Lakshan Perera

Semantics on Word Processing

As an adamant fan of web standards and semantically correct web design, I always tried to avoid using tables in web page layout design. But I never thought of taking that practice beyond web design.

However today I got a call from a less-tech savy person, who wanted me to help him with a layout of a Word Document (yes it was M$ Word). He wanted to have a two column layout in a landscape A4 paper. Even though, I hate such shitty word processing jobs, I didn't want to disappoint him. So I went there to help him.

I'm not good at word processing and also I'm not comfortable with MS Word. I normally keep my trust on OpenOffice for small word processing needs of mine. So I had to work on the matter with the little experience I had. At that moment it looked tables were the only solution. I knew it's not the way, but my vanity kept me away from exploring all menu options and shooting the help. So the end-result was waste of time for a less usable layout. Anyway he was happy with it, but I know it will last only until he want to amend content of a cell.

After I returned home I took some time and found that column layout models are one of the built-in functionalities of the word processor. It was just the matter of clicking a button and selecting the right layout. I feel like I should have followed one of those boring courses on Basic Office packages :) But I don't think Sri Lankan institutes do that even right, what they teach is Microsof Office. They think word processing could be done only on MS Word and Spreadsheets are only for MS Excel (How many of you know about Google Office ?)

So what I learned from this ? I think semantic design should be practised at everywhere whenever it's possible. Use tables when only you want to display tabular data. Also I have seen lot of people use spaces and tabs to control indention but for that too there are suitable tools on a Word Processor.

Practice semantic design in your word processing, it will save you the hassle of fixing the layout every time you make a change to the document.