A note from a Word Expert...

If one chooses to peruse the Word sections of the Microsoft forums, one can find a wealth of information about things that don't work. I found this treasure one day (well, 06 May 2000, to be exact). It's from a fellow named John McGhie, one of the most hard-core Word experts I've ever known (well, I've never met him, it's one of those "what word do you use for a person you've only exchanged new posts and e-mail with?" things). But from the helpful things I've seen him post about Word, he's gotta be one of the best.

Once in a while he and I banter back and forth about Frame versus Word. He posted this as a response in a Word newsgroup, and it's worth reading. I've removed his e-mail address.

From: "John McGhie [MVP - Word]"
Subject: Re: Best way to handle Large (and Long) Documents
Date: Saturday, May 06, 2000 04:02

Hi RG:

In microsoft.public.word.formatting.longdocs on Fri, 05 May 2000 12:58:24 GMT, rgfin@my-deja.com wrote:

> After a long break I am back here and see that many things have not changed. From
> what I read SEQ and RD fields are still used, and Master Docs is still broken!

Yup! And everything else you knew then still applies: Numbering is now worse than ever. Heading numbering is no longer as stable as it used to be in Word 6, and multilevel outline numbering is an utterly lost cause.

> I am again embroiled in a Technical Manual and have been presented a magnificent jumble of words
> and pictures to bash into a succinct document. The manual has been broken up on the basis of one
> DOC file per chapter. The largest Chapter comprises 120 Mbytes, 360 Pages, 80,000 words and
> contains copious graphics. The other chapters run from 1 to 30 M Bytes.

120 MB is too big: it will choke, even on a super-computer. Pull the pictures out and link 'em, just the way we used to in the old days.

> The 120-Mbyte chapter takes 5 minutes to save and Word crashes with it every day or two. I am
> running a P350II, 128 MB RAM, Win98 and Word 97 SR2. Can anyone give me a few pointers?

Told you so... Pull the pictures out and link 'em. You HAVE remembered to turn Fast Saves OFF, have you?

> Will more RAM help? I stole some RAM from a nearby machine to bring it up to 128 Mbytes and
> it seemed to help a bit. Would another 128 Mbytes help or am I in the region of diminishing returns?

No: You have hit diminishing returns. I run a PII-300 MHz with 128 MB here and a PIII-500 with 256 MB at the customer site. There's is not noticeably faster than this one. Got a better graphics card though...

I run Windows 2000 here, and Windows NT at work. Windows 2000 is definitely quicker than NT4, but the Help has a bug in it. It's very slow. Windows 98 will do just fine, but it's not as smooth in multi-tasking. Normally when working on a manual of that size, you aren't multi-tasking, so no loss. I certainly wouldn't add more than 128 MB of memory to Windows 98: it does not seem to benefit from it. Windows NT will give benefits if you put more in, but for your application, they are so slight they're almost imperceptible. Windows 2000 is definitely slicker with larger amounts of memory, but 128 MB is plenty for what you are doing.

> A frequent hint in this newsgroup is to link the graphics rather than insert them. I recall that
> this used to run you out of file handles after a short while and every thing fell over. Is this
> still a problem?

No. The 32-bit operating systems have effectively unlimited file handles (and all other resources that used to bother us in DOS). Don't go fiddling with BitMapMemory or CacheSize, they don't make any difference any more. More memory is the key. What makes the difference for saves is the Sustained Transfer Rate your hard disk is capable of. You can often double performance by working with the document on the network. Particularly if you can persuade the hardware guys to install a 100 MB network card in your machine. A sustained 80 or 90 MB/s from the network file server beats the hell out of a gasping 20 MB/s from your local hard drive.

> There are cross references running back and forward through the chapter. Could the chapter be
> relatively easily split into two or more files without corrupting the cross references?

Cross references are no smarter than they ever were: you split the chapter, you break ALL the cross references :-)

> Would Word 2k offer any advantages?

Yes, but they would be slight. Word 2000 is slightly quicker at some operations. The Help is a hell of a lot better. The paper clip occupies less screen real-estate and is nicer to use. The Single-Document Interface grows on you. There's less bugs in the macro language. Word 2000 is a bug-fix, not a new product. If you have to use Word 97, install Word 2000: that's the patch!

John McGhie
Consultant Technical Writer
Microsoft MVP (Word)