Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Joys of Microsoft Publisher

In a dramatic break from tradition (actually the opening words were more dramatic than the actual break from tradition), we decided this year to do the layout and formatting of Writer’s Block in-house instead of getting it done by professionals. (For the uninitiated, Writer’s Block is our monthly college magazine. It has campus news, some creative writing, and the most jobless ed board in the world. Part of the September issue cover page is pictured below.)
This decision had many consequences. One consequence is that, for about one week every month, we become a permanent fixture in the recreation room and consume untold amounts of Coke. Another is that it revealed to me a Fundamental Truth: there are two kinds of people—those who love formatting and those who don’t.
Lahiri (who is also on the ed board) and I have long been aware that we belong to the former category, because law school, with its innumerable paper submissions and moot court memorials, gives you awesome opportunities to discover and then indulge your love. But when you’ve exhausted headers, footers and mark citation, there is only so much you can do with Microsoft Word. Microsoft Publisher, which we use for formatting Writer’s Block, is in a different league altogether.
To illustrate, we ensure that no page has empty spaces, and we’ve evolved a code of permitted and prohibited practices for achieving this objective. To illustrate further:
Permitted practices
Prohibited practices
1. Editing stuff written by ed board members
2. Changing the number of columns on a page (within acceptable limits)
3. Cropping photos
1. Editing general body contributions
2. Changing font size
3. Having pictures whose width is not an integral multiple of column width
That is the level at which we are talking. To cite other examples, we have been known to take policy decisions on whether headlines should be in title case or upper case, and whether kerning the masthead is an acceptable practice.
Not surprisingly, some ed board members have declared themselves unavailable for the formatting sessions because they couldn’t take it any more (or maybe just because they have a life). But the ones who do sit in are gradually coming under the sway of our obsessive tendencies. Once, upon inserting a paragraph break and watching the text fill up the text box perfectly, I cried, “I live for these moments,” and I distinctly remember Karthy giving me a funny look. These days, when such a thing happens, she gives high fives with as much gusto as the rest.
Only Anuj, our convener, claims to be above it all, and pretends that he doesn’t obsess over the magazine like we do. But the September issue came back from the printer yesterday, and when he thought no one was looking, he was observed cradling the issues in the crook of his arm and crooning, “My babies…”


What's In A Name ? said...

what are those signs under the name of the magazine ????

kroswami said...


Rahul Saha said...

I'm definitely in the category that loves formatting. I've in fact been driving my supervisor crazy by overediting my noted. looking forward to the next Writers Block then.

Indecision Personified! said...

"Borderline Obsessive Tendencies".... very very true! and how come you din't record the time when you brought down your desktop into the boy's mess to do the formatting? :-)

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

urgh. editorial work.

Karthy said...

"Having pictures whose width is not an integral multiple of column width"

I am so still giving you funny looks

Sroyon said...

@WiaN: If only you were fluent in Wingdings, you'd realise that those 'signs' stand for "The Official Voice of NUJS".

@kroswami: Jaali, yes admittedly. But was it not a stroke of genius?

@saha: I know. I remember writing that parody article with you. Definitely the former category.

@indecision: That was driven by practical exigency. It wasn't a manifestation of obsessiveness at all.

@doubletake: You sound like a Girl Who Has Suffered.

@karthy: Do. You look adorable when you do that.

EvolutioN said...

Could you please arrange to have soft copies printed into PDF and sent out to the alumni? Was wondering whether we could read about what is happening.