Blog Archives

A surprise with Emacs and Office 2007

I had a little surprise when I tried to open an Excel file from Emacs. I was using dired, a sort of file explorer inside Emacs. I expected one of two things to happen. Maybe Emacs would know to launch

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Bundled versus unbundled version history

The other day I said to a colleague that an advantage to LaTeX over Microsoft Word is that it’s easy to version LaTeX files because they’re just plain text. My colleague had the opposite view. He said that LaTeX was

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Posted in Software development

Clutter-discoverability trade-off

There’s a tension between presenting a user an uncluttered interface and helping the user discover new features. This post will begin by discussing two extreme examples. On the cluttered but discoverable end of the spectrum is Microsoft Word 2007. On

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Posted in Computing

Did the MS Office ribbon work?

One of the major design goals for Microsoft Office 2007 was making features easier to discover. A study had shown that about 90% of the feature requests for Microsoft Office were for features already in the product. People just didn’t

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Posted in Computing

Office 2007 documents are zipped XML

Microsoft Office 2007 documents are zipped XML files. For example, you can change a Word document’s extension from .docx to .zip and unzip it. Apparently this isn’t widely known; most people I talk to are surprised when I mention this.

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Posted in Computing

I owe Microsoft Word an apology

I tried to use the Equation Editor in Microsoft Word years ago and hated it. It was hard to use and produced ugly output. I tried it again recently and was pleasantly surprised. I’m using Word 2007. I don’t remember

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Posted in Math, Typography

R, Excel, and the Windows clipboard

The Windows version of R has functions for reading from and writing to the clipboard. These can be used to move data back and forth between R and Windows applications such as Excel. However, there are a few gotchas. See

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Posted in Computing

Three ways to convert documents to PDF

Microsoft has an Office 2007 plug-in that lets you save documents as PDF files. This works for all Microsoft Office applications, not just Microsoft Word. The only drawback is that this only works for Office 2007, not earlier versions of Office,

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Posted in Computing

Four ways to convert Excel tables to LaTeX

Gregor Gorjanc has a post on Excel and LaTeX that lists four ways to convert and Excel table into LaTeX. I’ve used two of the methods he lists: brute force and excel2latex. I recommend excel2latex. I used it frequently until

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Three ways to enter Unicode characters in Windows

Here are three approaches to entering Unicode characters in Windows. See the next post for entering Unicode characters in Linux. (1) In Microsoft Word you can insert Unicode characters by typing the hex value of the character then typing Alt-x. You

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Posted in Computing

LaTeX and PowerPoint presentations

I use LaTeX for math documents and PowerPoint for presentations. When I need to make a math presentation, I can’t have everything I want in one environment. I usually go with PowerPoint. Yesterday I tried the LaTeX Beamer package based

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Posted in Typography

Accented letters in HTML, TeX, and MS Word

I frequently need to look up how to add diacritical marks to letters in HTML, TeX, and Microsoft Word, though not quite frequently enough to commit the information to my long-term memory. So today I wrote up a set of

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Posted in Typography

Contrasting Microsoft Word and LaTeX

Here’s an interesting graph from Marko Pinteric comparing Microsoft Word and Donald Knuth’s LaTeX. According to the graph, LaTeX becomes easier to use relative to Microsoft Word as the task becomes more complex. That matches my experience, though I’d add a

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Posted in Computing