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Microsoft Word 5.1: The Apex of Word Processing 591

angkor writes "'Word 5.1 is 13 years old in 2004. Many people still swear by it. Powerful features, stable application, without bloat. Nirvana by Microsoft. It's been all downhill from there...' I always thought WordPerfect 5.1 was pretty good as well. I still use it alongside my OfficeXP."
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Microsoft Word 5.1: The Apex of Word Processing

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  • Swear by? (Score:5, Funny)

    by paulhar ( 652995 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:28PM (#9463882)
    or at...
    • vi, or emacs, for that matter.

      Me, I just swear.
      • You could say the same [i.e. "swear at"] vi, or emacs, for that matter.

        Naw -- While it's true that I've sworn at emacs because I didn't know how to get it to do something, and I've sworn at vi for not having a feature I wanted, this is rather different than swearing at Word for not doing what you tell it to do.

        Word is buggy. I knew of exactly 1 serious bug in the original vi (it crashed if a global search/replace pattern wrapped around to the next line), none in vim (maybe I've been lucky), and only minor bugs in the various versions of emacs I've used (not counting the less-used infinite add-ons).

        I'm sure that vi and emacs had more bugs than I personally have seen, but my experience is not unusual -- whereas every heavy user of Word becomes keenly aware of its bugs.

        That's a significant difference. Bill Gates has made explicit statements about his beliefs and policies about bugs in his products; I'm not flaming, so I won't quote him directly here, but I really do think that the attitude reflected in those famous comments has a direct impact on products like Word.

  • Strange... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Psychor ( 603391 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:28PM (#9463885) Homepage
    Odd how people swear by Word 5.1, when all I seem to manage with Word XP is to swear at it.
    • by nocomment ( 239368 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:37PM (#9463984) Homepage Journal
      I'd swear by openoffice, but I'm still waiting for it to finish loading.
    • When I use Windows at work, Word is powerful and pretty nice...if and when it works. It doesn't crash on me, but it does refuse to do what I tell it sometimes; power users get used to doing workarounds, so it's not that big of a deal if you use it every single day -- you memorize its idiosyncracies.

      However, several times I've seen a whole group of Word power users (not clueless lusers) need to given up on a document and start over from scratch -- usually just on little things like the company business plan or 12 month road map (urk). The only workaround each time was to copy/paste the original document text into a new Word file, because Word was hopelessly confused by whatever little magic cookies it had left in the original document.

      I.e. I know it's not just me being confused, I see this happen to everyone who uses Word heavily on big documents, sooner or later.

      To be charitable, this may be the eventual fate of any huge app that grows by accretion from a small program to a hugely enormous giganto app, without being redesigned and recoded and refactored along the way.

      So yeah, Word -- nice when it works, I guess, but it can be quite frustrating other times.

      • by JBv ( 25001 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:53PM (#9464196) Journal
        I've been using word for some years now. It's getting better regarding stability, but it's getting worse in usability. In a vanilla install, I spend just the same amount of time typing as fighting all the inteligent features that crept into new versions.
        • by Cumstien ( 637803 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:39PM (#9464733)
          I agree, why does MS think I want a separate window, bar, or pop up for every action performed on a document. I have spent more time with Office XP hacking the registry and customizing toolbar buttons to avoid their suppossed intelligent features.

          Next their going to introduce different degrees of italics and bold.

          You have selected bold. How bold would you like it today? Please adjust the thickness, shade and sharpness sliders below

          For Christ sakes just give me a solid word processor with out the needless tweaks.
          • by Cromac ( 610264 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @02:33PM (#9465383)
            I have spent more time with Office XP hacking the registry and customizing toolbar buttons to avoid their suppossed intelligent features.

            Did you script the changes you made so the next time, because there's always a next time especially with Windows, you don't have to do it all by hand?

            A simle WSH script to automate those registry changes might save you a bunch of time and headachs next time around.

      • It is the result of a severely obfuscated binary format. I have heard that part of the format is a memory dump of Word.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:20PM (#9464512)
          (Posting anon for a reason...)

          I work for a company that has signed the "Embrace and Extend" code visibility agreement. Granted I don't have "clearence" to ALL of the code, what I have seen of Word, your statement SEEMS only kinda true. It's not a "memory dump", I'd call it what looks like a ptrace. It's more only what was the last thing ask for before it dumpped, is what it seems. This SEEMS *NOT* what actually crashed Word, just what the last thing it was able to do. In other words, the info SEEMS meaningless 90% of the time, yet it SEEMS to be stored anyway.

