Journal: News & Comment

Friday, August 29, 2003
# 2:33:00 PM:

Word(s) get(s) in the way

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David Pogue of the New York Times suggests some simplifications for Microsoft Office—good ones that Microsoft is, unfortunately, unlikely to heed.

I write for a living, and I've noted here before that, even so, I generally avoid Microsoft Word unless someone sends me a file already in that format. It's not out of anti-Microsoft sentiment (though I have that): I paid for a full version of Office v.X for the Mac so I can share material with others. But I don't write using Word because its many bugs and unhelpful features mean that it gets in the way.

For most of the work I do, Word 5.1a with the addition of later versions' live spell-checking (with the squiggly red underlines) would do the trick nicely. Even better is something like the new Nisus Writer Express for Mac OS X, which saves in Microsoft's open-specification Rich Text Format (RTF) and otherwise does its best to let you write without impediment. If you need more complicated formatting or layout, consider Adobe InDesign or maybe FrameMaker instead.

The point remains that Word, targeted at such a wide swath of users that is dominated by day-to-day business publishing, can be a significant impediment to people who actually need to write a lot of words in a day. Which is sad.


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