Word ARRRRGH saga continues

Subject: Word ARRRRGH saga continues
From: "Meyerding, Henry W" <Henry -dot- Meyerding -at- PSS -dot- BOEING -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 06:25:42 -0800

There are Word people and there are not Word people. And never the twain shall meet.

Personally, I write words. Words are important. I'll often write in text (using vi) and make sure my words stand on their own merit before making them pretty with some word processor. No amount of word processing will fix bad prose.

The word processor or desktop publishing software is a tool, an afterthought. It can be a joy to use or it can be a real pain. Personally, I think Word sits pretty squarely between these two options. Many of its functions are great, but no better than offered by its competitors (particularly Star or Applixware), and a lot of its promised but not actually delivered functions are frustrating as hell (see Master pages, et al).

Remember the Azimov line: "there are two kinds of fool in the world - one says 'this is old and therefore good' and the other says, 'this is new and therefore better.'"

Life is a tradeoff. Word's fine for most simple short documents. If you get too long or too complicated, then Word is going to fight you more and more every step of the way - just like any inappropriate tool (just try frosting a cake with a shovel). Go ahead and use Word if that's what the powers that be mandate, until it starts being the problem, and then use something that works better. The best way I have found to turn away from Word, with the blessing of the powers that be, is to thoroughly document my use of the program: how many times it crashed, how much time I've spent tricking it into doing something it didn't want to do, how long I wait for it to repaginate every time I turn around in a long document, and so on.

Of course, Word is a tenant of the Microsoft religion to some people. You can't win with idiots and bigots, regardless whether they agree with you or not. But you can elect to work somewhere else.

I guess I'm a sort of expert in Word - at least there's lots of people who come whining to me about what they can't make it do and I help them out. If my employer knew how much time I (and others) spend helping people use this "easy and intuitive" product more or less correctly, they would certainly have reason to re-evaluate their cost assessment of its use - and that's just the routine use, not disaster recovery.

Henry Meyerding
Senior Technical Writer

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