Microsoft Word is cumbersome, inefficient, and obsolete; it’s time for it to die

“Nearly two decades and several text-handling paradigms ago, I was an editorial assistant at a weekly newspaper, where a few freelancers still submitted their work on typewritten pages,” Tom Scocca writes for Slate.

“Stories would come in over the fax machine. If the printout was clear enough, and if our giant flatbed scanner was in the mood, someone would scan the pages in, a text-recognition program would decipher the letters, and we would comb the resulting electronic file for nonsense and typos,” Scocca writes. “If the scanner wasn’t in the mood, we would prop up the hard copy beside a computer and retype the whole thing. Technology was changing fast, and some people were a few steps slow. You couldn’t blame them, really, but for those of us who were fully in the computer age, those dead-tree sheets meant tedious extra work.”

Scocca writes, “Nowadays, I get the same feeling of dread when I open an email to see a Microsoft Word document attached. Time and effort are about to be wasted cleaning up someone’s archaic habits. A Word file is the story-fax of the early 21st century: cumbersome, inefficient, and a relic of obsolete assumptions about technology. It’s time to give up on Word.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Amen!

And people who are still emailing .doc attachments should be shot. 😉

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How Apple’s iWork.com works – January 07, 2009
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89 Comments

    1. I always send anything and everything in PDF format…

      For the simple reason that you never know what a word doc will look like when someone else pulls it up. PDF’s are nice and clean and always work as intended 🙂

      and of course, iWork to create all my PDF’s 🙂
      I do use excel in bootcamp because there’s simply nothing else that will handle certain engineering functions I need.

      Other than that and a little bit of skyrim, everything is done in Pages, Numbers, or Keynote on the Mac OS X side 🙂

    1. With all their billions, when will Apple add a grammar checker to Pages? Grammar checkers have been around since when the Macintosh was first introduced.

      Grammar checkers aren’t perfect, but they do catch the dumb mistakes – like the ones seen so often in MDN comments.

      1. Our company of ten thousand in the US is preparing to upgrade to Windows 7😖 The sales force got iPads at least, but they are pairing them up with WinXP currently.

      2. The business world is focused on making money and obtaining customers. It seems unlikely that businesses desiring to achieve both the objectives would not be willing to use applications that are bloated, inefficient, and obsolete. I think many of the Apple fanbois here are just expressing their overt hatred of anything not originating from Cupertino and their latent frustrations Microsoft still dominates. It’s a pathetic aversion to anything and anyone not sharing their narrow minded perceptions and beliefs.

  1. Not only .doc/.docx (the new word format)
    But .wmv as well. Hate when I get one of those damn windows media files… At least there are free apps to play them natively on iOS. (I have OPlayer lite, works great)

    Or flash vids… At least more and more sites are putting up HTML 5 stuff along side flash crap.

      1. Amen.

        Talk about the most obscure file format.

        I get them from college students I work with. Then I have to explain that just because it is on every computer on campus, it is on damn few computers in the real world. Then I have to teach them about PDF.

  2. Burn The Witch!!!

    What a stupid article. Give thanks that we have a program that works extremely well, will handle any task you throw at it without a glitch and is reasonably priced. It is the standard. Would I like to see a major upgrade? Something with the WOW facor? Sure. But, personally, I do not see anything wrong with the current version. It is a dependable workhorse.

    That said, if a document does not need editing, send a PDF. But, if there are edits and changes, nothing works better than the working document in Word format.

    Seriously, if there was a better alternative, don’t you think everyone would migrate to it? Jeez…what a bunch of whiners…

    1. “Seriously, if there was a better alternative, don’t you think everyone would migrate to it?”

      No, I do not think that, because most people who use computers are ignorant of the alternatives and/or lazy.

      And there are better alternatives, given a specific task. (And free alternatives as well.) Word is okay at a lot of things, but really good at none of them. And I say this as a Word user since version 3 in 1987. (I’m even quoted in the advertising for one of the versions from the mid-90’s.)

      1. I can appreciate your opinion. People simply don’t think about the words that flow from them. Personally, I think Word is excellent at most of the tasks it is designed to handle. Far better than NeoOffice and Pages.

        1. Actually I think NeoOffice (and the other freebies, Libre Office and Open Office) are WORSE than Word, since they try to fold in a whole office suite into one monolithic beast. At least Microsoft has Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook as separate apps so you don’t have to run them all to do one kind of task.

