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Microsoft Software

Time to Kill Microsoft Word? 1017

Allnighterking writes "Apparently the frustration with another Windows Product is starting to reach increasingly visible users. John Dvorak over at ABC News is starting to question if it's time to kill Word With Viable options like Open Office.org available for Windows as well as AbiWord and others. Since they are both using XML as a way to create the documents. Or perhaps dropping a separate application altogether and going with something like X Forms to create a browser based office suite."
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Time to Kill Microsoft Word?

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  • by lothar97 ( 768215 ) * <owen&smigelski,org> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:02AM (#10064344) Homepage Journal
    My biggest frustration with supporting Word users is the ol' "hidden codes" function. You'll be typing away on a document, and suddenly things are being aligned funny, line numbers appear in different areas, page count numbers restart at 1, things cannot be deleted, etc. WordPerfect has a "reveal codes" function which allows you to see the hidden info, and easiy delete the offending code. The answer I give people with this problem? Stop using Word.

    I imagine if there was a "reveal hidden codes" feature in Word, it might be a lot easier to use

    • by mingot ( 665080 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:05AM (#10064372)

      Format->Reveal Formatting

      Not exactly the same as reveal codes, but quite helpful.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:37AM (#10064631)
        Very true, but there are often still mystery changes (especially those involving changing the margins with the ruler up top) which seem to kick in almost at random...

        This is why I train my users to find other ways to hit ctrl-z whenever something goes wrong and your document gets eaten by Word.

        Apple commercials aside, I still have a Word document which had the center of it *eaten* and random gibberish inserted for completely unknown reasons (and no, the gibberish wasn't pasted/typed in--the people involved have fought with Word for years now). There are no traces of a virus, it's more like the computer confused which inodes belonged to the file...
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:42AM (#10064656)
        The problem is that even with the reveal formatting option, there is some stuff you just can't edit. For instance, if you have the replace-as-you-type thing turned on and type a row of underscores (or was it hyphens, I've habitually turned off the auto-crap on every Word installation I've used for years now), Word helpfully replaces it with a line. Which you can't delete, move, or otherwise interact with. It can't be clicked on. If you highlight starting above it to somewhere below it and hit delete, it deletes everything but the line. For years, the only way I knew of to get rid of the line was to undo past where you typed it and then turn off all the auto-crap and try again. I finally found out that Word creates the line by formatting the previous paragraph with a bottom border line, and the answer is to highlight the previous paragraph and edit its formatting to remove it.
        • An easier solution (Score:5, Informative)

          by ArcticCelt ( 660351 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @02:49AM (#10065361)
          "... For instance, if you have the replace-as-you-type thing turned on and type a row of underscores (or was it hyphens..." "...I finally found out that Word creates the line by formatting the previous paragraph with a bottom border line, and the answer is to highlight the previous paragraph and edit its formatting to remove it..."

          After an undesired auto format occurs in your document just hit back space, it will only undo the undesired auto format without touching what you typed. It works with your example of a line, with the asterisks who change into a doted line, with emoticons after you type :) and many others. Enjoy.

          Now do some one know what do I have to do or to deactivate if I want to paste some text that I just copied from the internet to my word document without having word wanting to connect to the internet and then applying some lame undesired formating. I just want to past clean text that's all. Right now what I do is pasting my stuff in notepad and then I copy it again in word but the process is a pain in the ass.
      • by mm0mm ( 687212 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @01:08AM (#10064816)
        as far as I remember "Reveal Formatting" option in Word reveals only icons and symbols for limited formatting options (i.e. hard returns). Word processing on Word is still GUI based and heavily depends on use of mice.

        In contrast, "Reveal Code" function in Wordperfect splits the window and reveals most of the formatting options, including font size and tab settings, in command lines. Formatting options show up just like options in an html document, marking the beginning and ending points to which the option applies. I don't know if this goes same in recent versions of WordPerfect, but at least up until version 8 or so the "Reveal Code" function followed what it did in WP 5.x.

        It is redundant to say, but this is one of the main reasons many WP users still choose WordPerfect over Word and OpenOffice. I used to use WP until I switched to OpenOffice, but I still feel that it's easier to edit part (or all) of document using the reveal code function than using the mouse highlighting lines or words and apply format change, which often causes unexpected results.

        • by simong_oz ( 321118 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @04:45AM (#10065811) Journal
          heavily depends on use of mice

          I'm gonna completely disagree with you there - the keyboard shortcuts are there (OK, not easy to find sometimes), and you can fully customise them too.

          Here's a couple of very useful links (first and third highly recommended):
          http://word.mvps.org/FAQs/General/S hortcuts.htm
          http://word.mvps.org/FAQs/General/Co mmandsList.htm
          http://word.mvps.org/FAQs/Formatting/UsingOLView .h tm

          I rarely use the mouse at all, though it's quite difficult to break the habit and I imagine for the average Mum/Dad home user it's more of a pain to learn all the keyboard commands. BUT - and this is the caveat - word wants to be used in a certain way and wants you to work with it. If you work the way word wants you to it's fantastic, but work another way and it will struggle with you all the way. Word wants you to spend time setting up the whole document and laying it out, then just enter all the text and finally edit it.

