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20 Years of MS Word and Why It Should Die a Swift Death

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the going-the-way-of-old-yeller dept.

Microsoft 843

Ars writer Jeremy Reimer takes a stroll down memory lane, recalling over 20 years of (almost) constant Microsoft Word use and why, with current and emerging tech trends, he thinks his relationship with the program may be at an end. "So why don't I need Word any more? To figure this out, I tried to go back to basics and think about what Word was originally designed to do. In the early days, Word's primary purpose was to ready a document so that you could print it out. As a student I needed to print out essays so I could hand them to my instructor. In the office I needed to print out reports so that I could hand them to my supervisor. The end goal was always the same: I printed out something to give to someone more important than me, who would evaluate it and, if I was lucky, give it back to me at some indeterminate time in the future. One didn't question this; it was just the way the world worked. Somewhere along the way, we stopped printing things out quite so much. Maybe it was the rise of office networking. Maybe it was when the printer companies kept raising the price of ink to ridiculous levels. Maybe it was when we realized we couldn't print out the whole Internet. Despite the fact that fewer things were being printed, we kept on using Word to create our documents."

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843 comments

PDFs? (5, Insightful)

Overunderrated (1518503) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929651)

With that argument, PDFs would be the thing to die, not MS Word.

Re:PDFs? (4, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929853)

I know it's popular to hate on Word around here, but if you know what you're doing, it's not all that bad. I used Word to write my master's thesis, and by consistently using styles, along with Zotero, cross-referenced fields, and bookmarks, it came out very nice looking. If I had been in a different field, I'm sure that LaTeX would have made more sense, but if I sent anything but Word to my instructors asking for comments, their heads would have exploded.

The article does have a point about not printing things out as much anymore (my thesis was actually submitted electronically, the only time I printed it out was to check for errors by hand, and to give personal copies to people). But pages are for more than print-outs. JSTOR made a decision to keep their journal articles in page format, because that's what people are used to and like. Also, properly formatted pages look better than wikis or blog posts. I'm not saying Word is good at typography, but even a mediocre-looking Word document is better looking than someone's crappy blog font.

Why dont I need word? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930013)

Because I have OpenOffice. It is just as good.

And free. [org-suite.com]

Re:Why dont I need word? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930069)

Because I have OpenOffice. It is just as good.

And free. [org-suite.com]

Um yeah, until Oracle kills it next year.

Re:Why dont I need word? (3, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930273)

Oracle could stop caring about OpenOffice tomorrow, and the community would simply pick up and continue development on it, business as usual. Nice try, though.

Re:Why dont I need word? (4, Insightful)

TemporalBeing (803363) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930293)

Because I have OpenOffice. It is just as good.

And free. [org-suite.com]

Um yeah, until Oracle kills it next year.

Oracle can't really kill OpenOffice. They could kill Star Office, but OpenOffice would be a lot harder to do since anyone else could quickly pick it up and continue on.
Yes, I realize that most of the devs for OpenOffice are part of Sun, but if they all got laid off, they could easily band together and pick up a fork of OpenOffice if they so desired.
Of if Oracle tried to kill OpenOffice some random group of people could fork OpenOffice and continue on too.

So no, it's not that easy.

Word sucks, but it doesn't (5, Insightful)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930245)

As long as you don't step outside of the capabilities of Word and WYSIWYG word processing in general (I am avoiding calling these systems an "editor") then they do just fine. Millions of people put together short to medium length documents on Word all the time, they didn't die from it. And they didn't find it so difficult that they had to search for a better way.

The learning curve to systems like LaTeX is very steep, but you have a tremendous amount of control over the formatting and layout. With WYSIWYG it can be a bit mysterious at times what formatting was applied where. In many ways I find structured documents more powerful than macro driven typesetting systems, although their features can also complement one another (like using DocBook or XSLT to generate TeX).

Personally I don't think printing versus not printing is some fundamental paradigm shift that it affects the popularity of Word. I think it is more because of the emergence of new software packages (like wikis, blogs, etc) combined with people being far more computer literate than they were 10-20 years ago.

Re:PDFs? (4, Interesting)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930269)

I've never really made a serious attempt to get the hang of LaTex, though I recognise that this might be the best way to do serious typesetting, but OpenOffice is now pretty good for most general purposes, even scientific writing (at least for my area, biotech). I have a pirated version of MSWord on my MacBook which is mostly unused since I actually prefer OpenOffice. And most of my preferred journals readily accept OpenOffice formats now, so there is no longer the "closed-shop" MS-Word-only thing there used to be.

Incidentally, I might add that both MS Word and OpenOffice Writer are still poor shadows of what WordPerfect used to be in terms of its power, even for serious publishing. My first introduction to this was on Data General "mainframe" machines, but it lost nothing in the port to DOS. I know there have been releases subsequent to version 5.1, but they really just don't cut it.

Re:PDFs? (2, Insightful)

xaxa (988988) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930277)

Pages might be what you're used to and like, but that's becoming less and less the case.

