Feeds

back to article MS Word deserves DEATH says Brit SciFi author Charles Stross

British science fiction author Charles Stross has published a mighty rant on the subject of Microsoft Word, which he is attempting to will out of existence. Stross has form as a critic of Redmond, having penned a Linux column for another outlet. His complaint on this occasion is not just with Word itself, but rather the fact …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Bronze badge

Word is indeed a pain in the bum, but so is every processor since the days of early Word Perfect. If they all have an issue it's that they have too many features.

32
4
Bronze badge

You should give WordPad a go, in Windows 7&8 its evolved to about the level of a word processor circa 1995 ie it types, it spell checks, it has fonts and it now is setup for A4 all without the unnecessary gubbins.

15
5
Silver badge
Happy

WordPerfect still lives

I use Word when I have to but my default editor and document creation is WordPerfect - it's so vastly superior to Word that there's really no competition for any document creation where you actually care about the final appearance and content.

8
5

Yep I refuse Word, and use Wordpad instead. It's by far more reliable (not had hone crash with wordpad) and doesn't try to format stuff in a way you don't want it formatted.

Wordpad almost reaches up to the quality level of the text editor in OSX.

As long as I don't need specialised third party integrations that only work with Word. It's all Wordpad.

3
2
Windows

Word Perfect largely has itself to blame for it's demise

While I don't dispute one could do a great job with Word Perfect back in the 1980's - IMHO it made Vi and Edlin seem like user friendly text processors by comparison.

Ease of use (by the untrained majority) was where WP 5.1 lost out to Microsoft Word V2. The much belated Windows GUI version of WP stank (yes I know about the hidden api stuff) but they never caught up.

By the time MS lost the plot with the ribbon it obviously had all been over for 15 years.

7
4

Give me WordPro

WordPro, last updated c.2000, is still my word processor of choice. I do use Word 2010 on occasions and it is just such hard work as compared with WordPro's right-click property boxes. Even simple things in Word are poorly implemented when compared with WordPro - for example insert an index entry in Word and you're asked for the index text each time; WordPro gives you a combo drop-down list of what you've already added so you can be consistent.

4
1
Silver badge

@t.est

Hmm, I've not had Word crash on me for years, well apart from the time when the document got up to over 500MB before I split it up.

3
2
Silver badge

Re: Give me WordPro

I grew up on Protext and WordStar. Protext was excellent at producing long texts, but it was very basic. In fact, I'd write my text in Protext for a long time and them export it into Word Perfect or MS Word for formatting and printing once it was finished.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Word Perfect largely has itself to blame for it's demise

> it made Vi and Edlin seem like user friendly text processors by comparison

What do you mean by that? Vi is *very* user friendly.

Just a bit choosy as to who its friends are. :-(

27
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: @t.est

> Hmm, I've not had Word crash on me for years

Neither have I, since I moved to LibreOffice. :-)

27
5
PJI
Bronze badge

Re: Word Perfect largely has itself to blame for it's demise

But vi is user friendly, fast, consistent and powerful. I am serious.

10
5
Anonymous Coward

He could always return to something more his technological level like a type writer - and then use Word's built in OCR functionality.....

7
19
Silver badge

Re: Word Perfect largely has itself to blame for it's demise

No - you are on drugs.

Vi is both obscure and has a very abstract interaction paradigm and whilst powerful for the cognescenti has an unbelievably high learning curve that is unacceptable to the average joe.

17
9

No kidding! Just this morning I was thinking: "Why doesn't anyone implement WordPerfect's oh-so-useful "Keep Text Together" command?

(I don't know if it's in Word, but I know it's not in LibreOffice.)

2
2
Silver badge

Re: Word Perfect largely has itself to blame for it's demise

But vi is user friendly, fast, consistent and powerful. I am serious.

Fast, consistent, and powerful, yes, but if you're calling vi user friendly and being serious then you and I have very different definitions of "user friendly". To me the term implies that an average user could fire up the software and start using it immediately with an acceptable level of proficiency. With vi even geeks have to RTFM, usually more than once, before they can use it with any kind of success. That's not user friendly, even if it is a dang good program.

10
0
Bronze badge
WTF?

Keep Text Together

Why doesn't anyone implement WordPerfect's oh-so-useful "Keep Text Together" command?

(I don't know if it's in Word, but I know it's not in LibreOffice.)

