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Goodbye Cruel Word

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night dept.

565

theodp writes "The problem with Microsoft Word, writes the NYT's Virginia Heffernan, is that 'I always feel as if I'm taking an essay test.' Seeking to break free of the tyranny of Microsoft Word, Heffernan takes a look at Scrivener and the oh-so-retro WriteRoom, which she and others feel jibe better with the way writers think. 'The new writing programs encourage a writerly restart. You may even relearn the green-lighted alphabet, adjust your preference for long or short sentences, opt afresh for action over description. Renewal becomes heady: in WriteRoom's gloom is man's power to create something from nothing, to wrest form from formlessness. Let's just say it: It's biblical. And come on, ye writers, do you want to be a little Word drip writing 603 words in Palatino with regulation margins? Or do you want to be a Creator?'"

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The best tools stay out of the way... (4, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934524)

The problem with Word and notably Microsoft, is that they have attempted to make both Windows and their apps, notably Office, all things to all people with an interface that has not really changed at all over the course of its lifetime.

I used to think that the reality of the situation was that you really could not have a professional class word processing application that does all things that professional writers need used by the same audience that merely wants to write school reports or letters to friends. However, it is all in the interface and Pages [apple.com] from Apple has shown that many of the "professional" features in word processing have to do with page layout or formatting issues as well as integrating not just text and fonts, but also images. Fundamentally the issue with interfaces is not providing features piled on features, but figuring out how to craft a tool that people can use to get work done rather than having to learn how to use the tool. I want my word processing environment to simply let me craft written word and images into a form that allows me to communicate my intent to the audience without getting in the way or making me learn arcane and occult methods for getting my page numbers to appear just right or getting the text to wrap around an embedded image without constantly having to reformat an entire 80 (or more) page document. Writing my doctoral dissertation in Word back in 2003 was a repeated lesson in pain as every time I changed a single image, the formatting of the entire document would be altered with entire paragraphs seeming to disappear or get hidden outside of margins and I never want to return to that world.

Granted, I still have to return to Word from time to time as Pages is not yet perfect, still needing better integration with Endnote, but it is getting pretty close. The perfect environment would be Pages that can read and edit Adobe Acrobat files along with markup, comments and notes along with full Endnote functionality that would also run on a tablet that takes advantage of gestures...

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (4, Funny)

sethawoolley (1005201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934564)

Amen, brother. That's why I like to use sed and shell echos, pipes, and redirects to do my word processing.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (5, Interesting)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934568)

"The problem with Word and notably Microsoft, is that they have attempted to make both Windows and their apps, notably Office, all things to all people with an interface that has not really changed at all over the course of its lifetime."

Office 2007 is leaps and bounds over anything Microsoft put out before. The interface is also heavily improved, so I don't know where you're getting this (unless this is pre-2005 when Office 2007 wasn't public knowledge)

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (4, Interesting)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934666)

Office 2007 is leaps and bounds over anything Microsoft put out before. The interface is also heavily improved

That is very much a matter of taste. I found the Office 2007 user interface an unusable, intrusive abomination, that was constantly in my way when I was trying to work [1], so after a few months I went back to 2003. I agree that it was "leaps and bounds over anything Microsoft put out before", but in the bad direction. Your mileage may vary, of course.

[1] It did look good, though, I'll give it that. Perfect for the exec who chooses his PA on bust size rather than on organisational skills.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935102)

By far my worst complaint about the ribbon is that it makes keyboard navigation exceptionally difficult, since there is no clear indication of what shortcuts do what. Some things, like "insert equation", show the shortcuts in the tooltip (it's alt+=), but most others, such as "insert symbol" right next to it, are completely absent from view. Maybe these shortcuts exist. Maybe they don't. There's no way of easily finding out. Menus would show these to you right next to the menu itself.

Another issue is seemingly arbitrary placement of commands on the ribbon. Of course, this is an effect of cramming the full functionality of the application into around 8 categories. For example, "Insert Table of Figures" is under the References tab, when it should really be under the "Insert" tab, while "Cross-reference" appears in the Insert AND References tab, when it should probably only appear in the latter. "Macros" is in the View tab; it should probably appear only in the Developer tab (which isn't shown by default). Some commands, such as "insert horizontal line" and "insert column break", appear to be absent from the ribbon altogether.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (2, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934730)

Well, I started using Pages back in February of 2005, so I guess Microsoft had something to emulate for at least a couple of years. :-)

Admittedly, I've not used Office 2007 much because of an initial attempt at using the trial version corrupted *all* of my .doc files to be only compatible with the new Office 2007, essentially forcing users to upgrade and make the purchase. That irritated me considerably and if I did not have a backup to recover everything, I would have been really upset. However, since I've been moving most of our systems to OS X from Windows and Linux, it has not been an issue, and Pages is so much nicer... Though I'll carefully give the new Mac Version of Office 2008 a try when it is finalized.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (3, Interesting)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934880)

I agree, the Office 2007 suite is for me the most improved version MS has put out of Office in ages.

It's a bit mind boggling how when you've been used to apps like OpenOffice and Office 2003, you find (after an adjustment period, of course) what you want and that without opening a menu! Exception being when opening files... If there's one UI idea as neat as a tabbed browser, it has to be a tabbed toolbar where one tab is context sensitive.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (2, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934974)

I'd rather have crap in menus.

When I want to insert a formula in an OO document, alt-I O F, type in pseudo-Latex, done.