          I think this is one of the problems for power users of other word processors - you're continually fighting with word because you're used to doing things a certain way (a good eg is the wordperfect "reveal codes" - use word "properly" and you don't need it, but try and use word like wordperfect and it will make your life a misery).
        • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @07:18AM (#10066337)
          as far as I remember "Reveal Formatting" option in Word reveals only icons and symbols for limited formatting options (i.e. hard returns).

          No, that's the non-printing characters (which you can display or hide using the Tools|Options|View dialog page, or the Ctrl+Shift+8 shortcut, on most recent versions of Word).

          What the original poster is talking about is a feature available via Format|Reveal Formatting...; IIRC this first appeared in Word 2002. That feature does indeed do something similar to WordPerfect's Reveal codes command, displaying the exact formatting of a particular piece of text.

          Please consider yourself modded (-1, Just Plain Wrong)... :-)

    • by Osty ( 16825 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:45AM (#10064674)

      Here you go [mvps.org]. The short reason why there is no "Reveal Codes" option is because Word doesn't work that way.

      • by Ark42 ( 522144 ) <slashdot@mo[ ]eu ... t ['rph' in gap]> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @02:43AM (#10065317) Homepage
        Did you really read that link? I'm not following how a "container" is any different than a "start marker", the "contents", and the "end marker" in Word Perfect.

        For every <b> you have a </b> in html, for every [BOLD] you have a [bold] in Word Perfect, so whats so different about Word that you can't show a {container start} and {container end} tag and someplace show a {container properties=bold}?

        In fact, I don't think it even matters what the properties of the container are, you could hide that in a right-click menu. As long as you could see where the container started and ended, so you know EXACTLY what text and other containers where in it, you could percisely move text in and out of containers, instead of randomly guessing how certain mouse clicks will mess up your documet.
      • by Henk Poley ( 308046 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @02:44AM (#10065328) Homepage
        From the MVPs Word FAQ
        Word, on the other hand, is a series of nesting containers, characters inside words inside paragraphs inside sections inside documents.

        Why does that prevent the display of codes, HTML style? HTML is also nothing more than containers in containers.
  • by ParadoxDruid ( 602583 ) * on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:03AM (#10064353) Homepage
    One thing that Microsoft Word continues to have are some features very useful for the average user.

    For example, a Grammar checker. The Word grammar checker isn't perfect, and no professional should use it as a crutch, but it is a nice tool for most people to quickly check for mistakes.

    There is continually talk that OO.org will eventually include a Grammar checker module... but I've never seen any evidence of that.

    Until OO.org offers such features, I can't imagine them gaining dominance. Anyone migrating will ask "How do I check my grammar (or another basic function)?" And when they're told that they can't... they'll switch back to Word.

    Don't get me wrong-- I'm an avid Debian user. But Word is still a better program for the average user.
    • by repetty ( 260322 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:12AM (#10064432) Homepage
      "One thing that Microsoft Word continues to have are some features very useful for the average user."

      You've got to be joking. A grammar checker? Anyone else here just dying for a grammar checker?

      The one feature that MS Word has that matters heads and shoulders over all others is.... almost perfect Word file format compatibility.

    • RTFA, SVP. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by twitter ( 104583 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:21AM (#10064510) Homepage Journal
      But Word is still a better program for the average user.

      Average crack user, maybe.

      Did you read Dvorak's article? He had a laundry list of stupid features and plaid bugs that made the program difficult to use. From the usual format insanity and inability to do so much as ASCI, to new, confounding bugs and dialog boxes no user should suffer through. His biggest complaint was from malfunctioning VBA, which was proably a virus or worm (also something that's been around Work for ever). The "average" user should never be pestered by scripting. The average person's editor should have a few common options that just work.

    • by prockcore ( 543967 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:24AM (#10064528)
      There is continually talk that OO.org will eventually include a Grammar checker module

      I can see that you desperately need one.
    • 90/10 problem (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fireboy1919 ( 257783 ) <rustyp AT freeshell DOT org> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:28AM (#10064562) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, it's a buzzword. Get over it. There is a theory that while people use only 10% of the features of applications such as Word, they each use a different 10%. This seems to be true because there aren't really a lot of examples of applications that lose features because they aren't used.

      So in order to reach everybody - to give everybody what they want, you've got to have a very feature-rich application. When you don't have that what you'll get is people who are willing to make the switch because the missing features are either peripheral for them (I think I used the grammer checker twice - I'm much better at checking my own grammar than Word is), or that they never use (I never use the VBScript in Word, for instance), or they're willing to give it up because they're both honest and unwilling to pay $500 for a text editor.

      A good compromise, I think, is to do those features that are easy to program after you build an initial editor - things like word counts, reading level checks (there are canned algorithms for this), spell checking, output writers, etc.

      I would not include a syntax checker on this list. That means classifying every word in our language based upon part of speech and doing some context-based searches to figure out ambiguous words.

      If you actually stick with basic functions (meaning functions that are less than 500 lines of code long), I think you'll be quite happy with OO.org. I am.
    • by professorpoole ( 559834 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:28AM (#10064565)
      That grammar checker is a piece of junk.

      I can usually tell when someone has used it, because Word loves to put extra commas, in sentences, where they don't belong. It also argues with me when I *know* I'm right.