Would this be something like Libre Office's "Keep with next paragraph", which is one of the text flow options available with paragraph styles?

7
0
Anonymous Coward

Or maybe not. I reinstalled the old version (and they don't make it easy) when I upgraded to 7 from XP. Reason: Couldn't handle the ribbonesque frivolity.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: Give me WordPro

WordPro's sections and divisions, and "Special Views" are really nice. Years ago, when Star Office became OpenOffice.org, and Oo.o was canvassing input, I urged them to mimic WordPro vice MS Word. Of course, it is obvious they never even bothered to look at LWP for ideas. Just because ms has the most inertia does not validate cloning it and ignoring Lotus WordPro.

WordPro's interface, to me, STILL trumps all the other word processors in terms of balance of features, crispness in the GUI, and reasonable stability. Even the WYSIWYG in print preview and in the Special Views, man, hard to beat.

Unfortunately for WordPro, IBM, as I understand, as well as Lotus SmartSuite, will go unsupported circal Nov 2014. Apparently, nobody is picking it up. If anyone does, I hope it is not for the purposes of shutting it down.

4
0

TeX/LaTeX

Why not give TeX or LaTeX a go? Edit using any text editor you choose - no obscure binary file formats. Multiplatform. Source code easily available. Powerful and portable. What's not to love?

8
1
Bronze badge
Pint

Re: Give me WordPro

Ah, the old Ami Pro. Was miles ahead of Microsoft Word ...back in the day. It was much more intuitive and pleasant to use than MS Word.

5
0

Word perfect

WP's file format was at least easy to clean up. Word in comparison was and is a nightmare when it breaks. The thing I didn't like about WP was that it would accumulate orphaned formatting codes. By default deleting text didn't delete the formatting. A document could grow astonishingly. I had an employer who asked me to look at his document because although it was only 4 pages long, it was terribly slow to print. I opened view codes or whatever it used to be called and discovered that 90% of his doc was orphaned codes. I deleted them and things worked fine. He almost fainted though when he saw the size of the new document. Thought I had deleted most of his work.

3
0

Re: Give me WordPro

Yes, I miss Word Pro, it was an amazing update to Amipro. I wish LibreOffice would adopt those incredible right-click popups.

It felt like Word Pro was built around styles whereas in Word styles have always felt bolted-on.

3
0

Multimate.

Multimate under dos. How on earth did we manage? Tables -- Luxury. We were lucky if we could even set Tabs. Not to even mention inserting jpegs. I'll get my coat.

0
0

Re: Word Perfect largely has itself to blame for it's demise

No, you are on drugs.

I stopped using the word 'paradigm' ten years ago. (I never actually knew exactly what it meant)

We invest in the lengthy learning process of adopting products and we generally stick to them because of this personal investment. That is, the time and mental effort we expended to learn them. It's inertia. The product we see as best, is the product we know the most about. We learn to work around it failings and make the most of it.

I used VI on unix. It's like learning to drive a car. Once you've learnt it, its second nature and worth taking the time to learn. And at the time there was naff all else to beat it on Unix. You don't want to trash all that learning for something else. And then GUI based editors came along.

I've seen the same with the Windows/Mac/Linux debate. We tend to stick with what we have the most invested time and knowledge on, and stay with it and make the most of it.

2
0

Re: WordPerfect still lives

MS Word always was and still is is for the landfill in comparison with WordPerfect. I still use WP10 on Win XP and it is always a breeze to use.

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: Keep Text Together

"Keep with next paragraph" is better than nothing.

But "keep with previous paragraph" is more useful, and that's not included in any of the formats I'm familiar with.

To the suggestion of WordPad: that's fine if your document is up to about two pages long. But if you're trying to write a 300-page book, then it's nice to have some way of navigating it. A fully functional word processor, whether it's Word or WordPerfect or Libre Office, provides that.

0
0
Bronze badge

It's a terrible shame that there are no open source word processors out there.

Oh, wait! There are!

And they even can save a document in Mickeysoft Curd format.

Or to RTF. Or to PDF. Or to...

1
0
Bronze badge

Re: TeX/LaTeX

What's not to love?

