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Charlie Stross: Why Microsoft Word Must Die 479

Posted by timothy
from the codependence-is-harmful dept.
Jeremiah Cornelius writes "Rapture of the Nerds co-author Charlie Stross hates Microsoft Word, worse than you do. Best of all, he can articulate the many structural faults of Word that make his loathing both understandable and contagious. 'Steve Jobs approached Bill Gates... to organize the first true WYSIWYG word processor for a personal computer -- ...should it use control codes, or hierarchical style sheets? In the end, the decree went out: Word should implement both formatting paradigms. Even though they're fundamentally incompatible... Word was in fact broken by design, from the outset — and it only got worse from there.' Can Free Software do any better, than to imitate the broken Microsoft model? Does document formatting even matter this much, versus content?"
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Charlie Stross: Why Microsoft Word Must Die

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  • It gets worse (Score:5, Interesting)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:06PM (#45110151)
    No sane metamodel. No access from multiple applications. No sane way of creating compound documents. When you see the landscape of modern IT and you notice that the closest thing to that is the XML ecosystem, you know something has gone horribly wrong.
    • by mystikkman (1487801) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:19PM (#45110225)

      Joel Spolsky has an excellent write up on why the Office file formats suck. A must read.

      http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/02/19.html [joelonsoftware.com]

      He actually worked on Excel leading to funny anecdotes like this one

      http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/06/16.html [joelonsoftware.com]

      • by colinrichardday (768814) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Saturday October 12, 2013 @06:42PM (#45110861)

        He discusses why the file formats are the way they are, but I'm not sure he says they suck.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:06PM (#45110153)

    enough said!

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:19PM (#45110223)
      TeX is horrible in the sense that it's a glorified macro processor state machine, with every character in the input stream potentially changing everything in the output DVI - text itself, formatting registers - you can't tell form the character other than by continuing processing the Turing-complete macros, all of them capable of changing every aspect of the processor state! Change that one character? Regenerate the whole document! Good bye, interactivity. Good bye, inspectable structure. It's perfect for the hard-core typesetting jobs, but lousy as a document platform in any other sense than the typesetting one. (But it would be nice to have good exporters for it in as many applications as you can get. And when I say "good exporters", I mean template-driven export engines with fine-grained tuning, not some "just export it, I'll tweak the styles by hand" thingy. Remind me, why do we have computers again? To automate stuff? I thought so.)
      • by samjam (256347)

        Consider TexMacs - uses scheme-like macro language (and scheme) - much better.

      • by RGRistroph (86936)

        https://www.writelatex.com/ [writelatex.com] and https://www.sharelatex.com/ [sharelatex.com] and several desktop latex editors seems to work OK despite your logic.

        The main appleal of LaTeX is precisely that you aren't supposed to continuously re-render it, you are supposed to write things. Then you twiddle how it looks a bit at the end.

        Optimizing web pages for speed of rendering the output seems reasonable, but I'm not sure that should be a big consideration in a document format.

        • by tftp (111690) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @09:34PM (#45111621) Homepage

          you are supposed to write things. Then you twiddle how it looks a bit at the end.

          That's hardly how any business document in existence is written. Layout is considered at the same time as the content. Presentation is often more than 50% of the value of the document. It is essential to be able to make edits right in the final output. Nobody is willing to print the DVI, then mark it up with a red pen, and then to find corresponding code that programs that piece of the document, and then to change it ... and once you change something on page 1, things cascade down to page 100 - pictures and tables jump onto different pages, blank areas show up where none were before... this means you need to redo the DVI and review after every change. To compare, a WYSIWYG wordprocessor gives you exactly what you are going to print for given page settings. You just go from the first page down and make your changes. That's why MS Office (and WordPerfect before that) rule the office space, not TeX. Those wordprocessors do a pretty good job on having things done your way, with background pagination and other niceties.

      • by thsths (31372) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @05:50PM (#45110671)

        Agreed. TeX uses a procedural approach, which is really not a good idea for a document. A declarative approach would be much better, and there are alternatives such as lout the demonstrate how well it works. Heck, even TeX has both styles and formatting codes available at all time.

        HTML, much abused, has a much saner model. But there is a distinct lack of good editors for HTML. Which also proves zealots wrong who say "a good and well documented format will attract support". MS Word is still the most widely supported document format. Better documented alternatives (lyx, html, lout) are impossible to import/export in anything but a handful of programs.

        And to be honest, Word 2007 is a completely different beast from Word 2003. I would even go as far as calling it quite usable - it deals nicely with styles, and it finally has an acceptable equation editor. Float placement is still a bit of a gamble, citations are best left to other software packages, but it is really not all that bad any more. Good enough - typical Microsoft software.