          And I’ve never been able to wrap my head around how Pages wants me to work. I skipped right from Word for all my word processing to the more focussed little guys like CopyWrite, Jer’s Novel Writer, Z-Write (or was it Z-Writer? I can’t remember) and then finally Scrivener. Thank God for Scrivener. Although for general business writing I still use Word everyday. Version 3 to 14 and every one in between.

          1. Pages is great if you realize it’s two completely different apps which just happen to share the same tools/palettes.

            The word processing templates are separate from and totally incompatible with the layout templates. You have to decide which approach you ‘re going to take before you start a document. Strange, but once you understand that (and I think most users never figure that out), Pages is a great way to build good looking documents.

    2. Yeah, Word is good. I use a pc at work and the 2010 versions of the Office Suite is just so darned confusing. The user interface is atrocious. You just can’t find anything. I’ve been on it for almost a year and still love coming home to my Mac and using Office 2004. 2008 isn’t too bad. But this newer Word is for the insane.

        1. I haven’t ever seen grammar checker do a good job in word, and I used it for 10 years. Haven’t missed it since I switched to iWork. And yes, it is better in the sense that when I send an iWork file to someone else, it doesn’t go crazy and spin itself through a virtual blender to splatter itself on the screen… something that word files are notorious for.

    3. Fully agree with the BTB remark, it is silly to hate just because it comes from MS (though tempting) There is nothing better out there than Word and Excel. Some users may find the lovely Pages and Numbers right for their task and for them this might be great.

      However, the article is about the fact that people use a program to make and send the files in, while they could have just put it in the body of the email. The formatting in most publications differs from the formatting in WOrd anyway so there is no added value in sending it in Word format, or Pages for that matter.

      The sw industry should get their act together and make an email client already that works like it should: Manage the mails nicely like Mail or Outlook AND make sure ther are 2 markups: plain text for just in case and HTML for the rest of the world. The latter should then just work on any browser and not the way Outlook or Mail creates messages, because Outlook does not always get it right and Mail……Mail is just a laugh…..It tries to send out two versions and not one of them contains any sensible formatting code.

    4. Could not agree LESS. I generate complex text documents all day long in my legal practice (pleadings, motions, memoranda, etc.) and there is nothing that holds a candle to Word for doing this. I agree that it can be a dog sometimes and that now and then it crashes, and that there are some antiquated aspects to it, but there is no other program, Pages *especially* included, that meets my technical document production needs like Word.

  3. When I switched to the Mac, I tried leaving the Microsoft flotsam behind, including MS Office. 

    When I ordered my Mac, I ordered it with iWork which was duly installed by Apple. I tried using Pages as my default word processing application but that experiment lasted only a month before I purchased the Office for Mac suite. 

    I received too many documents formatted in Word from co-workers, colleagues and team members. And that’s just collaborative documents circulated within the company. When you add in clients, suppliers, and anyone I interacted with in my work space, there was no choice but to turn to the dark side.

    I’m afraid there’s no escaping Word, no matter how well intentioned you are and no matter how much of a Mac zealot you may be. Windows users outnumber Mac users 10:1, more in a corporate environment, maybe even 20:1. 

    I don’t see third party document applications like Libre Office displacing Word any time soon. It’s just too entrenched in the corporate world.

    1. Libre Office and Open Office (and NeoOffice on the Mac) aren’t any better than MS Office either, other than being free. They are still trying to be everything to everybody, and that kind of “jack-of-all-trades” approach is a dead end in terms of making something better. The solutions to “better” (in my opinion, at least) are smaller, targeted software packages like Scrivener, for word processing or… well, actually Numbers and Keynote are pretty darn good.

      The problem then becomes just a universal file format than any word processor can use that isn’t proprietary, which is what “.odt” was supposed to be before Microsoft tried to coerce the standards people with “.docx”.

    2. If you’re the only one typing, Pages is great. As soon as you add collaborators that use Office, that system goes to shit.

      Powerpoint is by far the worst in terms of transferability. I can’t tell you the number of hours I sunk into cleaning up PPT files to be used in Keynote and vice versa. Track changes in Word is almost as bad – sometimes basic formatting gets wonked and you don’t have to spent too much time correcting that before you just give up and work with Word.

      It’s an unfortunately reality of a collaborative work environment.