I don't want to have to grab the mouse and hunt around for a widget to click on.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (4, Informative)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935070)

Then press Alt in Office 2007 and you are shown what the shortcuts are. For commands that you do often enough that keyboard menomnics are worthwhile, the interface still works fine.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (2, Insightful)

Reivec (607341) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935008)

You are insane. 2007 is not leaps and bounds above anything. The interface looks different but once you get used to it... it is really the exact same thing. The only NEW thing I noticed was the theme section that changes your doc or spreadsheet to preview the presets (which all suck anyway). 2007 on the other hand has a host of other problems such as retarded defaults that make your fonts look like shit and double spacing is the norm. It also likes to change the size of my pics from the original size without asking. And outlook 2007.... oh my. Using Word to render the emails is terrible, makes me want to gouge out my eyes.

They just moved stuff around and rearranged. There is definitely no leaping or bounding in this release.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935200)

I think you're confusing "looks nice" with "improved". "Leaps and bounds"? That's ridiculous - what on earth are you basing that on? At best it's a tiny incremental change over 2003. Office 2007 is a horrible abomination. I've been using it for nearly a year already and it still makes me want to stick needles in my eyes every time I have to use it. The interface is crap, and it has virtually no compelling new features (all I can think of is that the compare tool has been improved a bit ... what else?). I can say one thing for it, it's made me use OpenOffice quite a bit more.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (2, Insightful)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934630)

The problem with Word and notably Microsoft, is that they have attempted to make both Windows and their apps, notably Office, all things to all people with an interface that has not really changed at all over the course of its lifetime.
I was thinking the exact same thing until the release of Word 2007. It's one of the biggest improvements ever seen in a Microsoft product, really. It went from bulky and advanced to - dare I say - Appleish with simplicity and great options for customization.

I guess it's difficult to release a perfect Word since there are so many different types of users, yet Microsoft can't release five different versions simply for the sake of avoiding too much confusion. As if all the Vista releases weren't bad enough, five Word releases would make it harder by a large magnitude.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (2, Funny)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935204)

I guess it's difficult to release a perfect Word since there are so many different types of users, yet Microsoft can't release five different versions simply for the sake of avoiding too much confusion.

Why not? They did it with Vista.

Yaz.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934640)

Personally, I like the Word interface. As a writer, I can imagine it might seem stifling, but I much prefer to have a clean slate. Opening that first blank page may be a huge PITA, but once you get started, isn't it better to at least be free of distracting influences? That's why there are a slew of apps that try to force you to cut down on procrastinating - computers are distracting enough.

In something like PowerPoint, though, I like having tons of visual options since that is ALL about the presentation. Word is about producing a readable document, and I find that the interface even helps with that. Some of the toolbars could use some tweaking to bring them up to snuff, but all in all I find the package pleasing.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (2, Informative)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934702)

You really should have learned TeX/LaTeX.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934752)

Yeah, I have to agree. 80 pages of doctoral thesis without LaTeX sounds like a nightmare. I'm surprised someone capable of writing code would consider using Word for a thesis.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (1, Informative)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934950)

I'm writing my dissertation (60 pages done so far) in Word 2007. The new equation editor makes it far better at this than Word 2003 and it accepts most LaTeX syntax as well. I'm actually finding it easier than LaTeX because of this - I type my type, I type my equations, and Word takes care of most of the other drudgery for me. I don't have to deal with issues of markup, as in LaTeX. Now if only they'd add it to PowerPoint too.

(In light of this, I find it odd that I still prefer to hand-code HTML, but that's probably because each page has different elements. It's not just a mountain of text with a few images and tables thrown in).

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (1)

BWJones (18351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934754)

Been there, done that. TeX/LaTeX is nice and cross platform, but for real page layout, you should really try Pages...

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (5, Interesting)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935206)

LaTeX tries to do a different thing than "desktop publishing," and for what it does, it does it extremely well, and is far better than any alternatives.

Back in the day, we had "word processors," and we had "desktop publishing software," the difference being that the desktop publishing software let you precisely control page layout and were WYSIWYG. Word processors were things you typed documents into and they broke that document into pages to send to a printer. Word processors had extensive features to help you enter your document correctly, like spell and grammar checkers, ways to emphasize text by making it bold or underlined, and not much else. They processed words, not pages.

Then someone had the not-so-bright idea to bring WYSIWYG into word processing, combining Desktop Publishing Software and Word Processing Software into shitty abominations called WordPerfect > 5.1 and Microsoft Word. Putting a small subset of desktop publishing power into cheap, buggy software ensured that secretaries everywhere would abuse Comic Sans and clip art until the end of time, and attach their creations to what should have been plain text email.

My first "office suite" let you type your document into the word processor, then you could set up the page layout in the desktop publishing program and link the text in, where it would flow into the predetermined layout and fill it. Two discrete steps, which couldn't have been easier. Trying to do this all at once is a pain in the ass, especially if you're changing the document around (editing). The problems worsen when multiple people work on the same document.

Initially, it was obvious that word processing and desktop publishing were two very different things, and never the twain shall meet. We'd all be a lot better off if this distinction had stayed, because the problem with word processors today is not that they're trying to be all things to all people, but that they're trying to do two different things at the same time.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (1, Interesting)

linguizic (806996) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934732)

I don't know anything about endnote, but Pages has the ability to make beautiful PDF's. My resume is a pdf that I created with Pages and whether I got the job or not, people have always commented on how good my resume looks. I would never have been able to create it in Word.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (1)

BWJones (18351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934780)

Oh Pages does make beautiful PDFs, no doubt. OS X actually has the PDF engine and Pages just calls it to my understanding.