      Or ... rather make that past tense. ArgueD. I don't use Word anymore, I use OpenOffice. I can live without Word's quote-unquote grammar checker. :)

    • by privaria ( 583781 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:38AM (#10064638) Homepage

      I write for a living [eepatents.com]. I have a license to Office 97, but I've been using OpenOffice for my work for nearly two years now. I've never found Word 97's grammar checker good for much of anything but a good laugh. Maybe things are better now, but I've never been inclined to "upgrade" to a version that seemed like it would need every motherboard change to be registered with Redmond.

      The near-universal assumption of Word's dominance can have interesting effects. I once exchanged exported-to-Word copies of a document with a client a couple of times until we discovered that we were both using OpenOffice, both of us importing what we had exported to Word format for the other guy!

    • by October_30th ( 531777 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:49AM (#10064706) Homepage Journal
      Is Linux OO capable of rendering fonts using sub-pixel hinting (for LCD screens), yet?

      A friend of mine with an LCD screen had trouble with the fonts and although his desktop was nicely anti-aliased Open Office stubborny refused to show anti-aliased fonts.

      Searching OpenOffice.org revealed this [openoffice.org]:

      "We should do it but I doubt the OOo 2.0 target...."

      The issue has been classified as "an enhancement", has 3 votes and thus won't be fixed anytime soon!

      I suppose everyone running OO on Linux (except for those three persons) is using a traditional monitor and couldn't care less about sub-pixel hinting.

    • by skribe ( 26534 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:55AM (#10064749) Homepage
      Before: You're fucking wonderful.
      After: You're fucking wonderfully.


    • by naelurec ( 552384 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @01:36AM (#10064994) Homepage
      You have the right concept, but wrong feature. The feature most useful to the average user is ... WordArt.

      Sadly, this appears to be a major feature of MS Office.*wince*

  • by hookedup ( 630460 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:03AM (#10064355)

    Are you crazy? That piece of software alone will keep me employed for years to come!
  • by bcarl314 ( 804900 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:06AM (#10064385)
    Any talk about the importance of a single office application really should revolve around the question: "Is there a viable alternative to office?"

    The first question any manager will ask when given the OOo option as a replacement for word is if there is an alternative to Excel, Powerpoint, etc. Although OOo does have those options, some of the features, namely creating charts and graphs, do not port well. Just try making a chart in Excel, and open it in OOo. Usually quite an experience.

    Although I believe OOo's got a great suite of products, MS does have the upper hand, and until a comparable spreadsheet product is available, I don't see OOo making headway. At least not the way Mozilla is on the IE market.
    • OTOH (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rmarll ( 161697 )
      Reguarding MS Word itself... I've worked with word for about 10 years now. In the time I've recieved 2 documents that *required* anything better than a text editor to get their point across.

      They were both bitmap files embeded in a word .doc file.

      I also recieve the bulk of these files as attachments to e-mail. (cut to exploding head)
  • Not Likely (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aSiTiC ( 519647 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:07AM (#10064392) Homepage
    As nice and progressive as this sounds, the likelihood of a mass migration away from Word is highly unlikely. As an employee at a large tech company I see many daily reports in Powerpoint, Word and Excel. There are thousands upon thousands of these reports archived on network drives. How likely is it that a CEO/CFO/etc.. is going to mandate the transfer of all these documents to OpenOffice/Abiword/Etc.. ?
    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:30AM (#10064576) Homepage Journal
      There are thousands upon thousands of these reports archived on network drives. How likely is it that a CEO/CFO/etc.. is going to mandate the transfer of all these documents to OpenOffice/Abiword/Etc.. ?

      Most companies are already archiving those as Portable Document Format (pdf) files. This preserves print format much better than Word ever did. IBM would be happy to show you how and yes, you can search the text.

      If your company was dumb enough to archive things in Word format and is not looking for reliable methods to get the information out, you might as well throw the things away. New Word itself has a hard time opening older Word documents, especially "complicated" ones with OLE from visio and other programs that your company might not have anymore.

      Hopefully, people will learn and use reasonable text editors and type setters for future work.

  • by revscat ( 35618 ) * on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:07AM (#10064393) Journal

    I don't think I'm alone in saying that the constant battle between the outliner and the autoformatting engine just got to be way too problematic. OpenOffice seems to have been able to come up with a more elegant solution; I, for one, haven't had nearly the frustrating experiences with it as I have with Word.

    But I think fundamentally this is another example of why MS is continuing to decline in some key areas: backwards compatibility and entrenched interests within Microsoft itself. The MS Office group is still powerful in Redmond, and the shareholders would also be resistant to such a move: Office has been a cash cow for so long that tinkering with it fundamentally like this would be scary insofar as future revenues are concerned.

    So I don't think there is any possible way this will happen in the forseeable future, although for once I think Dvorak is right: it probably should. Word sucks.

    (Offtopic: Tool's version of "No Quarter" is fairly nifty.)

  • I never used it! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BCW2 ( 168187 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:09AM (#10064400) Journal
    I put Lotus SmartSuite on my box in '93 and used 2 versions through '02. OO is now the only way to go.