      1. That has not been my experience at all. I have many Word-using collaborators. We write complex papers for physical science. I dropped Word years ago, because it just became too cumbersome. I do not know that any of my collaborators ever notice that a paper has major parts made with Pages, or minor edits done in Pages. Formats work, track changes work, export to Word format works. The only thing they might notice (but do not) is that my equation formatting looks better.

      1. Actually, LaTeX is vastly superior to Word for a dissertation (or any book project). Not only is the bib handled better, but the ToC, list of figures, list of tables, index, glossary, in-text references, etc., are all automatic and the typography is much, much better. Figure placement is also automatic and can easily use jpg, eps, or pdf graphic sources easily. Ligatures, kerning, and leading are automatic and correct.

        By the way, LaTeX is free and produces pdf output.

      2. LaTeX?

        Do you use Linux and hack your Android? Did you recently graduate from runoff for your documents?

        Yeah, LaTeX has its place, but not for average mortals. The Mac got the world addicted to WYSIWYG.

        1. I’ve taught freshman to use LaTeX in 2 one-hour sessions with no trouble; it’s easier than Word by quite a bit. And they can use their iPads to do it with TeX Touch (although that’s not free). A high school math teacher just wrote to thank me for teaching her LaTeX — she uses it everyday now to produce really nice looking documents for her students.

      3. Forgot to mention:
        I did a small book in Word in 1988. I have no way to open those files now. Whereas I did the second edition in LaTeX in 1990 which uses txt files — I can still open those and create new pdf’s with no trouble.

          1. I was still using Word 1.0 at the time (MS didn’t release a ‘Word 2.0’ for Macs). My publisher didn’t think it worth the price of the upgrade for a small book project. The files don’t open any more.

          2. Actually it won’t. I have plenty of files from that era; I think Word X was the last version that opened them. Word 2011 won’t open files older than Word 5.1.

            For mine I had to run a Mac emulator (vMac maybe? I can never remember unless I’m doing it) and run System 7 and Word 5.1 within it, save them in Word 5.1, copy them to a virtual floppy which I mounted in Leopard (Snow Leopard and Lion don’t support that format of virtual floppy anymore), then copy them over to my Lion machine to open in Word 2011. Quite a workaround.

  4. And it pisses me off to no end when I come across websites that require IE. Philadelphia’s government sites won’t allow you to do any registration or financial transactions if you aren’t on IE. And changing the user agent in Safari to IE doesn’t work either.

    1. And FINRA, the bureaucracy that oversees securities Broker/Dealers, requires IE to input data to their site, and we are forced to do so daily. It’s maddening. Another of their sites won’t work with Safari, so I had to switch to Firefox for that one. Took a while to figure out that Safari was the reason for my troubles. When I got tech support on the phone, and he told me to use Firefox, I said, “Oh, so FINRA doesn’t use standards compliant Internet software.” He replied, “Well, if you want to be snippy about it.” Yeah, I do.

    2. i have the same problem here.
      I can’t pay my bill online with the city cause it also requires IE. resulting in the ONLY bill I either can’t pay online or setup as autopay.
      So when I get the bill saying they will shut my water off in the next 10 days.. I take the trip downtown and pay it in person cause I have to. They don’t charge late fees until they actually shut the water off.. So I go down there and bitch at them everytime.

      Now firefox, with the ie tab addon will get through.. But they didn’t like the email address I was giving them. (from my domain before I shut it down 2 years ago) they wanted a “valid” Internet domain email, then give exames like hotmail, aol, and concast etc.

      I just won’t do it out of spite. Hate places that cater to MS only crap. Hell even MS itself allows safari..

      Try doing it Firefox though, it just might go through. But I think I did this on Firefox 4/5 not the version 1579.98 they are up to now lol.

  5. I have to disagree……… I am a Mac user bar none, but .doc is a standard and makes life easier. When you have .doc, .pages, .wpd, etc. Its a mess!

    Office has the majority of marketshare and .doc is a standard and works just fine. Makes life alot easier in the IT world.

    Sorry but its the truth!

    1. I’m as big a cheerleader as there is, but when you’re right, you’re right. If I could get 90% of my office and clients to use Pages, I’d be set. Unfortunately, that won’t happen in my lifetime.

