The WordToys Playground
Saturday, January 22, 2005
I've just seen the ultimate killer app. And I hate it! It's called Wordfast, a translation tool used by (according to author Yves Champollion) 13,000 translators and 300 translation agencies. So, if it's so popular, what's wrong with it? Because it kills other people's business. As a Word add-in (a .dot file), Wordfast has the nasty habit of disabling all other add-ins. Yes, unbelievable but true, Wordfast bluntly kicks each add-in out of Word's Tools/Templates and Addins dialog box, and claims Word for itself!
Well, Monsieur Champollion, that's not on! I don't know if this behavior is inspired by arrogance or incompetence (or both), but there's no technical reason why your add-in can't live in peaceful coexistence with other add-ins. There's nothing on your web site or in your documentation that warns your users about this, so it's probably also illegal what you're doing. I happen to have a Word add-in (WordToys) that also has some nice features for translators, and I am not letting you kill my business.
I've found a simple hack to customize the Wordfast template, so it behaves in a civilized way. I'll publish it here in a few days time. If you're one of those thousands of translators who paid a lot of money for Wordfast, and you would like to use it together with other add-ins, stay tuned to this blog!
Thursday, December 23, 2004
What's wrong with the Microsoft Office Marketplace?
Somebody at Microsoft had a nice idea: create a site where third-party developers can promote their add-ons for Office. Then de Legal Guys stepped in, and killed it. As the maker of WordToys I thought I had a nice add-in for the Microsoft Office Marketplace. So I put the MOM logo on my site, and waited for a reply. The answer came two months (and 40,000 visits) later: Application Rejected. You want to know why? Because WordToys contains the word 'Word', which according to the "Microsoft Office System Referential Use Guidelines" is against the "Do Not Use Microsoft Names or Trademarks as Part of Your Name" rule. This means that any software that contains a Microsoft name or trademark (WordToys, WordWare, WordPipe, ExcelPipe, PowerPointPipe, Word to PFD Converter, ExcelEverywhere) will never make it to the MOM. A missed opportunity for many hard-working developers, and a missed opportunity for Microsoft. At least the Legal Guys have had some fun. They must have needed that after the debacle...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Word: those pesky special characters
Everybody loves to hate the Word Insert Symbol dialog box. The good thing is that it lets you find any character that's available in the font of your choice. The bad things is that it takes the patience of a monk to find them. WordToys users appear to be raving about the fact that you can use the F10 key to insert accented versions of any character that you type. For those who upgrade to the Professional Edition, the F10 key offers even a lot more. Rather than typing an unaccented character to get a menu of alternative diacritics, you can also type any of the following characters.

$ Currency symbols
# Mathematical symbols (shown above)
. Punctuation marks
/ Fractions
= Arrows
* Dingbats
& Shapes
% Miscellaneous characters

If you then press F10 you get a menu of all characters that fall in the associated category. There's a fair chance that you'll never use Word's Symbol dialog box again.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
New feature requests
WordToys users are greedy people. You give them a few dozens of nifty utilities, and all they want is more :-). Recent feature requests include the following:
* Why not have multiple backup destinations for the Double Save application? Some users (especially the ones that work on a portable) would like to create backups on a CD-ROM when they're at home, and backups to a network destination when they're at work. That looks like a reasonable request. I'll see how to implement that in a future release.
* Is it possible to create Aliases for the Switch Identity tool? Currently, you can only create a new identity by changing the user name. I've had requests to make it possible to create nicknames, allowing you to use the same user name, but with different addresses, e.g. a home and a work adress. The Switch Identity menu should then display the nick name in stead of the user name, e.g. "John (work)" and "John (home)". This may be a bit more complicated to implement, but it's worth a try.
Stay tuned to this blog to find out if and when these new features become reality. And in the meantime: keep your suggestions coming!
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
New release: version 1.0.9
Today I released a new version. It's more than a bug fix, though.
I've improved the Document Recall feature, by adding the option to display your recent Word documents in either alphabetical or chronological order. And, as before, the list doesn't stop at the four to nine recent documents you can retrieve from Word's File menu. Document Recall picks up all your recently used documents, even if some of them haven't been opened for months!
I also added a new feature that will please users of Word 2000. If you're using that Word version you've probably joined the millions of people who are extremely annoyed with the fact that Word puts a separate icon on the taskbar for every document you open. Even Microsoft realized that this was silly, so they changed it back with Word XP and 2003. That's hardly useful if you're stuck with Word 2000, though. WordToys Professional comes to the rescue. Now you have the same option as in later versions of Word: either have all icons on the taskbar, or just one for the active document.OK, you'll have to upgrade to the Professional Edition to take advantage of these new features. It's up to you if that's worth $20.

Welcome to the WordToys Playground!
WordToys has been around for hardly more than a month, but my web counters have already recorded more than twenty thousand downloads. If all those people are still using the software there must now be a huge WordToys community. To all those people I want to extend my sincere gratitude: I never expected this incredible success.OK, I admit: there have been some serious bugs in the early versions. But thanks to your heads-up and feedback I have gradually been able to iron the problems out, and improve the package substantially. Just tune in to this blog to find out what’s going on in the Playground! And don’t hesitate to add comments to this blog. I’m all ears!

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