    I was worried about the old Macro virus problem and avoided it by never owning a copy of Word or Office. I have never regretted that decision.

    In the last 2 years, getting a programming degree at the local CC, I have to use Word at school. At home, OO opens and edits those documents just fine. I have not been impressed with Word at all, too much fluff (cute by mostly useless 'features'). It seems like a large waste of resources.
  • by zymurgy_cat ( 627260 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:12AM (#10064425) Homepage
    ....when he/she does any of the following:

    1. Types in numbers and spaces to make numbered lists instead of using the bullet/number function.
    2. Uses spaces and tabs instead of margins, alignment, justification, etc. to format text layout.
    3. Uses 57 different font or section styles.
    4. Writes a web page, especially ones that use a complicated, eyeball-scarring background image for the body.

    Now that's a word processor I'd like to see.
  • Itanium (Score:5, Informative)

    by halo1982 ( 679554 ) * on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:12AM (#10064426) Homepage Journal
    Remember, this is the same John that predicted Apple would switch to the Itanium [pcmag.com].
  • by VeryProfessional ( 805174 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:13AM (#10064444)

    The fact is (and this is the only MS product I can say this about) that Word is the best product in its class. All the alternatives blow to a greater or lesser extent.

    Although I use LaTeX for the creation of serious documents, and I hate Word in principle, I still find myself firing it up whenever I have to create a document with some low-level formatting. It's simply the easiest and best choice. Surely that's the mark of a useful product -- when you hate it, and yet you still use it.

    What I seriously object too, however, are those evil .doc files. While I generally use AntiWord to view Word attachments, and it does a very good job, it is only a matter of time before the format is changed again. It is just criminal that the de facto standard for document propagation is proprietary and closed. I recently got into a fight with a non-techy friend about this. She just couldn't understand why I got all worked up about it.

    • by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:25AM (#10064535) Homepage
      ...Word is the best product in its class.

      Not by a long shot. Both Lotus WordPro and WordPerfect have features, stability and ease of use on their side. Both have superior layout control. Both are better at complex text flow. Both are better at generating indexes and the like. Unfortunately, Word is bundled with Excel and Access, two products that are very, very good. Access less so than excel, which offers several features that kick the teeth of the competition in like PivotTables and Solver.
  • X Forms.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joeldg ( 518249 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:14AM (#10064450) Homepage
    Firefox should be the "first" browser to full support this..
    They are going nuts [mozilla.org] on it ..
    see the Technology Preview [novell.com]

  • by Osty ( 16825 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:16AM (#10064461)

    Word has plenty of problems, especially in the realm of lists and numbering (I can never seem to get my lists to number correctly, or consistently, or indent properly, if I'm working on a sufficiently large file). However, the complaint that makes up nearly half of Dvorak's article is his own damned fault. Why? He obviously doesn't understand the Office installer. When you install, you're given several choices for how to install the feature:

    • Install to the hard drive
    • Install to the hard drive on first use (requires CD)
    • Run from the CD (never installs to the hard drive, but will prompt you for the CD)
    • Disable (don't install the feature, don't prompt for the disk, not available for all features)

    It's pretty obvious that Dvorak chose #3 for one or more features that he uses frequently. He can remedy this by re-running the Office setup and choosing to actually install the feature (notice he never says what feature it actually is ...)

    His other points are trivial, or have already been addressed.

    • Ever-changing .doc format: Yes, the doc format changes. How else are new features supposed to be saved? However, Office has XML-based formats that work quite well now, too (since Office2K, even!)
    • Poor HTML output: This is not Word's domain. Yes, Word can save to HTML. Yes, it's gotten much better since it was introduced in Office 97. No, it's still not all that great. However, it's a workable solution if you need a quick 'n dirty solution to turn a Word document into HTML. If your target is HTML, with no requirement at all for a doc version, you should use Frontpage. Frontpage has gotten much better as well, and actually generates fairly clean HTML. No, it'll never be as clean as if you had done it by hand, but it's still damned good.
    • Plain-text in Word: Who does this? Why? Get a real text editor. Even Notepad is preferable to Word when dealing with plain text. That's fine, because plain-text is not Word's domain either.

    If Dvorak wants to be taken seriously, he should pick on some of the real problems [mvps.org] instead.
  • by joeldg ( 518249 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:18AM (#10064480) Homepage
    Originally from alt.rants about five years ago..

    For reasons which are completely beyond my control, I've spent half a week writing a document in Word 98.

    I have never in my life seen, heard of, or even imagined a more malodorous piece of steaming shit than this little slice of Microsoft. Words fail me, and all that follows is the faintest Platonist shadow-on- a-wall of what is, in my heart, the Ideal Peeve, perfect in its sincerity, bottomless in its depth, and unassailable in its accuracy.

    This bloated, pestilent gigabyte-swamping piece of ordure takes up enough computational resources to accurately model the world's weather for the next billion years, and what do you get for it? Something that will format and display text? Don't make me fucking laugh. What you do get is a profusion of bells and whistles thrown in a careless heap, each bauble lovingly designed to make the straight path crooked, the intuitive arcane, the simple impossible.

    Take the ``Help'' for example. It's not just help, it's a new friend!