          I brought this up once and I was told that since the company has decided on Word as it's document editor, the "execptions" were considered "normal operation" of the appliction...

          Disclaimer, I'm not a code genious, but, when the last process call SEEMS TO BE the only one recorded...

          Also, I don't think I'm breaking any code release agreements since I have not pasted any code, nor made any specific or exact comments to what the code does. I also do not (currently) work on any OSS projects. Take from this what you will. I put in the disclaimers for a reason.
      • by XeRXeS-TCN ( 788834 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:01PM (#9464289)

        At the risk of sounding like a spokesman, if you think OpenOffice takes a while to load up (it *can* be kinda slow at times) or you don't like the various releases of Word, you can always use Abiword [abisource.com].

        It is quite lightweight (only needs a 486 and 16mb of RAM to run) despite looking very similar in style and operation to the latest versions of both OOo and MS Word. It's also compatible with both Word and OOo, and supports many other formats both internally and via plugins, such as WordPerfect etc.

        Personally, I have OOo and Abiword installed, so that I can use Abiword for word processing, and OOo for spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations whenever I need to. I also run Abiword on my old 300MHz laptop, and it runs with no lag whatsoever, unlike when I tried running OOo on it.

      • The only workaround each time was to copy/paste the original document text into a new Word file, because Word was hopelessly confused by whatever little magic cookies it had left in the original document.

        A nice solution: Save as a word HTML file, with all of the little "o" tags left in, then close and re-load it.

        Works surprisingly well, and can even be automated.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:20PM (#9464516)
          The standard workaround is to save to RTF. This format stores all the most common features like pictures, graphics, tables, etc... and is the only way to recover from Word's many situations where you can't even save your work anymore....
      • it does refuse to do what I tell it sometimes
        Ask Clippy. Nicely.
  • asdf (Score:5, Funny)

    by professorhojo ( 686761 ) * on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:29PM (#9463889)
    I gave up on word the day I clicked on a menu and an hourglass appeared. :(
  • 5.1 for Mac (Score:5, Informative)

    by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:29PM (#9463894) Homepage Journal
    In case anyone's confused (since Word for Windows jumped from Word 2 to Word 6 without any inbetween versions - take that Slackware!), this article is about Word 5.1 for Mac.

    There was probably a DOS Word 5 too.

    • Re:5.1 for Mac (Score:5, Informative)

      by iocat ( 572367 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:37PM (#9463985) Homepage Journal
      Word 5.1 was ok for a Microsoft product, but serious Mac word processors always used the blisteringly fast WriteNow [macease.com] (originally by T/Maker, later published by TLC). It was done in 68000 assembly and originally started as an Apple funded project which was a hedge against the possibility that MacWrite might not get done in time for the Macintosh launch.

      In addition to the fastest word count ever seen (essential if you're a journalist), it also came with really well written and funny manuals. Even emulated on the first PowerMacs, it ran circles around WORD and had great line spacing abilities (essential if you're a student trying to hit a page count).

      • WriteNow was great, and I still have a copy on my OS X machine. (Backward compatibility -- check.)

        WN was also specifically optimized for the pre-PPC chip, and its speed advantage wasn't as amazing when that change happened. Emulated it was okay, but not wow! great. Still a lean, purpose-driven little WP, but it wasn't the quickest-feeling-WP-ever any more.

        I dunno, though, whether WriteNow was Word's equal with stuff like Mail Merge and tables. Those two features, in Word 5.1a-era when you still had real

      • Re:5.1 for Mac (Score:4, Informative)

        by hawkfish ( 8978 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:56PM (#9464958) Homepage
        WriteNow was written by Heidi Rozen's company. IIRC, the company was made up of all the female Macintosh engineers of the time who were both competent and attractive. The reason was supposedly that Heidi (quite a looker herself) had created an environment where they could just be engineers without having to worry about being constantly hit upon at work.
    • Re:5.1 for Mac (Score:5, Informative)

      by innocent_white_lamb ( 151825 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @03:19PM (#9465855)
      Microsoft Word for DOS 5.5a is available for free download from Microsoft here. [microsoft.com]

