Friday, May 2, 2014

Wordman CAN! Microsoft Word meets the Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification #apmp

Dick Eassom is Wordman.

This is not an opinion. It is a statement of fact.

If you go to the website, you will see that the copyright is assigned to Dick Eassom.

Now I have never physically met Mr. Eassom - I'll probably see him at an event later this month - so I don't know if he truly goes around wearing a blue mask and blue suit with a big white "W" on his chest. I guess I'll find out.

In the proposal world, the word "Word" can have several different meanings. In Eassom's case, it refers to Microsoft Word, the software program for which Eassom shares his expertise.

And expertise is needed. Microsoft Word is over 30 years old, having first appeared in 1983 (according to Shauna Kelly, who chooses to go by her birth name rather than "Wordwoman"). When a software program has been around for over 30 years, on multiple platforms, the feature creep becomes a feature avalanche. If Microsoft were to issue a printed manual for my version of Word (Microsoft Word 2010), I can't imagine how many pages that manual would contain.

In addition, as Eassom notes, proposal professionals tend to push Microsoft Word to its limits. At a recent event, Eassom noted that he had recently been working with a 7,000 page Microsoft Word document. (Maybe he was writing the Microsoft Word manual.)

Earlier this week, the California Chapter of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals hosted a webinar featuring Eassom. The title of the webinar was "Nine Things You Should Do to Microsoft Word (or, how to stop Word helping!)" Eassom's abstract was as follows:

Out of the box, Microsoft Word is configured to help the average home or student user. It often thinks for you, predicting what you want to do. As proposal professionals have come to realize, this assistance is not always a good thing! From the pages of the APMP Perspective, Wordman will take you through the nine settings that you need to change in Word before you start to develop proposal products. All attendees will get a PDF version of the “Nine Things…” setup guide for Word 2007 and Word 2010/2013. Time permitting, Wordman will answer your burning Word questions!

(Heh, "burning Word" - I picture a bunch of proposal professionals, out in the middle of the desert, creating a big flammable statue of Microsoft Bob, and executing a complex 96-step dance around it.)

Eassom provided a number of general examples, but since he doesn't know all of our industries, he couldn't cover EVERYTHING. However, Eassom's webinar provided me with the tools that I needed to take care of one of my, um, burning problems.

I work in the automated fingerprint identification industry, and since I primarily work with law enforcement customers in the United States, I need to pay close attention to the Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification (EBTS). This document, issued by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), governs how U.S. state law enforcement agencies (and other agencies) submit electronic information to the FBI. For example, if someone is arrested for murder in Ontario, California, and his/her fingerprints and palmprints are taken, those fingerprints/palmprints will eventually make their way to the FBI, using the standards specified in the EBTS.

However, the EBTS covers more than just arrests. There are literally dozens of things that can be submitted to the FBI, including prints from amnesia victims, prints from crime scenes (latent fingerprint images), iris images, requests for photos, and many, many others.

Each of these types of transactions (TOTs in FBI-speak) is designated by an acronym, usually three or four letters in length. Normally, if someone is arrested and the prints are submitted to the FBI, the prints are sent as a "CAR" transaction; CAR stands for Criminal Tenprint Submission (Answer Required).

As you can deduce, there are cases in which an answer is not required. For those cases the "Criminal Tenprint Submission (No Answer Necessary)" is submitted. The acronym for this transaction is "CNA."

If you're a proposal professional or experienced Microsoft Word user, you may know where this is going.

If not, imagine this. You're writing a proposal, busily typing away, and you declare that your automated fingerprint identification system will be configured to support a whole bunch of EBTS transactions. It will support the CAR transaction. It will support the CAN -

Wait a minute, that's not what I typed. Let's try this again. It will support the CAN -

Oh yeah.

Microsoft Word is helping me. Word ships with a list of common spelling mistakes which it auto-corrects, and since "CNA" is obviously a typo, Word helpfully changes it to "CAN" for me.

Unless I tell it to do otherwise.

So since I use Microsoft Word 2010, I go into the File menu, then go into the Options menu item, then I choose Proofing, then I click on the button for the AutoCorrect options, then I click specifically on the AutoCorrect tab, then I look for the "Replace text as you type" settings.

Simple, really.

With a default Word - well, an English (U.S.) default Word, one of the "Replace text as you type" options helpfully changes "cna" to "can."

For most of you, this is just fine. But for those of us who spend our waking lives spouting EBTS types of transactions (TOTs), it isn't. So we will choose to delete that little correction from Word's replacement list.

Obviously Microsoft Word isn't the only example of a software program with a LOT of different settings. Whatever piece of software you use, it helps if you know all the ins and outs of the program.

And if you don't, you can always hire a consultant.
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