However, what Pages does not do is deal with all the features of PDFs including forms, markup and more.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935062)

Huh, I wonder if NeoOffice uses the OS X engine. I've had issues with pdf's exported with it in the past which is part of the reason why I tried Pages to begin with.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (1)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934760)

I'm a Mac and PC user. I've toyed with different word processors. I'm not a writer by profession but am taking it up as a hobby right now and am looking at pursuing more seriously later. In this way, I've been looking at various programs on both Mac and PC to use as a word processor.

Pages is good but there are some layout quirks. Word has some serious problems with formatting which eventually causes one to layout the document all over again. These bugs have existed since Word '97. Writeroom and a few specialized apps on the Mac are nice ways of doing things but they're kind of distracting. I purchased and used CopyWrite (http://www.bartastechnologies.com/products/copywrite/) but there haven't been many updates and there were a few features I'd like to see added. Nevertheless, its the best program I've found so far. I've tried to learn Vi or Emacs but I don't want to lose my hair... I'm still young! In all honesty, I'd love a program crossing interface with Nano/Pico and Wordperfect. There's quirks in each that could be fixed. That would be perfect for writing environment to me. IMO, a word processor shouldn't make the user care about which font is being used, etc.

Once finished with the writing portion, I've been looking into some DTP programs to make a nice PDF document. I'm working on my portfolio at the moment and am unsure which program I should use as I will need to have it professionally printed. Any suggestions? Please no TeX/LaTex suggestions .... I had a supposedly great book on learning the markup and completely lost patience its way too complicated to learn.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934900)

Try LyX, then! Much easier.

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (2, Insightful)

Richard Fairhurst (900015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934896)

I edit a (UK) monthly news-stand magazine using Apple's little bundled TextEdit as the sole word-processor. (For Windows users, I guess the nearest equivalent is WordPad.) It's superb. It doesn't get in the way: you type, you copy, you paste, you save. It happily reads RTF (default format) and Word .doc, so is interchangeable with anything else my contributors are likely to use - with the exception of those who use Microsoft Works. (They get asked to find something different if they want to be recommissioned. ;) ) The only two things it doesn't do that I need are smart quotes (apparently fixed in Leopard, and the alt-key combinations are now second nature anyway) and word count (plugins easy to find). I remember working at a Government department where the entire press office asked to be kitted out with Adobe Photoshop, full version, so that they could open JPEGs and once or twice crop and resave them. I persuaded them to settle for something cheaper. Microsoft has been pulling the same trick with Word for many, many years and with much more success. OpenOffice isn't the real alternative - the real alternative is a program that only does what you need it to. (FWIW, WriteRoom is pretty much TextEdit with a full-screen mode and a constantly-updated wordcount.)

Re:The best tools stay out of the way... (3, Informative)

yankpop (931224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934946)

Fundamentally the issue with interfaces is not providing features piled on features, but figuring out how to craft a tool that people can use to get work done rather than having to learn how to use the tool.

That's fine, if you just want to write letters to your friends and family, or update a personal blog, or whatever. But if writing is something you do professionally, what is wrong with investing an afternoon or a weekend in learning how to use a truly powerful editor? My work involves a combination of technical writing, popular writing, and coding. I could do all of these using Microsoft Word, or Word in combination with Notepad for coding, with very minimal time required to get going.

But investing a week (over a period of several months) in learning to use Emacs to serve my needs has paid off dividends. When you consider that most of us spend 40+ hours a week, 48+ weeks a year, editing text of one kind or another, I think the expectation that a good tool is one that take no effort to *start* using is misguided. If you are going to be spending a large chunk of your life doing a particular task, a little short term pain to gain access to a tool that will grow with your needs over the rest of your career is really not such a burden.

Emacs is not the answer to everyone's needs, of course. But I think anyone who is at all technically savvy should at least consider learning to use a proper editor.

yp

OpenOffice? (4, Insightful)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934538)

I am just wondering if the author has a problem with MS, MS Word, or how the package works and "feels".

OpenOffice is presented similarly, but "feels" different. Like Office 2007 does, only better.

I enjoy writing in OpenOffice more than with MS Word, but that just may be because that which you use often gets familiar, like a favourite pair of shoes...

Re:OpenOffice? (4, Interesting)

westyvw (653833) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934986)

I dont know what it is about OO either. I find it just easier to work with. Not in the finding buttons to do things I want, but just to sit and type on, particularly the linux version.

Aside from that, I switched to OO when I was grant writing, it managed a project better then MS Office and the integration with the Spreadsheet was better then Excel and Word. Go figure.

Re:OpenOffice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21935176)

I think the implication was that too many people become slaves to the suggestions of the built in grammar checker, rather than expressing themselves naturally (or creatively).

One Word: Lyx (4, Informative)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934594)

It's the "killer ap" that got me to convert to linux full time.

http://www.lyx.org/ [lyx.org]

Re:One Word: Lyx (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934664)

Lyx looks nice. Too bad it's not available for the most common desktop operating systems.