      To install run "wd55_ben -d" after downloading, then run setup.exe

      No, I have no idea why it's available for free download, but there it is,
      free for all comers apparently.
  • by Pxtl ( 151020 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:30PM (#9463896) Homepage
    WP peaked at 5.1, Word peaked at 5.1 - any other products for which 5.1 was the magic version number?
  • fact (Score:5, Funny)

    by Barbarian ( 9467 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:31PM (#9463916)
    MS Word jumped from like 2.0 to 5.1 to "catch up" with Wordperfect.
  • Spell check (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JPriest ( 547211 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:31PM (#9463917) Homepage
    The only one feature I use in MS Office or OpenOffice on my home desktop is spell check. The main problem I have with OO.o being slow to start is that I am never using it for longer than 5 seconds. If I had an ASCII gedit or notepad (spellpad) with spell check I wouldn't even need an office suite on my home desktop.

    Sure many people use them for more then that, but you might be suprised how many don't

  • WordPerfect 5.1 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:31PM (#9463924) Homepage
    I have a friend, an attorney, who swears by Word Perfect 5.1 for DOS. He runs it in a dos box and uses Ghostscript and redirection to convert to PDFs and fax.

    I prefer the document coding that they switched to with 6 -- splitting the font size from font selection codes.

    • Re:WordPerfect 5.1 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Goo.cc ( 687626 ) *
      Dude, I still use DBase IV. Sometimes you just have to still with what works.
    • Re:WordPerfect 5.1 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kin_korn_karn ( 466864 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:45PM (#9464097) Homepage
      This is common in the legal profession. WordPerfect somehow became the standard there, while Word took over everywhere else.

      • Re:WordPerfect 5.1 (Score:3, Informative)

        by fons ( 190526 )
        A lot of accounting and file-management software in this profession is heavily integrated with Wordperfect 5.1 (and Novell). This software is also VERY expensive. So why buy the new version if the old one works great.
      • Re:WordPerfect 5.1 (Score:3, Interesting)

        by josquin00 ( 675292 )
        The legal team for a former employer of mine claimed that WordPerfect has a far better redlining system. If you've worked with a laywer, they live and die by redlining.
        • Re:WordPerfect 5.1 (Score:5, Informative)

          by kalidasa ( 577403 ) * on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:42PM (#9464782) Journal

          Having worked with redlining myself (not for an attorney, but for a publications department that needed it), I can confirm that. To this day, it's much easier to mark the margins of a highlighted paragraph with asterisks and the like in WordPerfect (just a format attributed) than Word (text box).

          There are other things in WordPerfect that are helpful to attorneys, too. It's a shame that every version of WordPerfect since 8.0 has s*&^ed.

      • Re:WordPerfect 5.1 (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pknoll ( 215959 )
        This is common in the legal profession. WordPerfect somehow became the standard there, while Word took over everywhere else.

        That "somehow" was: WordPerfect deliberately included specific features that were helpful/necessary to the production of legal documents. Word (at the time) didn't.

        WordPerfect also heavily courted the medical industry the same way, but to a lesser degree of success.

    • Re:WordPerfect 5.1 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by angkor ( 173812 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:13PM (#9464428)
      Yes, I still use the macros in WordPerfect 5.1 to manipulate all kinds of text. While not intuitive, once you learned the controls you could write macros as fast as you could think them.
      When they went to WordPerfect 6 it was a Word-like (non-DOS box) like interface and they changed all the key combination shortcuts driving existing users crazy. Eventually they came out with WordPerfect 5.2 which had many of the improvements of 6 (like cutting and pasting between macro windows), but kept the 5.1 interface. I've been looking for 5.2 for years, but can't find a copy to 'update' my nearly 15 year old copy of 5.1!
  • It's true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs@nOspam.ajs.com> on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:33PM (#9463940) Homepage Journal
    By the low standards that we have set today, old versions of Word are very nice.

    Time for some band of grad students to start putting together the next generation tool that takes the bad new features out of word processing, makes the good new features more smoothly integrated with the rest and more efficient and finally that re-learns from modern users what a word-processor is for.

    That last is HARD. Word processors use to be used strictly to produce documents which would be printed. Today the primary use is for producing text documents that will be sent to others electronically that may or may not contain complex objects like images, graphs, etc.