    2. … a copy of any MSFT product. Including Word. About everything the author said about Word is correct.
      But some people need it. Rather, some people need something like it. Pages is great, but it can’t handle a LOT of the work Word is needed for. A few changes and much of that would clear up. But not all.
      Businesses – be they Enterprise, Law Office, Engineering Office or Publisher – need a big, bloated word processor to get the job done. Many SOHOs and schools, though, can get by quite well with Pages. For some, even Pages is painfully bloated! But, Pages is only, what? 90%?, compatible with Word.
      Yes. I’m suggesting two levels of text processors, one complex enough for maybe 90% of all documents and the other for maybe 50% of them. Interchangeable file systems.
      The Word code would, essentially, have to be junked and re-written. MSFT would hate that.

        1. thief, at least you should steal something worth the degradation. Steal Word? After I just said that the code needs to be junked? Have you no pride, sir?
          Besides, I don’t need it. Pages is more than enough for my needs. That word … “needs” … is one so many Word users need to learn. If they are going to overspend, or steal, you really ought to know why.

  6. So many versions of Word and so many OS’es that almost everyone I know has some story of not being able to open a Word file and that mainly is Windows to Windows users with Mac at least being able to open most everything.

  7. Word sucks and so does Powerpoint but Outlooks sucks the most of all. When I first tried it when 2011 came out, I thought wow…slicker’n snot. But then after the first update…voila…back to being a crap program. Unstable. Word itself has a zillion features I will never use and it is also unstable and unexpectedly quits at the worst time. And no, its not my computer, I use a number of different Macs with different installations of Word. Word is crap but unfortunately, it is the crap I have to use at work.

    1. im forced to use outlook at work.

      Outlook XP…. On windows XP.
      They were so happy to intro a IM program windows communicator 2007 last year!

      Nobody uses it, and what’s even worse.. It’s not even updated for the 2007 version lol. There are two more patches MS released after the one we use, sad.

  8. MS Word is now too big to learn. And too troublesome if you don’t. I’ve had the better part of twenty years learning it and what I now see are documents where even the most basic features (‘styles’ as an example) aren’t used. One document that I edited went from > 43 Mb and incredible instability to under 2 Mb by the time I was done. And wow is the PC version ever slow.
    Basically, I’ve abandoned Word (and Excel and PowerPoint); iWorks does it all – elegantly – across my iPhone, iPad and Air.

  9. The biggest problem with Word that I have experienced is that in word, there is a ‘right’ way to do things, and a ‘wrong’ way to do things. If you know the ‘right’ way then page layout and editing is a breeze.

    The problem is that you have an army of people who do it the ‘wrong’ way and if you work on documents from other people you know what I’m talking about! Oh Billy didn’t insert a TOC, he manually typed one! No wonder none of the pages are hyperlinked in the TOC and all the chapters are missing anchors! argh! WTF!

    I think for what Word does its great. It is MS and users trying to shoehorn word into other roles that creates problems.

    I wouldn’t use Word for doing documents I was going to put on the web, just as I wouldn’t use excel for writing a novel.

    Use the right tool for the job!

  10. I should add that Excel is really the shining light in the Office Suite. I could live and in some cases thrive with the alternatives to word, PowerPoint and outlook but Excel has no equal in this world.

    Its powerful, fast, and man that beast can handle a lot of data. There is a reason it has taken over the world of data analysis! The 2010 version is the best yet, massive worksheet sizes and Power Pivots have sold me on it. There is no going back and no one makes anything remotely close to it.

    I could live without the rest of office.

    1. @really
      You are too smart to be on this Forum. Way too much logic. Unless you are willing to learn mainstream programs like Libre, LaTeX, Pages, NeoOffice, etc, you are woefully lacking in the full understanding of the arguments presented here. You have lost IQ points simply from your visit.

  11. As a freelance writer for the last 25 years, I have learned the hard way to add 10 to 15 percent to my estimates if the tool used is Word. My authors generally do not have a clue as to how to use styles, templates, auto numbering, or any of the other nefarious tools that the Great Satan (Microsoft) uses to entrap the innocent. Word is evil.

    1. Let me understand…

      You have “authors” who do not understand the fundamental basics of the defacto standard product in their profession. Are these children? What is your hiring process? Perhaps adding a short test to your process might sift out the idiots from the competent.

      1. No, not children just not geeks. Many (maybe most) ‘creative people’ despise geekery (love Macs) and hate Word but have to use it because .doc (or, worse, .docx) files are the standard for swapping and editing.

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