Re:One Word: Lyx (3, Informative)

rxmd (205533) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934712)

Too bad it's not available for the most common desktop operating systems.
Maybe haven't really been paying attention to them for like three years or so, but there are versions both for Windows and MacOS X, if those are the operating systems you had in mind. Those have been available for quite some time, since they switched the user interface to Qt.

Re:One Word: Lyx (5, Informative)

Ian Alexander (997430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934886)

Lyx looks nice. Too bad it's not available for the most common desktop operating systems.
Yeah, what a shame you can't download binaries of the latest version for Windows, OS X, and OpenSUSE for free. [lyx.org]

I mean, what's the deal with them not using freely-available cross-platform tools [lyx.org] to make it easy to build on your platform of choice if you don't use it on one of those?

What's more, just about none [fedoraproject.org] of the more popular [ubuntu.com] Linux distributions [debian.org] have packages available for free download and install using your system's package manager.

A simple solution... (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934966)

Lyx looks nice. Too bad it's not available for the most common desktop operating systems.

So, why not change to a better operating system? [ubuntu.com]

Re:One Word: Lyx (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934798)

Lyx is nice. I did my undergrad dissertation with it.

However, at the time I listened to the tex hype and didn't realise that actually, even with lyx making things easier, you have to micromanage your document extensively to get to those potentially beautiful results. I spent weeks on that task alone, time that would have been better spent just concentrating on content. And yes, presentation was important, so I couldn't neglect it.

For my doctoral thesis I used MSword, with an excellent template from the University of Waterloo (Ontario). It doesn't look as 'pretty' as a tex doc would, but I've spent only a very small amount of time concerned with layout and formatting. That's translated to a few very important weeks extra of content editing, not layout editing (Anyone who thinks a tex doc of >250 pages can be formatted correctly in just two weeks is fooling themselves).

I'm not bashing tex. I wish wholeheartedly that I'd had the time to use it. But I'm not alone in not having the sort of time it takes to get the best out of tex. If we all did, there would be no market for MS word, or Openoffice for that matter.

LaTeX (4, Interesting)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935006)

Use LaTeX instead of plain TeX, it allows you to concentrate on content without the distraction of presentation.

The time needed to to be spend on presentation of a 250 page LaTeX document (and yes, I have written a handful such documents) is around 10 seconds, if you are willing to live with the (somewhat boring) default layout, plus some sloppy spacing.

[ It is actually one of great advantages of markup based typesetting systems, over wysiwyg based systems. AT&T did measurements when trying to switch from troff to PageMaker. Internal regulation demanded a pilot project to show benefit. Management wanted to switch, but the troff based beat out the PageMaker based team each time, despite both teams having no prior knowledge of the tools. The PageMaker based team spend too much time too early on layout. ]

LyX (1)

crush (19364) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934598)

For long projects I've found LyX [lyx.org] to be the easiest environment due to its WYSYWIM paradigm and easy handling of references, notes and citations. It's just very easy to simply get down to work with LyX. I'll grant you that I quite like the feature of Scrivener where one can have inspirational/reference material included in the appropriate section folder, but I wonder would it become distracting?

Re:LyX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934802)

Ah, its WYSIWYM, not WYSYWIM.

I was staring at WYSYWIM for about five minutes. I thought it was 'What you see you wish I meant' or something.

Re:LyX (1)

iliketrash (624051) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934848)

Does LyX handle mathematical equations? Specifically, placement in-line, placement between lines, and most of all, numbering and cross-referencing and re-numbering?

Re:LyX (1)

djcapelis (587616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935088)

Yes.

Go google it. It maintains almost all of the functionality of LaTeX. Not all of it is there in the GUI, but you can insert raw LaTeX if you really need to... you rarely really need to.

To me, this is the diff between Eclipse & Text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934600)

With Eclipse, it just feels like there's too much there, too much to distract me. Sure, it's powerful, but sometimes you just want a text editor that will stay out of your way.

In my experience ... (2, Insightful)

charlie (1328) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934616)

The best green-screen creative writing environment is Vim. Which comes free with every Mac, already, if you've the wit to open a terminal window. (Although I'll give you a free pass if you prefer Emacs.) WriteRoom stinks to me of an attempt to sell a reinvented wheel to folks who don't know any better.

Re:In my experience ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934706)

Yea, I it's not like people are making good money "reinventing" the wheel http://www.michelin.co.uk/ [michelin.co.uk] . What is it with this "it's been done before, thus it can't be improved"-philosophy? Everything can stand improvement.
On top of that, vim is.... useless.... why? Well sure alot of people can figure out how to use it, but the general public losses patience hours or days before they'd consider it even partly usefull. Here writeroom is an obvious improvement.

VI Improved (2, Informative)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934878)

> What is it with this "it's been done before, thus it can't be improved"-philosophy?

Writeroom is not actually trying to sell itself on being an improvement on anything, it sells itslef on notalgia to a time where there were zillions of text editors. Problem is, these text editors are still around. If vim is too strange, try Emacs as the poster suggested. Both have all the features listed, and are rather easy to learn if you only do simple stuff. And if you want it even simpler, pico, or nano, or jed, or joe are also available.

Re:In my experience ... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934792)

I'd like to second that. In 2007, I had a book and around 50 articles (1000-3000 words each) published. I also wrote my PhD thesis. All of these were done in Vim. The book and the thesis were both typeset using LaTeX.