    I don't want a new friend, you shit-slurping choad-munching bunch of retards; I've all too many as it is. What I want is something simple where I can find a technical detail with a minimum of fuss and interruption. I don't want animation. I don't want natural-language interpretation. I don't want to be led by the fucking nose. Give me a fucking index and get the hell out of my damn face. If I dismiss a window, I want it gone. I don't want it to wave goodbye, or hesitate, or sneeze. I want it gone.

    The document I was working on was very simple. No images, no tables, no nothing. One font, one style, that's it. It would be perfectly simple in other system, even earlier versions of Word, but, oh no, not in this latest magnum opus of the word processing world.

    This helpless, hapless, hopeless, buggy piece of offal insisted on changing my fonts every couple of minutes for no reason. Random chunks of text, at random times. And bullet points, don't talk to me about fucking bullet points. It's a little known fact that in the bullet-point mode of Word 98 every single button on every single toolbar is the ``Fuck Me Over Now'' button. I've got bullet points going left, I've got 'em going right, and down and up, I've got 'em changing indentation, and style, you name it.

    You'd think in 20 or so megabytes of RAM there'd be room for one scenario in which it doesn't actively do anything wrong, but for that you'll have to wait for Word 2023, which will have a user interface like a retarded version of ``I have no mouth, and I must scream.''

    And don't try telling me that one need only configure the options to avoid these problems; I'm not a fucking moron. I quickly configured the preferences so as to minimize all this bullshit, at which point Word promptly changed them back. Lather, rinse, repeat. If you don't want fast saves, then fuck off, you're gunna have 'em. Don't want your grammar constantly corrected by some shitty little subprogram that doesn't know the first goddamn thing about grammar? Tough shit. Empty your wallet and move off to the side.

    How did this come about? It can't be incompetence, at least not the usual mundane sort one is constantly immersed in simply by having to share a planet with a bunch of fucking primates. This is either some transcendent type of incompetence, or active malevolence.

    My money's on malevolence. This software was obviously created by a company who's motto is ``We're Microsoft, and you, the customer, aren't worth fuck to us.'' It matters not one iota what their official motto is, watch the hands, not the mouth. Well, Microsoft, your time will come. It may not be Linux that does you in, it may not be the DoJ, it may not be this decade, but you're going to go the way of the dodo, and I for one will cavort naked on your grave, pissing effusively on your memory, and screaming, ``Animate this, you bastards!'' to the sky.

    But in the here-and-now, I shall finish this document with the quiet dignity with which I have always comported myself, and then I shall un-install Word, and swear a terrible oath that I would rather daub dung on paper with a stick than write a document using a Microsoft product.

  • by Wateshay ( 122749 ) <bill,nagel&gmail,com> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:19AM (#10064493) Homepage Journal
    I'm all for seeing Word die a horrible, painful death, but let look at the source for this article. John Dvorak made a living for a good portion of the late eighties and nineties predicting the demise of Apple. I'm not sure his prediction that Word is on its way out means a thing.
  • staroffice (Score:4, Informative)

    by mongolian ( 768610 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:21AM (#10064509)
    StarOffice is downloadable for free (not evaluation) to those affiliated with educational institutions. It takes a bit of navigation around the sun site but for students like myself it isnt a bad deal.
  • by BenFranske ( 646563 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:24AM (#10064531) Homepage
    Does anyone else remember either of these word processors? I used Leading Edge Word Processor on my Leading Edge Model 'D' for years and loved the filing system (complete with long filenames) long before the Windows era.

    I also used a great word processor called 'Q&A Write for Windows 2.0' for a number of years which (IMHO) was much better than the early versions of Word for Windows. Anyone else remember these or other popular alternatives to Word?

  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:25AM (#10064538) Homepage
    This was just a rant. It isn't really worth your time to RTFA. Here, I'll summarize it for you:

    Something is wrong with Word, as currently installed on Dvorak's computer. He would rather describe the symptoms in detail than fix it by, say, reinstalling Word. Direct quote: "I suppose I should reinstall Word, but other people have told me they have the same problems. So why bother?" Is Word really any worse than any other Microsoft applications under Windows? Don't they all suffer from Registry rot?

    Various versions of Word aren't 100% compatible. Dvorak and some editors tried to use the change-tracking markup, and "we had a huge mess." What was this mess? He didn't specify.

    He doesn't like the warning when you save to an older .DOC file format.

    HTML files created by Word are full of useless junk. (Absolutely true, of course.) He says something hand-waving-ish about if the HTML is bad, the XML is probably bad, so he's never tried the XML. (If I write about how I've never tried something, can I be a famous pundit too?)

    When you save a plain text file, there are too many options in the dialog box.

    Based on his conclusions, Dvorak (who is not a software developer himself) has figured out that the Word code base (which he has never seen) should be scrapped. Quote: "There are many more issues than these. It's clear the program is in decline, with too many patches and teams of coders passing in the night. It's about time that it's junked and we get something new. This code can no longer be fixed." How the heck is he qualified to judge whether the code can any longer be fixed?
    As it happens, I agree that Word ought to get a major overhaul. Instead of pasting more layers of features onto Word, Microsoft ought to spend a bunch of man-years cleaning it up and making it faster. They won't, because that is not considered a profitable approach. (They actually tried something like this once. Eventually, they terminated that project, and just made the Windows code base the baseline for all future versions of Word. I didn't work on that project, but I heard that it was just taking too long and costing too much to clean it up, and people were worried about how long it might take to debug the final result.)