    These are different problem domains, but separating out the one from the other and re-solving the problem correctly is never easy.
    • Re:It's true (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'm sure some people swear by it, but like all advances (Word 5.1 up to 2003, CLI to GUI, etc.) it's really more a form of nostalgia than praise.

      This might be true, but Word 5.1 was essentially Feature Complete -- there's nothing that you can do in Word 11 that you can't do just as easily in Word 5.1 running on a 2MB Mac Plus. The style and formatting model is basically identical to the modern versions.

      The only real word-processing advances in the product are real-time spell checking/correction and the e
    • Re:It's true (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )
      "Word processors use to be used strictly to produce documents which would be printed. Today the primary use is for producing text documents that will be sent to others electronically that may or may not contain complex objects like images, graphs, etc."

      It seems to me that this is a big problem in office suite design: We want each application to handle all sorts of media, and so the constituant applications aren't separated in a sensible way.

      I mean, if it's a word processor, let it be for typing. Let it

  • by AKnightCowboy ( 608632 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:33PM (#9463941)
    Personally I really like Microsoft Office 2003 Professional. It gives me the power and flexibility I need without the hassle and incompability of the competitors' solutions.

    /holds up Office box and smiles

    "Microsoft Office 2003 Professional, Where do you want to go today?"

  • As a casual user, I simply cannot live without the ability to insert MediaPlayer G2 controls into my correspondence... therefore 5.1 will not work for me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:34PM (#9463963)

    For people who can't handle \LaTeX

    • by GuyMannDude ( 574364 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:55PM (#9464216) Journal

      For people who can't handle \LaTeX

      Yes and no. I love LaTeX but I really can't justify using it. I do contract work for the government and have to supply them with reports and briefings (my research is my "product"). The contracts are now specifying that the reports must be in Microsoft Word and the briefings in Powerpoint. I used to give out PDFs because I didn't like the idea of people cut-and-pasting from my work. Or -- worse yet -- changing parts of my documents or getting access to the notorious, hidden 'metadata' in Microsoft Office products. But I really don't have a choice anymore -- I MUST supply my work in Microsoft-propritary format. So LaTeX is out for me.

      It's really depressing that the government is requiring me to use Microsoft products when the government found that some company guilty of using illegal monopoly powers. It's just another instance of one hand of the government not knowing (or caring, to be more accurate) what the others are doing.

      Instead of laughing or sneering at those of us who are using Microsoft products instead of LaTeX, please consider pitying us instead.


  • by MemoryDragon ( 544441 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:35PM (#9463974)
    Word 5.1 did not have clippy... the most important thing which was ever integrated into a word processor.
  • by stinkyfingers ( 588428 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:36PM (#9463979)
    The best word processor ever created for a Mac was written by Microsoft? What's the I see outside my office window?

    Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria!!!!!!

  • Not Just Word (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cmacb ( 547347 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:38PM (#9463999) Homepage Journal
    Same goes for the whole office suite doesn't it?

    Wasn't it possible back then to create a Powerpoint presentation that would run standalone from a floppy disk (that is, Powerpoint didn't have to be installed on the target machine)?

    I know most people carry their presentations with them on a laptop these days, but I always thought it was handy to be able to use on-site equipment if only as a backup. Now this notion only works if you install Powerpoint everywhere.

    Nevermind, I answered my own question.
    • Re:Not Just Word (Score:5, Informative)

      by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:59PM (#9464266)
      Have you actually ever even installed Powerpoint???

      There is an option you can install called pack-and-go. It makes a little executable file which will show your presentation. No Powerpoint installation needed on the machine used for the presentation. It's been in every version of powerpoint I can remember using.

    • Re:Not Just Word (Score:3, Informative)

      by rune.w ( 720113 )

      Power Point 2003 has a feature now that allows you to pack a presentation and burn it directly into a CD (or copy it to a floppy, if it's small enough) so that you don't have to carry around your laptop with you to all places.

