back to article 'Utterly unusable' MS Word dumped by SciFi author Charles Stross

British SciFi author Charles Stross once had the protagonist of his Laundry Files series, sysadmin/demon-hunter Bob Howard, narrate his day by saying “I'm sitting in my office, shivering over a cooling cup of coffee and reading The Register when my door opens without warning ...”*. Stross is welcome in these pages for that …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Doubly unusable if he moved the document

    If he started the document under LibreOffice (which I suspect he did) it was doubly unusable. It is somewhat specific to Office for Mac X (dunno what MSFT did when they ported it). I have had to throw out and rewrite from scratch multiple documents because of this. The scenario is: a document that once in its lifecycle has passed through LibreOffice, gets to a genius with Office for Mac who does a tracked change on it. Merry hell ensues with 100% or so probability. The same scenario just with lower (5-10%) probability can also play with Office for Mac and Offie for Windows. The document from now on is a mess on anythying - Office for Windows, Office for Mac or LibreOffice.

    Still, the platform-to-platform breakage in tracking is nothing compared to breakage in references, citations and indexed tables.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

      Hmm, I've been using LibreOffice for years on OSX (more to do with the fact that it makes it possible to edit on OSX, Linux and even Windows without many problems). My main challenge with Word was that it utterly screws up the formatting of a document when you try to import something - and this even happens when you get a Word document coming from a PC.

      Now I am a content guy, but when you're finishing you eventually move to formatting and in the end we just started using LibreOffice everywhere.

      Even if you have Word on your machine, work in .doc format. Once Word starts rejecting the doc by crashing (if it gets big and you have lots of shredded format codes due to cut& paste), you can use LibreOffice to clean it up.

      As for creative writing, I like Ulysses. I'm on the beta for both the iOS and OSX version, and as good as it already was, it's getting even better IMHO.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

        Charlie uses scrivener to a point afaik.

        http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2012/07/writing-a-novel-in-scrivener-e.html

      2. Florida1920 Silver badge

        Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

        "Even if you have Word on your machine, work in .doc format."

        An upvote for that alone! .docx is a plague.

    2. Charlie Stross

      Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

      If he started the document under LibreOffice (which I suspect he did)

      No I didn't.

      I wrote the bloody thing in Scrivener (which is at heart an IDE for complex compound documents like, oh, trilogies), then generated a word document as output because my editors insist on working in Word because corporate IT at the big publishers thinks everyone uses it, even though many deeply serious professional authors won't touch it with a barge-pole.

      Unfortunately $EDITOR[1] edited the word doc with change tracking. Then $EDITOR[2] scribbled on a print-out with red ink. And they want me to make another pass through it and do some structural changes. So my workflow is:

      1. Go through change-tracked manuscript in Word (or LibreOffice) doing accept/reject on changes (I get to veto them at this stage).

      2. Go through change-tracked MS and PDF scan of hand-annotated print-out, applying handwritten changes. (Thankfully, not as many of them.)

      3. Import resulting document into Scrivener and try to rebuild the book's structure and metadata by hand.

      4. Retire to the pub, weeping copiously, to consider the possibility of switching to an exciting and fulfilling career as a car park attendant or a tax inspector.

      1. Gunnar Wolf
        Linux

        Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

        Charlie,

        I have gone (twice!) through the process of publishing a book.The first one was basically prose, in a scholarly setting (published by a university), the second one is a technical one. I chose to use LaTeX, the first one written straight in LaTeX, and the second one via Emacs in org-mode. And yes, the correction/edition process was painful. They want to use Word, I certainly don't. It was quite an issue to get them to accept to use red-ink over paper, and I had to incorporate it all... Painful, but OTOH way better than finding out the changes in Word and going back to my Sacred Originals.

        Of course, teaching LaTeX to the editor is just out of the question!

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

          I chose to use LaTeX, the first one written straight in LaTeX, and the second one via Emacs in org-mode. And yes, the correction/edition process was painful. They want to use Word, I certainly don't.

          Oh yeah. I've been there (except I use LyX as my main LaTeX editor, with some editing in vim) too.

          Fortunately my MA thesis - the longest thing I've yet written in LaTeX - was deposited as PDF so there wasn't any back-and-forth with Word. The Graduate School would just send me a list of formatting changes that needed to be made,1 and let me worry about adjusting the LaTeX.

          One of the nice things about submitting to e.g. ACM journals is that they all use LaTeX as their submission format. That seems to be pretty widely true in the sciences. The humanities are mostly stuck on Word.

          1In time-honored tradition, these would be things like "bottom margin on title page is 1.1 inches, must be exactly 1 inch".

      2. sisk Silver badge

        Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

        Unfortunately $EDITOR[1] edited the word doc with change tracking. Then $EDITOR[2] scribbled on a print-out with red ink. And they want me to make another pass through it and do some structural changes. So my workflow is:

        1. Go through change-tracked manuscript in Word (or LibreOffice) doing accept/reject on changes (I get to veto them at this stage).

        2. Go through change-tracked MS and PDF scan of hand-annotated print-out, applying handwritten changes. (Thankfully, not as many of them.)

        3. Import resulting document into Scrivener and try to rebuild the book's structure and metadata by hand.

        4. Retire to the pub, weeping copiously, to consider the possibility of switching to an exciting and fulfilling career as a car park attendant or a tax inspector.

        That right there is enough to make me rethink my plans regarding a currently half finished tome I was considering sending off some day. I wasn't real optimistic about actually getting it published anyway, but that just sounds like a nightmare scenario.

      3. h4rm0ny

        Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

        >>"Unfortunately $EDITOR[1] edited the word doc with change tracking. Then $EDITOR[2] scribbled on a print-out with red ink. And they want me to make another pass through it and do some structural changes. So my workflow is:"

        I'm unconvinced MS Word's inability to merge in one of your editor's hand-written amendments on hard-copy is a reason to call it "utterly unusable".

        >>"I wrote the bloody thing in Scrivener (which is at heart an IDE for complex compound documents like, oh, trilogies), then generated a word document as output because my editors insist on working in Word because corporate IT at the big publishers thinks everyone uses it"

        Again, not really a reason for attacking Word. You're basically damning it for being successful. If the situation were the other way around and they all insisted you submit your work in Scrivener format and you wanted to use Word, you would be in the same situation. Of course Scrivener will export to Word because Word is the common standard and so it needs to. If the situations were reversed Word would have export support for Scrivener for the same reasons. But you would still be in the same situation as minority user. You would, for example, lose all your change tracking in your Word document when it had to go into Scrivener and back again.

        So again, this is an artefact of your choice in writing tool, not any indicator that Word is "utterly unusable".

        >>"even though many deeply serious professional authors won't touch it with a barge-pole."

        And plenty of other authors do use it fine. I'm not sure if they are deeply serious ones, or why seriousness is so highly regarded by you, but again, you're publically slagging off the work of some very talented programmers who have put years of work into the software for no good reason that I can see here. All of the items you list are more to do with you than with Word.

        1. Deryk Barker

          Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

          If Word used a *real* standard format (don't try telling me OOXML is) then these problems would, over time, vanish as other software - e.g. LibreOffice, Abiword - were able to implement import/export functions without having to reverse engineer Word format.