Vim has a modal user interface and usually I would be the first person to criticise this as a design decision. In the case of a text editor, however, I find that it makes sense. To me, writing and editing are two conceptually separate tasks. I write text in insert mode and then edit it in command mode. The scripting facility in Vim is also very useful. I have a macro bound to F2 that expands whatever word I've just written into a LaTeX begin/end block with a default template (table, figure, and so on). I hate having to use a word processor. When I an writing, I want to tag various bits of my document with some metadata like 'chapter header' or 'source code' and then worry about how they are typeset later. With LaTeX, I can just start using a tag when I first need it and then define presentation rules for it later. Word processors make me interrupt my flow and define the presentation style.

With LaTeX, I can do things like point it at a few lines in a source file and have it import them into the final document, syntax highlighted.

Re:In my experience ... (2, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935140)

Vim has a modal user interface and usually I would be the first person to criticise this as a design decision. In the case of a text editor, however, I find that it makes sense. To me, writing and editing are two conceptually separate tasks.

I consider this a user interface error for exactly that reason. It's two applications masquerading as one.

Re:In my experience ... (1)

Trenchbroom (1080559) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934816)

Anyone else find it ironic/funny that a program that simulates a green screen terminal display is only available for Mac?

Re:In my experience ... (1)

SigILL (6475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934908)

Anyone else find it ironic/funny that a program that simulates a green screen terminal display is only available for Mac?

Nah, I find it funny (in a perverse way) that a similar program for windows is called Dark Room [misled.us] . Kinda fitting :)

Retro ... when the originals are still around (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934824)

Agree. Kind of strange selling stuff to mimic the tools from the good old days, when the tools from the good old days are still around.

Re:Retro ... when the originals are still around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21935196)

Ah, but gvim or recent emacs doesn't necessarily start up in a green-on-black text mode (emacs now starts up in an ultra-garish black-on-white until you reconfigure it - it's old yellow on grey-green scheme was much less painful). These computer illiterate writers are basically paying for an unconfigurable application where the preferences they want happen to be the the defaults.

Re:In my experience ... (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935224)

I prefer pico but then that is a matter of taste too. Actually I have been in the computer field so long that my fist "word processor" was using the mainframe utility IEBGENER to transfer a deck of punch card to the printer. If I wanted to change a line I counted 35 cards into the deck, found that line and re-punched that card. Since then I have used everything from Fredwriter on a Apple II up through various Unix PC Mac Sun and gawdonlyknows what up to my current daily work on Word 2003.
  I do believe I have had SOME experience of the evolution of this field and can clearly state that most such programs just don't get it. To this day, I type in whatever I am in, then paste to whatever I need it in, then fight both apps to get what I want. No I do not wish to learn ctl shift tap your toe in app 1 to set margins, click ruler sideways in app 2, tie a pretty ribbon in a knot in app 3 etc. - Yeah I tried 2007. it sucks too but what can you expect from Redmond?
Someone above said it: spend your time doing it or spend your time learning the tool (and in Microsoft's case, then recovering your file AGAIN when the damn thing blows up on a corrupt normal.dot! Frankly, a typewriter that ran on kinetics is less of a headache...
At the end of the day you end up with black letters on a white sheet of paper that you fold twice and shove in an envelope. Why all the crap to get there?

another good one is (5, Interesting)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934622)

http://texmacs.org/ [texmacs.org] FREE!

from the looks of the front page you would think math geeks would only use it but it also functions as an excellent word processor...

Re:another good one is (1)

gilado (1197463) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934728)

Also checkout mbedit. I have been using aedit/mbedit for 25 years. http://www.braun-home.net/michael/ [braun-home.net] Runs virtually on any hardware/os Incredibly easy yo use macro language

Re:another good one is (1)

root_42 (103434) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935146)

Could someone explain to me the main differences between TeXmacs and LyX? I have used the latter quite extensively some years ago, but I am now back to using Emacs and AucTeX/RefTeX. :)

More modest expectations (0, Troll)

Empiric (675968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934644)

Be a Creator?

Hey, I'd be satisfied with just a passel of rib-DNA-generated gender-flipped quasi-clones.

Not sure if that'd make them my wives or daughters, but I think I can deal with the metaphysical ambiguity.

Re:More modest expectations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934676)

They'd be your sisters.

Re:More modest expectations (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934862)

Interesting alternative, but I think the scenario requires a general (and useful) categorical collapse.

Even more interesting would be if I could get the data to find out if my theory in posting that is correct--that precisely the right people will think I'm being sarcastic.

plenty alternatives (1)

maestroX (1061960) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934658)

I use Word mainly for quick scribbling of documents where notepad doesn't fit. It's installed with Office as I need Excel which is quite nice.

Anything that is larger than 3 pages (requires structure) I do in LaTeX.

.. and palatino is too thick for on-screen reading.

Ack. (2, Funny)

The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934660)

I can't watch "Juno" and read that article in the same day. My brain is really tired of text and dialogue as dense as a ten-year-old Christmas fruitcake.

Can anyone here translate into "concise" for me?

Re:Ack. (2, Funny)

wsanders (114993) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934714)

- Writer likes Scrievener and WriteRoom
- Everybody hates Microsoft
- Who knows, maybe writer was drunk

Tools vs Content (5, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934668)

A guy with a brand new Fender Strat doesn't sound like Jimi Hendrix. Nor can you drive better in a Lotus than an xB.

What's more likely is that if you think you're doing better and that helps you, so much the better.