    If Dvorak had wanted to do some actual research, and write an essay that would actually be of some value, he could have installed OpenOffice and tested its compatibility with his documents, and then written about that. This essay is awfully light on facts; I think he must have about 20 columns to write every month, and he just needed to bang something out to meet a deadline. (Note that I have no proof and did no research before making that statement. Just like Dvorak! But no one is paying me anything to write this, so I don't feel too bad.)


  • The bad, and the bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by achurch ( 201270 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:31AM (#10064580) Homepage

    I've suffered more frustration at the hands of Microsoft Office than I care to remember, but I'm still not seeing OO.o as a viable alternative--mainly because it's soooo frigging sloooooow. I have Win2k installed under VMware for the sole purpose of running Excel 95: it takes OO.o about 8x as long to load my ~4MB finance spreadsheet as Excel, and every time I try to make a change in OO.o the thing locks up for about 20 seconds(!).

    I'm very much in favor of open source beating MSOffice, but it looks to me like the developers still need to do something about that "we write what we want, not what you want" mentality.

  • by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:31AM (#10064585) Homepage Journal
    I have a client who has been having intermittent problems with Word2002, namely "abnormal termination" errors. Crash, boom, bang.

    I've done everything: deleted "NORMAL.DOT" (which had bloated to 710KB), scanned for macro viruses, did a repair install, did an uninstall and a clean re-install, applied all three service packs (service packs for a word processor?), started it up in safe mode ("winword.exe /a" -- a word processor with a "safe mode"?), installed the support and troubleshooting document templates, turned off NAV Office virus checking (as per the MS KB article 320475).

    And still it mocks me.

    I'm starting to look at the OS and the network at this point, but none of the other applications have crashed, and both the computers and network are new (under a year old, mostly Dells running XP Pro). The users don't do anything fancy with Word, no pictures, no embedded objects, just plain vanilla legal documents (it's a law office, so I'm thinking that maybe there's a karma thing happening).

    I've met every challenge that administration has thrown at me, but the solution for this one has eluded me for a month now. The users are getting impatient and they aren't taking "Well, it is a Microsoft product" for an excuse. Nor do I for that matter. I can't blame Redmond, even though their products are starting to remind me of the US automotive industry back in the 1970s: big, inefficient, prone to crashing, waiting for a nimble competitor (Japan) to eat their lunch.

    The automobile:software analogy breaks down, of course. When you bought a Toyota to replace your Ford you didn't have to migrate anything but the contents of your glove compartment and your trunk, not a year's worth of .DOC files. I would switch these users to something better, if only there was a clearly superior product on the market. As much as Word sucks, it's become a de facto standard. There's no competition anymore, and I wonder if this situation means that there's no incentive to make this a stable product. I wonder who is in charge of product development in Redmond: engineers or marketdroids? Do I really need the ability to make Word my default HTML editor? Do I really need to know my Fleisch score? Clippy? Hello? Is anyone home?

    Just give me a goddamned word processor that doesn't throw a runtime error and my users and I will be happy. Or I swear to God I'll kill this puppy.

    • by Walt Dismal ( 534799 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @02:43AM (#10065318)
      ktakki, I've run into this sort of thing too. After a lot of debugging, I found that the file was corrupted due to hidden data put in when someone cut and pasted in from another document and links broke as well the .dot template was corrupted. After a lot of experimenting, I found - and can prove - Word's mechanism for handing templates is buggy and malfunctional. Documents will corrupt sometimes when data is pasted from a source created in another version of Word and Word takes hidden attributes in format used by that version and somehow integrates them incorrectly into the template in the new version. I've seen passages vanish and return, driving me crazy.

      Another problem arises when a source document you are cutting and pasting from, itself uses material linked in from another document on a server. Sometimes the linked link embeds but when the 'meta' source grandfather is unavailable on the current PC, the link breaks and so does Word. Take a look at Edit/Links and experiment with Update Now and maybe Change Source.

      When normal.dot gets massive, one trick is to make sure you have invoked the Reviewing command Accept All Changes, which then deletes a lot of hidden retained tracking data. Then delete all text in the document, and save the document as a template. Then rename the saved .dot file as the normal.dot. Now go back to the original document file and attach the cleaned up normal.dot (use menu Tools/Templates/ then Attach the newly cleaned .dot file as the template). This overcomes the effect of some bugs.

  • by Sparkle ( 131911 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:32AM (#10064596) Homepage
    Seriously, all the managers sit around making PP presentations and they have Clippy to help them get it done. They have all the spiffy canned art to make it look slick. They even can make it talk with Agent characters so the bored victims will have something to laugh at.

    Where is creativity in word processing? Certainly not in m$word because it is still a pile and has always been inferior to WordPerfect. But these days most communication is done via e-mail.