          My wife has just been going through a similar process with her latest book (a biography of the architect Thomas Fuller, FWIW) as her editor wants .doc (or .docx!!!!!!!!). Among other problems, she has had to extract the footnotes into separate documents, because they get totally screwed up in the conversion otherwise.

          I will join the original author in "publically slagging off the work of some very talented programmers who have put years of work into the software for no good reason that I can see here": my experiences with Word and the rest of Office have always been entirely negavtive.

          And, you know, I imagine those "very talented programmers" (I've had better programmers among my students at my community college) were actually getting paid to put those "years of work" into Word.

      4. Someone Else Silver badge
        Pint

        @ Charlie Stross -- Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

        [...]because corporate IT at the big publishers thinks everyone uses it, even though many deeply serious professional authors won't touch it with a barge-pole.

        Giving an upvote simply for the barge-pole remark. Wish I had more than one upvote for the rest of your post.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doubly unusable if he moved the document

      What's all the fuss? I use Subversion (or whatever RCS suits) and Beyond Compare 3.

      If all you're interested in knowing is what text has changed between versions of a Word document, Beyond Compare 3 does a terrific job of highlighting the differences.

  2. Craig McNeil

    I don't know why anyone would use Word for creative writing. I personally use Scrivener which is totally geared up to whole creative process. Word is for office drones.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

          1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

            1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

            2. h4rm0ny

              Re: re: Word is for office drones.

              "Dude, you're a barista..." was one of the lines from a Samsung ad. It's what one person in the Apple store queue says to another one when he is rhapsodizing about how the Apple technology enables him to be creative. It's pretty on-topic as a comeback, just FYI.

    2. Richard Jones 1
      FAIL

      In Another Case

      In another case a right handed repair person tried both a chisel and left handed scissors to remove a screw rather than a screw driver and cut their hand.

      Really if you chosen device it is not right; use the tool that is correct for your task.

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: In Another Case

        Hey, excuse me! There's childish bickering going on here! Don't interrupt!!

        I want to so see whether Craig will uncheck "post anonymously" for his next post!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: In Another Case

          It wasn't Craig...

    3. The Wegie

      "I don't know why anyone would use Word for creative writing"

      He doesn't.

      But there are these creatures called publishers, who pay you money and market your writing, and they do their editorial document flow almost entirely in Word...

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Mr Stross doesn't use Word for writing, I believe he does use Scrivener. However, his publishers use the Change Tracking feature in Word, so he must also use Word for copy edits. Apparently this is very common across the entire industry.

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Overeaction mods! That was some quality banter you just deleted.

        Killjoys.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      well that might be OK as an amateur

      ...but it's simply not a choice that professionals have.

      1. localgeek

        Re: well that might be OK as an amateur

        As I recall, author Piers Anthony uses all OSS for writing his novels. Maybe someone else drops it into Word later on, but he's certainly a professional writer.

        1. David Given

          Re: well that might be OK as an amateur

          ...that does not make me feel better about open source word processors.

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: well that might be OK as an amateur

          As I recall, author Piers Anthony uses all OSS for writing his novels. Maybe someone else drops it into Word later on, but he's certainly a professional writer.

          And unless he's recanted several years of public statements, he wrote just about all his famous novels longhand on paper using a pencil. Certainly most of the Xanth stories, the Tyrant of Jupiter stuff and Macroscope.

          At least, that's what he used to say before Windows XP.

    6. Robert Ramsay

      I put in another vote for Scrivener. It's cheap, designed for the job and you can use it on more than one of your own machines.

  3. John H Woods Silver badge

    Content and Style

    I've never understood why an author would need a word processor to write a book. The content producer should write it in plain text, and the publisher should mark it up. The only real reason to use Word is in the circumstances where you are responsible for the final presentation style yourself. I'm sure there are other functions on top of a plain text-editor that would be useful to an author (dictionary, change tracking) but I'm pretty sure that formatting and style is completely surplus to requirements.

    The problem starts to become apparent in business when you are producing client-facing documents which have a strict style set by your marketing department. Theoretically, it is possible to take the style they have painstakingly (but often inexpertly) created, and fill it with content which will automatically take the corporate style. In practice, however, I have found this very hard to achieve.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Content and Style

      Change tracking by use of diff?

      Or is that just too complicated?

      1. tony2heads

        @John Robinson

        Mercurial or git.

        They track changes on texts

        1. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: @John Robinson

          >They track changes on texts.

          Not in the way Word does. Track Changes doesn't mean "find the diffs and blames", it means "show all editorial comments in a different style, show content diffs, and get rid of everything except the final raw copy when editing is done."

          You could probably hack together a script to do it, but only insane people try to write a book using a code IDE.

          (Actually I believe some tech publishers use a tech workflow and will accept copy in - e.g. - MD, but that won't work for most writers.)

      2. a pressbutton

        Re: Content and Style

        if you know of something that compares successive versions and allows you to selectively merge parts, please tell me

        - but please dont say cvs/git etc

        1. fajensen Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Content and Style

          - but please dont say cvs/git etc

          Mercurial does ;-)

      3. Jan 0

        Re: Content and Style

        >Change tracking by use of diff? Or is that just too complicated?

        Well it worked for the House of Lords back in the '80s. (They bought a Sun 4 purely to use 'diff'. I prefer 'sdiff' - it's designed for humans.)

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Content and Style

        > Change tracking by use of diff?

        > Or is that just too complicated?

        Did you actually read the beginning of this discussion, wherein it's explained exactly how and why MS Word gets into the picture?

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Content and Style

      If you're at the low-rent end of the market, or hack away for the producers of endless shelves of tech books, you're expected to deliver the complete product ready to send to the printer, possibly with the exception of the publisher's copyright page. But also to be able to send intermediate versions in a format that the (likely home-based) "editor", publicist and other cogs in the production chain can read, probably on the laptops they supply themselves - and that's usually Word, or, if you twist their arms, PDF. This does rather explain why a lot of authors might prefer the direct-to-Amazon route as it's not clear what value the "publisher" is actually adding.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: Content and Style

        Wow ... I felt pretty depressed today at my first choice of career (IT). Now I feel depressed thinking about the alternative (Writing). Maybe there's a novel in amongst this existential angst?

        "As Gregor awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found his manuscript transformed into a monstrous mess."

    3. Mage Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Content and Style

      I use Notepad++ to do the creative part of writing and each part is a separate file.

      At some stage you have to use Word format for Publishers and Agents.

      I proof read on a Kindle via HTML import to Mobi Creator and make notes on the Kindle.

      Office 2003 is last decent version.

      Select desired compatibility mode in Libre Office and save as .doc. There are now incompatible .docx versions. Tell the Word users to save as .doc not .docx and compatibility for Office 2003 or similar. Or even Office 97!

      1. benched42
        IT Angle

        Re: Content and Style

        Actually the two latest versions of Microsoft Office can't save in Office 97 format, nor can they read that format.

        1. localzuk

          Re: Content and Style

          @benched42 - really? Got Word 2013 open here and Word 97-2003 .doc is a save option? And our old office 97-2003 documents all work fine still...

    4. Rich 2

      Re: Content and Style

      Even if you are responsible for the presentation, Word is not the right tool. Its formatting is basic at beat; cmpare it with the output you get from TeX to see what I mean. It's a shame TeX isn't easier to use because it generates lovely text formatting

      1. M. Poolman

        Re: Content and Style

        LaTeX + subversion does the trick for me. Both have a steep learning curve, but once you're past it all the problems associated with pinging word processor files between machines and co authors is a thing of the past.