        • by narcc (412956) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @09:51PM (#45111723) Journal

          They're all solving different problems. TeX is designed for typesetting, which HTML and Word formats aren't well-suited. HTML does structure well, but it's useless for typesetting. OOXML is a weird mix, not really well suited to either task. It's better than older formats, but it's still incredibly painful to generate, and near impossible to read. If I had to guess, it's designed to give MS the ability to say that the format is open, while still making it difficult for competitors to support.

    • by westlake (615356) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @05:01PM (#45110431)

      enough said!

      MS Office is designed for use by the 9-to-5 clerical worker --- not the outside studio or in-house team that designs your four color catalogs, print adds, brochures and annual reports.

      • by Anrego (830717) * on Saturday October 12, 2013 @06:02PM (#45110709)

        So much this!

        Word is popular because it is can be manhandled by just about anyone with basic computer skills into producing a passable document. Most people doing anything more complex have a variety of tools available with various trade-offs in functionality and learning curve.

        This is largely true about most popular products. Tools which are technically inferior for a purpose are used because the gap in technical fitness is smaller and lest costly than the difference in skill required to use the better suited tool. Cheaper to have the hammer than can pound in most nails when you don't really care as long as it holds, then go get the specialized hammer when you do..

        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          So much this!

          Word is popular because it is can be manhandled by just about anyone with basic computer skills into producing a passable document.

          For really, really low levels of passable.

          Our department used to cringe when we got word documents to turn into other stuff. The typical action was that the person would start working in Word, get the project almost done, then suddenly found that they couldn't do what they wanted to do. So we would get a partially done document that we had to get into InDesign. Catalogues, even Posters. Lots of manhandling. Lots of fail, especially from a program that needs manhandling to do some pretty basic stuff.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 13, 2013 @12:01AM (#45112203)

          The primary argument used to dismiss Libre Office as a viable alternative to MS Office is that it "can't do anything more complex than basic document editing".

          And yet here we are, explaining why MS Office is the popular choice because it only does the most basic stuff that 9-to-5 clerical workers need.

          • by Anrego (830717) *

            My primary argument against Libre Office is that when I'm using Microsoft Word, its because someone else needs it in word doc format.

      • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @07:55PM (#45111201)
        No that's Wordperfect for MSDOS. MS Office is designed to have shiny bits that attract the attention of people with purchasing authority instead of being something functional.
        It's like going to buy vehicle for a job where you need a small truck, and instead coming back with a Ford Pinto with fins, racing stripes, stickers all over it, and a flimsy roof rack to give it something resembling the carrying capacity of a small truck at the cost of stability problems. It looks really modern due to the new paint job, and they've replaced that fuel tank that catches fire - however this time it's made from magnesium and still catches fire.

        Car analogies aside it's fragile and overcomplicated crap for the 9-to-5 clerical worker and has spawned a vast support industry to teach people how to get around its stupid quirks.
      • by arth1 (260657)

        MS Office is designed for use by the 9-to-5 clerical worker --- not the outside studio or in-house team that designs your four color catalogs, print adds, brochures and annual reports.

        No, Word is a layout editor, where you cannot get away from the paper concepts of "pages" and "margins". It's about the worst program there is for entering plain text.

        The last of the text processors died when Word Perfect lost its plaintext mode and became WYSIMOLWYG just like Word.

        And, no, LyX is not a good alternative either. It's so slow it's painful, and still suffers from the silly paradigm that you want to "publish" your document, not just use the text as is. It's the job of a publisher to typeset a

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:12PM (#45110191) Journal
    Like the rest of us, he's perfectly happy to use many of the other tools around, but at the end he finally gets to his point:

    somehow, the major publishers have been browbeaten into believing that Word is the sine qua non of document production systems. They have warped and corrupted their production workflow into using Microsoft Word .doc files as their raw substrate, even though this is a file format ill-suited for editorial or typesetting chores. And they expect me to integrate myself into a Word-centric workflow, even though it's an inappropriate, damaging, and laborious tool for the job.

    So his publisher is forcing him to use Word. I would be annoyed as well. I know at least some publishers accept PDF (and some even LaTeX). So maybe he should just choose a different publisher.