Document composers for mass mailings, labels, newsletters, all need different features that aren't part of the word processing function of creativity, rather its creative exposition. I'll write (a dozen books, thousands of articles so far) on whatever, and won't go to Jerry Pournelle's years of bitching about the nuances. It's the content, Jerry. It's the content. Word, Word Perfect, WordStar, Zedit, Joe, Vi, textedit, don't much matter. Grammar checkers, spell checkers, syntactical analyzers, pretty printers, code-indenting hoohaa, I don't care. Let me write. Grace and elegance are for those that need glitter and swan-like moves. They look pretty, but it's only style, and style will always be subjective. Content rules; fancy-assed WYSIWYG twelve-key-combo-crap drools.

Just my 2c worth.

Re:Tools vs Content (1)

sykodoc (763810) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934998)

"A guy with a brand new Fender Strat doesn't sound like Jimi Hendrix."

But even Jimi didn't sound like Jimi Hendrix until he had learned to play the Fender Strats of his day. Having access to an amazing, new style of guitar made his creative ability shine. With an electric guitar hooked up to a big amp he changed into a rock and roll and blues playing guitar demi-god. He that set standards that have lasted decades. Could he have done that with a different guitar? Maybe not. He might have sounded just fine, playing an accoustic guitar with real emotion... in a small Seattle bar. No Woodstock, no Purple Haze.

Tools matter.

How many people might write a little better by using a new, more advanced, more creative-friendly writing tool?

Re:Tools vs Content (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935156)

Actually, he did do it on other guitars, including a Gibson Flying V, and a Firebird.

There is no doubt his mastery; the tool, while important (even more so to a musician, where the output is within his/her control, where a writer needs an editor and a graphics artist perhaps) didn't make the compositions, they were well-played tools. Hendrix (and others) composed the songs, played with others, and left the legacy. He probably sold a zillion Strats as a result. But it was the musician's creativity and content that's legendary. Ask a non-musician if a Strat's important to a legacy of Hendrix, and they'll look quizically at you, as they should. Should we find out what Vonnegut or Mailer used, then dash out and get their computer/WP combination? Maybe Isaac Azimov sold a few Trash-80's, but I know of no other endorsement of a specific kind of software of any variety these days that's analogous.

Re:Tools vs Content (1)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935164)

How many people might write a little better by using a new, more advanced, more creative-friendly writing tool?
I personally find it easiest to find a "grove" while writing when using pencil and paper. It seems most effective for formal essays and less so for creative writing. When writing formal essays, something I have no enthusiasm for, it seems more natural to stop typing a keyboard than moving a pencil. YMMV

Re:Tools vs Content: Good post (1)

Grampaw Willie (631616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935216)

I like your comments

for my money Ms. Word is over-kill

in particular I don't like it trying to guess what I want it to do

and especially in a numbered list WordPerfect did numbered lists and outlining very nicely. Ms. Word programmers just don't "get it"

the numbered list should start by indenting both the left and right margin and then resetting the left margin inside the number for the start of text. I should be able to type several paragraphs separated by blank lines with each reference number. and get the next numbered item in the list by means of a command key such as ^Enter

I should be able to break a numbered paragraph or parts of a numbered paragraph into sub paragraphs such as 3.1 and 3.2

yeah, you can get Word to do this stuff but it's a PITA where WordPerfect 5.1 did it beautifully

my writing needs at this time don't go much beyond the trusty Office Memo so I just use PolyEdit and .rtf format

Yeah, OS X-only amateurware will replace Word (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934694)

What was the Nigger York Times thinking with this ludicrous article? Did they simply run out of topics to write about?

BTW, WriteRoom is WriteTarded... for $9 you get a full-featured app in Scrivener with the same full-screen function.

There is no tyranny of Microsoft Word (1)

iliketrash (624051) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934758)

...the tyranny of Microsoft Word...

There is no "tyranny of Microsoft Word," only the feeling to need to follow the mindless masses. There have been many excellent "alternatives" to Microsoft Word ever since it debuted on the Macintosh in 1985. Yes, once Microsoft gained its massive market share, there were reasons for many to use it (file compatibility, because, you know, all simple memos _must_ be saved in .doc rather than as text or the much simpler .rtf), but those reasons do not exist for independent writers.

Yes, there is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934902)

90% market share in the business world means that a Disney-lemming-feeling isn't the only reason you're going to be using Microsoft Word at work. And sure, you can use "alternatives"... but your choice of "alternatives" -- 90% of the time -- is constrained by Microsoft Word compatibility.

That's tyranny, any way you slice it. Your feel-good post has a nice sentiment but is totally wrong, nigger.

Re:Yes, there is. (1)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935002)

Bullshit. MS Word supports two formats that virtually every other tool supports because they're open, standardised, and free to implement. Text, and RTF. They may not support every wiz-bang features of the binary Word format, but they allow the simple things like tables, formatting, and basic layout. Noone "needs" to use Word, and there's no tyranny.

Re:Yes, there is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21935074)

Noone "needs" to use Word

You might find its spell-checker valuable.

Clever reference by Heffernan (5, Insightful)

mav[LAG] (31387) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934778)

Microsoft Word. Light of my mind, fire of my frustration. My sin, my soul. Mi-cro-soft-word. The mouth contorts with anti-poetry. My. Crow. Soft. Word.