        Some enlightened publishers even supply the appropriate LaTeX style file, what more could you ask for?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Content and Style

        > It's a shame TeX isn't easier to use because it generates lovely text formatting

        A Latex installation on OpenSUSE or Fedora requires upwards of 150 dependencies and a quarter of a GiB. Try pulling in Lyx and you're talking over 600 packages and 680 MiB.

        Shame because I used to like Lyx, but I lost patience with having to wait for hundreds of packages being refreshed every time they pushed an update. I followed up the discussion with the packagers in Fedora's and OpenSUSE's bug trackers and basically this was the least bad option. So I fucking uninstalled it and nowadays I just use LibreOffice, which when properly managed produces great quality documents as well.

        1. localzuk

          Re: Content and Style

          Oh no, 680 MB. How terrible. It'll never fit on my 4TB hard disk.

          Sorry for the sarcasm, but in the modern world of computing, 680MB is not something to worry about. I install productivity software here, specific to education, that hits about 15GB in total. Yes, its huge for what it does, but our users want/need it, therefore we install it and live with that.

          1. razorfishsl

            Re: Content and Style

            Please don't talk nonsense...

            Try saying that when you have to manage 600 staff and their backups.

            I just finished cleaning up a 21 TB mess that was a single OSX attempt at backup using that gash turd 'time machine'.

            Don't even talk to me about M$ and their word 365 offerings..... not only do we get royally screwed from behind... but they are now using ground glass as a lubricant.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Content and Style

            > Oh no, 680 MB. How terrible. It'll never fit on my 4TB hard disk.

            Good for you, although other people like/have to edit/access their stuff on less capable machine. In any case, the real problem for me is not so much the total size, but the sheer number of dependencies, which means updates take fivever to install (it's much slower to install 100 packages 1 Mb each than 1 package of 100 Mb).

            > I install productivity software here, specific to education, that hits about 15GB in total. Yes, its huge for what it does, but our users want/need it, therefore we install it and live with that.

            That's cool that you are willing to live with that, but as a developer and package maintainer myself that's way below the standards that I am willing to live by.

    5. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: Content and Style

      How many authors are content to be considered content producers?

    6. cheveron

      Re: Content and Style

      Well as I wrote earlier, I use a manual typewriter for the first draft.Makes editing a pain in the neck and enables you to just get on with writing.

      1. Grade%

        Re: Content and Style

        I use focuswriter. It has manual keystrike sounds and there are various thematic backgrounds that can be set. Personally, there's one with raindrops on a dark stormy window that mirrors my fevered thoughts; makes the process of writing oddly calming.

    7. bep

      Re: Content and Style

      "Theoretically, it is possible to take the style they have painstakingly (but often inexpertly) created, and fill it with content which will automatically take the corporate style. In practice, however, I have found this very hard to achieve."

      That's because the first thing Word does when you open a document is re-format it for whatever you've got set as the default printer. The problem is there are far too many people who think Word is a desktop publishing program not just a word processor, and who have absolutely no clue what the difference is.

    8. cray74 Silver badge

      Re: Content and Style

      "The only real reason to use Word is in the circumstances where you are responsible for the final presentation style yourself. "

      There are in-between situations. An editor or technical writer might be able to put a fine polish on whatever I send them, but I need to give them more than unbroken plain text. They don't know the material or important parts like I do.

      "I've never understood why an author would need a word processor to write a book."

      Because I'm expected to provide more formatting than is available in plain text, and a lot the formatting is entirely dependent on the content I provide. Someone else isn't going to figure out the method to my madness from blocks of plain text.

      "The content producer should write it in plain text, and the publisher should mark it up. "

      The publisher doesn't know where I want my italics, chapter headings, paragraph headings, and sub-paragraph leaders. If I can take the time to annotate, "Make this a sidebar," then I could just as easily have highlighted the text and applied a style per the style guide the authors are given. This also eliminates the time wasted on a lengthy back-and-forth email discussion with the editor about my intentions for a chapter or entry when there are enough other questions to answer from the review team, developer, and editor.

    9. Trixr

      Re: Content and Style

      Totally agreed.

      If you wanted the amount of author-supplied styling that typically goes into a printed book (bold and itals), then perhaps Markdown (whatever editor you prefer) and some kind of SVN/Git/whatever change-tracking software can do the job.

      For corporate styling, there are a bunch of enterprisey applications out there that will take content and style it appropriately. These will be "enterprise content management" systems or even "component content management" systems - Word might be in the mix using plugins, but it ain't the main styling tool.

  4. oldtaku
    Facepalm

    Why not just use a decent app (Scrivener comes up often for good reason) then just export to Word to deal with the mindless drones?

    1. xenny

      Because the mindless drones return the Word document with tracked changes which need reviewing before you can import it into Scrivener for the structural changes you may need to make?

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Then why not just make the changes in Word and use Scrivener for note keeping and overview?

        Honestly, it's not that hard to do a final pass like this.

        I know everyone hates Wurd, because it's a pile of donkey crap with a cursor and a ribbon.

        Even so. Less drama, eh?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Why not just use a decent app (Scrivener comes up often for good reason) then just export to Word to deal with the mindless drones?

      What a great idea! Why didn't the author think of it?

      :-/

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes but....,

    Microsoft Word is NOT a word processor. It's a trans-dimensional thaumaturgic simulator monitored by the laundry via GCHQ and rendered most useful by its category three thaumaturgic spell-checker !

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Yes but....,

      Passive Voice (consider revising)

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Yes but....,

        Passive Voice (consider revising)

        Does Word's Style Advice for Idiots feature ever say "Active Voice (do not revise under any circumstances!)"?

        Really, "consider revising" is either the most useful or most pointless piece of composition advice possible. For a competent writer, "consider revising" probably constitutes at least nine tenths of the labor of writing.

        Kazuo Ishiguro, discussing his writing process in an interview, once mentioned that on one recent day he'd spent the entire morning looking at one passage and eventually adding a comma. Then that afternoon he took the comma back out. Obviously most authors aren't so particular (consider someone like Anthony Trollope, who wrote all his novels to a strict schedule created around his census-taking duties - no days of zero-sum punctuating for him!), but many a composition study has shown that decent writing is mostly revision.

        Coincidentally, the same is true of decent programming.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes but....,

      Turd processor.

      It tries to be a word processor, DTP program and vector drawing package all in one. But fails on all counts.

  6. h4rm0ny

    I like MS Word...

    It's good. Seriously, author with noted political stance on software has trouble with Word? This is a news story now? I helped someone who was saying almost exactly the same thing about Libre Office last week which I'd installed for them because they wouldn't pay for Word. They couldn't figure out how to change the line spacing. Is that Libre Office's fault that they couldn't figure it out and said the software was impossible to use? No, they're just technically inept and prone to hyperbole.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith

      Re: I like MS Word...

      Which would work if it wasn't Charlie Stross, who might just have used these programs a bit more than most - at least 34 of the uses being novels. Who also wrote for Computer Shopper for a decade.

      If he can't track changes, it is broken.

      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Stross

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: I like MS Word...

        >>"If he can't track changes, it is broken."