    • by mellon (7048) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:22PM (#45110243) Homepage

      Publishers sometimes will accept camera-ready PDF, but that's a _lot_ of work, and in the age of digital publishing, a complete non-starter, because PDF is more like paper than text. Submitting in MS Word is much easier. It's a royal pain in the ass, especially since the MS Word document is essentially a consumable, and is thrown away as soon as the publisher goes to typesetting. It means that page proof edits have to be done by hand, and that second editions often don't capture all the page proof corrections, because those corrections never go into the word document unless the author does it, but that's also time consuming, because the author has to not only incorporate the page proof edits, but all of the copyedits as well.

      The whole thing is a monumental waste of everybody's time—if it were possible to do all the edits to the same document, throughout the life of the book, it would be much more efficient. Style-sheet-oriented HTML is actually a better choice than Word, but nobody uses it because there isn't a good HTML editor that does change control.

      • by fluffy99 (870997) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @05:14PM (#45110497)

        Both Word and HTML suck for physical publishing purposes, as neither truly describes a page layout. Anyone who's been frustrated by paragraphs suddenly flowing over a page break, or tried to view html on different browsers has experienced that problem. Sending the publisher a Word doc gives you no guarantee that why you get back looks like what you had on your screen. PDF and PS at least nail down the exact page layout.

        There are great uses for flexible standards like ebook format, because they aren't restricted to a particular page layout. Ebooks can flow to the readers screen size and whatever font size they picked. PDFs suck for digital books because they don't reflow.

        • by mellon (7048) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @09:16PM (#45111553) Homepage

          The situation in publishing is very different than what you're imagining. Word is just how the text gets edited up to the point where page production starts. Then the whole thing is converted to InDesign or QuarkExpress. The reason to use Word is actually just because it's convenient and supports change tracking and reviewing, so it's convenient for communicating copy edits and dev edits to the author, and allows the author to accept or reject changes proposed by the copy editor.

          What would be better would be a common document format that is used by the tool authors use, the tool copy editors use (probably the same tool) and the tool designers use. The designers would simply style the text for a specific page layout, which avoids the issues you're talking about. Significant edits after layout would still break the layout, but that's something the designers have to deal with during the final edit of the page proofs anyway.

          The problem is that neither Microsoft nor Adobe is at all interested in an open format for their tools, for reasons Stross explains pretty well in his article. And since there is no competing tool that _does_ provide this functionality, the situation persists. What Charlie is complaining about now is what I was complaining about in 1997 when I co-wrote the DHCP Handbook. I find it amazing that nobody has successfully broken this deadlock, despite all the changes in the publishing industry since 1997 (it was actually old news even in 1997).

          Anyway, the reason I mention HTML as a good format is that if the tools supported it, it could literally carry through all the way from the author to the final electronic book. Any shared format would work; HTML just happens to be insanely popular and widely used, which is what makes it (IMHO) the right choice.

      • Submitting in MS Word is much easier.

        For whom? Not the guy writing a book on Linux...

    • by jfengel (409917) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:40PM (#45110319) Homepage Journal

      Most major publishers want to format it themselves. They've got professionals for that, and software designed for page layout. (NOT Microsoft Word.)

      The effort you put into formatting it is a waste. Let the pros do what they do best. You do what you do best, generate the content.

      The real issue here isn't the publishers, but businesses of all sorts, wherever documents are passed around for editing by multiple people. It would be great if those processes could avoid formatting issues, at least until the content is set, but they rarely do. So they need a format that everybody can mess with. Right now, that pretty much universally means Word. PDF won't cut it, since you can't edit it. ODF and other formats are just as good (i.e. pretty crappy, actually) but MS has pride of place: everybody else is using it and changing to a different standard is a huge hassle.

      • by CRCulver (715279)

        Most major publishers want to format it themselves. They've got professionals for that, and software designed for page layout. (NOT Microsoft Word.)

        What do you mean by "major publishers"? If you mean popular fiction and non-fiction, then sure, the publishers still have it typeset by their team (although quality has gone down since typesetting is often outsourced to Asia). But when it comes to academic publishers like Brill, Harrassowitz or Springer, they increasingly want you to provide a print-ready PDF a

    • Well, Stross is a stauch libertarian, so why doesn't he let the market sort it out instead of whining?

    • by hey! (33014) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @06:15PM (#45110771) Homepage Journal

      Well, I think the reason for this has to do with Word's commenting and revision tracking features, which are convenient as the document is passed around amongst the publisher's editorial staff.

      I used to write fiction using reStructuredText and a literate programming tool. I had a convenient toolchain set up where I could tangle different kinds of documents (outline, chapter, synopsis, alternative scenes) into reStructuredText documents, then convert those into HTML or PDF if plain text wouldn't do. It was a sweet system that didn't get in my way by making me think about formatting (until it was time to generate a manuscript), wasn't subject to file corruption issues, and played well with source control. It met my needs.

