How do you think in Word?
First a disclaimer: I think it's likely we all learn, think, and work somewhat differently. The fact that I work one way doesn't mean I think you should necessarily work that way, too. Somewhere I recall reading that many people (especially technical people) tend to pick one main tool, master it, and arrange the rest of their work around that core. Today I'm asking how you work when you have to work outside of your core toolset.
Now some background: I've used word processors for quite a few years, starting with Speedscript, AppleWorks GS, and then Word 5 (or was it 4 or 5.1?). I've used many versions of Word up through 2007 at some level of intensity. A few years ago, I worked on a successful documentation project that involved on the order of 100 Word and Excel documents, some quite lengthy (I seem to recall one in the 700 page range).
At some point, I discovered markup languages. I started with nroff and later moved to LaTeX. After that Word project, I moved to DocBook and completed a follow-on project that garnered some nice praise for having gotten around some of the challenges of the first project while producing quite readable and professional-looking documentation. I currently use asciidoc, LaTeX, DocBook, and J Publish.
In all of this, I find it helpful to have great tools. I've built my toolbox around GNU Emacs, starting around version 18.24. For LaTeX, I use AUCTeX; for DocBook, I use nXML mode and eDE on Windows or any of several toolchains on Linux. antiword is handy for converting other people's Word documents into a form I can import into one of those tools, and I make use of revision control (currently bazaar) and makefiles to help with organization and productivity while reducing the chance for unfortunate mistakes. I've used cweb when writing about simulation models.
Despite my tendency to use markup languages, I do still use a word processor from time to time. OpenOffice.org write is my current preferred choice, because I find its approach to styles is robust and easy to use, because it stores files in an open format, and because I haven't lost an OpenOffice.org document yet.
I often think by writing. I am noticing that I find it easy to think when writing with a markup language, but I'm finding it much more challenging to think effectively when faced with the simultaneous content and layout creation tasks in a word processor. While I sympathize with much of this rant, I'm looking for solutions, not conversion, today.
The first question: if you, like me, work well in markup languages, how do you think when writing in Word? Are there tricks to the setup to make it easier? For example, I think there used to be an unformatted mode in which you basically just saw text. That sounds attractive, but I thought it had been deleted from Word. I spoke with a former journalist recently, and he noted that he often composed text in email and then pasted it into Word for formatting. What other ideas can you suggest?
The second question: how do you format the final document? I know the "right" answer: create and use styles and templates, yet I find that harder to do in Word than in OpenOffice.org or even than in systems such as LaTeX. Do you have any tips, especially for those situations in which you're working with documents that were created at least partially with direct formatting?