CrossEyes 3.0 opens eyes

Microsoft Word, the government's staple word processor, carries a lot of junk in the trunk.

Although Microsoft Corp. has gone a long way toward making Word's internal workings more accessible, a lot of them are still invisible. This can be frustrating when a document misbehaves while a webmaster is trying to post a lot of material online. It can even prove embarrassing when Word documents are posted straight to the Web for public download.

An example last year put British prime minister Tony Blair on the hot seat. His office posted a Word document detailing Iraq's security and intelligence organizations. Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the document in a presentation to the United Nations about weapons of mass destruction.

But one user who downloaded the file discovered that it wasn't actually a work by British intelligence but instead had been plagiarized from a U.S. professor. Blair's office probably wishes it had looked a little more closely at the document codes.

That's easy to do with a small utility program called CrossEyes, which pulls back the veil to show why Word is acting as it does.

During installation, CrossEyes adds a new button to the Word toolbar. If you, like most users, have all the Word toolbars enabled, the little CrossEyes button appears at the right of the bottom bar. By default it is turned off while you work in Word. When you click the button, the utility activates.

What happens then is similar to users' favorite Reveal Codes feature in Corel WordPerfect. A separate window opens up to show the text as well as the hidden codes that make the text look as it does.

Say a sentence reads, 'The budget numbers are looking good this year' and a second sentence displays as 'The budget good this year' even though both sentences originally were identical.
CrossEyes can show that someone accidentally turned the 'numbers are looking' characters white in the second sentence, which made them invisible against a white background.

All in one place

You can discover the same thing with Word's native utilities, especially in the new XP version, but CrossEyes puts all the tools in the same place, unlike Word. Hidden text pops up using Word's Show/Hide button. White text appears on the Font color pull-down menu. Tracked changes are revealed on the Markup View panel.

Tracked changes get a lot of people into trouble. Say you are redacting a document with tracking enabled. Problems could arise if you delete some sensitive paragraphs and then post the redacted document online or pass it along. A user could activate the Markup View panel and see everything you deleted.

What snagged Tony Blair's office was not the invisible codes, however, but a hidden revision log in Word that listed the document's last 10 editors. Nothing in either Word or CrossEyes can display the revision log. A special utility had to be written to extract that information.

CrossEyes can serve as a kind of security tool, making sure that information you don't want displayed can't be ferreted out easily. Whatever you delete or add'the actual content'is either destroyed or added without being tracked back to you. And it will let you format a document for proper online display.

Once that is done, you should convert the file to either Rich Text Format or Adobe Portable Document Format before posting to the Web, just to ensure the elimination of all hidden codes and log files.

As a bonus, the program is completely unobtrusive and goes to work only when you need it.
CrossEyes 3.0 complies with Section 508 accessibility rules and can shows the editing bar in extra-large print.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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