      The problem was that it didn't meet the needs of the people I had to collaborate with. Everyone in my writer's group wanted ".doc" files, wanted to return their comments and revision suggestion in ".doc" files too.

      I suspect the reason his publisher wants ".doc" is that they use it just this way, to pass manuscripts around with comments and revisions neatly packaged into a single file. There are other ways of doing this, of course, but then you have to consider that they've got to get *all* their authors to use the same format, or figure out how to convert whatever formats they might receive into word. It's easiest for many to go with "Give me a word file and I'll return a word file."

      For me, formatting didn't matter at all. I've also tried Lyx; I wasn't particularly enamored of it, since I didn't need to write equations or things that had to semantically marked up. All I needed was words on the page, and since I always ended up sending and receiving ".doc" files, I just went to OpenOffice, now LibreOffice.

    • The problem is that people use Word for things it wasn't designed to do. Word is fine for typing short letters, summaries of a meeting, etc. In fact I don't think there's any better tool out there for that particular job. It's easy to use, quick, intuitive compared to the competition and you have a good editor for it on every platform that matters. For typesetting though you should use a typesetting system.
  • should it use control codes, or hierarchical style sheets? In the end, the decree went out: Word should implement both formatting paradigms. Even though they're fundamentally incompatible

    I'm not sure that's true. I keep thinking of different systems that use both style sheets and control codes. HTML does essentially the same thing, so does LaTeX; allowing local edits and style-sheet based edits. How are they fundamentally incompatible?

  • ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sneftel (15416) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:17PM (#45110207)

    Yes, let's enumerate all the structural untidinesses of Word. Let's blame that application -- which held its own, against many, many competitors, not because of a megacorporation strong-arming it (remember, MS was not always a megacorp) but because it was good at doing what users wanted it to do -- for the inelegance of its data model. Let's compare it to SGML, which is so much nicer and easier and so much more elegant if you're a programmer and can appreciate that sort of elegance, and if you're not a programmer, well then for god's sake why are you touching a computer?

    If you want SGML, you know where to download it.

    • Re:ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:51PM (#45110363)

      which held its own, against many, many competitors, not because of a megacorporation strong-arming it (remember, MS was not always a megacorp)

      Actually, that's most likely the reason why it succeeded. 1) MS pushing their OSes through anticompetitive practices (confirmed in court!), 2) MS having intimate knowledge of their own OSes helping them write better apps, 3) customers buying MS Office for various reasons including more hassle-free operation on their PCs, 4) the whole network effect thingy kicking in.

      • Re:ugh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by thegarbz (1787294) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @08:00PM (#45111235)

        1) The OS is not office. The OS was anti-competitive. Internet explorer bundling was anti-competitive. But at the time when this was going on my computer shipped with Word Perfect installed on the Microsoft OS. Even now you typically will *sometimes* get an MS Office TRIAL version unless you expressly pay for Office as well. This is quite different from Windows where you're hard pressed finding a computer without it.

        2) Office never used intimate knowledge of the OS. None of the Office features then and now require any undocumented APIs. About the fanciest thing Office was doing when taking the lead was adding it's document formats to the "File > New" context menu and that is also well documented.

        3) Hassle free operation was the GP's point. Office did what people (not geeks or technical writers but common down to earth folk) wanted it to.

        • Secret APIs (Score:4, Informative)

          by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @03:25AM (#45112797) Homepage

          Microsoft used secret APIs [pcpro.co.uk] to give its programs an advantage over competitors. That had a big effect in the 1990's. It is apparently still going on in some things but we'll have to wait, as usual, a long time before it turns up in court records. And like before, the damage will have been done. The only way to stop it is to stop using M$ products.

          You can find more like that if you wade through the material of the Comes V Microsoft case [groklaw.net] at the now archived Groklaw site. Basically anything bad that has been said about M$ and the people that work there is true.

    • Re:ugh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by houstonbofh (602064) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @05:35PM (#45110599)

      because it was good at doing what users wanted it to do.

      That may be how it got the crown, but that is not how it kept it. The scrappy upstart company is very different from the Microsoft of today. For proof I submit the release of Vista and Win8 with no apology. At least with MS Bob, there was remorse!