        Actually, from the context of what was written, it seems moving things back and forth between LibreOffice and Word on a Mac platform is what messes up the change tracking. That hardly justifies statements that Word is "utterly unusable" or the general attacks on it as rubbish that some seem to be posting here.

        1. YetAnotherLocksmith

          Re: I like MS Word...

          If the one thing you are using a program for doesn't work, then it is broken, regardless.

          A video editor with glitchy Apple ACC / .m4a support for soundtracks, when the only reason you have to use it is because it is the only program that supports the licensed format, would be another good example.

        2. revdjenk

          Re: I like MS Word...

          So what you are saying is: LibreOffice can accept any and all track changes, no matter the source, and Word can only deal acceptably with the ones from Word.

          One, that isn't surprising.

          Two, it is time to tell the publishers to work with the better tool.

        3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: I like MS Word...

          That hardly justifies statements that Word is "utterly unusable" or the general attacks on it as rubbish

          Which is not to say that such statements and attacks are unjustifiable.

      2. Jedit
        Black Helicopters

        "at least 34 of the uses being novels"

        I maintain that Charles Stross is the real author of the BOFH stories. The style is remarkably similar to the Laundry Files, it's known that Bob Howard's middle names are Oliver Francis, and in the short story Pimpf he also has an assistant whose initials are PFY. If Simon Travaglia is not a pen name for Stross - and it means "one who has heard at work", so it surely is a pen name for someone - then Stross is very heavily inspired.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I like MS Word...

      To be fair, about the only feature I ever missed coming from over a decade of using Word for large document work was the "return to last cursor position" (shift-F5 on PCs). For the rest, LibreOffice pretty much covers what I need.

      If I need to do creative writing I use a plain editor - now testing Ulysses as it's simpler as Scrivener (the latter is excellent, I just like the Ulysses UI more and the fact that it works with an iOS program called Daedalus).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I like MS Word...

      > They couldn't figure out how to change the line spacing. Is that Libre Office's fault that they couldn't figure it out and said the software was impossible to use? No, they're just technically inept and prone to hyperbole.

      Nothing to do with technical ineptitude and more to do with suboptimal UX design¹. But the real reason was that you failed to explain rule #1 of Libre Office operation:

      Google It!.

      ¹ Doing UX is hard. On a complex piece of software even more so.

  7. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    To be fair, change tracking is a disaster in Word.

    Other than that, the biggest problem I have with it is that I work in an office full of people who don't know how to use it properly.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      I remember reviewing a longish report and the minor changes I asked for were met with a lot of resistance. The reason was that the author didn't know that Word could do outlining and even a minor addition required all the subsequent section numbers to be manually renumbered. He was gobsmacked when I enlightened him.

      1. wdmot

        @Headley_Grange

        Yes, Word can do outlining -- but it often messes up. Especially if you add a section, copy/paste into an outline, or change the outline level of a section. Unfortunately, in my experience, this is behaviour that LibreOffice has copied. Weird thing is, when I used Word for Mac back in 1990, outlining and indexing worked quite well.

    2. Gavin McMenemy

      Exactly. I've read the posts on this thread and it seems many people miss this point.

    3. fajensen Silver badge

      No, the biggest problem by far is that it is possible (and sometimes even necessary) to apply ad-hoc formatting instead of "styles".

    4. Stevie Silver badge

      re I work in an office full of people who don't know how to use it properly.

      Most of the complaints I see about MS Word boil down to this and it's sub-heading "and can't see the reason to find out".

      A good, if not relevant to the Stross Problem De Jour example is the oft-repeated canard about what a mess MS Word makes of generated web pages, with scads of inline styles all over the place. A simple and documented switch change will alter this behaviour and produce few unexpected lines of code in the final HTML, but it is obviously more fun to scream how awful MS is than try and learn how to use the product properly.

      That said: MS have done themselves no favours with the recent UI revision. They seem to be working under the rule: "What do you do if there's a perception your product is hard to use? Make it ACTUALLY hard to use".

      As for the venerable Mr Stross: If he can use OfficeLibre now, why not all along, and how does this make his pain go away? OfficeLibre is no better integrated into Scrivener than any other word processor (ask me how I know this).

      I'm more confused because he was posting that he'd switched to iPad for all his productivity-production-processes and didn't know full product MS Word or OLWrite would run on ythe said platform. As a new iPad owner I'm eager to know that I can use a proper (and free) office suite on the device.

  8. msknight Silver badge

    My books...

    ...are all written in LibreOffice ... (and I'm STILL not going to pimp myself) ... and simply export to RTF for the publisher. I also actually write within their formatting structure to save re-formatting work, so they don't complain :-)

    in fact, my own issue is that Libre still isn't reliably on Android, then I'd be able to do more on the move with a bluetooth keyboard ... but they're working on it apparently...

  9. AMBxx Silver badge
    Happy

    Tweets

    Maybe if he concentrated more on writing and less with sharing every thought?

  10. IHateWearingATie

    Don't mind the change tracking in Word

    Maybe if you're an author it sucks, but for general office related tasks it seems to work well enough for me. I couldn't get on with LibreOffice, but then I think that's only because I'm so used to Word everything just felt in the wrong place.

  11. AIBailey
    WTF?

    "Stross is a long-time Linux user...."

    ... and yet clearly uses OSX?

    Surely any long time Linux user would have used Word for Windows running under Wine?

    1. AIBailey

      Re: "Stross is a long-time Linux user...."

      This wasn't meant as a dig at Linux users btw (not sure why people are keen on the downvotes today?), just wondering why it was felt necessary to point out that the author is a Linux user, but only mention he's using software on OSX.

      I should point out that I've only occasionally dabbled in Linux, several years ago now. At the time, Wine was the preferred method of using Windows apps, and so I assumed that if Stross was a) usually using Linux, and b) required to use Word by his publishers, then running the Windows version of Office under Wine would have been the way forward.

      I'm happy to be put right on this one....

    2. MrXavia
      Linux

      Re: "Stross is a long-time Linux user...."

      Try finding a good lightweight linux laptop... Or even a nice windows one with all linux drivers available....

      I am a fan of Linux, yet I still run windows, not by choice, but for compatibility with hardware and programs (wine is OK, but much of what I run won't work right on it.)

      If your a linux user, OSX is a good compromise.

      1. 2460 Something

        Re: "Stross is a long-time Linux user...."

        Dell XPS 13 developer edition comes with ubuntu pre-installed. Admittedly it is still shipping with 12.04 but that is quicker to fix than trying to find linux drivers for some custom bit of hardware....

        My only real issues with it is it only having one monitor output (mini display port) oh, and 16GB RAM would have been preferable to the 8GB it comes with.

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: "Stross is a long-time Linux user...."

          2460 Something - HP Folio 1040 here, runs Ubuntu fine. OK, it's not an XPS, but it's damned portable, has docking station options (With two DP outs...) and is plenty quick mit SSD.

          Trackpad is a pain though - you can push to click, but it's damned stiff.

          Otherwise, works a treat.

          Steven R

      2. Paul Smith

        Re: "Stross is a long-time Linux user...."

        What is the problem finding a Linux laptop? Buy a laptop, install Linux, no problem.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Stross is a long-time Linux user...."

      MS Word on OSX does not have the 'Ribbon'.

      That is enough of a reason to use it over the 'thing' on Windows.

      Sadly the Office updates always seem to bork my default Language and paper size and reset it to US English and Letter (WTF!)