I use Word about once a week, generally to fill in some template that a manager has produced for some official process. These are then printed out, and probably recycled within a week.

I've noticed my colleagues seem to spend as long trying to fix the formatting on these templates as they do filling in the empty boxes. Some simple HTML would be perfect here: they're only internal documents, millimetre-precision and perfect pagination isn't necessary (and Word doesn't give it anyway).

Some system is still needed for producing external stuff (whatever the people with Macs use in the media/marketing/publishing department, and something like Word for letters). Some scientists are probably using some collaborative functions of Word, but I doubt they care about the formatting until the very end of the work.

Re:PDFs? (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929925)

No. Print media, where you need PDFs and not necessarily Word, is alive and well. The Kindle is evil, remember? Printing documents for use at school or at the office is, however, replaced by email.

Re:PDFs? (2, Informative)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929981)

I've never seen a PDF used other than with the intent of creating the equivalent of a printed document that is stored electronically. That is, it can be passed onto others confident in the knowledge that it can be viewed exactly (in all ways that matter) as it was sent, and that it is unlikely to be modified along the way (not that it can't be, but it takes a little effort).

Word documents are printed and mailed to clients or received in the mail from clients. PDF's go by email.

Mind you, all the PDF's were made as a Word document and converted...

Re:PDFs? (1)

TroyHaskin (1575715) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930045)

I was thinking the opposite. Since a Word Documents (.doc or .docx) require, by definition, Word to view on a computer, I would assume more people would publish/save to/print to PDFs since the format is highly portable with many free readers.

That is if the intent of the document is to be viewed. If it is to be edited amongst a group, feel free to choose in the group the editor/creator of choice. Word, Abiword, Lotus Symphony, OO Writer, LaTeX, Google Docs (where I mainly created in HTML and CSS when I do) ... There are a ton of document creators out there; no reason to hate on just one because everyone uses it (or just doesn't know about others).

Re:PDFs? (1)

SBrach (1073190) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930199)

I agree that PDFs are more portable but Microsoft does offer free Office document readers. FYI.

Re:PDFs? (1)

Fizzol (598030) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930223)

PDF is only portable for larger screen devices, like desktops and laptops. It's a nightmare for ebooks and smaller devices. As for Word, I'm still plugging along with my ancient copy of Word 2000. It still works, even under Vista 64. I see no reason to change an old work horse at this point.

Re:PDFs? (1)

bostonkarl (795447) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930055)

No, his arguement is flawed because Word is part of an office suite. Business folks need email clients, spreadsheet apps, and presentation software. Word is integratal to the Office suite, and therefore will be around for a long time. Not a fan of MSOffice, but it is ubiquitous in the business world.

Re:PDFs? (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930129)

With that argument, PDFs would be the thing to die, not MS Word.

I find myself working with PDFs more often than Word documents.

I seldom have to print anything out these days... But I'm constantly sending stuff to other people. People who might not have the same version of Word that I do, or might not have Word installed at all. People who might be working on a Mac or some kind of *nix box. People I don't necessarily trust with an easily edited document.

So, I turn everything into PDFs and send it out that way. Pretty much anyone on any platform can read a PDF, and there's at least a token attempt to make it read-only.

PDFs first, Word second... (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930179)

Jeremy Reimers' article is about systems that make collaboration easier.

Considering only that aspect, PDFs would need to die even faster than MS Word, because the installed base of PDF editors is not even close to that of Word. So you cannot realistically expect that the guy who receives you document can edit it and send it back with annotations.

MS Word actually does a halfway decent job there. Except for the occasional format change that spells trouble for owners of old Word versions, and the change tracking that cannot compete with a real version control system (over multiple versions it becomes a real mess).

But Open Office wins on the format change topic, because upgrades are free. So you can always upgrade without much hassle if you get stuff in a new ODF version. It might eventually win on change tracking too, if things like http://sourceforge.net/projects/odfsvn/ [sourceforge.net] are successful. (Disclaimer: I haven't actually tried that one)

But the real question is if we shouldn't drop the "document to send back and forth" paradigm. Jeremy Reimers reports that his company had good results from moving to a wiki.

Personally, I think something Wiki-like with more WYSIWYG and GUI editing might offer the easiest migration path. Jeremy Reimers reports that he didn't have much luck with that, but I guess that was a case of weak implementation.
The technology exists, and I don't see why it would be impossible to make it work smoothly in a wiki.

Oh, he doesn't need Word anymore? (5, Funny)

mnemonic_ (164550) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929663)

Is that so? Good for him.

Stupid conclusions (5, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929685)

So, the fact one does not need to make as many printouts abrogates the need for a good text processor. I see. That is like saying "Because I live within walking distance to work and walk to work, I don't need a car. At all. Ever."

Re:Stupid conclusions (1)

HogGeek (456673) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929869)

That could be true, depending on your lifestyle.

