Whither WordProcessor

The news wires are just alive with news of the impending release of yet another version of Microsoft Office.  This version will be called 2013 and has a huge list of additional new features.

There was a time when I really would be excited by something like this.  Now, not so much.

Next to a programming language, a wordprocessor was one of the first pieces of software that I purchased for myself.  It made a huge difference in my productivity.  Probably the biggest benefactors were my students who could actually read my tests and assignments.  SuperScripsit had a bit of a learning curve but it made sense eventually and I had documents overflowing the diskette tray.

Technology moved on and so did the word processing software that I used.  I ended up “standardizing” on WordPerfect which was one of the great applications.  Yet, at the same time, I had to learn how to use WordStar to help colleagues.  It generally wasn’t a big deal; I liked helping out and it helped push the technological agenda along.  Along the way, I paid money to buy Borland’s Sprint as its claim to fame was that it was programmable.  Surely, anything programmable would be flexible enough for my needs.

Eventually, I felt good about my decision to focus on WordPerfect.  The Ministry of Education licensed it for all Ontario publically funded educational institutions and there was a great uptake of the product.  I was already there!  But, the Macintosh lobby wasn’t happy about this and their lobbying ended up with Clarisworks and then Appleworks being licensed.  Hopefully, by now, you can see where this is headed.  In a multi-platform district, I would end up supporting WordPerfect and Appleworks users with their challenges.  Nothing was worse, though, than when you would have a Windows user send a document to a Macintosh user.  Doug ended up being caught in the middle helping folks transfer their masterpieces.

It gets worse!  Documents started appearing from the Ministry of Education in Microsoft Office .doc format.  After having a whole system now pretty aware of .wpd and .cwk, a new beast appears.  Sometimes, the document would import but as time and user sophistication grew, things became worlds apart.  What to do?  Money was thrown at the problem and administrators were given copies of Microsoft Office to be able to work with the new documents.  It makes sense until they started to share these documents with people who didn’t have Office.  The cost of providing the software forced us to look into other areas and OpenOffice was used as a solution.  You’d think that we would have it nailed, right?

Nah.  Later editions of Microsoft Office come along and .docx adds a new wrinkle to the situation and a new dialect for this humble servant to add to the mix.  As you can imagine, the easiest way to manage all this was with .txt file so that we could just focus on the content and not all the neat features that modern word processors feature.  Bwah!  The good folks at Apple start to have a few promotions and Pages stakes its place in the learning space as well.

About the same time, we got very serious about the web for wordprocessing.  My personal favourite was Google Documents although I’m intrigued by Microsoft’s Live Offering.  I’ve also messed around with Zoho Docs and really like what I’m seeing there too.

Stop the merry-go-round already!

Having done all of this, when was the last time I actually used a wordprocessor!  Honestly, it was yesterday when my friend @cyndiejacobs sent me a document for my thoughts.  So, when was the last time before yesterday.  Now that becomes the long time I’m getting at to drive my case here.

Instead, I’m not really a wordprocessor user!   A great deal of the writing that I do are for the web – I’m using the Qumana editor right now but will also use Microsoft’s LiveWriter, WordPress’ Editor and ScribeFire depending upon how the mood hits.  When I’m taking notes, if I know that they’ll end up on a blog post, I’ll key right into those editors.  If it’s going to end up being a document that I’m sharing with someone else, it’ll either be Evernote or a Google Document.

Given that my head is full of learning the above, I think that you might be able to see why I’m hesitant to devote a few brain cells towards learning another package with updated features.  (although the inner nerd in me is curious about the ribbon and the metro features…)  And, will there be a Macintosh or Linux version?  Hmmmm.

At present, I’m not terribly worked up about the features.  There was a time when I wanted every little feature that a developer could dream of.  I shudder when I think of all the tutorials and problem solving that I did just to learn yet something else new or to help someone who needed assistance.  Quite frankly, my needs have always been a subset of the latest and greatest.  My curiosity and desires a little more.  But, I think for the present, I’ll just follow my needs.

What about you?  Are you creating cutting edge documents and need the latest or are you wearing your own comfy writing software and routine and sticking with it?

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9 thoughts on “Whither WordProcessor

  1. Great post, Doug! Until I read your blog post, I forgot about all of these different word processors that I’ve used over the years. I still use a number of them (including, at times, Pages, Word, WordPerfect, and even, sometimes, Microsoft Publisher). In the last year though, I’ve been using GoogleDocs more and more, and I really like it. It’s just so easy to share things, and to me, that’s important. Hey, I’m still running off of Word 97, so maybe for me the latest and greatest, isn’t that big a deal. I’m a little bit curious though … 🙂

    Aviva

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  2. Still a fan of Word and use it for most of my work. If only the school board had a license for the image, then students could transfer work between home and school without all the quirks that we get with OpenOffice.

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  3. I enjoyed reading today’s post, Doug. I think I managed to use many of those word processors that you covered , but my favourite (although a little different) was the desktop publishing of MS Publisher. That software transformed my monthly class newsletter from blah, blah, blah to, in my opinion 🙂 , a good read, complete with clipart!
    I love the share-ability of Google Docs, use Office a great deal and am generally happy using whatever fits the bill. This was not always the case with the many formats of old.

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  4. So, Les, with the release of 2013, you’ll be two releases behind. Does that bother you? What if the new word processor has a feature that your trusty 2007 doesn’t have? As for OpenOffice, if people everywhere just used it, there would be no quirks. It begs the question, who owns the quirks?

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  5. Thanks for posting, Janice. You were knee-deep in this as well. Remember Friday mornings and trying to work a one-page wonder solution for all of the ills? I did leave MSPublisher out of the mix as I was focussed on word processors. However, as Les notes, the more modern versions of wordprocessors have the functionality of a desktop publisher.

    Remember when documents were just words?

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  6. Those were the days! I was a person who always wanted to be working with the latest and greatest. Now, I am more about using an app that will get the job done, even without all the bells and whistles. Funny what retirement does for you!
    I will check out the new Office, but it may be more sightseeing than anything else.

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