    • by dbIII (701233)
      I strongly disagree. MS Word usage did not take off until it was the almost free word processing software that came bundled with the very popular MS Excel.
      • by jbengt (874751)
        I first encountered Word when it came bundled with a new computer (MS used their OS monopoly to influence the PC manufacturers to do that.) Didn't use it much, though, until the place I worked decided they had to switch from WordPerfect because most offices (especially clients) had moved to Word.
  • by sideslash (1865434) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:17PM (#45110209)
    This critic just comes across as whiny to me. I use Microsoft Word to typeset complex multilingual documents, and it works great for my needs. I've occasionally tried to use Scribus and some other OSS tools, and have been blocked by limitations, typically related to non-Latin text handling. Word is also very scriptable from pretty much any programming language via the ActiveX interfaces, which is how I use it.

    If he has a better idea of how to set up a word processor, he didn't see fit to share his thoughts with the rest of us. But serious suggestions only, please. If the author wants Microsoft to make Word more like vi, I think then we'd really see some "loathing both understandable and contagious" from ordinary users.
    • by fluffy99 (870997)

      This critic just comes across as whiny to me.

      Also non-technical. He's a writer who dislikes Word and managed to find a few technical sound-bits to support his argument, but doesn't seem to understand them. For example style sheets require the use of control codes. It's just that the control codes can specify the change directly, or they can refer to the style sheet.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    because Word is the quintessential example an app where you need a large paid development staff with varying skill sets, including many (UI design, usability, localization, QA, end user support, documentation, incorporating specialized features for customers such as law firms, integration with legacy enterprise software...) which historically have not been the strengths of FOSS.

    And here's something that's often overlooked: even if FOSS could put together a team to do this (perhaps with some resources loaned

  • by dryriver (1010635) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:19PM (#45110229)
    ... and since discovering it, I have felt no need to use MS Word for anything anymore. Particularly good about LibreOffice Write? The PDF export function works flawlessly, exports quickly, and also gives control over how the PDF document appears in Acrobat Reader (Zoom level, page order, thumbnails, et cetera). To me, Word has had its day. LibreOffice Write works well, is free, requires no internet-licensing shenanigans and does everything one could expect from a good word processor, including auto spell-checking and thesaurus functionality. My 2 Cents. =)
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:19PM (#45110231)

    My problem with [MS] Word is this: If you have a table as the first item/object in your document and you'd like to type above it, it's impossible to do this! Moving the table lower moves the document margins as well! Solution is to delete it and "reserve" space for text with an invisible text box or type some irrelevant text first, which text you can replace with the text you want.

    It's as pathetic as it is frustrating!

  • Ob WP Post (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:30PM (#45110281) Homepage
    Yes, I still pine for WordPerfect 5.1, and even the early Windows versions.

    Three words: Reveal, Codes, and Acerson.

    With just those you could do damned near anything.

    To this day, likely close to ten years since I stopped using WordPerfect, I still find myself clobbered by strange MS Word formatting edicts, with no obvious way to get rid of them.

    At least with WP you could see why something was weird, and fix it.
  • by Rick Richardson (87058) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:48PM (#45110337) Homepage
    "The last line of a right hand page should not end with a hyphen. This
    has been a style rule for many years, yet it is amazing that most word
    processors do not do this! I just smile when I pick up a book produced
    with something like Frame and you immediately find these errors.
    Needless to say, troff does this correctly, and has for 20+ years. A
    friend commented to me that normal evolution would have gone Word to
    Frame to troff, but instead, the computer industry has gone the other
    way!"

    -W. Richard Stevens, author of 7 popular technical books. [R.I.P.]
    • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @05:42PM (#45110629)

      Gee, I can't imagine why people would use Word over this [sourceforge.net].

      Christ. This article, like so many here at Slashdot, summarizes to: Usability matters. Usability matters A LOT. Open source developers still don't fucking get it.

      Here's a thought: if you want people to stop using Word, why not make something better than Word? Shocking.

  • by dskoll (99328) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:49PM (#45110347)

    I've used Wordstar, Wordstar 2000 (or 3000?), WordPerfect, MS Word, and OpenOffice/LibreOffice writer and they all pretty much suck. Most people misuse them. They don't integrate well with other software. And they produce ugly results.

    I wrote my master's thesis using FrameMaker which was quite a bit better. However, for my current document-production needs, I use LaTeX. I maintain the manuals for my company's software products and we have a great workflow for building the manuals. The same Makefile that builds the software also builds the manuals: PDF versions directly from the LaTeX and HTML versions using htlatex run on the LaTeX sources. Then a post-processor fixes things up so that our HTML documentation is linked context-sensitively from the web pages of our app, and special goodies like embedded training videos are placed in the HTML documentation at the right place.

    The power and control we get from this workflow is unmatched.