From my reading, he no longer needs MS Word,

He not stating that he doesn't need to write documents. Maybe, in his world, a good mail program provides everything he needs; Just as much as a public transportation system provide the needs for some individuals...

Re:Stupid conclusions (0, Flamebait)

timster (32400) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929887)

Well, in the case of Microsoft Word, the analogy is more like "because I live within walking distance to work, I don't need a steam-powered locomotive with a cracked boiler. At all. Ever."

Look, I'm usually a calm and rational sort of guy, but I hate that effin' program.

Re:Stupid conclusions (1, Insightful)

kriebz (258828) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929933)

Are you calling Word a good text processor?

While it may have a lot of features, be already well-known by users, and have a large install base, that doesn't automatically mean it qualifies as a "good text processor". Software has a lifecycle, and any program is going to have features that make it over-specialized or less modern compared to newer contenders.

Re:Stupid conclusions (3, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930125)

Are you saying that Word is not a good text processor?

If so, would you care to support that assertion?

Re:Stupid conclusions (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28929939)

It's beyond that... it's like saying that because one person living in New York can take the subway, it means that all other forms of transportation for the entire world should be permanently eliminated.

I hate to say it, but there is this place outside the blogosphere called "reality" where people do this stuff called "work". Word processors are vital to getting "work" done, because (and I know that this will shock you so sit down) there are documents that actually require "formatting" and have to look professional. Not to hate on your 3-word wide single column blog with a hipster-orange border trim, but in the land of "reality" people tend to expect somewhat better.

Re:Stupid conclusions (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929953)

To be fair, though: Word isn't a good text processor. And no, neither is OpenOffice Writer.

Re:Stupid conclusions (1)

genner (694963) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930009)

To be fair, though: Word isn't a good text processor. And no, neither is OpenOffice Writer.

Then what is?

Re:Stupid conclusions (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930131)

Emacs, you insensitive clod.

Re:Stupid conclusions (5, Funny)

genner (694963) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930281)

Emacs, you insensitive clod.

You mispelled Vi.

Re:Stupid conclusions (0)

garcia (6573) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929971)

Because I live within walking distance to work and walk to work, I don't need a car. At all. Ever.

Well, you probably don't "need" a car, at all, ever but you certainly do want one.

Re:Stupid conclusions (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930083)

Yes, I can make that 5 mile journey to store on horse back. Oh, use the bus you say? And, walk 4 miles to the closest stop? No thanks.

Re:Stupid conclusions (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930105)

Actually, it's more like saying "Because I live within walking distance to work and walk to work, no one needs a car. At all. Ever."

Re:Stupid conclusions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930207)

The sad part is many people actually feel that way about cars as well.

Advent of the paperless office (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28929695)

It's finally here! The elusive paperless office has arrived. People have stopped printing things. Are you serious? That assumption aside, people still need to prepare documents and if they don't print them on paper, they print them to PDF.

Re:Advent of the paperless office (2, Interesting)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929825)

Sigh. When will these people ever learn.

Repeat until it sinks in: paper trail is more important than storage and search efficiency. CYA über alles!

Re:Advent of the paperless office (1)

pieterh (196118) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929893)

PDF indeed has the advantage of being a fairly reliable way to deliver formal documents to end users. I get e-tickets as PDFs, and I send out invoices as PDFs.

There has always been a burden of turning information into knowledge, and Word used to be one of the better ways of doing this, as an individual author.

But more and more we prepare such formal documents mechanically, and we use other ways to create the really interesting works, which today are collaborative, not individual.

For me, the advent of cheap wiki platforms like Wikidot.com [wikidot.com] show the future. No paper, no heavy editors, but very rich collaborative tools that let us build knowledge bases through massive collaboration. In other words Wiki is killing Word.

Now, I am hoping for a simple wiki-based replacement for spreadsheets and presentations. Not emulation, but replacement.

It might die, but not swiftly (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929713)

MsWord has too large an installed base and there is too much inertia for people to change. Somewhere near 600 million to 1 billion people know how to use MsWord. It might not die. Even if it does it wont die swiftly.

I really don't want Microsoft or Word to be dead and be replaced by another monoculture. Just inter operate nicely with non patent encumbered, open, software. We will live in peace.

Re:It might die, but not swiftly (5, Funny)

digitalsolo (1175321) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929837)

I think the statement that 600 million to 1 billion people know how to use Word might be optimistic.

600 million to 1 billion people use Word, around 45 people worldwide actually have any clue how to use it. Around 11 people understand how to use it with the "ribbon interface".

Re:It might die, but not swiftly (1)

dummondwhu (225225) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930133)

At first, I hated the ribbon interface, but I actually grew to like it. Really, because I knew where most stuff that I cared about was buried in the menus, but whenever I had to find something new or something I forgot about, it was a pain.

The ribbons give a little visual queue and pretty much everything I want is out there in a series of tabs.

It's not perfect, but I kind of like it. I like the idea of the ribbon, but maybe MS could have arranged theirs a little better.