      For instance, in my school classes were several people are giving a presentation/seminar on the same day occur quite often. It's always a pain to wait for people to carry down their laptops and plug them to the beamer, specially when it decides to stop working. This usually irrita

  • I remember... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maljin Jolt ( 746064 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:38PM (#9464009) Journal
    A nightmare of configuring printer drivers hell in DOS Word. And that I had to burn a new EPROM in printer to support a native language characters in hardware.
  • by Verity_Crux ( 523278 ) <notacommie&gmail,com> on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:39PM (#9464013)
    WordPerfect allows a simultaneous left and right align on the same line of text. Do you know how many school papers start out with a title on the left and my name on the right? That feature alone has kept me loyal to WordPerfect for twelve years. Of course, the 'Reveal Codes' feature is da bomb. It's a good mix between WYSIWYG and the bit twiddling word processors. I don't know how the average programmer can do without it.
    • by Chris Pimlott ( 16212 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:59PM (#9464271)
      You can do this with most word processors, by using tabs. What you do is set a tab on the right side of the page, then modify it to be a right-aligned tab. When you tab over to it, your text will be right-aligned to the tab line. This works both in OpenOffice and Microsoft Word.
  • Bloat (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Goo.cc ( 687626 ) * on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:39PM (#9464015)
    This may be the one problem with commercial software: bloat due to features added for the sake of a new version to sell. I guess bug and security fixes just aren't sexy enough.
  • When I was in college it was common to purchase Wrod 6.0 and then pay a $100 downgrade fee in order to obtain Word 5.1a. Of course this was on the Mac, and 6.0 was an abomination on the Mac since it was an oddball port of the Windows version.
  • Gramatica (Score:5, Informative)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:41PM (#9464038)
    Gramatica is THE best grammar checker I have ever used. It was written by a couple of PhD's in English who happened to get into computer science fairly early on. The triviality and incorrectness of Word's current grammar checker is appalling since Gramatica did a MUCH better job 10 years ago.
  • Eh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:42PM (#9464055) Homepage
    I'm sure some people swear by it, but like all advances (Word 5.1 up to 2003, CLI to GUI, etc.) it's really more a form of nostalgia than praise.

    For example, I recently tried to pawn off an older PC with an old Linux distribution to my little brother. It had everything most people would need: a word processor, a web browser, etc. However, the word processor didn't do mail merges (something he needed for a class), the browser didn't support Flash, etc. To me, it was functional. To him, it was "broken".

    I agree that a simple GUI is great for some people, but it isn't for everything. If there was honestly nothing that could be improved since the early versions of word processors, no one would be buying the Office/Appleworks/Corel Office applications of today.

    The fact that I had a secretary recently freak out because the CEO's name wasn't highlighted in Word and automatically showed his meeting schedule (Smart Tags), shows that people generally get used to what they're using. That's what most people reminisice about.
  • WordPerfect 5 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pinkUZI ( 515787 ) <slashdot.7.jmasker@spamgour m e t .com> on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:42PM (#9464059) Homepage Journal
    For it's brief mention in your comment, WordPerfect 5 is much more sworn by today and enjoyed much more widespread use than Word 5. Those were the golden days - while WP was still king and before everyone switched to the word processor put out by that operating system company, what was it? - Microsoft?

    Another thing worth mentioning is that was in the day's before suites really took off - when generally you bought a word processor by itself. Not packaged with a bunch of stuff you rarely used and matched with a bloated price. You would also buy the spreadsheet software separately and it was not uncommon to use products from two different vendors as standards - for example, WordPerfect and Lotus 123 were common standards.
  • Vigor? (Score:3, Funny)

    by lintux ( 125434 ) <slashdot@wilmer.gaas t . n et> on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:44PM (#9464079) Homepage
    and menus responded with vigor

    Vigor? Word 5.1 had Clippy already? That's impressive! (Screenshot [sourceforge.net] / Home page [sf.net])
  • by KillerCow ( 213458 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:44PM (#9464084)
    I always preferred WordPerfect to Word.

    WordPerfect 5.1 was a god-send for its time. 6 was okay, 7 was a dog, but it was all fixed in 8. WP has continued on steadily, but hasn't bloated since 8. WP 10 (which I currently use) has some great new features (print to PDF), but it's basically the same as 8. The file format is even compatible all the way back to WP 6.

    IMHO, WP 8 was an awesome product. It just worked. There were no constant layout glitches, I never had to fight it to get what I wanted, the interface was clean, there were well-know hot-keys for just about everything, and most of all, its system requirements didn't increase significantly at each release. It runs smooth and fast. And it was significantly cheaper than Word.

