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international librarian of mystery

Friday, September 17, 2004

Making wood from ash

I considered ducking behind the pile of books I was sorting out the back in Returns, but I was too slow. Mrs Oolong was upon me before I could take refuge.

"Natalie, are you busy?"

Was she blind? I looked at the teetering pile of recently (and not-so-recently) returned books that needed to be sorted and trolleyed. Mrs Oolong totally failed to take the hint.

"Err, no, not really."
"I shan't hold you up. Just a quick question. How do I convert an Acrobat file back into a Word document?"
"Um, you can't. Once it's been converted, that's pretty much it. It's a one-way process."

Her face literally went white. Well, whiter. She's a very white lady.

"Surely not."
I nodded.
"You're sure?"
"Well, you can cut and paste the text back into Word, and screen-grab any graphics you might have in there. Although I assume..."
"So you can get it all back?"

Tread carefully, Natalie...

"Like I was saying, the text is still there. And you can, assuming you haven't published your file with any odd security settings, cut and paste that text back into Word. You'll just have to reformat the whole thing again."

Again, Mrs Oolong pulled out her 'It's all your fault voice'...

"Well, I suppose that's better than nothing," she huffed. "Cut and paste you say?"

She whirled and whisked out of the room. Inevitably, ten minutes later the Returns work-room phone went. My assistance was required upstairs.

"Natalie," she snapped as I entered her office, "I cannot for the life of me cut and paste the text of my proposal back into Word."

I leaned over her shoulder, and, with one hand: CTRL-A, CTRL-C, ALT-TAB to Word, and CTRL-V. Voila.

"Oh, that was quick. How did you do that?"

Snip yet another five minute explanation of basic short-cut key usage here, which I'm sure will be instantly forgotten the moment I walk out the door. It was at the end of my tutorial when it finally occurred to me...

"Mrs Oolong, I'm assuming you've deleted the proposal that you're trying to recreate here?"
"Yes. Of course, I assumed I'd be able to edit the Acrobat version. So I just deleted it once I'd finished with it. It's always the way though, Mrs Darjeeling [the Big Chief Librarian] wanted some revisions made before we sent it off, so now I've got to reformat all this..."

She gestured at the plainly unformatted text I'd just dumped into Word for her.

"...by the end of today."
"When did you delete the Word file?"
"Have you emptied your recycle bin since then?"
"Have I what?"

Bingo. I opened her recycle bin, and discovered, of course, that Mrs Oolong has never emptied it. She had a couple of gigs of files in there, dating back to the start of 2002, which is when, as far as I'm aware, the senior staff last got all their PCs updated. Her Word version of her proposal was at the top. I restored it and opened it for her.

"There you go," I chirped.

Mrs Oolong looked suitably astonished, and would, I suspect, have hugged me if she wasn't such a prim and proper prude.

I headed back down to Returns, another favour for a senior staff member notched into my belt.

As my favourite "liberry" blogger pointed out recently, other people's IT struggles just never get old.