Well, there are certainly things not to love in TeX and LaTeX. The syntax of TeX is abysmal in many areas, to be perfectly honest. LaTeX2e helps a great deal \but \is \still \far \from \ideal. The typography crowd will tell you that some of Knuth's typesetting algorithms are infelicitous, particularly for languages other than English. There's the perennial issue of what to do about overful hboxes; you can make a strong case that's a feature (LaTeX is telling you "hey, there's no way to format this line that is visually acceptable, using my current set of parameters"), but it's still a stumbling block for people who just want to produce a document and don't care if it's less than perfect.

There are too many LaTeX packages, many of them redundant. That's not LaTeX's fault, but again it's a barrier to adoption. The packages vary widely in quality, and here too some of the typographic decisions made by their creators are unfortunate. (For example, the Koma-Script packages are very nice in most respects, but BLOCK CAPITALS for heading are typographically too strong in most contexts.)

All that said, LaTeX, used properly, is probably the best widely-available text-production system. I agree entirely with Stross. Word processors are bad, MS Word is particularly bad, and editors and publishers who insist on Word are a huge part of the problem. In the past few years I've done publications in Word and LaTeX, and the former was a goddamned nightmare throughout the editing cycle.

2
0
Silver badge

Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

"It is, quite simply, unavoidable.”

Fortunately, "unavoidable" doesn't mean what you think it means. Simple ASCII .txt is still compatible with Word. Demand it. I do. Almost nobody has the artistic ability to "art-up" simple documents, without completely cocking it up.

Note that I don't run anything from Redmond younger than a dozen years ago or so (Win2K and ACad2K are about it; the CAD box is air-gapped) ... and I started refusing all contracts based on Redmond systems on January 1, 2010.

16
5
JC_

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

How good is the change-tracking in an ASCII text file? Editors would probably prefer to use a tool that has this feature when revising a document.

8
10
Bronze badge

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

"How good is the change-tracking in an ASCII text file?"

You do not seem to be familiar with the concept of version control .... it works best on pure text files.

29
6
JC_

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

You do not seem to be familiar with the concept of version control .... it works best on pure text files.

I work with SVN and Git everyday (and VSS in the past - shudder), so I'm quite familiar with version control; you, on the other hand, do not seem to be familiar with what an editor would think of being asked to "merge your changes into the trunk"...

A single file has the advantage that it can be emailed around the office and between the author and the editor and all changes are included, along with formatting, in an easy to use way. Word may not be perfect, but it's a good enough solution for millions of people.

11
13
Bronze badge

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

Ever heard of /usr/bin/diff ? Version control is another tool, but seriously, diff and patch are the two most used programs apart from vi on my box ... I write/maintain a 1800+ pages book, trust me ... as for styles, I use wiki text formatting, an awk script spits out docbook XML which I convert to the format of my liking ...

I remember working with a big software house who were using XLS files for project tracking involving several people ... I was getting modified files from 5 different people at one point, how do you merge that ?

Save as CSV, diff the buggers, patch, open in OpenOffice and save as xls ... Everybody was asking me how I manged to do it so fast ... I kept replying: "Use linux". I know, you can get the tools on windows, add them to your path and work your way around the braindead windows terminal (cmd.exe) ...

Oh, and Windows tools seem to have problems with CSV, comma-separated values, files. Some tools expect it to be TAB separated values (Excel), others semi-colon separated values (Windows contacts import wizard) ... Excel allows you to import the files, which is just plain f'ed up it should apply heuristics or at the very least ask, contacts import wizard simply refuses to load proper CSV files....

Gates should be canonized, or is it you who are just too thick ?

12
11
Silver badge

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

One of you is speaking about *.doc or *.docx files ( ie MS Word Format) which can hold formatting etc, the other is speaking about *.txt files ( Ascii text files which does hold formatting etc).

Please do not compare appels to oranges, they are both fruits but they are nto the same fruit.

3
8
Silver badge

@Khaptain (was:Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.)

LaTex and Post/GhostScript are ASCII text files.

Please do not compare ampules to syringes. They are both technical bits of kit, but do not exactly do the same job.

7
3
Gav

Single file, Ha!

A single file has the advantage

This is exactly where the likes of Word fails. Because you have absolutely no idea, and no way of ensuring, that you have a single file. For all you know you may have four different versions emailing their way around the office. Try merging that all back together.

And that's before you even consider the inevitable situation where two of the contributors to the file are using the style templates, and one is setting fonts and paragraph formatting. Someone at the end then has to fix it all together in a consistent way.