This was a coffee-out-the-nose moment for me - it's a parody of the very first paragraph of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.

Am I the only one ... (2, Funny)

Sepiraph (1162995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934864)

... who misread the title as "Goodbye Cruel World". Thought it was going to be a /. suicidal note... God I NEED COFFEE!

Re:Clever reference by Heffernan (1)

kigrwik (462930) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934884)

Nice catch. Kudos to you ! (sorry, no mod points to give)

Re:Clever reference by Heffernan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934926)

Thanks. I couldn't have worked that out on my own.

I think I speak for everyone when I say... (2, Funny)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934968)

...dude, where's my car?

Re:Clever reference by Heffernan (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935032)

it's a parody of the very first paragraph of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.

Whoa, wait there! Are you telling me that you read kiddie porn? Pervert!!!

Mark Pilgrim said it best a year ago (5, Insightful)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934800)

Zen (4, Insightful)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935144)

Mod parent up, it really sums up everything worthwhile about the subject.

"Curse these personal computers!" cried the novice in anger, "To make them do anything I must use three or even four editing programs. This is truly intolerable!"

The master programmer stared at the novice. "And what would you do to remedy this state of affairs?" he asked.

The novice thought for a moment. "I will design a new editing program," he said, "a program that will replace all these others."

Suddenly the master struck the novice on the side of his head.

"What did you do that for?" exclaimed the surprised novice.

"I have no wish to learn another editing program," said the master.

And suddenly the novice was enlightened.

-- from "The Zen of Programming" by Geoffrey James, 1988.

Since 1.0 (5, Insightful)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934808)

I've used Word since version 1.0 when it came on two 5-1/4" floppies and included a mouse in the box and ran on the original IBM 8088. Before that I used Word Factory, Wordstar and Zardax. I've used every version of Word since 1.0. It is now certainly bloated and busy. It's advanced features such as multiple indexing can drive you crazy with their ineptness, but at heart it is simply a blank screen for you to fill in. Turn off the Nazi grammar feature and it pretty well leaves you alone to do what you want. If you aren't creative, Word won't make you so. If you are creative, Word isn't going to regiment you into not being so. To claim otherwise is an excuse. Maybe you just aren't, like, creative at all. Blaming the software won't turn it around any more than the paper you use. If 8-1/2 x 11" paper is too authoritarian for you, try Charmin to better express your creativity. By all means use another word processor if it makes you feel better, but I don't think a few people looking for another cause are going to lead an exodus away from Word any time soon.

Re:Since 1.0 (3, Funny)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934964)

"It looks like you are being creative. Would you like to read slashdot instead?" And creative trance goes to hell...

wp 51 was the apex (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934828)

word perfect 5.1 with reveal codes. word processors, notably ms word, have just gone downhill from there. more complexity with less control and more bloatware. I don't need 50,000 features, I just need 100 that are intuitive, work properly, and work quickly.

Re:wp 51 was the apex (4, Interesting)

Aging_Newbie (16932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935154)

No software since WP5.1 has done as good and obvious a job of indexing, hierarchical sections, cross referencing, and tables of contents. I could do all those things so painlessly in WP and never managed to achieve them proficiently in Word. Throw in simple keystroke access for almost everything you did and it becomes a writer's dream. I have often thought of setting up a DOS PC simply to run WP but now finding a supported printer is quite a feat.

WP was proof that you did not have to invent an abstract and incomprehensible model of a document simply to make a tool to author one.

A writing tool for writers (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934852)

There's something to be said for a writing tool for writers.

First, professional writers need only minimal formatting capability. Formatting is someone else's job. Any formatting done by the author will just interfere with page makeup later. Writers need to be able to insert chapter breaks, and that's about it.

Second, the word processor should not interrupt the flow of writing. Auto-completion is usually not wanted. Spell checking is probably better done after the fact, not during writing.

Third, not losing the text is important. The writer should not have to "save". A word processor which guaranteed it would never lose the text, backed up by continuous remote backup to multiple sites and an insurance policy, would probably have a following among pros.

There are newsroom systems like this, on which reporters compose stories.

But it's MAC OSX only! (1)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934868)

Damn ... Scrivener looks like something really neat for a freelancer writer. But it doesn't run on Linux!

Re:But it's MAC OSX only! (1, Troll)

CdBee (742846) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934992)

Probably because freelance writers are far too busy producing content to bother with an operating system that requires many hours work just to get running ;-)

The way it works isn't the problem (5, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934872)

I read TFA, and these guys seem to be worried about the wrong thing. Word menus, etc, are easy enough to deal with. What makes it a god-forsaken piece of shit are all the bugs. Documents are always getting corrupted, figures don't do where you want and stay there, can't save sometimes for no apparent reason, the entire thing just bombs out, etc. We had a "Platinum Support Ticket" or some similar nonsense open on Word for a few years. The upshot, direct from a Microsoft senior support line, was that if we wanted documents to not get corrupted, was to print it out on paper, make sure it was right, then use a scanner and save it as a TIFF. Thanks, that's good advice.

        What is so pathetic is that I have ordinary technical documents from the late 50's and 60's that are laid out better, have better graphics, and are still perfectly readable today. While at the same time, a Word document I saved last week either can't be opened, or has all the symbols corrupted.

              Brett

Re:The way it works isn't the problem (1)

artg (24127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935182)

I can't believe people who write for a living would use Word. I write 20-page specs & reports, yet I wouldn't trust it not to corrupt the work - too many bad experiences.