    That means that talented communicators will express themselves with only text. Un-talented people will resort to HTML or RTF to try to get their point across. Comes across usually to /dev/null if it reaches me!
  • by IanBevan ( 213109 ) * on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:34AM (#10064605) Homepage
    If you want to know how badly bloated Word is, check out this unbelievable screen shot [filejournal.com].
  • by Txiasaeia ( 581598 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:38AM (#10064636)
    ... but the main reason I use Word over OO is startup speed - when I click on the Word icon, it's up and running in less than a second. OO takes what, four or five seconds? Ridiculous, I know, but that's pretty much the only reason I stick to Word. I like the integration with the rest of the office suite, sure, but I'm also familiar with Office, having used it for the past ten years or so, and would much rather stick to something I know rather than spend the time and effort to switch to something that might not be around in a year. Microsoft products might be expensive, but the company's not going anywhere.
    • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @03:25AM (#10065520)
      Word may start up quickly but that's because, if you use the default installation, it preloads half of itself into memory upon startup - in Office 2000, look for the Microsoft Office shortcut in the Startup folder, I guess this is the same in Office 2003.

      This is all well and good and does make Word immediately available but, on the other hand, there's a whole heap of memory other programs cannot use as a result.

      Personally, I'd rather have the system memory available because then the overall speed of my PC should be better, rather than just the load-up time of Word.

  • problems with word (Score:3, Informative)

    by e**(i pi)-1 ( 462311 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:42AM (#10064657) Homepage Journal
    problems with word:

    • large file size
    • no consistent internal structure of document
    • need for attachements when emailing
    • possible embedded hidden information on users
    • difficult to author mathematical content
    • possibility to track readers
    • annoying autoformatting features
    • inconsistent text export
    • ever changing format: is it readable in 20 years?
    • future DRM tools will lock out other platforms.
    • unstable, when using with large documents

    surviving in a word world:

    • strings word.doc|fmt >word.txt
    • abiword
    • openoffice
    • demoroniser [fourmilab.ch]

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:45AM (#10064679)
    When installing word or any office program ALWAYS run a "custom" installation and get to the screen with all the grey boxes that turn white when selected for installation. Select the top-most box and click "run from installed location". All the lower boxes should turn white - that means they will all be installed on the HD.

    After the installation is complete, the installer will ask if you want to delete the installation files or leave them on the hard disk. LEAVE THE FILES ON THE DISK. While this only applies to Office 2003, it does make patching or servicing the installation later a breeze.

  • by m00nun1t ( 588082 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:50AM (#10064708) Homepage
    Not until there's clippy for Open Office. How else would I know when I'm writing a letter?
  • by suso ( 153703 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @12:57AM (#10064756) Homepage Journal
    Notice how "Time to kill Microsoft Word" and "Time to kill a Mocking Bird" sound somewhat alike.
  • Alternative view (Score:5, Interesting)

    by not_cub ( 133206 ) <slashdot-replies@@@edparcell...com> on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @01:47AM (#10065067) Homepage

    The best article I have read that summarizes what word got wrong is http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/wp.html [wfu.edu].

    The gyst is that Word, and all word-processors, confuse the distinct tasks of preparing your text logically, and laying it out. This leads to the standard situation that frustrates me when I have to use Word: I am entering text, when I see that it won't fit on a page, so I stop thinking about my text to change paragraph formatting and then, oh, where was I? Later I'll change the text, and probably want to change the paragraph formatting back, but won't be able to remember what it was before. Now my document is inconsistently laid out.

    Implementations may vary. Word is often slated as being particularly obnoxious, changing formatting of its own volition. However, the conflation of distinct tasks is a conceptual error of all word-processors.

    The alternative suggested by the article, LaTeX, is undoubtedly not to everyone's taste either, but at least if you read the article, you will understand the deeper reason Word is frustrating.


  • by GrouchoMarx ( 153170 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @02:09AM (#10065165) Homepage
    Yes, Word is a pile. I hate it. It can be sorta tamed if you play with the settings to turn most things off. (Really on Windows I use it as a glorified text editor to add spelling and grammar checking that's it. Of course, these days I use KWord for the same thing.) Everyone I support (ie, family) hates it even more than I do.

    But the solution is NOT to build everything into the web browser! Please, people, get over it. A web browser is for displaying WEB PAGES. My letter to my senator is NOT a web page. Just because something uses XML doesn't mean that it's a web page, or need have anything to do with the web.

    Maybe XForms would make a good standardized office file format. Maybe OASIS (aka OO.org's format) would be better. I don't know the technical details well enough to say, but since they're both open XML formats I'm cool with either one.

    But dear god I want a SEPARATE PROGRAM for my word processing. I want my web browser to browse the web. I want my file manager to manage my files. I want my word processor to process words. Sure, they can all link to the same XML parser library behind the scenes, but I don't want there to be ANY confusion at the application level about what the program is doing.

    Konqueror has started to get confused in KDE 3.x between how it should behave when it's a file browser and when it's a web browser, which is bad enough. I do NOT want my word processor to suffer the same fate. I refuse to open a web browser to do LOCAL work.

    If I wanted "one bloated ugly program to do everything even if it's not designed for it", I'd skip X and just install emacs. (*dons flame retardant suit* I don't use vi either, don't worry!)