Re:It might die, but not swiftly (2, Insightful)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930151)

Woo! I'm one of eleven! (A better question is, how many people, myself included, like the ribbon interface better than the terrible tangle that was the menu system?)

Re:It might die, but not swiftly (1)

initdeep (1073290) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930299)

quite a lot do actually.
regardless of what slashtards seem to think.....

Re:It might die, but not swiftly (1)

brindleboar (1154019) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930263)

Oh come on now... Eleven? That many? I want names, man, I want names...

Re:It might die, but not swiftly (3, Insightful)

Pop69 (700500) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929911)

You know, I'm sure they used to say the same thing about Wordperfect, remember them ?

MS Word on the MAC in 1988 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28929737)

MS Word back in 1988 was AWESOME! I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. When typing my mechanic's lab papers, it was great to be able to insert the equations (integrals and derivative symbols - WooHoo!), format, cut and paste, and correct - even on that shitty little black and white screen the original MACS had! There was nothing like anywhere by anyone.

I miss those days.

Umm What? (5, Insightful)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929739)

Word wasn't the first son.... and word processing isn't something you just use to 'print' stuff. It never was just about that. This isn't news, and this article doesn't even make sense...

Why did this end up on the front page of /.?

Re:Umm What? (4, Funny)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930175)

Why did this end up on the front page of /.?

You must be new here.

I have a theory... (4, Funny)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930243)

Why did this end up on the front page of /.?

i believe /. is automated in such a fashion that if you submit a story that contains the text "MS Word" and "die", it skips the moderators and is automatically posted under the "ScuttleMonkey" account.

word was around even before windose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28929747)

I can remember the versons before the windose ones, back in the day of 5" floppies and epson mx-80 printers (dot matrix), I wonder which windowing library they were using. All I can remember is that it was a heck of a lot better than a typewriter.

I printed his article... (4, Funny)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929759)

I printed his article, just so I had the satisfaction of throwing it out.

Re:I printed his article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930137)

ha!

funniest thing I've read all day.

Re:I printed his article... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930253)

You really should recycle and not throw things in the trash.

Word is the IDE of writers (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28929763)

Look around. See any typewriters? That's because MS Word made it so convenient fro writers to use a computer. Auto spelling correction, multiple document control and integration, collaborative tools: bells and whistles to most people but bread and butter to writers.
And yes, Open Office works "just like MS Word". But isn't that the point? OO needs to work like something and MS Word is a great starting point.

Re:Word is the IDE of writers (4, Insightful)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929917)

Never heard of WordStar have you? or WordPerfect, or...

Re:Word is the IDE of writers (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930215)

Not sure of your point. I never used WordStar, but I once did use WordPerfect quite a bit. Originally the old 5.1 version for DOS, but later several revisions of the GUI/Windows versions. Once to the GUI stage WordPerfect and Word looked and acted pretty close to the same way too. Not exactly, but as close as OOo Writer does to Word. Or AbiWord (which is my favorite small, light/lean Word clone), or KWord for that matter. Debating who copied who is pointless. The simple situation is all of these programs work so similarly because from an interface standpoint, it's really a pretty good way to do things.

Re:Word is the IDE of writers (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930251)

You mean the two word processors that later in their lives basically cloned the WYSIWYG interface of Word to a very large extent?

I used WP and Wordstar back in the day (the 8088->80386 days) and they were good for the time, but using the tags and what not became pretty pointless once Word was easy to get. Years later I was working in a software store and saw the new versions of Wordstar and WordPerfect, which are 90%+ visual and functional clones of Word. The reason being that Word does 99% of what you want, 95% of the time. Just like most of Microsoft's products.

Re:Word is the IDE of writers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930283)

Never heard of WordStar have you? or WordPerfect, or...

And working from the articles premise, they'd be as "not needed" as Word. He's not actually stating that Word is not needed but really Word Processing in general (a doubious conclusion IMHO). Since Word as a product, for right or wrong, has become synonmous with word processing hence the title.

Missing the point (5, Informative)

wookaru (1521381) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930163)

I RTFA and its not about switching word processors. Its about moving beyond people editing files one at a time and passing them around - in printed or email form. Basically, the author just discovered the "Magical World of Wiki" and has gotten his office to adopt a wiki as their documentation system.

Why someone discovering 14 year old internet technology made the front page of /. is beyond me...

Ooooo BTW guys, have you seen that video of a dancing baby?! Its ROTFLOL!

Re:Word is the IDE of writers (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930229)

Obviously you never used a real text processing software. MS Word is about the worst starting point you can think of. And people being used to it explains why they think it is acceptable.

MS Word's interface is crippling at best. Even the new versions, where they at least partially removed modal dialogs.

But the biggest joke of 'em all is the usage of mouse-controlled elements. In a text processor? Really??