    -- This post spellchecked by WordPerfect 10 --

  • WordPerfect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by frank249 ( 100528 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:49PM (#9464150)
    I have to use MS Word at work but I use WordPerfect 11 at home when I need to get real work done. WP lets me format a document the way I want to as opposed to Word where you have to do what Word thinks is best. If ever I have a problem with formatting in WP I just open Reveal Codes and fix it as opposed to spending an hour fighting with Word. Lots of other bonuses now in WP such as the built in dictionary and publish to pdf. Too bad that Corel let Paul Allen and Vector steal the company last year. There is no way now that they will ever sell the company to someone who could really threaten MS Word's monopoly.
  • by kinema ( 630983 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:53PM (#9464194)
    I always preferred WordPerfect 5.1. If you need a more then capable yet amazingly functional and easy to use word processor look no further then WordPerfect 5.1. WP51 in my opinion is still king of the word processors.
  • by mst76 ( 629405 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:54PM (#9464204)
    It takes considerable more time to learn (La)TeX than a wordprocessor, but the results are well worth it if you want publication quality print. PC wordprocessors are the logical evolution of typewriters, TeX (and Framemaker, InDesign, Quark, etc.) is an evolution of typesetting.

    Typesetting was/is a separate skill from writing. In the old days, an author would type or write a manuscript and send it to the publisher, who had professionals to design and typeset the results. Nobody would think of publishing the output of their typewriters, since it looked awful. That's also how the original PC wordprocessors were used: to type manuscripts, letters and memos. A lot of authors seem to think that they are also typesetters, writing whole books in Word, thinking it is ready for publication.

    One of the most obvious indications of the heritage of wordprocessors is the Underline toolbutton alongside Bold and Italic. Traditionally, underline almost never appeared in print. Typewriters, however, used them extensively since they had no Italic.
  • by BRSQUIRRL ( 69271 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @12:55PM (#9464212)
    ...an abandonware challenge for the ever-resourceful Slashdot crowd. I'm sure that major mod-points await someone who can post a link to a download of Word 5.1 (preferably one that runs on Windows). :)
  • by nlinecomputers ( 602059 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:00PM (#9464279)
    Once you have crafted a perfect product that most of the market is now using how to you generate more sales? For software engineers can perfection be to good?
  • by CFBMoo1 ( 157453 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:07PM (#9464357) Homepage
    Geek 1: EMACS!
    Geek 2: VI!
    Geek 1: EMACS!
    Geek 2: VI!
    Geek 3: Oohh Word 5.1!
    *Geek 1 and Geek 2 give the look of death to Geek 3. Large heavy objects suddenly get propelled at Geek 3.*
    Geek 1: EMACS!
    Geek 2: VI!
    Geek 3: Vi'macs.... *WHUMP as he passes out from a concusion*
  • Flamewar start (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TuringTest ( 533084 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:11PM (#9464392) Journal
    This should send a message to all open source developers that feature bloat is not at all an indicator of better software. It is best to have a right, balanced set of features with well chosen defaults and, only when possible, easy extensibility.

    And configurability is NOT a good thing to have in software; interaction should be designed according to cognitive principles. When the interface is designed to assist the human mental resources, it is easier and better to retrain that to configure the interface to old habits. Hear, KDE?
  • Simple Things (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DrVomact ( 726065 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:27PM (#9464594) Journal
    This is so true--I've long thought that many of the major software applications have passed their peak. Once you have a mature product that performs all the necessary functions for a particular purpose, how do you justify charging obnoxious sums of money for it? --Well, you "improve" it. Then you release the new "improved" version with much fanfare and charge obnoxious amounts of money.

    But the only way you can, with some plausibility, claim that a product is "improved" is by adding new features. Maybe they're features that some small subset of users might conceivably want, but since this is mature software, all the important features are already present. By adding new non-essential features, you make the interface more complex, the product more difficult to learn and use, and introduce new bugs. (Which can be fixed in the next "improved" version.)

    As a result, all the most common applications have grown bloated to the point where they are nearly unusable. Some examples of this are word processors (MS Word), image manipulation software (Photoshop), and CD burning software.

    The other day, I wanted to burn a CD. I just wanted to put some photos on the darn thing and give it to my daughter. Turned out that my last CD software was locked to work only with the drive it came with, and the new (ultra cheap OEM) CD/DVD drive I bought didn't come with software. So I looked around for a package that would do what I wanted: burn a CD. I found packages that cost over $60 (Roxio and Nero), claimed to do everything but massage my gluteus maximus, and got horrible user reviews. Indeed, lots of people said that the previous releases of both these packages were better than the new "improved" version! --But of course, the previous release was no longer to be had. I finally found a place on the web that sells old software, and got an early OEM copy of Nero for $5 or so. Works great--it puts stuff on CDs.

