Against Microsoft Word

By Razib Khan | April 12, 2012 4:21 pm

Until a few years ago if I had to use MS Office, I used Office 97. I’ve been using Open Office and its precursors going back to 2000, but sometimes people really want MS format, and the export and “save as” features of Open Office don’t always work the best.* Now that I have upgraded to the new Word I really miss the old version. I thought that was due to my huge gap in usage, as what was a gradual shift seemed like a radical rupture to me. This indicates I’m wrong:

I know only one person who loves working in Word: my 4-year-old. It’s valuable to him to be able to put the names of subway lines in their correct colors, or to spell out “autumn” with each letter a different falling-leaf hue, or to jump from Times New Roman to Comic Sans to Chalkboard in midstory. He also loves to write things on my old manual Smith-Corona. A tool that’s lost its purpose makes a great toy.

* I’m in Linux a fair amount too, so it often isn’t an option.

MORE ABOUT: Microsoft

Comments (21)

  1. Chris

    Yay, it’s not just me. I’ve found the new versions of Word/Excel/PPT so infuriating. I knew where everything was in the old version, then they totally redesign everything. The first time someone sent me a docx file I thought it was a virus! Then really annoyed I had to download a patch to open their file. Unfortunately the conversion process is rarely 100% accurate. I usually ask people to send me a pdf of their file. At least I know LaTeX will never fail me!

  2. I use Libre Office and save as feature works fine except that sometime it has formatting problems.

  3. Kevin S

    Can’t you do everything the guy’s son did in the quotation in OpenOffice or LibreOffice as well? I guess it’s easier in Word 2007+ because the control is right up there in the ribbon, but it’s not impossible in open source alternatives.

  4. kevin

    Hm. I actually like the new versions, especially ppt. They took some getting used to, but the new organization of things really is much improved if you get the hang of it. Hunting in menus and sub-menus was a drag. I can’t stand going back to the old version now.

    In my experience, if you use these every day, the new style is much better. And if you are completely new, then the new UI is much easier to learn. The people who hate the UI seem to be people who only use it occasionally, so can’t keep up with the changes every few years.

    And as long as we are throwing out credentials: I’m a CS PhD (I teach, hence ppt), wrote my own OS as my thesis, do research involving the linux kernel, and use vim/latex for most of my serious writing. But openoffice is, sadly, not production quality. Hence windows for PPT and excel.

  5. Dwight E. Howell

    Let’s be honest. Once you know how to use a version changing where the commands are does little or nothing for you other than slow you down. They change it anyway so they can claim it’s new and improved.

    I’m still using 2007 because that is what I teach to the kids. It wasn’t, in my view an improvement over 2002/2003. (I didn’t notice the version I had at home was 2002 until after I upgraded to 2007.)

    What I have noticed is that overly elaborate formatting in Office in long documents is sooner or latter going to get messed up especially if you do a lot of editing. I have also noticed that saving highly edited documents in open source format will make the document smaller then you close it and open the file in open source format and save it in the original format and it is still much smaller. It is obvious to me that Office does save a lot of crap that you don’t want it saving. They claim you can turn this off but I don’t trust it.

    I found that being mildly paranoid and covering your rear is better than getting blind sided.

  6. Lena

    I like the new Word. It has its bugs, sure, but having the table formatting tools, the references, the layout tools and styles accessible is very convenient. Working with the old Word makes me confused and pissed off.

    That said, what’s with the goddamn default Calibri font that tries to sneak in through every crack even after the entire document’s been assigned a different font?

  7. Tom Bri

    My beef with the new Word is that in my family we use Asian fonts a lot. Word can’t seem to remember if it is supposed to be in Japanese or English mode, and randomly switches when you least expect, in he middle of typing. I have asked a few geeks about this and got no answer. I suppose because they never actually use Asian fonts so have never had the problem. I use Open Office now almost exclusively, but my kids are required to use MS for school…

  8. Maya

    Tom Bri – I use Hebrew, Chinese, and Korean fonts in addition to English. It happens to me too, and to everyone I know. Nothing to do about it.