      I do my fiction writing using Scrivenor (another vote for it!) and only use Word to put it in the right format for the publishers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: MS Word on OSX does not have the 'Ribbon'.

        Fuck yeah! Who cares if it works or not as long as there's no Ribbon!!

  12. Tony W

    A plague

    I use Word and also have to deal with LibreOffice documents. Both drive me to distraction on occasion but LibreOffice more often. At least Word doesn't insert page breaks and lots of new paragraphs within footnotes when saving to .doc (as needed for Amazon to convert to Kindle.) Word occasionally puts footnotes on the wrong page in a complex document - but then oddly enough, so does LibreOffice.

    I am much in favour of creative writing being done in plain text but it's necessary to identify formats such as quoted blocks and subheadings so they can be preserved in subsequent formatting. Not always so easy, and in a long book I'd prefer to avoid doing it by hand.

    1. returnmyjedi

      Re: A plague

      Amazon converts any uploaded documents (whether they are .doc, .mobi or .whatever) to html format for publishing on Kindle so Word or the .doc format is not necessary for using the KDP platform.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: A plague

        Amazon seems to be using the command line mode of Mobi Creator.

        Mobi Creator (and Amazon) are more predictable if you output to filtered HTML first from <insert favourite editor> and then check fix up the HTML. / CSS / Images. eBooks are basically HTML with a few custom tags, CSS and images in a single file.

        You can find specs for what Kindle internal HTML is supported (sadly not client side image maps, but there are two extra useful tags: Force new page and block scroll to page.)

        The block allows you to have text/images that can ONLY be reached via hyperlinks. Thus a text adventure book is possible.

        Direct upload of .doc or .docx to Amazon for Kindle can have images (size and location), internal links and foot notes not working as expected).

        Also Charset and fonts are more limited prior to Kindle 4. Using Mobi Reader or an older Kindle to check what your HTML -> Mobi Creator is doing.

    2. Gray
      Angel

      Re: A plague

      "I am much in favour of creative writing being done in plain text..."

      Try using the text editor of your choice and Markdown text markup. If the basic set of Markdown formats doesn't quite fit the bill, then use the enhanced MultiMarkdown codes. Plain text becomes the master/archive file (imperishable for the ages!) and the various outputs (.rtf, .doc, .pdf, .odt, etc, etc) will produce a fully-formatted document for final consumption.

      Another vote for Scrivener, absolutely unmatched for creative writing, which also comes with a fully-integrated MultiMarkdown suite.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

    Back in the 80s, when using whatever it was on BBCs (Wordwise?) I got them. I could work it. Margins, indents, tab positions, everything. Then came WordPerfect and even though it wasn't wysiwyg i could use it because it was all that was around, was quick, made sense and *because* of it not being wysiwig, you had to know it. Papyrus on AmigaOS, then the first versions of Word Perfect for Windows and it still made sense. Over time, however, I did less and less documentation to the stage that now I tend to write everything in a text editor, depending on what platform I am on. Usually Scite.

    The reason for this is because I am ignorant on how to do even simple things. I never learned because I was always needing to do something straight away, so just did it the way I could. So now my approach to any Word Processor, even Libreoffice Writer, which is all I ever use if I need one, is severely hampered. It is a little like asking a programmer to do a complex Exel spreadsheet. It just doesn't compute.

    This is my fault. There is no one else to blame. I hang my head. I get asked questions about how to do things and I don't know. Fortunately they do not mock me because i am the first person they call when their computer does something they don't understand...but there is no one i can call on when a Word processor question gets asked, because most other people in IT that I know also don't know. Is this just me?

    This really hampers me. But I suppose I should learn it correctly. So....are there any recommendations for actually learning the whys and therefores of document creation?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

      >So....are there any recommendations for actually learning the whys and therefores of document creation?

      One idea: Get a good existing document, and reverse engineer it.

      I learnt some very useful things by being irritated a feature, and then discovering what that feature was actually for.

      Styles: Very useful. Styles, usually named:

      <u>Chapter Heading, </u>

      Heading 1,

      Heading 2,

      Sub Heading 1,

      Sub Heading 2,

      Body

      They are groupings of text paramters like Font, Size, Underline, Line/Page Break etc. Change the font size of Sub Heading 1, for example, and all your Sub Headings are updated.

      Styles are hierarchical, so by using them you are automatically creating a document map - handy navigating straight to a certain section of your document. You can use it to make a 'Contents' page, too.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

        You reverse engineer an existing Word document to work out how to use Word!

        I would say that this is close to an impossibility, especially using styles as an example.

        I've seen Word documents that have dozens of what look like identically names styles, caused by someone tweaking a particular element in a paragraph (like indenting it), which leads to a new modified style being created with the same or a very similar name.

        I once spent the best part of a week cleaning up a long, operational document that had been pieced together by cut-and-paste from other documents which had something like 100 different styles in it. All of the source documents were supposed to have been written using the same template, but a lot had had the styles changed in minor ways at the whim of the author. And Word kept the modified styles when doing cut-and-paste!

        I'm a real throwback. I did most of my technical writing in the past in troff with memorandum macros, and I used to use SCCS as the change control (and make to control the whole process). I suppose if I was writing more than I do at the moment, I would probably take a similar tack with LaTeX and a modern change control package, although I do find for my purposes Git or Subversion are too complex. As it is, for short documents and letters, I tend to use Libre all the time, because I can pretty much guarantee that it is either already available or can be installed. Such is the advantage of free software.

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

          Styles are an excellent concept. One set of rules to, er, rule them all. The trouble is that few users of Word (or, I suspect Libre) get it. I've given up trying to explain that there is an important difference between "format this paragraph so it looks pretty much like all the others" and "apply the same format to all the paragraphs". In consequence, most word-processed documents contain a format zoo.

          1. Mage Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

            The problem with Styles in Word is that they breed with every edit and copy/paste. Anything other than typing in text tends to create a new style!

            Styles are brilliant (as is CSS). Misused by user or the WYSIWYG application programmer they are a disaster.

            1. fajensen Silver badge

              Re: I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

              There *is* a configuration option of "apply target formatting on paste", of course this is not on by default and "update normal.doc automatically" with whatever digital herpes a document contains" is also "on" ,

    2. David Given

      Re: I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

      The biggest rule is that writing and layout are different steps of the process, and need to happen at different times. If you try to build the layout while you're entering the text you'll keep fiddling with the layout as your requirements change, and both the layout and the writing will suffer.

      Ideally you should write your text in as simple an editor as you can manage which still supports all the features you need, then once it's done (and you've done the first draft proofreading and editing) you import it into a proper DTP app and do the layout all in one go. That way you know how many levels of heading you have, how big your chapters are, whether you have sidebar boxes, etc, etc.

      Now the inevitable plug:

      <plug type="shameless"> I wrote a word processor specifically for doing stage 1 in; it's called WordGrinder: http://wordgrinder.sourceforge.net/ It supports plain text with bold, italic and underline; a small handful of non-configurable paragraph styles; it imports and exports most standard formats, including HTML and ODT. It runs on Windows, OSX (but you'll have to build it yourself), and Linux (it's in Debian). I've written about 150k words on it. It's small and relatively efficient and it gets the hell out of your way and lets you get some work done --- you can configure it to give you a completely black screen with your text on it and *nothing else*. </plug>

      Or if you want to spend money, use Scrivener.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

        So true, have an upvote.

