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Wordless processing

When the right word calls up the wrong bug.

It first happened about six weeks ago. I was working in my trusty word-processing program, 4Liter Word, and I decided that a bar graph would make my point perfectly in this particular love letter. I clicked the Insert menu and selected Object, and 4Liter Word objected.

Actually, to be more accurate, 4Liter Word disappeared from the screen. In its place, Windows provided me with a helpful error message: “4Literword.exe has committed a serious no-no and will be closed down as punishment. A log containing useful information on the problem has been created and destroyed.” The only option was “OK.”

Once I had calmed down, I re-entered 4Liter Word and reloaded my document. Fortunately, I had saved only three hours earlier after typing “Dearest One.” I rewrote the letter without incident, and without bar graphs.

Three trouble-free (and bar graph-free) weeks later, it struck again. I was working on a cost analysis report and needed another word for thesaurus. But when I tried to bring up a list of like-minded words, down went the program and up came the same error message.

Before long, that error was as common as a corporate budget cut.

Learning to live with it

Through careful trial and error I figured out what specific acts crashed 4Liter Word and how to work around them. For instance, I couldn’t safely create a new document from the business letter template, but I had no trouble with the one for a 17th-century parchment. Printing worked fine as long as everything was in landscape mode. And while the Find and Replace tool was unusable, I could manually repeat a simple Find and repeatedly retype the replacement text.

At least I could until last week, when the Find command started to bring down the program. By that time, 4Liter Word was a perfectly good program, as long as I didn’t search, use the thesaurus, correct spelling, use outline mode, insert a table, or print a document. Gradually, it began to occur to me that I had to do something.

But what? The obvious solution, of course, was to restore an older version of the Registry. I had, luckily, backed up my registry only eight weeks beforehand, as a precaution before installing a program to monitor Registry changes brought on by misbehaving installation programs. As a precaution, I backed up my Registry again before restoring it from the eight-week-old backup. With the old Registry restored, I rebooted my computer, only to discover that my most important security tool, Norton Anti-Pasta, now refused to load. It reported that a corrupt .dll was taking bribes.

I wept as I considered my options. Did I want a word processor that could barely process words, or the knowledge that my computer wasn’t protected against Internet-borne spaghetti? Luckily, a quick check of 4Liter Word determined that I didn’t have to choose one problem or the other–I still had both of them.

At least I knew how to solve the Anti-Pasta problem. After all, the new problem was caused by the old Registry, which I had turned into the new Registry in a vain attempt to solve the old problem. Fixing it was a simple matter of restoring the new Registry, which was now the old Registry, over the old Registry which was now the new Registry. So I did just that. Then I did it three or four times to restore the right Registry.

Norton Anti-Pasta was working again, but 4Liter Word gained some new limitations. Now the program crashed every time I typed the word aardvark. That could put a real crimp in my writing style.

The re-install tango

The next course of action was obvious: I would have to uninstall, then reinstall, 4Liter Word. Of course, 4Liter Word wasn’t a standalone word processor (yes, children, once upon a time you could buy a word processing program by itself without acquiring a whole office). So I had to uninstall, then reinstall, 16Liter Office.

The first thing I did was run 16Liter Office’s uninstall program, which like all such programs is accessible through Windows’ Add/Remove Programs applet. And like all such programs, it did little except remove the uninstall program.

Through trial and error I eventually discovered the tried-and-true way to uninstall 16Liter Office. First, I deleted the folder C:Program FilesBignsoft SoftwareBignsoft Programs16Liter Office. Then I deleted all references to 16Liter Office from the Start menu. Next I deleted every .dll file I could find with a name that vaguely suggested a connection to the troubled program. After that, I entered the Registry Editor and removed every item with the words Liter,Word,Rumplestiltskin,and aardvark. Finally, I reformatted my hard drive, reinstalled Windows, reinstalled 16Liter Office, and reinstalled everything else.

Three days later, I finally launched the newly-installed 4Liter Word, and began typing a sentence: “It first happened about six weeks ago.” The word processor instantly disappeared from the screen and up came the usual error message.

I sighed in frustration. “At least when 4Liter Word goes down, it doesn’t take everything else with it,” I said to myself. “Thank goodness I’m using Windows XP!” Then my screen went blank.

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