A really good text processor would internally use TeX, would have no use for a pointer device other than graphical stuff like box positioning / vector object drawing, and would let you modify styles in a cascading form of style classes (a bit like CSS, but trough a nice graphical interface with fast keyboard control).
Then add a plug-in-system like in Firefox, to add wizards for the bells and whistles in at least one nice easy language (like Python) and one fast one (like C, Java or Haskell), and allow people to create pre-packaged sets of these wizards on a nice website.
Tadaa. Now everyone can be very happy.

Why it XYZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28929771)

So why don't I need Word any more?

We don't care?

Why's every schmuck feeling responsible to pour a list of reasons in writing on why he hates something and never used it? Newsflash: the world doesn't revolve around your narrow view.

But wait, if Word should "die a swift death" maybe the author has concrete indisputable reasons for it.

Maybe it was the rise of office networking. Maybe it was when the printer companies kept raising the price of ink to ridiculous levels. Maybe it was when we realized we couldn't print out the whole Internet.

Oh, for crying it out loud...

No chance MS Word is gone ... (3, Insightful)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929779)

Maybe the traditional office will die out soon in favor of an online version such as Office Live [officelive.com] , but in general MS Word is here to stay ... not going away anytime soon.

For example, there was a small business daycare that I know of that had Open Office installed on their work computers. Keep in mind that OO is free ... no cost. Still, the owners hated it so much, they just weren't used to it and got frustrated enough that even in these tough economic times, they went out and forked over the cash for a copy of MS Word. Of course that's sad, but it happens every day with non-techies.

MS Word dying is simply wishful thinking ... but it's not reality.

Re:No chance MS Word is gone ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930021)

I've never downloaded a version of OO.org that hasn't crashed within 5 minutes of starting it up. At least the document recovery dialog that pops up at the start works.

Re:No chance MS Word is gone ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930233)

OO is free, but also was programmed in Java. I completely understand people getting frustrated with it so much as to pay for using a piece of crap like MS WORD.

MS WORD seems good, until it starts doing automatically strange things on your document like reformatting or putting lines here and there that you can't delete, weird fonts, floating images that keep moving and other things that you try to change and word stops you. Proof of infernal possession, dude. I think I've got more friend calls about strange behavior on ms word than about trojans.

Re:No chance MS Word is gone ... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930271)

Yeah, because we trust Microsoft or Google so much to store our confidential internal documents, and we desperately need *another* slowing-down inner platform [wikipedia.org] inside that thing... ;)

Maybe because (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929789)

documents are not what they used to be!
Look at Slashdot or Wikipedia as an example.
And you don't need Word (or whatever else) to read them or to write into them. Just a good karma.

Re:Maybe because (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930257)

You're using Slashdot as an example of a document editor?

The software that can't be bothered to accept unicode or even most HTML without choking? The software that can't be bothered to have spell check? The software that can't be bothered to have an undo function?

Mighty low bar you're setting there. Mayhaps did you start with Edlin?

Dear Jeremy: Scott McNeally (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28929795)

In a speech [acs.org.au] to the Australian National Press Club said:

"when the anthropologists look back on the 1980s and 1990s and do the archaeological digs and they get their callipers and brooms and microscopes out, they're going to blame the massive reduction in productivity and lowering and slow-down in the standard of living during the 1980s and 1990s that we are living through right now - they're going to blame it entirely on Microsoft Office.".

Yours In ASCII
Kilgore Trout

Dumb argument but... (2, Interesting)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929803)

Word definitely should be on its way out. Not because we don't print everything out (digital distribution is MORE of a reason for everyone using the same program), but because the free alternatives do everything just as well (or better, they are much more lightweight) and are interoperable. Not that this will happen soon, as the vast majority of computer users are idiots and will continue to shell out thousands of dollars to Micro$oft, since M$ Word still is synonymous with 'word processor' in the common lexicon (and Office with office productivity suites), in the same manner as 'xerox', 'kleenex', 'band-aid', etc. This leads millions of fools to think that they need to shell out a few extra hundred dollars AFTER paying a few hundred bucks on their OS just to get it up and running. The subscription anti-virus companies are in the same racket.

Re:Dumb argument but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930119)

Having contempt for the majority of computer users is tells us more about yourself that it does of them. This contemptuous attitude is a typical sign of a deep seated perhaps justified feelings of inferiority.

Re:Dumb argument but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930123)

Is the "s" key broken on your keyboard? I stopped reading your comment when I saw Micro$oft and M$ Word. Time to grow up.

Re:Dumb argument but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930169)

I would love a decent free office suite, but I've yet to find one. Open office seems very crash prone - I've lost work several times from it. It's also quite slow compared to MS Office.

Office is the only MS product I use, because it still has the best word processor and spreadsheet that I've used. It's a bit buggy because I use it through crossover on Linux, but it's still less crashy than open office.

I'm still waiting for a *reliable* free alternative. I'd contribute, if the thought of writing office software didn't make me want to drill my teeth out. Ugh.

Re:Dumb argument but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930187)

Fuck you and the horse you rode in on. I pay for Word because I find it to be a superior product, that doesn't make me an "idiot" nor a "moron".