  9. Chris T

    I generally like the newer versions of Excel (once I figure out where they move everything), but Word gives me fits. Attempting to do anything with images, tables, or graphs sends my blood pressure soaring and don’t get me started on auto-formatting.

  10. I recommend Office 2007 with Classic Menu for Office, which adds the 2003 menus to the new Office menus.

  11. Uncle Al likes custom-hacked WordStar 6 when text contains content. It ran ok at 12.5 MHz and does well at 3 GHz. Its spell-checker and thesaurus have never been exceeded. Column blocks! Chained macros! It will handle megabyte data files. Word is a useful printing buffer, and the textual counterpart of PowerPoint (when you have nothing to say and 50 minutes to fill).

    If you write equations in Word as such, install Design Science MathType 6.7 or later for Windows. Math Type substantially lowers your Homicidal Rage Index (generically medicated with LaTex).

  12. I’m an Open Office user and dislike the new MS Word.

    Moreover, I wish it was easier to make it dumber. For example, it knows dozens of fonts, but there are only about four or five that are acceptable for use in my professional life. It autocorrects things that I don’t want autocorrected (for example, turning (c) into the copyright sign) until you train it otherwise. There are many other features that I simply do not want to have availalble. There are only a handful of non-standard symbols I use and the rest are clutter. The auto-outline function is the devil.

    On the other hand, it would be nice to be able to cheaply and easily upgrade the spelling dictionary, so that anthropology and legal words that I use which are correctly spelled don’t get flagged as potential misspellings without having to manually put in every single one.

  13. Cathy

    Word 2010 is absolutely fantastic if your work involves a lot of technical documents or desktop publishing. I’m a technical writer by day and the stuff that Word ’10 can do is amaaaazing. I have automatically updated sub-indices within a 150 page document. Right click and bam, all my titles and pagination are updated without me having to do anything else.

    For the average user, though, World ’10 is too much.

  14. Anthony

    Word isn’t great, but OpenOffice is worse. The fundamental problem with OpenOffice is that it tries to do everything MS Office does, in the same way, with only enough slight differences to avoid a copyright or trademark infringment suit, then it does it all in Java, which makes it slower than a three-legged dog.

    I don’t have a mac, so I can’t try TextEdit, but I’d much rather contend with an alternate word processor which didn’t try to be just like Word, and worry about converting later. I can always send PDFs.

  15. Ken

    kevin @4: They took some getting used to, but the new organization of things really is much improved if you get the hang of it.

    Or as Terry Pratchett put it in one of the Discworld novels, “It’s really quite intuitive after you’ve used it for a few months.”

    And Dwight @5, don’t forget the best reason for changing the Office interfaces: All that lovely money from people taking the courses to update their “Microsoft Professional Certification” to the new version.

  16. Professor Bainbridge (notable conservative corporate law professor) concurs in his dislike of MS Word.

  17. Brian Too

    I’ve used many, many word processors over the years, usually in multiple versions. Use any one long enough and with enough variety, and you’ll find something to dislike.

    For word processors and spreadsheets particularly, they aren’t advancing very far or fast anymore. Therefore new versions bring less and less to the party.

  18. I like the new Word, but part of the reason for that is that I was beta testing the 2007 version while learning Chinese and the interface made it very easy to insert the characters’ pinyin above them.

  19. Curious

    The only Micro$oft product I have found that has any logic or utility to it at all is SQL Server and that is only because it happens to have its roots in Sybase.

  20. andy

    I love love love the new word. It takes some learning, and its easier to b***h than learn I get that, but it is incredibly powerful. You can program macros right in. For instance if I type /epsdt it outputs a full tabe that I use frewuently where I can fill in the relevent parts. I write mostly medical notes an use a custom dictionary so that it spell checks even the most absurd words. You can edit the autocorrect to be whatever you want. Aa becomes arteries on mine. If I really wanted aa then I hit backspace 1 time and it reverts. As word grows more powerful the learning curve is sharper, but if you’re stuck in the dark ages with hipster open officei can totally see it would be overwhelming. Typed this on my phone- excuse the many errors.

  21. Tomasz R.

    What this thing is for? You’d better be gathering as a set of interlinked html pages. This way you could get one big coherent somehting out of it. “Documents” make no sense outside of printed realm.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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