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Commentary
5/24/2006
05:33 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary
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People Use Word Because They Use Word

I've been puzzled as to why people would choose to write in Microsoft Word--or any word processor--if the text they're producing has little or no formatting. Well, I got my answer, and I fear that, alas, it's less interesting than I had hoped: People use what they're used to using. Now you're thinking: Well, duh.

I've been puzzled as to why people would choose to write in Microsoft Word--or any word processor--if the text they're producing has little or no formatting. Well, I got my answer, and I fear that, alas, it's less interesting than I had hoped:

People use what they're used to using.

Now you're thinking: Well, duh.

I started ruminating on this subject yesterday, when blogger John Scalzi posted an enthusiastic first look at the 2007 Office beta and said he was looking forward to writing his first novel on the new version of Word. I scratched my head on that one because writing a novel requires almost no text formatting. Similarly, writing for the Internet also requires almost no text formatting. And I find a text editor ideal for that--all the additional formatting capabilities of Word are just plain distracting.

There's a lot of us writers out there who stay away from word processors, instead preferring text editors that provide little or no formatting. I wondered why there's a split like that--some writers using full-fledged word processors and others using text editors. More than that, I wondered why any writer would use a word processor at all. I find it much easier to just write in a text editor and focus on the text, and then on the rare instance that formatting is required, I import the document into Word to format it.

However, I use a text editor because most of my writing is for the Internet, and the formatting codes that Word uses really mess up Web content. And even when I'm not writing for the Internet, I use a text editor anyway because it's what I'm used to.

Other people write documents that require formatting, and they find that Word, or some other word processor, is the right tool, even if the formatting is pretty light. And they stick with Word even when no formatting is required because that's what they know.

Still other people like to be able to see how a document will look when it's printed out, even as they're creating the document. That doesn't matter to me, but of course different people have different ways of working.

The discussion has been ongoing on Scalzi's blog. It's pretty interesting, touching on usability, word-processing hacks, Scalzi's fiction, other people's fiction, and, of course, Word vs. WordPerfect and Windows vs. Mac religious wars. Check it out.

For more information on 2007 Office:

We've got a new review of Beta 2, posted mere minutes ago. It's so new, the pixels are still wet on this one.

Also:

"Microsoft Posts Bits For Office 2007 Beta 2," "Word 2007 Adds Blog Posting Tool," and, to find alternatives to Microsoft, "Kicking The Microsoft Habit." That last article was controversial, sparking a flame war between Microsoft lovers and Microsoft haters. Whoever could have foreseen that?

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