Folks are printing more than ever it seems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28929813)

Simply because they can.

Moron! Word is a word processor (3, Insightful)

o TINY o (1611133) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929819)

Some of us actually do more than just email short statements to friends these days. In fact, I suspect that this user might think email is on its way out, since according to this same logicl, email doesn't do anything more than a blog, twitter, chatting, or Facebook can't do. On my school campus, we don't always have to print. However, when we don't, we still write/prepare the documents in word, and then attach them to an email, or print them as a PDF. Either way, Word is still instruemental in the writing, formatting, reviewing, and etc, of that document. There is no acceptable alternative to Word. Open Office Word is ok at best. Google docs is ok, but it is web based. Until someone attempts to take on the almighty Word (highly unlikely due to its universal use across both PC and Mac platforms) - then Word is here to stay.

Re:Moron! Word is a word processor (1)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930185)

I used OpenOffice for 7 years of college and had zero issues, and probably about 75% of submission had to be in electronic form. What do you use Word for that you can't use Wordpad.exe for? Why can't you do the formatting in Mediawiki and then export to PDF?

On my school campus

Ok, it's pretty easy to see why you don't understand why email is still (unfortunately) relevant, but give it a couple years in a corporate or medium business; none of the services you mention have even half the features of email.

Word is still instruemental

Oh if only you had used Word (or Firefox, or OpenOffice) to compose this message it would have been spell checked!

wishful thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28929843)

Just because we spend a lot of time on the Internet and using computers doesn't mean other industries are gone. His thoughts lie a bit too much in the "all the world's companies make software" category. Call me when they figure out how to make the Internet more than just another entertainment medium (hello, facebook, still a media company). Otherwise, companies making real things will still need printed materials.

On the other side, 3D pie charts... (5, Insightful)

leonbloy (812294) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929849)

... should die a slow and horrible death.

Guy's Got a Very Narrow Frame of Reference (2, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929861)

Somewhere along the way, we stopped printing things out quite so much.

Tell that to the Big Boy publishing industry, who still predominantly take queries and submissions only in hard copy handed to them by a postal worker. It's changing, but glacially...

What's your point? (1)

PishiGorbeh (737623) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929877)

This makes no sense. Where is the logic here?

Very nicely put. (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929899)

This is exactly right. Even if what you're doing is working on a book, MS Word is not the tool you need to produce the book, and yet authors typically are asked to submit their work as Word docs. This just creates needless extra effort, because Word docs are so clumsy and Word is so buggy. The problem is that everything that's been done so far to replace Word (e.g., OpenOffice) has replaced all of Word's functionality, including the dead-end-to-print function.

What we need is a word processor whose intended end-product is a web page, not a printed document. The nice thing about this is that if you need to turn it into a print document, turning a web page into a print document is very easy. But making the print document be the main product means that we wind up with documents that work best on dead trees, instead of documents that are easy to use electronically. So we need to stop wasting so much effort on OpenOffice, and start working on something that actually does what we need now.

BTW, somebody pointed out that PDF is what should die, not Word, because PDF is a way to transport stuff in virtual dead-tree format. That's true as far as it goes, but Word docs are used in the same way, and cause much greater harm because they are a closed format. So while the author's point is as valid for PDF as it is for Word, Word is the root of the problem, and PDF and Word documents used in place of paper are a symptom of the problem, not the underlying problem.

Word should never have been "in". (2, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929905)

It's an appaling word processor, providing absolutely minimal structuring for documents... its paragraph-based structure is almost as primitive as the early macro-based text formatters of the '60s and '70s, and years behind the formatters of the late '70s and '80s. HTML is more sophisticated, with formal nested objects that don't do things like breaking a nested list if you insert a paragraph in the middle of one of the bullets.

Worse, since Word compatibility is so important, virtually all word processors that have come out since Word became dominant have copied the abysmal layout and document structure model.

Reports or Papers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28929947)

I see he's never written long papers or reports either based on his conclusions.

Interesting take... (1)

sohmc (595388) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929951)

While I agree that Word has outlived its usefulness, it probably isn't going to die anytime soon. Mostly because MS has invest too much money into it and has convinced every university and government on the planet that they MUST use Word or else someone won't be able to read it. I like how the author convinced his entire company to move to MediaWiki as their document management system. It's pretty ingenious, if you ask me.

You are wrong (4, Informative)

JerryLove (1158461) | more than 4 years ago | (#28929967)

In the early days, Word's primary purpose was to ready a document so that you could print it out.

This is, simply put, not true. Microsoft had a word-processor for the kind of basic-school-assignment work you describe: MS-Works Write.

.
Word was targeted at professional writers... people writing books and technical manuals and the like. That's why it had as many pre-press features as it did, that's why it was as expensive as is was, that's why (as Microsoft at one point pointed out), more than 80% of requests for new features were for features that were already there.

.
Over time, it seems, people didn't want to use the "cheap" word-processor, thinking that there was no difference between "better suited" and "lesser". They then complained that this professional word-processor was too complex (surprise). (and to be honest, Works had some real issues too).