Company requirements dictate that I provide a Word copy (though I can often get away with a pdf) but I ALWAYS get the content in with a straightforward text editor first and just do the formatting with Word (and that takes just as long as the creative part ..)

Emacs + TeX (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934892)

For writing I start my laptop up in text mode with the background set to blue. I type into Emacs with Flyspell and when I'm finished I use plainTeX to format the output to anyone of several layouts for editing, reviewing or even final output with crop marks, ToC, index etc. I can have in-line notes which appear in some or all of these formats, tables, multiple columns (via the eplain extensions); I've even typeset a Bible with indexing based on Chapter:Verse rather than page numbers.

That appears to cover everything, and more, that WriteRoom offers, and Scrivener just looks silly and distracting to me.

TWW

Sounds like... (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934922)

Someone has writer's block and is taking it out on Word. If they really want to be the 'creator' then perhaps they should try making some rice paper, some ink, and a pen. Then they can get to work.

Hyperlinks, O God hyperlinks (1, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934932)

The one thing that I ask of a word processor is that it begin with the assumption that I am writing something that will be printed on paper, not as a web page. Why oh why do programs like Word default to turning blue and underlining anything beginning with http or containing an @?

PC, no Word (0, Flamebait)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934936)

I never use Word. Each time I've gotten a new system, I've deleted it. I use TextPad for quick and Word Pro for professional.

That said, I just read her article. 'Twas a tale told by an idiot apparently. She can't do what is easy and carps about that which is nothing.

I bought Scriviner (5, Informative)

Fear the Clam (230933) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934940)

I've used various versions of Word (and before that, the original AppleWorks on an Apple ][e) to write books and book-length dissertations. Just so you know where I'm coming from, I still think the best version of Word for the Mac is 5.1a.

For the last decade or so my strategy was to use Word's outliner then fill in the text. Pretty straightforward when you know exactly how things are supposed to go, like for a paper or a report. Unfortunately, I found them wanting for my creative writing, where I tend to write from the inside out, starting with a scene or a character or a funny sentence but not knowing where that bit would fit in a story. Sure, I could just dump everything in the ol' slop file, or link a bunch of individual files using Word's master document, but it was always forced and clunky.

Last October I was looking for a new tool for Nanowrimo [nanowrimo.com] and I experimented with WriteRoom, Jer's Novel Write, Lyx, CopyWrite, Storyist, and Scriviner. In the end it came down to Storyist and Scriviner. I liked how Storyist had novel templates, but they seemed overly restrictive--and the software cost twice as much. I ended up buying Scriviner.

What I like about Scriviner is that it gracefully handles working with both long chapters and little scraps, easily allowing you to change the views to an outline or index cards on a cork board with synopses, or as individual documents, or all run in together in a single window.

Writeroom looks okay... (1)

adrianbaugh (696007) | more than 6 years ago | (#21934962)

but if you want spartan, why not just use vi?

Word made for office slaves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21934978)

Word was never meant to be for "Creators", it was made for office slaves, sitting in small office jails, typing up corporate blahblah at 120 words per minute.

What the fuck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21935116)

Could somebody please translate all that dribble into proper English?

It is odd, but I have similar experiences. (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935124)

I remember when I first got a computer with a mouse, I had a lot of fun with paint programs. I'm no great artist but I could be quite creative. I tried a different application. Somehow I couldn't do anything. It seems that the toolbar was on the wrong side. Bottom or right I can create. Top or left, I can't.

These days I find a similar issue with developing code. I need as much of the screen dedicated to the editor as possible. A second monitor was a godsend! Just wish I could remove all the extra junk around the editor. Trouble is, that occasionally comes in useful.

The problem with "modern" software today (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21935134)

is that it's narrow (narrow (narrow (narrow (narrow (narrow (narrow (...))))))).

You must have an open environment such as Smalltalk where everything is at the same level, not dumb applications that live in their own universe and communicate through shoddy wormholes. *shudders*

Take the Sophie project as an example of a good thing:
http://sophieproject.org/ [sophieproject.org]

Watch the demo!

*Anything* other than the application concepts of today is good!
Damn, people. Wake up from this nightmare of MicroSoft and operating systems!
That's not made for human beings..

i want to be a creator too... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21935166)

...above all else can i create revenue for apple?

can i create the impression that i am living the apple "dream lifestyle"; never mind the fact that anyone who sees or meets a strident mac user is likely to come to the impression that they are all sad and gullible twerps.

look, maybe if i spend enough things will change! maybe...

Scrivener for HTML and LaTeX (1)

macurmudgeon (900466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935198)

What the article didn't mention is that with Scrivener projects you can use MultiMarkdown [fletcherpenney.net] , a derivative of John Gruber's excellent Markdown [daringfireball.net] plain text to HTML converter to format text for other uses. You can then export the marked up Markdown files to HTML or LaTeX. That makes Scrivener not only an excellent writing program but a brilliant formatting one.

You can, of course, also read and write RTF and DOC formats if you don't want to manually format text.

I just use TextEdit (2, Interesting)

Cannelloni (969195) | more than 6 years ago | (#21935214)

I use TextEdit for everything that's just plain text, and for code, it's Smultron all the way. In the past, I used TextWrangler (freeware) or BBEdit a lot, and they are still good. But Smultron (free!) is great!

http://smultron.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

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