        I'm constantly telling my kids when they sit down to do a school project, "Do not format anything. Gather your content and write the text. You can format it later." Formatting is a massive time-wasting distraction and you're likely to change it all before you finish anyway.

        Also at work, the number of hours I've spent having to line up table columns between different tables on a page. Styles should be a boon, but yes, they breed and can easily over-run you. Mostly, I use them for headers / document outline functions. Paste "as text" or via notepad and woe betide anyone who tries to use Excel to hold table data before bringing it into Word!

        I like libreoffice because its fast, cross-platform etc, but I find it ugly to look at. ARGH those icons! Menu fonts don't look quite right - indefinably messy. It feels primitive, even next to Word, though that might just be Suse's packaging or Gnome app running under unfavourable KDE settings. I find Word a real pain with its exceedingly dumb XML mark-up which can happily include the graphic in a caption and insert it into a table of figures. "Everything is just a style" seems to be the motto with no intelligence applied. At least WordPerfect had a "reveal codes" function so you could see and fix bad mark-up. I've just downloaded the Linux beta for Scrivener and while not having used it in anger, it does look very nice!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

          Ahh - at Work - I have to suffer the bloated, pre-formatted, unbearably ugly, word templates - with VBS in them to support the client-side JAVA-based revision management system, which barely works (unless of course "works" is defined as: "Generating millions in revenue for con-sluttants and contributing to global warming" - which it certainly does). At least the VBS doesn't work on Mac-Word, which is what I have, so there is that small grace I suppose.

          I normally copy the whole template to an ascii editor, write the text, then copy-paste to word, then fiddle with tables, pictures and headings. Easier on the eye and mac-word does not "beach-ball" itself while not writing in it.

        2. keithpeter
          Windows

          Re: I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

          "...though that might just be Suse's packaging or Gnome app running under unfavourable KDE settings..."

          Yup - I had that one on Slackware with KDE 4.15. Slack does not install any Gnome libraries by default. There was a work around using a theme I recollect and some changes in the KDE config. I needed the oxygen-gtk2 engine installed and I had to puggle about disabling the LibreOffice KDE integration code. After that it looked toastie.

          I'd ask on an OpenSuse forum for specifics.

      2. Wilseus

        Re: I admit, I am Word Processor inept.

        [WordGrinder] runs on Windows, OSX (but you'll have to build it yourself), and Linux (it's in Debian).

        FYI it's in the Ubuntu repositories as well.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: WordGrinder

          Windows users have Wordpad, though most of them don't remember to look for it. It has opened anything text-like I've pointed it at, though of course it won't render anything from markup.

          I use Scrivener but it has a small number of visually stylistic nasties that get in the way of what *I* need it for sometimes. These are by way of unreconfigurable personal tastes so your mileage will certainly vary.

          I also recommend the napkin-back whiteboarding tool Scapple for roughing out ideas. It *is* integrated with Scrivener and the two together are ridiculously useful. Scapple has a short'n'shallow learning curve too, because it was designed from the UI back.

          As for the cost of Scrivener being a disincentive to using it, I got it for $40 and consider it money well spent. Scapple cost something like $14. If "free or nothing" is your mantra then you'll pass it by, but it will be your loss.

  14. Dave 126 Silver badge

    I remember one very short chapter in Michael Baywater's book 'Lost Worlds: What We Lost and Where Did It Go?'

    "This book was researched and written without the aid of any Microsoft software at all. Such a pleasure; you can't imagine."

    (Michael Baywater was the inspiration for his friend Douglas Adams' character Dirk Gently. He worked on some interactive fiction games in the 1980s and later on Adam's Starship Titanic. )

  15. Harry the Bastard
    Happy

    vi + ms + troff (+ tbl + eqn + pic + scripts + sccs + etc. as required)

    job done

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: vi + ms + troff (+ tbl + eqn + pic + scripts + sccs + etc. as required)

      WYSIWYG was just something that happened to other people, wasn't it?

      1. Harry the Bastard

        Re: vi + ms + troff (+ tbl + eqn + pic + scripts + sccs + etc. as required)

        i value substance over style

        wysiwyg encourages the exact opposite

        when i want complex layout i use indesign, not the foul abomination that is word

      2. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: vi + ms + troff (+ tbl + eqn + pic + scripts + sccs + etc. as required)

        WYSIWYG was just something that happened to other people, wasn't it?

        You missed that he said "scripts". scripts encompasses everything, so how do you know he has no WYSIWYG?

        It is trivial to have vim autosave. It is trivial to monitor files for modifiction. It is trivial to generate and display the content if it generates. It's especially trivial to automate the lot.

        Open source isn't really about sandals, beards and zealots, its about having simple single use tools that you combine to do the things that you want. It's like the guy 10 posts above, "I love linux, but most of my windows applications wont run under wine" - buddy, you're holding it wrong.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: vi + ms + troff (+ tbl + eqn + pic + scripts + sccs + etc. as required)

        WYSIWYG was just something a disaster that happened to other people, wasn't it?

        FTFY.

        WYSIWYG, by yoking content and formatting, did more to harm the composition process than probably any other technical innovation in the history of writing (which is, of course, all of history).

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just use VI or Emacs.

    Who needs more than a text editor to write stuff?

    Check in the file to GIT or SVN for your version tracking.

    1. tony2heads

      complex documents

      Use LaTeX

      - no the fetish stuff

      1. regadpellagru

        Re: complex documents

        "Use LaTeX"

        Well said. Upvoted :-) LaTeX was my first Word Processor.

        Speaking of this (formulae processor), has anyone managed to write some complex sigma formulae with Word 2010 ? The formula processor of 2010 is totally awfull. I thought it would be OKish, but not. That very day I tried, reminded me how simple it would be with LaTeX.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: complex documents

          eqn

        2. fajensen Silver badge

          Re: complex documents

          The formula processor of 2010 is totally awfull.

          Try applying list formatting to formulas - this will brick your document so that you cannot save it, not even as RTF. Only way out is "select all", "paste as text", redo equations.

    2. herman Silver badge

      You should use ed. It is the standard.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    British SciFi author Charles

    Charles Who? Oh, I get it, Charles I-Hate-Office...

    1. Jes.e

      Re: British SciFi author Charles

      "Charles Who? Oh, I get it, Charles I-Hate-Office..."

      Hapily Charlie isn't the only one.. You've heard of Douglas Adams?

      https://groups.google.com/forum/m/#!msg/alt.fan.douglas-adams/IOJ1HpB4KFw/PpW3BgaAs_MJ

      Of course this is quite mild (and entertaining) compared to the lashing he gave to Microsoft as a whole..

      http://www.gksoft.com/a/fun/dna-on-microsoft.html

      ..oh yes..

      Share and enjoy!

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: British SciFi author Charles

        Well yes, but when Douglas Adams was alive and writing, you're talking the era of Windows ME and 98. I think he just made it into the Windows XP era, pre SP1. So whilst his opinion is valid, it is hardly current. ;)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: British SciFi author Charles

          His opinion is still partially current. I have a glimpse into current MS hardware development, and much of their Surface hardware development is driven by "a user experience at least as good as Macbook Pro" or similar -- still trying to keep up with Apple. I suspect there is similar drive in Windows development.