.
Most users were not intended to use Office. In the beginning, there wasn't even an Office to use. That product was MS-Works.

Re:You are wrong (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930161)

Word was targeted at professional writers... people writing books and technical manuals and the like.

Which all are eventually going to be .......printed out. Where 'printed out', loosely interpreted means; formatted for human consumption.

What you, Microsoft, and many others are missing is that; its entirely possible that the information contained in said documents will be consumed by another machine. That's the essence of knowledge capture, expert systems, AI and the like. And its something that, even today, Microsoft just doesn't 'get'.

Guy never heard of a monochrome laser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930023)

I even got my mom one when she started complaining about her inkjet pricing and clogging, etc.

And you know what? Just like 99% of others they never use that photo printer again. Most people want basic, worry-free monochrome printing. Lasers give them that.

Color laser price points could change this in the future, but inkjets have sucked for a long long time.

Last Word (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930037)

My last Word, Office Pro 2003. No one asks for it anymore. There was a time in the recent past when the majority of requests for submissions would be accompanied by a request for a .doc format, not anymore. Now it's just email me and most of the stuff stays in the cloud or in email format. HTML 5 will probably be the last nail driven in the infrastructure that makes the browser the be all and end all of office documentation. Excel is still deeply entrenched among the bean counters and the armchair quarterbacks running sports fantasy teams but, for my purposes, I've found OpenOffice and GNU Cash to be ample in all regards.

Dumb premises make dumb conclusions (2, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930057)

The premise that because someone's purpose for using Office 20 years ago is relevant to today's office use is, frankly, moronic.

There are literally millions of ways people use the Office suite, and I'd hazard a guess that the printability of their work is a nice feature, but not the primary reason.

Stupid argument.

Guy doesn't work at a college, obviously (5, Interesting)

edremy (36408) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930059)

Somewhere along the way, we stopped printing things out quite so much

Somebody's not living in reality here. I *wish* people were printing things out less. I could use the ~$10K I spend out of my budget every year just to feed two printers in a lot better ways, but the print count continues to climb, every single year.

That's just for single sheet- our poster printers are seeing 2x to 3x growth in use every single year.

I don't have a textbook for my course- I use one $18 trade paperback and electronic reserves for the rest of the content- book chapters, magazine articles, etc. All digital. And most everyone in the class just prints the damn things out instead of reading them online.

What a stupid article (-1, Troll)

hairykrishna (740240) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930063)

The purpose of word processors is not to ready a document for printing. This article fails.

Archival Quality? (1)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930077)

As long as there is a program around 100 years from now that can still read the archives of stuff I write today, I'm happy.

There's nothing so frustrating as pulling up a document I wrote 20 years ago to get some quotes and finding that no modern editor understands the format, forcing me to hack through the binary to pull out my work.

It is what it is (1)

travisb828 (1002754) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930109)

Word along with its other MS Office friends is installed on every desktop at work. Everyone knows how to use it, and because of this its the standard. People use it to write documents. The most important thing is that Word is used to write official looking documents. These documents are emailed around, posted on various sharepoints, copy-pasted into something else, and revised.

Just think of this part in the Hudsucker Proxy except in MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2QlitH4nYY [youtube.com]

DOSBOX + WordPerfect 5.1 (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930121)

Nuff said.

(Except the unspoken part about finding a Mac that can run DosBox that can still read the WP install floppies.)

The printed page (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28930165)

As a student I needed to print out essays so I could hand them to my instructor. In the office I needed to print out reports so that I could hand them to my supervisor. The end goal was always the same: I printed out something to give to someone more important than me, who would evaluate it and, if I was lucky, give it back to me at some indeterminate time in the future.

I'm not sure how long ago Jeremy here graduated, but as a 2007 graduate, I regularly printed papers for peer review or final submission to the professor. Now, I may be a bit of an oddity since I was an English major, but I doubt it. Nearly every day I'll print out another draft that a coworker has hastily thrown together and comment on weak points, highlight spelling or grammatical errors, make suggestions, or add notes to myself. I bring these sheets with me to informal meetings where I review the content with a subject matter expert and make more comments/revisions.

If the power of Word lies in it's ability to serve as the digital go-between for paper, I need that strength now as much as ever. Print isn't dead, friends, its role is just chaining. It's a strong compliment instead of an end all be all. Until digital interactions allow me to quickly mark up a document without using a specialized interface (keyboard, mouse, Wacom pen, etc.), I'm not going anywhere. Oh yeah, even if tablets make leaps and bounds, the physical properties of the printed page will keep me using it. Light weight, thin, able to be crumpled, folded, easily transported and interchanged in the physical world.

Hmmm (0, Offtopic)

Wovel (964431) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930193)

Huh?

