Today I'm in Word Hell; I have to write a two-thousand-word piece for a trade magazine about Business Intelligence, and I have to throw an edit on a big White Paper that a real bright salesperson here wrote. Which means, in effect, that I'm spending the day locked in the embrace of Microsoft Word. Hell Day not because it's Word, but because it's marketing verbiage, pretty well all day. Word, in fact, is actually right up there with Emacs as a tool for heads-down grind-out-the-paragraphs industrial authoring.

The Word Toolbar, all these years later

A parenthetical note; as a long-time user of Unix servers and MS Office, it's a little on the disorienting side to notice the system's running slow, type top or ps at a command line, and see Microsoft Word in the process list. And a nested parenthetical note: on OS X, Word has some sort of semi-busy-wait, as long as it's got a document open, it's chewing away slowly at your CPU.

Anyhow, I first encountered Word circa 1988, on a Macintosh. It was my first exposure to a GUI and to a "WYSIWYG" authoring system. It was a real eye-opener, and some of the basic design goodness (the paragraph marker, what happens when you double-click, the grab-and-drag margins) was already there.

Today, all these years later, Word gets out of the way and lets me type hard and fast, counts my words as I go along, and catches my spelling mistakes and occasional dips into passive voice. If you're working on a legal contract, you pretty well have to use Word because of the really excellent change-tracking facilities. If you're working on something for publication, same story, if only because of the rather good outlining module.

Of course, some of the maddening bugs, the complete inability to do tables sanely, the schizophrenia that happens when you try to place a text box or an image, they're still here as well, all these years later.

Of course, if you're working on something with significant intellectual content that you might want to reuse, and whose life might be comparable to yours, you'd be nuts to lock that content up in any fragile, proprietary, binary, short-lived word-processor file format. That's what XML is for.

author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

February 28, 2003
· Technology (76 more)

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