people to select the one they considered as most readable. The unanimous choice was the Bitstream Dutch Roman. This font became available as part of an add-in package to WordPerfect 5.1. It later became available separately from Bitstream as a TrueType font. With the vote of confidence it received at that meeting, it became my font of choice. Microsoft has now imposed Times new Roman on us as the standard. If you want to send files with the Bitstream font or any other font that you prefer, be prepared to make a huge PDF file that carries the entire set (Roman, bold, italic, bold italic) or handle it as graphics. You end up with only one option, to do it their way. Mediocrity wins again.
"F-day" is Coming
In last month's column, I mentioned that one of the perks of this job is being able to get my hands on some very interesting software before you guys do. Don't be envious as there is a serious problem that comes with doing so. Many of today's programs are issued well before their time and they come full of mistakes. It's then up to us to catch those mistakes. Often they get into places where they shouldn't and everything comes to a screaming halt when you're least prepared for troubles. My system was becoming more and more unstable thanks to the multitude of boo boos that it has had to live with. I have 100% back-up of all my data files in anticipation of "F-day". That's the day I wipe out everything on C drive with that dreaded FORMAT C:/S command and start reinstalling software into my rejuvenated system with its clean Windows 98. In reality, it just means that I have just started again on the inevitable road to the next crash. We'll talk about doing this job next month along with some comments about the transition to Windows 98.