Self-indulgent belly button gazing (1)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930213)

For him, maybe. But I doubt the majority of the populace is going to switch to a wiki any time soon. Having started with some unremembered text editor for the Apple ][, the switched to Zardax (Does ANY one remember Zardax?) and flirted with Wordstar I finally settled on Word 1.0, when it came on two 5.25" disks and was shipped with a mouse. I haven't looked back since. It has become way too bloated with way too many features, IMO, but the fact is it is a journey-level program that I could not imagine being without. I know the MS bashers are already pointing out that Open Office and others are Word's equal in every way. I have to politely disagree. Try doing tables and indexes on a book length manuscript and you'll see what I mean.

Maybe the others HAVE changed for the better, but at a certain point it becomes a productivity issue. I can't afford to slow down and learn a different system any more than I can afford to learn how to type 'correctly' with more than two fingers. I type 60 wpm with two. Why would I want to slow myself down? 60 is functional. That's what I need.

I also notice that when another program is discussed, it's always couched in terms of Word. The MS basher will say, 'Open Office is every bit as good as Word.' In other words, Word is the benchmark by which others are measured. The nerd can certainly sit down and tell me feature for feature why something else is 'better,' but in the time he takes to do that I can have several chapters written.

In any case, the original article is talking about word processing in general and is using Word as the example. It could just as well be Open Office. Word and all its wannabes are 'Wordish' in their approach, so perhaps the argument shouldn't be about Word itself, the MS program, but about Wordish programs in general. Does his argument have any greater merit then?

I don't think so. The fact is that Wordish gives you nearly complete control of the appearance of your document. These other alternatives, from wiki to blogspot, from html to css, impose style upon you that is difficult to 'correct.' You wind up accepting the default simply because it is too hard to fight it. I think it's kind of funny to hear people complain about the monoculture of Word (they mean Wordish), and then claim wiki or Wordpress are their choices. You're kidding me, right? If you want versatility and choices, Wordish is your guy.

This fellow lives in a very web centric environment and perhaps for him his choice is correct, but that does not equate to the world in general. Most people using Wordish don't know Ars Technica exists or why. They don't like to read from the screen, and they don't live on slashdot either, which is why his argument is faulty.

Except for books, it's emacs (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930217)

I completely agree with him. I use emacs for everything I can. When I have to write something for people who use word, I write in emacs then import into word. When I write for books or other heavy layout stuff, I'm forced to use word or openoffice, and as I write this, I find myself getting more more interested in LaTex.

Emacs (2, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930259)

Word is the emacs of word processor, whatever it has become now.

Heading levels -- OpenOffice does it better (2, Informative)

PsyQ (87838) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930267)

I like how the original author had to add proper headings and subheadings to their Word documents after copy/pasting them into MediaWiki. This probably means they didn't use proper heading levels in the original document (Why? A technical writer should surely do this?). OpenOffice Writer is more in-your-face about that, or at least it seems that way. That still doesn't prevent the occasional idiot simply boldfacing a bit of text and manually changing the font size on every single "heading" they create, but at least the proper way is more visible.

Extra bonus, copy/paste from OpenOffice Writer to one of the JavaScript-based GUI editors in e.g. MediaWiki preserves those titles automatically. Also, there's scripts to export to MoinMoin if that's your kind of wiki.

Add two points for FOSS?

Actually, no, MS Word Owns. (1)

pyster (670298) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930303)

I love Ars. Ars is almost always on the money, but this guy really doesnt understand what people use word processing for. The "print out" argument is laughable at best.

MS Word is hands down the best word processing program that exists, and has been for years, and shall be for years to come. It will continue to evolve along the lines of user trends and continue to do it better than anyone else.

Easily dismissed (1, Flamebait)

east coast (590680) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930305)

Somewhere along the way, we stopped printing things out quite so much

So all those Staples ads about toner and ink are meant for that small niche of people who still own a printer? Please.

This is nothing more than a misled anti-Microsoft troll. How did this ever make it to the front page?

WordPerfect was better anyway (5, Insightful)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 4 years ago | (#28930317)

Th FA talks about laughing at WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS users, but as one of those users, I never ever wondered why the font suddenly changed (and always to Times New Roman, no matter what I set my default to), or why pages suddenly ended for no reason, or why widows and orphans basically just didn't work. "Reveal Codes" was WordPerfect's killer feature that saved me hours of frustration (that I got back and more when I had to switch to Word) in that I could tell exactly where the "bad" code was and remove it.

When the Web and HTML came along, I initially thought the designers had used WP as their inspiration.

The other thing WP 5.1 had was the ultimate in minimalist interface; the lower right hand corner had the page, line and word position and nothing else. The closest to a blank sheet of paper I've ever had in writing software. The FA also laughs at all the function key combos, but in reality you only used a few (Shift-F7 comes to mind...).

Also, WP had, at the time, the best support...an 800-number and all the free tech/user support you could want. It's no exaggeration to say that their support helped me learn WP macro programming.

Sigh, okay, everyone off my lawn...I have to get back to my TPS reports; I accidentally saved them in docx format and have to re-save them all as .doc so people with Word 2007 can read them.

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