or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Reference Question of the Week – 1/4/09

   January 10th, 2009 Brian Herzog

worderror1We can learn a lot from our patrons.

One of our regulars spends most of his time surfing the internet and then copy/pasting things he likes from web pages and email messages into Word files. He carries around four or five flash drives, and his Word documents can sometimes be 200+ pages long.

And of course, he runs into problems. He called me over the other day, because he was seeing an error when trying to open one of his files. I had never seen it before, but (surprisingly) it gave very clear instructions on how to fix the situation - using something in Word that I had never noticed before.

The problem is that, when he copies things from a web browser, Word doesn't just copy the text and images. Word copies all of the underlying HTML code, too, and tries to recreate the tables. The chance of copying all of the necessary code is very slim, so when the file is saved and reopened, Word says the tables are corrupt.

worderror2But so far, Word's built-in "Open and Repair" option has worked every time. I find it annoying that Word tries to handle HTML, but at least they included a fix for it - I wonder how many other problems this can fix. And I wonder what other useful gems lie undiscovered (by me)

After I walked through this with the patron, he's been able to do it himself, and is very happy.

But the real fix might be to install the Copy Plain Text add-on for Firefox on our public computers and show him how to avoid the problem all together.



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The First Post

   October 1st, 2006 Brian Herzog

I've had a personal website pretty much since about 1996. It has varied greatly in how much attention I have given it, but for the last six or so years, it has pretty much gotten no attention from me. However, in the last month, I've decided to revamp it a bit - give it a face lift, convert it from flat HTML files to PHP, etc. And as part of The New Way, I'm starting a blog, too. I can't make any promises on being better with my attention, though - because I hear everyone else is going to jump off a cliff, so I'm going to need to go soon. But until then, let me say welcome.



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