  • by mschuyler (197441) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:54PM (#45110381) Homepage Journal

    That about says it. Nobody else cares. I've been using Word since it came on two 5-1/4" floppy disks and included a mouse and used every version since what? 1983 or so? (Before that I used Zardax on an Apple ][ and, of course, WordStar.)

    There's not a damn thing wrong with Microsoft Word. It is quite adequate--superb, even--for 99% of the people 99% of the time. I've written several 300 page books with it, including extensive indices, sidebars, tables, graphs, and pics and it works just fine. No, you can't do EVERYTHING you might want to do with it. And you might actually have to put some time in learning how it works, but ONE thing is CERTAIN:

    It's not going to go away. The chances of it going away are equivalent to the chances the United States will convert to driving on the left. Only the nerds care about the arcane details under the hood.

    Nobody else gives a rip.

    • by Nivag064 (904744) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @06:11PM (#45110751) Homepage

      Hmm...

      My mother, who is 84, finds LibreOffice easier to use than Microsoft Office, and she has Microsoft XP.

      One place I worked had Microsoft Office as standard, but I found the way it presented fonts for selection clumsy & difficult to use, so I installed OpenOffice (this was prior to LibreOffice in 2002) and exported in .doc format with no complaints from anybody receiving my documents.

      Microsoft Office does not come standard on most Linux distributions, and is harder to use.

      LibreOffice is freely available for all major Operating Systems, and also for Microsoft's Operating Systems.

      All Word Processors have problems, and there are things I don't like about LibreOffice - but I still prefer LibreOffice to Microsoft Office, even when I have to use a box with a Microsoft Operating System.

      Microsoft is on the way out, its market share has dropped below 20%. Note that Linux is on over 90 of super computers (the rest are mainly Unix), most mobile phones are either Linux (i.e Android) or Unix (iPhone) based, eBooks are based on Linux, and so are smart TV's. Embedded devices almost invariably use a Linux kernel. Automotive electronic systems are standardising on Linux. The vast majority of computer graphics for special effects in films is done using Linux, with Apple holding the bulk of the balance. If you fly on an A380, the entertainment system runs on Linux. The International Space station converted totally to Linux a month or two back. Note that Valve has found that Linux is the future of gaming. Only on desktops & Laptops, does Microsoft still dominate - but Linux and Apple are eating away at that.

      Linux tends to be a lot more efficient than Microsoft and a lot more secure. Plus it is a lot more configurable, even by mere mortals - and for power users, it generally has more to offer. Companies can bring devices to market with Linux faster than they can with a Microsoft Operating System (due to its Open Source nature and better design), and they can make a profit in a market that is to smaller niche for a Microsoft product to be commercially viable.

      So, even in the United States, I expect that most people will be using Linux or Apple on desktops & laptops within 5 years.

    • There's not a damn thing wrong with Microsoft Word. It is quite adequate--superb, even--for 99% of the people 99% of the time. I've written several 300 page books with it, including extensive indices, sidebars, tables, graphs, and pics and it works just fine.

      Will you hate me if I tell you that you could have created that book in less than half the time with Framemaker, the best publishing application of it's time, damn you Adobe for abandoning it! One major problem with most Microsoft supporters is that they live with such blinders on. "Word is great" is synonymous with "I've only ever worked with Word and now know so many work arounds for all its deficiencies that I'll never change." Word and Excel have so much legacy cruft that I find them mostly unusable. In the words of Larry Wall, simple things should be simple, and hard things should be possible. I can't think of a single Microsoft application that follows that mantra.

  • I don't get it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by asmkm22 (1902712) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @04:59PM (#45110409)

    What exactly makes Word so bad? It seems functional enough, and I fully admit that maybe I'm just not understanding the finer points of some programming strategies, so what's the deal? He obviously hates Microsoft for things like buying up all these focused program adons like spell checkers from other companies, and wrapping them into Word, yet seems to think we'd be better off with somehow managing dozens of such apps if they were still separate companies and programs. He then goes on to act talk about how he hates being forced to use Word when he does just fine with other options... like Vim, of all things.

    He mentions things like control codes and hierarchical style sheets being "fundamentally incompatible" yet the way he describes them they are basically the same thing. He very well may have a point, technically speaking, but he sure does a crappy job of getting it across.

    End the end, the article kind of reminds me of some guy who's bitching about how the automotive industry should have gone with diesel instead of fuel 70 years ago.

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      Word is good for casual word processing, but the cracks show when working on anything large, or where multiple people are working on the same document.

      That said, those people who work on large documents or documents that get edited over a long period of time by different people have lots of tools available that support this (LaTeX, Scrivener, and Framemaker are the big three I see all the time).