    Word processors are the worst of the lot, I think. I once used an early version of Word that ran under DOS and that did everything I wanted--in fact, I used it in my job: tech writing. That version of Word (whatever it was) didn't need more features--it just needed cleaning up. (Better interface, more intuitive use of stylesheets--ditch the concept of style inheritance.)

    Remember MacWrite? It was a Word processor that you could give your 8 year old, with the reasonable expectation that she would be up and running with it in a few hours. Yeah, MacWrite could have used one or two features--such as the notion of paragraph formatting, page templates and a style catalog, but it was beautifully simple and did what it was supposed to do.

    I've fantasized about the notion of starting a company that produces simple software--simple useable versions of the applications that drive everyone nuts. But I quickly realized why that can't be done: if you make simple software, then you'll get sued, since everything that's useful and simple has been patented.

  • It's so true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wazzzup ( 172351 ) <astromac@fas[ ]il.fm ['tma' in gap]> on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:29PM (#9464614)
    I remember using Word 5.1 on a daily basis when I interned at the Ohio House of Representatives. It was truly brain-dead easy to use, simple, streamlined and elegant. If I were one of the smaller, Mac-only word processor vendors (Mellel, Mariner Write, Nisus) I would target the Word 5.1 feature set and look-and-feel as a goal to meet. I've tried all of the above, and while quite good, they all missed the target one way or the other by missing basic features, or missing the mark with simplicity or workflow. I think MS, and OpenOffice are to far gone in the bloaty slow space to ever return a word processor that rivals Word 5.1.

    This article is proof enough that Word 5.1 should be their target. If you build it, they will come.

    Did anybody else out there like WordPerfect for the Mac? That was my second-favorite word processor ever.
  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:35PM (#9464676)

    I used to hear people say things like "Track Changes?!? Nobody would ever use that!"

    Well, if you need to send documents around for review, Track Changes absolutely ROCKS. If you write technical documentation, it's foolish not to use it (yeah, I know, I used to think that too; just try it and see ...).

    So this leads me to believe that all kinds of stuff I scratch my head at (when I see it in the menus) is making somebody else's day go much easier that it otherwise would. Just because I don't use it doesn't mean that it is bloat.

    • by DrVomact ( 726065 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @02:48PM (#9465553) Journal
      Write tech documents with Word? One of my current job responsibilities is to maintain a 2,500 page document. Would you use Word for this? I'd prefer to use an application that does one thing well--in this case, FrameMaker--than one that keeps track of my boss' calendar.

      I haven't checked lately, but Word used to crash regularly on manuals that exceeded 200 pages, never did a good index, and couldn't handle multiple chapters in separate files. You'd think they'd fix this stuff before they added frills. (I'd be surprised, but maybe they did...I never do real work with Word anymore.)

      For me, the most loathsome feature of Word is style inheritance. Unless you are really good at designing Word styles (and who is?), you wind up with a bunch of styles that are mutually related in some mysterious way so that when you make a little change to one style, another style suddenly morphs into Greek, or all your numbered lists turn to bullets. I hear people mention this phenomenon frequently, but they usually think that word processors are supposed to act like this.

    • by Noksagt ( 69097 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @03:53PM (#9466315) Homepage
      Well, if you need to send documents around for review, Track Changes absolutely ROCKS.

      Yes and no--it rocks for those who would be intimidated running cvs or diff or using any utility that isn't integrated in their authoring software. This is what makes me use word from time to time--my collaborators can't figure out the better ways to do things.

      It is really poor for version control. It is also poor if you ant to submit to multiple people, all who should be able to make changes.

      There are some great LaTeX IDEs out there that I have convinced peers to use. If they came integrated with better change control management, there really wouldn't be any reason for me to use a word processor.
  • Microsoft Publisher (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zone-MR ( 631588 ) * <slashdotNO@SPAMzone-mr.net> on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:40PM (#9464755) Homepage
    I've used MS Publisher ever since 1997, and I've always loved it. Publisher lets me lay out the page the way I want it, whereas formatting is often a struggle with Word.