  18. Giles Jones Gold badge

    If you want to use Libre Office on OSX I'd go for NeoOffice which has some improvements which make it more useful on OSX.

  19. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Quiet news day?

    Man switches software? Really.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Happy

      You missed the bit that made it newsworthy.

      Man changes software then tweets about it.

    2. Tromos

      Re: Quiet news day?

      Linux/iOS user cannot say anything nice about Microsoft products.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: Quiet news day?

        You cannot say anything nice about Microsoft products without downvotes from Linux/iOS users. TFTFY.

      2. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Quiet news day?

        "Linux/iOS user cannot say anything nice about Microsoft products."

        For damn valid reasons. They suck and I make a living supporting them!

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Quiet news day?

      Clearly no one found the topic interesting, which is why there are no reader comments.

      Really, Reg - can't you find something controversial to publish?

  20. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    And yet not one mention of LyX

    That'll probably be because LyX is quite emphatic about the difference between presentation and content, so people think it's *hard*?

    What Word has done is trained a generation of users who have never learned the difference between the two. Although it has had for years the capability of requiring the use of a style it does not have the ability to mandate it. Further, it is a program which I strongly suspect most people are never taught; instead, they're sat in front of it and told to get on with it... which is never going to end well.

    The fact that probably ninety-five percent of the users never use more than a tiny fraction of its capabilities no doubt adds to the mess.

    And of course, what Word does, Libre/Free Office also have to do, because people expect similar functionality instead of sensibly looking at what they (the users) actually do and finding a program that just does that.

    As M0rt demonstrates above, Word in an immensely complex program with dozens of ways of achieving the result, many of which are either surprising then next time you use them or just plain wrong.

    So yes, I'm with Charlie - a plague on all their houses!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. robert 15

    New version for Office for Mac coming .... when?

    Office 2011 for OSX is just plain crap. Having been issued a Mac Air as my work laptop recently and trying to embrace it with an open mind, it felt like a massive step backwards going from Office 2013 on Windows. I still use it daily but my emails I do in OWA and any word processing I wait to I get back to my desktop.

    Microsoft have promised a new version of Office for a while now - they've released the iOS and Android versions so hopefully a full suite for OSX isnt far off?

    Releasing the new Outlook client only to corporate Office365 users was annoying as well, what about all of us that pay for on-premise exchange?

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: New version for Office for Mac coming .... when?

      Office 2011 for OSX must have fixes applied. Otherwise it repaginates every time you touch anything. Try that with a 300 page document.

      I'm not sure if anyone can confirm, but is Word single-threaded, even under Windows? It seems to grind to a halt on my quad-core i7, which surely can't be right!

  22. Kharkov
    Trollface

    Yes but WHY did he mention El Reg...?

    Obviously because when CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN takes place, 'when the stars come right', it'll be the readers of El Reg who find themselves summoning Chuluthu from the vasty deeps so OF COURSE Bob has to keep an eye on us...

    I'd rather believe that than assume Bob's as sad as the rest of us...

    1. a cynic writes...

      Re: Yes but WHY did he mention El Reg...?

      I'd rather believe that than assume Bob's as sad as the rest of us...

      Bob's full nom de guerre is Robert (Bob) Oliver Francis Howard.

  23. Peter Prof Fox

    Who says LO is useable?

    I write 440,000 words a year using a version of Word Perfect 18 years old. I can see the codes and hack the styles so as to place what I want where I want not have to struggle with trying to get around something that's invisibly embedded in the document. That's why I'll never be giving up XP. (And it doesn't have lots of nuisance tools.)

    1. cheveron

      Re: Who says LO is useable?

      I'm sure el Reg had a recent article about another writer sticking with WordPerfect because it has a better workflow (I still use a manual typewriter for the first draft when I'm writing fiction). As I understand it there is a version of WordPerfect available as part of WordPerfect Office for current MS operating systems. On the Mac I may have to dig out version 3.5e again and see if I can get it working under SheepShaver.

      1. Paul Kinsler

        Re: a writer sticking with WordPerfect

        ... wasn't that the Game of Thrones guy?

        (nope, Wordstar apparently... might be what you were thinking of though)

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: a writer sticking with WordPerfect

          Moreover, Wordstar for DOS. No GUI for him. In fact, the system IIRC even has floppy drives on it.

  24. tony2heads

    Word Perfect

    Was actually quite good. Pity we cannot get it any more for newer OSs

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Word Perfect

      For quite some time when I first went freelance (20 years ago this spring) I did all my writing using WordPerfect 5.1 for Unix. Mostly on a Wyse 50 terminal that I had on the kitchen table, because it had a great keyboard.

  25. All names Taken
    Alien

    Google drive too

    If he saves it and syncs it to google drive and deletes will be safely (?) reachable in Google Drive Bin no?

    1. dogged

      Re: Google drive too

      Technically, according to Google's T&Cs, doesn't that mean he would eternally assign all copyright over the work to Google?

  26. James 47

    LibreOffice

    I once tried to chart 65k timeseries values. I think I started back in October. It's still at it

    1. Palpy

      Charting timeseries data

      Tried Kst? Can plot a couple of million timeseries values, multiple series, scroll and zoom the plots very very fast. Splendid software. kst-plot.kde.org

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: LibreOffice

      Your phone was not made to do that.

  27. Inspector71

    Maybe Just Me....

    If you want to just you know write something, I can't highly enough recommend WriteRoom if you are using OS X.

    Just retro style full screen green text on black, no bells, no whistles, no distractions.

  28. JDX Gold badge

    Confused

    I'm no great lover of Word - some things regarding formatting are awful - but I'm pretty confused what makes it so bad an author would dump it, unless they're doing something avant-garde with formatting.

    We have 1000+ page technical documents, 10 years old with hundreds (thousands?) of revisions going back to Word 97 (or earlier) and hundreds of images and tables and what-not. And they work fine.

    For writing a book, I would have thought any modern WP is just fine.

    1. Maurice Walshe

      Re: Confused

      The problem is is Charlie is using Office on a MAC which is not as good as the Windows version.

      Also Apple is rapidly distancing its self from any serious "professional" use case preferring to go down the Jesus phone fondleslab route - trust me on this I am looking after a mostly mac office and migrating a set of stand alone macs to an OSx server based set up is non trivial let alone moving an outlook user account between macs!

      If Bob had to deal with MACS in the laundry verse he would be asking Mo and violin to go pay a visit to Cupertino - and I am sure sure the nazgull would look the other way.

      Charlie as an ex pro should know better if your end customer is using windows 8 and Office that’s what you use he should no better to try and do some nonstandard multi os/hardware software lash up MAC -> open office to Windows office and back again to MAC open office is just asking for trouble.

      Just buy a nice i7 system and a decent keyboard or run parallels and have an identical system set up to where you deliver to life’s to short to try and force computers to do things they don’t want to do

      1. gerdesj Silver badge

        Re: Confused

        "The problem is is Charlie is using Office on a MAC which is not as good as the Windows version."

        Whereas now he uses LO, he gets pretty much an identical application whether on Mac, Windows or Linux. The only real difference is one, two or three mouse buttons.

      2. hplasm Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Confused

        "...end customer is using windows 8 and Office that’s what you use."

        CS's End Customer is using his eyeballs. It's the bloody middleman that's using Worm.

  29. Gavin McMenemy

    After all that expensive IT training ...