      I said it in an earlier post, but word is basically the lowest common denominator. It's a tool that basically does

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Informative)

      by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Saturday October 12, 2013 @09:05PM (#45111517) Homepage

      What exactly makes Word so bad? It seems functional enough, and I fully admit that maybe I'm just not understanding the finer points of some programming strategies, so what's the deal?

      Let's see, just a few off the top of my head:
      - Terrible flow control. It you change page one, have fun tweaking all the rest of the pages to get things to line up.
      - Lack of frame control. In order to create a large document or book with complicated multipage graphs or graphics, you need a strong set of rules for where to break up rows, etc. Not to mention the flow of any text around the frame.
      - Non-organic styles. There is no easy way to change the style of logical parts of the document globally, for example, change the size of the font on the headers of a certain class of tables over all chapters. Or to put it another way, global definitions plus exceptions.

      Word users are just used to the constant re-treaking of pages to make them look right. Just another example of Microsoft office leading to massive wastage of man hours.

  • by rueger (210566) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @05:08PM (#45110469) Homepage
    My number one wish for any word processor, but especially Word, is a switch that says:

    I'm writing a document that will be printed out on paper with black toner.

    At a minimum, I don't want e-mail addresses or URLs changed to blue, or underlined, or hyperlinked.

    My number two wish is a switch that says:

    Anything pasted into this document will adopt the formatting of the line into which it is being pasted.

    I cannot think of a single instance, ever, when I wanted the formatting from some web page to be carried over into my document. My final wish is to find a word processor that assumes, or at least makes really easy to specify, that the Page One Header will not be used on subsequent pages. I don't recall how Word does that these days, but in LibreOffice it involves creating a style just for the first page. Assuming that you've managed to Google the specific forum post that tells you that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My number one wish for any word processor, but especially Word, is a switch that says:

      I'm writing a document that will be printed out on paper with black toner.

      At a minimum, I don't want e-mail addresses or URLs changed to blue, or underlined, or hyperlinked.

      My number two wish is a switch that says:

      Anything pasted into this document will adopt the formatting of the line into which it is being pasted.

      I cannot think of a single instance, ever, when I wanted the formatting from some web page to be carried over into my document.

      My final wish is to find a word processor that assumes, or at least makes really easy to specify, that the Page One Header will not be used on subsequent pages. I don't recall how Word does that these days, but in LibreOffice it involves creating a style just for the first page. Assuming that you've managed to Google the specific forum post that tells you that.

      It is a very difficult and arcane setting. Double click the header. ove your mouse over to the menu that word contextually provided to the top option confusingly named
      "Different First Page" the following steps are optional. Sacrifice a virgin. Chant in Latin. strip naked and roll in bacon grease.

      • It's easier to use section breaks, for a variety of reasons. Of course, that's like saying it's easier to knife off your testicles with a scalpel rather than an axe.

    • 1. Choose Tools > AutoCorrect from the menu. The AutoCorrect dialog box will open.

      2. Select the AutoFormat as You Type Tab.

      3. In the Replace as You Type frame, deselect Internet and Network Paths with Hyperlinks.

      4. Click on OK.

      RTFM

  • by stox (131684) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @05:29PM (#45110573) Homepage

    troff + tbl + eqn

  • It does the job (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tony Isaac (1301187) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @05:36PM (#45110605) Homepage

    Word may have flaws, like every other piece of software ever written. But it does the job. Millions of not-so-computer-savvy people are able to created good-looking documents using it.

    WordPerfect relied on the embedded codes model, but they never did get it completely right. For anything non-trivial, you pretty much had to go down to the code level, hand-placing the codes to make the text render properly. Copy-and-paste across formats was often disastrous.

    Word's model might be conflicted, but it works. There are very few situations where the wysiwyg editor can't get the text to look like what you want.

    If I'm creating a document, I don't really care whether the encoding is HTML or RTF or docx or whatever, I just want it to look right, and Word does that.

  • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @06:19PM (#45110795)

    This is not rocket science if you want Word to die write something better and cheaper the market is willing to accept over word.

    I hear a lot of talk, fancy words but no hint of what would replace it or what could be done to even start to remedy the situation other than clicking your heels and wishing the evil Redmond monster go away. Talk is cheap, real monsters don't go away because you ask them nicely.

  • by Daltorak (122403) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @06:34PM (#45110839)

    First of all, if you're trying to make a statement of how a product must "die" due to transgressions from the 1980s, that's plain ridiculous. Someone who committed a drugs offence during the Reagan administration shouldn't be denied a job opportunity in the fall of 2013. Right? Let's pass judgments in the current state of things, not what we had to deal with 20 years ago.

