Look deep into Word's formatting with CrossEyes

When editing complex documents, few tools are handier than WordPerfect's Reveal Codes feature. Now Word users can have this feature with a third-party program called CrossEyes. Check out our review.

CrossEyes, made by Levit & James, Inc., is a Word add-on designed to help you troubleshoot complex Word documents by revealing all the formatting codes in an adjustable window at the bottom of a Word doc. In this article, I'll show you how CrossEyes can help you and your users and evaluate how well it works.

If you want to test-drive CrossEyes yourself, the application (current release 2.0) is available as 15-day trialware. If you like it, be aware that it's pricey for an add-on. Licenses cost $79 per PC for purchases below 10 and are discounted up to $50 per PC for 1,000 or more. Additional discounts are available.

Levit & James also offers three other Word productivity applications: CrossWords, a WordPerfect/Word conversion utility; CrossFingers, for repairing damaged Word files; and Stylizer, for advanced editing of Word styles.

WordPerfect users will remember the Reveal Codes feature used for document troubleshooting. As you can see in Figure A, the CrossEyes window resembles Reveal Codes, with each formatting code displayed in-line with the text but in a different color and within brackets. To the left of the CrossEyes window you'll see a toolbar.

Figure A
CrossEyes presents a window through which users can view Word's formatting codes, much like WordPerfect's Reveal Codes feature.

As you move your cursor through the Word document, the cursor within CrossEyes moves with it. Click in the CrossEyes window and double-click any formatting code to bring up the editing screen for that code. This shortcut for editing a style is one of the application's strong points.

Even so, advanced Word users know you can troubleshoot Word's formatting by using its tools:
  • [Ctrl][Shift]8 turns on display of nonprinting characters such as spaces, paragraph marks, tabs, and so on.
  • [Alt][F8] shows field codes.
  • Setting the Style Area width greater than 0 in Tools | Options | View Tab opens an area to the left of the document (in Normal View) where you can view the style applied to each paragraph. Double-clicking the style name opens the editing screen for that style.
  • [Shift][F1] toggles Reveal Formatting. This tool displays a question mark cursor. Move it over any text and click to see a bubble that displays how that text is formatted.

But CrossEyes gives more information than these Word features. For example, with CrossEyes, you can view tables and their cell addresses, hidden text, comments, footnotes, endnotes, headers, footers, text boxes, cross references, tables of contents, embedded spreadsheets, and graphics anchors.

Figure B shows a complex document. You can see how CrossEyes displays every code, using a color scheme that clearly distinguishes between character, paragraph, and page level formatting.

Figure B
The CrossEyes display helps you locate each type of code, including many not displayed by Word.

Troubleshooting with CrossEyes
While Word XP has a new Reveal Formatting feature, it doesn't contain the same usefulness or convenience as CrossEyes. Let's say you have a document with one paragraph that displays in a different font size. The stubborn text won't change even when you highlight it and manually change the font formatting. Highlighting the text and using [Ctrl]Spacebar to zap character formatting and [Ctrl]Q to zap the paragraph formatting doesn't solve the problem, either. Interfering levels of formatting or a change within one style could cause a problem like this.

Using CrossEyes, you could see in one place which codes are present and exactly where they appear in your document. You could then adjust them to suit your needs. And should there be extraneous codes, you could remove them.

Headers, footers, tables of contents, and bookmarks are other features of Word that cause frequent formatting migraines. Use CrossEyes to click on these formats to see all their hidden codes. What you can see, you can usually fix.

The CrossEyes toolbar and menus
Figure C shows the CrossEyes toolbar. Clicking the icon with an ellipsis (…) truncates the text to allow you to see more code detail. The button with the eyeglasses icon lets you set formatting display details, while the Menu button allows you to customize the color scheme.

Figure C
The CrossEyes toolbar features buttons that allow you to truncate text display and quickly change application options.

CrossEyes is not without its problems. It can be slow to refresh the screen, causing a delay in typing while it is on. If the screen is too slow, turn off CrossEyes when you aren't using it by clicking the Stop CrossEyes icon on the toolbar the app adds to Word (Figure D).

Figure D
When not needed, you can turn off CrossEyes by clicking the Stop CrossEyes icon.

Version 2.0 still contains a few incompatibilities with Word. For instance, you might have trouble drawing tables while CrossEyes is on. To avoid this problem, simply close CrossEyes, draw the table, and then restart CrossEyes. Also, you can't use the add-on with frames. (Frames is an older Word feature that separates a Word document into sections.)

CrossEyes also has nine known problems interacting with formatting codes. For example, using the Previous/Next button in the CrossEyes toolbar to navigate between headers and footers doesn't always work. In addition, when you change a style definition, you'll need to close and reopen CrossEyes for it to recognize the change. And font property codes, such as bold and underline, sometimes appear in the wrong place near table cells and section breaks. These issues will be fixed in future versions.

CrossEyes, despite some minor bugs, works well. It's a feature I wish Word included for no additional charge. If users get good training, Word usually has enough tools to let them solve most formatting headaches, or as a last resort, one can always save a doc as a text file and start over. So most businesses won't need to purchase CrossEyes for day-to-day Word processing. But those departments that create complexly formatted Word documents can benefit from this handy—though a bit pricey—x-ray vision into a hidden part of Word.

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