    I wonder why Publisher and Word are still seperate products, seeing how Publisher could trivially be improved to become a great Word proccessor in addition to a DTP package.
  • by mblase ( 200735 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @01:56PM (#9464964)
    I don't word-process very much, but for Mac users there is one great option available for "I just want to write" types: Mellel [redlers.com]. It's got tables, styles, footnotes/endnotes, and multilingual support -- all the power features "normal people" use in Word and none of the chrome. All for under thirty bucks, which is a darned good value and (I'm sure) an improvement on Word 5.1 by any measure.
  • by MORTAR_COMBAT! ( 589963 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @02:04PM (#9465073)
    MS Works on Windows 3.1.1 was my personal document program of choice in the PC world. Of course, Claris Works on the Mac kicked its ass by leaps and bounds, but I only had access to that at school.
  • by melatonin ( 443194 ) on Friday June 18, 2004 @03:36PM (#9466085)

    As someone else mentioned, the Word 5.1 people are talking about is the Mac version.

    However, Word 4.0 for the Mac was way better than Word 5; the problem was that it as attached to technology that was not modern enough. It was designed for System 6 (OS releases were called System [1-7.5]) and it wasn't ready for Truetype (my biggest gripe). It limited fonts to 127 point size.

    The thing that made it so great though is that it fit on one freaking floppy! I think it used ~300 K of RAM. You could fit Word 4 and the System 6 OS on one floppy and boot from it (800K floppies I think, not 1.4 MB "HD" floppies. Macs didn't have 720K floppies). You could then keep the floppy ejected, and put in the floppy that you save your documents on. Accordingly, the software ran freaking fast. There was another floppy but I can't remember what it had; it was probably the spelling dictionary. Someone else mentioned the speed of WriteNow. WriteNow was written entirely in Motorola 68k assembly language. They got screwed on the move to PPC. I used to laugh at idiots who advocated writing Palm entirely programs in 68k asm, and I was right :) Computers only get faster...

    It did everything I needed Word 5 to do (which is a LOT), and it had a much stronger document formatting model; before Microsoft hacked things like Text Boxes onto the design. It was a lean, mean, long-document writing machine. It didn't include a shit-load of shitty clip-art, a shitty graphics editor, etc. I'm sure Word 5 can do this, but Word 4 also let you include raw Postscript code in your documents to send to the printer. The manual (software came with excellent manuals back then) demonstrated what you could do with Postscript. Macs + Desktop Publishing + Networking + Postscript Printers were standard fare in those days. Speaking of the manual, it was written entirely and formatted (page design, including sidebar captions and diagrams, table of contents, and an index too I think) using Word 4. Word isn't meant to do a project that large anymore. Word 4 would actually keep only parts of the document you were working on in memory, so you could use it on a machine with 512k of RAM. It was the anti-thesis of bloatware. That's why I liked Microsoft back then; it was well engineered software.

    When Word 5 came out, it came in about 10 floppies I think, with an installer that extracted it from compressed files. It also had toolbars that took up precious screen space, when a lot of Macs were 512x384 (that's the resolution of my first Mac LC; I think the normal 9" Macs' resolution was a bit shorter). Someone sent a joke screenshot to Macworld that was a mock-up of Word 10, to be released in 2000 or so (IIRC). It was to be installed from 100 floppies and all the toolbars took up 75% of the screen space. The sad part is, Word 6 (which came on a CD) did just that!

    I remember some industry pundits (and some not-so pundits but just informed people) saying that MS developed their GUI-writing expertise on the Mac, and then used that to bring full-featured applications to Windows when it was ready. For example, Microsoft Excel 1.0 was created for the Mac (~1986). I don't know when the first Windows version came out, but it would have been some time later.

    I also used Word 5 for DOS on a 286 before I got a Mac. It was very, very nice, for a text-based interface. But I was blown away when I bought a Mac and Word 4 for it. I actually bought Word 4 back then (MS wasn't as obviously evil as they are now; I actually liked them back then and the great software of theirs that I had the chance to use, like Word), and it was worth every penny. I got pissed when Word 5 was released 6 months later that addressed the pains I had using Word 4 on System 7, so I thought I'd hold out for Word 6. What a mistake that was :P

    MS actually sold a downgrade for Word 6 customers. You could buy the POS Word 6, and pay more to downgrade to Word 5. I'm not making this up.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"