Stross is 100% correct. The way Word works was broken from the outset.

31
1
Silver badge
Happy

Re: Gates should be canonized

Do you mean tied to the front of a cannon? Just wondering...

21
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

"Ever heard of /usr/bin/diff ? Version control is another tool, but seriously, diff and patch are the two most used programs apart from vi on my box ... I write/maintain a 1800+ pages book, trust me ... as for styles, I use wiki text formatting, an awk script spits out docbook XML which I convert to the format of my liking"

No - and I think I will stick to Word, it does all of that with none of that crap, thanks...

4
14
LDS
Silver badge

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

No - you're wrong. It happens just that most VCS comes with diff/merge tools for plain text files only. As long as you have a tool enabling diff/merge for a given format, there's no problem using them with any good VCS allowing for them.

BTW: Unicode may look a "text file", but it's not. Unicode is really a binary encoding for text.... (just think it allows for different representation of the same character, i.e. combining diacriticals or using a single codepoint when avalable)

0
2
LDS
Silver badge

Re: Single file, Ha!

That's just if the last version of Word you used was 2000...

1
0
Bronze badge
Angel

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

I agree Gates should be cannonized! :)

1
0
Bronze badge
Happy

Re: Gates should be canonized

That's two 'n's for cannonized. Sometimes spillcheck can change you meaning.

3
0

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

Last couple of days I have been thinking about the "Apparition of Productivity". This is the appearance that "apps" and "gui tools" help people do useful work quickly and productively. Your examples show how this is the case. I have a few scripts I use to take Word format documents and convert them to plain text and then to html (all without opening a GUI). The time it would take me working in Word and some GUI app is many times what I can achieve with command line.

Another example is a .csv file I had coming from a supplier. I started off summarising the data in Excel, but ten moved on and wrote a Python script. The script ran the process in less time than it took to open the file in Excel.

This message has to get through to users and employers. The potential of computers to improve productivity is being eroded by users who are GUI-centric.

6
1
Silver badge

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

>The potential of computers to improve productivity is being eroded by users who are GUI-centric.

I believe that used to be called VBA - which proved, in spite of everything, that some people will write and use scripts if you make it really easy for them.

Unfortunately UNIX etc makes it really difficult for them. The learning curve is just too steep for most people, so they don't use them, don't understand them, and feel there's no good reason to learn.

The best way to compete with Office would be to make the usual suite of apps, but include simple, easy-to-understand, shareable and social scripting.

1
2

Re: @ hplasm; Gates should be canonized

tied in front of a cannon?

wouldn't that be "atomized?"

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

"I have a few scripts I use to take Word format documents and convert them to plain text and then to html (all without opening a GUI). The time it would take me working in Word and some GUI app is many times what I can achieve with command line."

You might appreciate this:

Geeks vs Non-geeks

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

> Unfortunately UNIX etc makes it really difficult for them.

The problem is most users don't care to put in any kind of effort to learn.

Using shell commands is not difficult and you don't need to learn many commands to be truly efficient and productive.

The problem is, so many people have been brainwashed into believing GUIs are the easiest and most productive ways to work. They are not. What they do is lower the threshold to doing anything, the simplest task.

Most GUI-based word processors are pretty sophisticated but because of the low threshold many never go on to learn how to use them properly, ignoring styles and formats to waste their time manually formatting each and eery paragraph to get it looking right. Using styles makes this easier and quicker with a little up front effort.

People are lazy.

5
0

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

And how much time do you spend writing, debugging and maintaining those scripts?

And when you don't have control over the nature of the input data, or the "automagic HTML converter thingy" creates some kind of HTML that modern browsers don't like?

This is like the software vendors who gush "Just press one button..."

Yes, after you've pressed 22 other buttons before, twiddled some knobs, moved various things around, scratched your head for awhile, did some test printouts, discovered a display incompatibility with your video driver, scratched your head some more..."

1
1
Bronze badge

Re: Concur with Stross. With a couple caveats.

'BTW: Unicode may look a "text file", but it's not. Unicode is really a binary encoding for text...'

Where ASCII and EBCDIC are?

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Single file, Ha!

"Because you have absolutely no idea, and no way of ensuring, that you have a single file. For all you know you may have four different versions emailing their way around the office."

That's what SharePoint is for.,,,,

0
2

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.