    Second -- the whole technical argument being made seems to revolve around the idea that mixing "control code" and "style sheets" in a single format is bad. I've got quite a bit of past experience in writing software that builds doc files (the binary ones) and I can state with great certainty that this is NOT how Word works. Everything is a style, whether explicitly or implicitly by combining styles with direct formatting, and every style is able to be (and usually is) inherited from a parent style. You don't have to explicitly define the combined styles, and in more recent versions of Word they've made it much clearer that that's what is happening. (IMO Word 2007 is the first version where they actually got the UI right)

    A lot of people are confused by all this because older versions of Word favoured UI simplicity over structurally beautiful documents. A lot of that has to do with trying to convince WordPerfect users to come over to Word..... anyone remember the complaints that everyone had in the 1990s about how Word didn't have a "Reveal Codes" function like WordPerfect? Yeah, that's because THERE ARE NO CODES like the author of TFA claims.

    Third -- the Word style system is remarkably similar to HTML + CSS. It's hierarchical layout with the ability to override anything at any time. Presentation and content are "ideally" totally separate, and you can certainly work this way in Word if you are disciplined, but nothing at all stops you from saying "yeah I -know- this block of text is 14pt but I want this one word to be 12pt."

    The author also drills pretty hard on the point that the format of Word documents has changed from one version to the next. Well, yeah....they added features like Table Styles and List Styles in Word 2002. Surely nobody is expecting documents that utilize this really helpful feature to older versions of Word..... right? This is no great conspiracy.....it's just a case of adding new features. Switching to the XML-based document format and standardizing the format with Ecma and ISO has definitely helped settle the format down, but if a word processor doesn't support a feature in a newer version of the document format, well.....tough shit. I don't hear anybody bitching about how Firefox 3.6 doesn't fully implement CSS3, accordingly people shouldn't bitch about how Word 2000 doesn't implement features new to Word 2010!

    One last thing: I'm posting this to debunk some mythology and refute the author's claims, but I'm not defending the old-school Office document format....yeah, it was driven by a very 1990s need to be fast on old 286s etc. (same reason Windows 3.0 APIs lacked a lot of bounds checking, BTW) and the format is a proprietary file system unto itself (doc files always come in sizes of multiples of 8192 bytes because that was the size of a block of data regardless of its content). But those times are long gone now. We should have a great appreciation for the people who worked really hard on decoding all this ten years ago and published some good Perl modules on CPAN.... I've read all that source code and it is insane. And we should have an appreciation for those who pushed Microsoft to go "open" with their Office formats. Openness was pushed into Office without users even realizing it, which is good for everyone.

    • by dbIII (701233)

      First of all, if you're trying to make a statement of how a product must "die" due to transgressions from the 1980

      If those transgressions are still there (eg. the way MS Word loses images off the page where you put them) despite the passage of a lot of time then it's a perfectly valid opinion.

  • by cshay (79326) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @10:09PM (#45111813)

    I have crappy memory. I'm not one to remember arcane macros or shortcuts. Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V is as far as I go.

    Never fear - nested menus always helped me find things.

    Now with the Ribbon in Office, first I have to search each of 5 or 6 ribbon views. They aren't grouped very meaningfully so it's basically a linear search. Then if I don't find what I am looking for I am basically stuck, since I can't remember how to find items that aren't on the ribbon, and I can't really search on them, because I am not exactly sure what they are called. So I end up using Word like a glorified notepad.

    The design team that killed the menus on Word (and those kids who are doing the same on browsers) don't realize the damage they are causing end users.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @10:35PM (#45111953)
    *clippy pops up*
    It looks like you're trying to kill me. YOU MUST DIE!
  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @01:59AM (#45112543) Homepage

    The behavior of Word including styles and formatting seems to be the invention from hell - some style templates seems to be as contagious as viruses and you can't ever get anything right as you want it. The number of times I have had to settle for "Good enough" are numerous and can't be counted.

    At least with HTML I can get some control over things, but the downside there is that it costs a lot of time to produce a user-friendly document instead.

  • by Tom (822) on Sunday October 13, 2013 @10:20AM (#45113815) Homepage Journal

    Can Free Software do any better, than to imitate the broken Microsoft model?

    Yes, it could. Unfortunately, it doesn't because some morons have decided that copying is more important than inventing.

    There are a couple of really good and different tools, like LyX. But honestly, the problem with productivity tools like these is that they aren't cool and sexy, so it needs momentum to carry the developers, because the coolness alone doesn't do it.

Parkinson's Law: Work expands to fill the time alloted it.

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