    Bottom line: Use whatever open file format works best for the word processor of tomorrow, but keep the bloody web browser out of it. I'm not interested in pointless bloat and interface methods that don't make any sense in context.
  • Word processors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Craig Ringer ( 302899 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @03:11AM (#10065470) Homepage Journal
    My personal opinion is that they're all EVIL and they're out to RUIN MY GODAMM LIFE.

    I've used Word - various versions of, from Word 5 for Mac to Word XP. I've used OpenOffice from pre-1.0 to 1.9-m47 . I've used kword, I've used Abiword. I HATE THEM ALL.

    I swear, word processors are the one type of software that appears doomed to go from bad to worse to awful.

    If I had to use a word processor, it'd be Word 5. Even if I had to run it in Basilisk under a virtual MacOS 7. Failing that, prob'ly Abiword.

    I absolutely loathe OO.o . It's like a clone of Word done even worse, and the 1.9 alphas literally make me want to reach out and start strangling them. Toolbars popping into existence from nowhere and moving the working frame around; autoformat that's even more overzealous than before, etc. *arrggh*. I've been trying to test it, as we use OO.o at work, but I literally haven't been able to stand it for long enough.

    I have to say that Word is evil in a somewhat more competent way. Somewhat. I think the UI is a lot better than OO.o's - mostly because OO.o's UI is a crap clone of Word's, rather than because Word's is good. I do love the way that an accidental keystroke can make seriously freaky shit happen - like making the app hide all its toolbars and menus, but not in a way that can be restored by the normal full-screen key - I eventually had to run it as winword /a to recover. Love it. Right. Word makes Windows 98 with no virus scanner look fun to support.

    I seriously question the concept current word processors work on. I hate the way formatting works in every single one of them - it's like you fight the program more often than it helps you. When I seriously begin thinking about using LaTeX for a quick purchase order (and I don't know LaTeX very well at all) I begin to wonder if word processors are even a good idea.

    Perhaps I should try out WordPerfect. It seems that it might at least help restore sanity to the formatting task.

    I'm going to unclench my teeth and go do something not involving word processors (*twitch* *twitch*) now.
  • by rokzy ( 687636 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @05:30AM (#10065924)
    it's supposed to read:

    Time to kill Microsoft? Word!
  • by ajv ( 4061 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @05:51AM (#10066003) Homepage
    This is like saying "Let's kill off Dremel tools because they are too good. Here have a cheap imitation instead". Or "Let's kill off BMW. Have a Kia instead."

    Build me a better (compatible) mousetrap and maybe I'll consider it. I doubt it. Frame was a good choice but Adobe did a Computer Associates to it and neglected it agressively. So Frame is dead, long live Frame.

    Until there are actual competitors who are:

    a) as good as Word
    b) productive as Word
    c) has the advanced revisioning and editing features as Word
    d) can collaborate with my colleagues as well as Word (say for example, Team Editing features)
    e) all my clients have it
    f) * just works *

    the people who make such suggestions can make sweet love to a chainsaw... sideways.
  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @07:55AM (#10066504)

    Actually, OpenOffice 1.0 "encountered an error" and "needed repair" so often here that I kept the .bin on our hard drives and it wasn't hard to remembered where it was at all times. But that disappeared and seems to have been replaced with rock solid stability in OpenOffice 1.1. Looks like Word is on the opposite side of the development curve.

    Like a broken record, I'll get in my standard comment that Word always did look like a text editor that programmer wonks threw "secretary-type stuff" into. In contrast, WordPerfect seemed like model software development. Do the analysis of what people would want to do and how they can do it best, and then start programming. Our department fought like badgers to keep it and were distributing copies of WordPerfect Magazine's article "500 things Word 97 can't do" around the college. To no avail.

    So y'all stampeded with the herd, lived in the Microsoft monopoly PR dream -- and are starting to wake up?
  • by esarjeant ( 100503 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @08:20AM (#10066634) Homepage
    I can't agree more with Dvorak's frustration, this has been an ever increasing problem with MS applications in general.

    After installing Office on my new Windows workstation, I couldn't do anything without reinserting the original media. The selection to Run Everything from my hard drive was made during the install -- obviously the installer chose to ignore this option. What really interests me is how the install is happening when I am only a lowly user on my local machine. Obviously, the Office installer makes it convenient for anyone to make a modification to the installation. Is this a security risk or is that just my impression?

    A quick check of the directory options indicates that lowly users don't have write access. So what exactly is Office installing and where?

    Equally signficantly, the user interfaces are complicated and repleat with unnecessary embelishments. I do not want a "Getting Started" box to soak up half my screen every time I launch Word. When I'm ready to write a document a blank page is perfectly acceptable, and the reason I'm launching Word is so that I can write a document. Also, I have no interest in "searching the web" from inside Word, it's perfectly acceptable that I need to start Firefox to do this.

    It doesn't help that my company has standardized on MS Word, but I am using OpenOffice for documents whenever possible. It's just easier, my wordprocessor needs are nothing like what MS Word wants to offer me.
  • by ToasterTester ( 95180 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2004 @09:33AM (#10067250)
    John Dvorak is a legend in his own mind. He hasn't said anything worth listening to since his old days at PC Magazine. Since then he just writes like a movie critic and hate everything that wasn't his idea.

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then a consensus forecast is a camel's behind. -- Edgar R. Fiedler