    After all that expensive IT training. All that time implementing and designing networks I have probably spent the most time helping colleagues "fix" their Word docs.

    Whether it's understanding why a page has broken here...

    "Or why all those extra blank pages are appearing... Maybe we need to put in a landscape page here... but keep the table on one page.

    Hang on what do all these multicoloured boxes mean (track changes). And why has the style changed inexplicably, why is this bullet list all numbered wrong."

    I have spent a LOT of time helping people with Word.

    Don't get me wrong. I actually don't think Word is that bad (yes I did just type that) but the problems are: there are tons of ways of achieving the end goal but no one wants to train the end user how to make the best use of Word. And if you suggest some extra training you are often stared at blankly and told "But I know how to use Word". Though the truth is that we just spent some significant time fixing THAT document.

    (and yes I still don't think it's their fault)

  30. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Windows

    leaky?

    Do Word docs still leak data? Last time I looked they contained the directory tree and other information about your PC. This was some years ago so MS might have tidied it up by now.

  31. Alan Denman

    Microsoft reach parts of authors no typewriter could ever reach

    Yes, your software soon gets declared last century.

    They owned the original SNAREtm

  32. glen waverley

    Amipro aka Wordpro?

    See title.

    Had to use it at a job site some (ok, many) years ago. Loved the way it separated content from style sheets. Avoided using MSWord for many years for the duration of that job.

  33. ganymede io device

    Sometimes fonts and layout DO matter

    It's fascinating to realise that the first Hugo award winner, Alfred Bester's "The Demolished Man", experiments with fonts and layouts on the page to describe telepathic conversations.

    Written in 1953.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Sometimes fonts and layout DO matter

      Yes but the tool for typesetting your novel is not a word-processor. Surely the publisher should do that - obviously the author would indicate the intent in his version.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Sometimes fonts and layout DO matter

      Obviously formatting and other aspects of visual presentation can convey information and have rhetorical force.1 Anyone with a passing understanding of written language acknowledges that.

      But that does not mean that conflating content and presentation is a good idea. Cognitive studies have demonstrated the drawbacks of switching between tasks, and composition studies confirm that jumping between content creation and formatting impedes the writing process. For the majority of writers there are very few cases where attempting to deal with both verbal content and visual presentation simultaneously is an effective way to work.

      And, of course, The Demolished Man is a relatively late entrant into the field of literature that uses formatting this way, coming as it does at the end of High Modernism. Props to Bester for doing it (ironically, SF as a genre tended to lag in literary innovation, at least until the "New Wave" was firmly established), but the fact that it was published in '53 isn't especially noteworthy.

      1For audiences that can perceive them. Some visual formatting can be transposed, in fairly obvious ways, to other registers for visually-impaired users; with other types it's more difficult. There's scads of research on the topic, of course.

    3. keithpeter
      Windows

      Re: Sometimes fonts and layout DO matter

      It's fascinating to realise that the first Hugo award winner, Alfred Bester's "The Demolished Man", experiments with fonts and layouts on the page to describe telepathic conversations.

      Upvote for Bester reference. Those who are not familiar with his work should google for the bibliography (and biography).

      Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman was using typographical effects to comment on the main narritive well back in the days of lead type in forms. He (and his printer) managed to get it to work for them. Surely we can manage an end-to-end distributed text editing and change tracking system for the novel industry at this (late) stage in the form?

    4. Dan Paul

      Re: Sometimes fonts and layout DO matter @Ganymede to device

      Upvote for mentioning Alfred Bester! One of the best SF writers of the past century.

  34. Ken 16 Silver badge

    I'm a big fan of WPS Office

    As the only office suite which runs on Linux and which successfully interprets MS Word formatting, comments and changes.

    1. revdjenk

      Re: I'm a big fan of WPS Office

      But it still keeps you in the MS proprietary cage, with fewer additional formats available to open, edit or save.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: I'm a big fan of WPS Office

        The article and several comments note that if your editor is in the cage, you basically have no choice but to climb in.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Word processors are in general awful for creative writing. The number of times I've been distracted by the interface / weird formatting choices of a word processor are too numerous to count.

    Saddly I'm yet to find a tool that helps the writing process, there are few that seem to be getting there celtx and scrivener are good options. Both are better than your average wordprocessor.

  36. NomNomNom

    Real Authors use Notepad

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boo effin' hoo

    Using Word every day to write documents, and having to provide amended documentation to clients in track changes, I can say that Word works very well indeed.

    If Mr. I-write-on-a-mac-cos-i'm-all-creative doesn't bother to familiarise himself with *the single tool of his trade*, then he deserves all that's coming to him. Good luck with the 'buggy' track changes in Libre Office. I'll stick with properly understanding the perfectly good tracking in Word.

    /Grumps

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Boo effin' hoo

      Good for you- how's that writing award shelf coming on?

      B00b.

  38. ecofeco Silver badge

    Office now officially crapware

    I've given Office a chance. Been using it now for several years, new ribbon and all.

    If fucking sucks and was a giant step backwards. About as intuitive and easy to use as a fish riding a bicycle.

  39. Wombling_Free
    Holmes

    just the single reference

    Did you not notice that Bob Howard's full name is Bob Oliver Francis Howard?

    I also have a theory that Charlie Stross and aManFromMars share the same quantum waveform.

  40. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    Word is a bit more tolerable if people do the following:

    1. Use styles.

    Seriously - don't just select 'Bold' for your headings. This goes for paragraphs as well. Create styles and use those.If you want to include text in a different font (eg; italics for quotes or fixed font for some source) create a style. Don't just rely on 'Normal'. Create a style for the text under each heading (Heading 1, Body 1, Heading 2, Body 2, Source 2 etc.).

    It makes Word happier (probably because it reduces the mark-up it needs so documents are less fragile) and makes a lot of document-wide operations more sane (like disabling spell checking and auto formatting for source code paragraphs). If a document has multiple contributors it encourages conformity.

    2. Never (ever. Seriously)

    Edit or define hierarchically numbered heading styles. Life is too short. Your co-workers might tolerate some occasional profanity but no-one should be expected to put up with the torrent of abuse that you will unleash if you start messing with these styles.

  41. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    I believe that most of the really great authors used quill pens and paper ...

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Quill pens were dominant in Europe for about a millennium and a half, and in European colonies for the last few centuries of that era. That may sound impressive, but paper as a medium only came into vogue in the last third, only gradually displacing parchment and vellum. Meanwhile, considerable writing was done outside Europe using other instruments, most notably brushes in the Far East.

      There are certainly those who would argue that c. 1500-1850 Europe and North America represents a large concentration of "the really great authors", but it rather strains credulity to claim that "most" used quill & paper.

      Since "really great" is obviously subjective, I glanced through a few lists like this one (which is based on other lists, not the author's own predelictions). Looks to me like about 15% likely composed with quill & paper - and that's a very Eurocentric list.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...and for the starving writers

    Works on Windows and Wine (kinda like me)

    yWriter

    It was built for writers and its free, though it only produces RTF as I recall.

  43. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    I decied I didn't like word the first time I had to use it.

    I used some DTP programs before word existed, that CLEARLY separated content from formatting, but Word made that hard to impossible, and everyone using Word seemed to make no effort at all to actually do this. What a mess. Perhaps Word is better nowadays, but with their proprietary doc format I'm just not that interested.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019