Last June, I reviewed three software suites touted as compatible with Microsoft Office for Popular Science. I said then, and I still say, that if all you need is the ability to word process, make spreadsheets and presentations, then using Google Docs, Zoho, or OpenOffice beats giving Microsoft your money.
I stand by that, but last weekend, I found all three of these applications deficient in one word processing task I do all the time in Microsoft Word.
That task is search-and-replace on paragraph returns. I've had to repurpose so many documents that have paragraph returns at the end of each line that I can twitch the solution in Microsoft Word.
It's a three-step process: Replace the two paragraph returns with a string of characters that you know won't exist anywhere in the document (I use four @ signs). Remove all the other paragraph returns and replace them with a space. Then reinstate the true paragraph returns.
For good measure, you then remove all instances of two spaces, just in case you inadvertantly introduced them. Unless there's any hyphenation in the original document, you should end up with a perfectly formatted document at the end.
Of course, you need to know one more trick: Microsoft Word's secret code for a hard paragraph return. It's ^p (shift-6 gives you the circonflex symbol, followed by a lowercase p).
It's a great trick to use in Word. But as of 28 Feb 2009, it didn't work in Google Docs, Open Office, or Zoho.
Okay, Sun, Google, and Zoho, I know this is an incredible obscure feature, but couldja add it, huh? Huh? Huh? It'll make at least one user happy.