My Big Word Migration of 2021

I am weird with technology.

In some ways, I am fairly modern. I have a smartphone, stream TV shows, can use TikTok and all of my calendar is online.

In other ways … I am ridiculous.

I have been using Office XP for almost 20 years. Why? The biggest reason was because I had it, and it worked. Every time I’d get a new computer, I’d install it and it would function. Even after Word 2007 when docx became the file norm, I just installed the free Compatibility Pack and kept on using Office XP.

I think there was some reluctance to learn something new by upgrading, which is so ironic since I love learning. But upgrading software for me has always been difficult, especially in regards to writing and creating. I become obsessively dedicated to software. I used Netscape 3.0 until it wouldn’t open most websites.

But, as of late, the Compatibility Pack no longer seems to work, and I can’t open docx with little Word 2002 anymore. I had to go online and use the free version of Word in order to open the files, and I figured it was about time I upgraded my almost 20 year old writing software.

OH MY GOD WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO!?

So that was my first reaction to Office 365. I considered LibreOffice, but friends offered codes on their accounts for 365, so I took them up on it, since I have no idea how Word plays with LibreOffice, and with published books to deal with, I couldn’t justify the risk. I may try and play around with it in the future, since I do love open source software.

After spending some time with Word 365, there were benefits.

  • The subscription model ensures you are automatically updating, and therefore not using 20 year old software.
  • Dictation and Read Aloud features are great for writers.
  • Collaboration is easier.
  • You can back up into the cloud and get 1TB of One Drive space.
  • Docx is a smaller file size.
  • Quick Access Tab is helpful.
  • Built-in Print to PDF, but limited in function (no embedding fonts etc. I still use doPDF for that).
  • When you open a document it asks if you want to go back to where you left off, and it takes you there. So helpful for giant novels with hundreds of pages.
  • I can actually open docx files!

But there were also negatives I discovered pretty much immediately.

  • The Ribbon is huge. The Ribbon is ugly. Things were very inaccessible and hard to find. So much clicking to get places!
  • Text and fonts looked different. Not bad, just … different.
  • Doc to Docx conversion not only shrunk file size (yay!), but actual pages (huh?). I lost 1-2 pages in each book, despite the margins, fonts, spacing, etc. all being the same. It’s a mystery I need to solve. (Might be related to the fonts looking different?)
  • Zoom doesn’t remember the zoom preference per document. It always goes back to last used setting, which is obnoxious since Word 2002 remembered it per document. Why take a step backwards?
  • I reordered things on the Home portion of the Ribbon. It didn’t remember it and changed it back to default constantly. Custom stuff I added stayed, so no idea what’s going on there.
  • The Backstage area is cluttered and it takes so many clicks to find what you want. You can’t have it open to Folders instead of Documents.

I was literally close to tears with how much I hated it … which is why I never upgrade my software. But, thanks to my Google skills, I’ve managed to make Word look a bit more familiar and work better for me thus averting a full meltdown over software. Here are a few tips, if you, like me, are traumatized by the huge leap in upgrade difference.

  1. Use the Quick Access Toolbar instead of the Ribbon.
    The Ribbon is big. The Ribbon is ugly. I customized the Ribbon and it kept resetting itself. Until I found a tip online from some else that seemed to enjoy the compact layout of Word 2002 as much as I did. By customizing the Quick Access Toolbar to add the commands I use most (Bold, Italic, alignments, spacing, word count etc) and hiding the Ribbon, I managed to make it look like this:

    Word 365 header
    I moved the Quick Access Toolbar to below the Ribbon, and it looks very similar to olden Word. So much prettier.
  2. Turn off Backstage.
    One of the biggest turnoffs was what happened when I went to open a file. It would take me back to a start page of sorts, where I’d have to press Folders, then find the folder and search through it for the file to open. Took forever. This area, the start page, is called Backstage. It’s stupid.
    Turn it off under File – Options – Save and then check mark to turn off backstage for file open and save. This will pop up an old-school Open File dialog that is so much faster for finding things.

    This is Backstage. I found it useless and annoying.
  3. Change the way Word opens.
    Word default opens to the Backstage area. I found this highly annoying. In Options, I changed the behaviour to have Word open directly to a new document. Much faster. Go to File – Options – General and under Startup Options uncheck Show the Start screen. Now you get a nice, blank page to start with, perfect if you’re a writer and you need to start writing, stat. If you want to try out a template or something else, just click File and you’re in Backstage. Much nicer.

These simple three things made me much more comfortable with Word 365. I’m still stressing out, but at least there’s a minimum comfort level now. My big issue was how to convert 500+ files.

I downloaded a program called Total Doc Converter to convert my files. It was a free trial, and you have to continually click a button to keep converting unless you pay to upgrade, but since I was using it once for these files it was a small price to pay. The downside was any file with custom margins got changed back to standard, so I did those ones (my book files mostly) myself by opening them in Word 365 and using Save As and choosing docx. This maintained the margins. I also used Total Excel Converter for converting my Excel files (because I forgot new Word meant new Excel. I wasn’t ready for all of this lol).

I am still trying to figure out what has changed to shrink my book files by about 1-2 pages each. Nothing in the margins, font spacing or line spacing seems to be different. It happened with the converter and when I did it myself. I’m wondering if it’s purely a screen rendering issue, as the fonts look slightly different as well. I plan to print out some test pages to get a closer look, but if anyone knows what’s going on (did they change the default line spacing or letter spacing perhaps?) let me know. I have a ton of books I may need to overhaul after this switchover.

Published by Jennifer

Author of the crime saga Sin City series, the comedy/suspense horror Billie and Diana series and the bestselling Self Publishing for Canadians. Current WIP is a 7 book YA coming of age series.

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