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Almost Perfect
April 5, 2009 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Almost Perfect (1994) is an account of "the rise and fall of WordPerfect Corporation" from the point of view of former executive vice-president W. E. (Pete) Peterson. [via reddit].
posted by Monday, stony Monday (122 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn I miss WordPerfect.
posted by intermod at 12:52 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I miss WordPerfect too.

Word Perhect.
posted by WPW at 1:01 PM on April 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


About five years ago WP felt like a recently-dead relative - little mementoes of its existence (old files, templates, etc) kept cropping up on my company's servers, even though we had long since shifted to Windows + Office. Now, WP might as well have been invented in the Georgian Era - nothing left even to remind people that Word once had competition.
posted by athenian at 1:01 PM on April 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I thought they were still around doing some linux thing that nobody cares about.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:02 PM on April 5, 2009


Oh, and I like what you did with the title.
posted by athenian at 1:04 PM on April 5, 2009


Well, Corel (which is hurting bad) still sells a version of it. And apparently, it compares to Word.

But if you're hardcore, you probably want to run WordPerfect for DOS.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 1:04 PM on April 5, 2009


I'm an attorney a small county in Pennsylvania. I'd say half of the law firms in the county still use wordperfect. I still get calls from law firm secretaries telling me they cannot open the document I sent them in Word format, and asking if I can send it in wordperfect. Its crazy.
posted by JasonM at 1:09 PM on April 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


I use gdocs & OpenOffice. I don't have the $ for MS Word.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 1:24 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if you can still get those old function key overlays that made WP 5.1 useable.
posted by smackfu at 1:26 PM on April 5, 2009


Ah, WordPerfect. Back in the good ole days when 640k was all anyone would ever need and blue was still considered a professional background color.
posted by barnacles at 1:42 PM on April 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Haha, I was just a law firm teaching a WordPerfect to Word 2007 conversion. They were so concerned with locating Reveal Codes as to hardly be able to focus on anything else. On top of that, they don't use legal pleading within the application. Instead, they have pre-printed sheets with the line numbers already on them and spend countless man hours tweaking their line-spacing in order to get them to line up. Incredible.

If not for Luddite judges requiring attorneys to use WordPerfect it would have died long ago.
posted by geekyguy at 1:48 PM on April 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh, and I like what you did with the title.

Hmm. For me the URL title contains the joke, but the title at the top of the post and the one at the top of my browser window doesn't. How does that work?
posted by googly at 1:50 PM on April 5, 2009


Sure, poking yourself in the eye with a fork is slightly preferable to poking yourself in the eye with a rusty spoon. But the result is always the same: ARGH! MY EYES!

I'll stick with LaTeX, thank you very much.
posted by erniepan at 1:52 PM on April 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


The "Amost perfect" title wasn't intentional, so I asked the mods to correct it.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 2:02 PM on April 5, 2009


Screw WordPerfect. Last year I came upon some encrypted documents of mine from 1994, and even though I knew the password I could find no emulator or wannabe reader that would open them. I think this might have been WP6.0 or 6.1. Much of what's out there only works with a very specific WordPerfect release.
posted by crapmatic at 2:08 PM on April 5, 2009


I'll stick with LaTeX, thank you very much.

...which is poking yourself in the eye with a tool perfectly designed for eye-poking after you get the configuration right, but the tool can't be held by human hands so you also need a pneumatic dingus to poke the poker and a robot arm to hold the poker+dingus combination.

But man, your eye is really beautifully poked.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:09 PM on April 5, 2009 [28 favorites]


The History of WordStar. The most popular word processor of the late 70's to mid 1980's. By 1985 WordPerfect started to rise and challenge WordStar.
posted by stbalbach at 2:10 PM on April 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll stick with LaTeX, thank you very much.

...which is poking yourself in the eye with a tool perfectly designed for eye-poking after you get the configuration right, but the tool can't be held by human hands so you also need a pneumatic dingus to poke the poker and a robot arm to hold the poker+dingus combination.

But man, your eye is really beautifully poked.


i wonder what has been lost to human science due to time spent trying to fiddling with LaTeX...
posted by geos at 2:13 PM on April 5, 2009


I use WordPerfect. I am not a lawyer. I hate Word. What a crappy piece of software. I can't even find the reveal codes. It does stuff without asking and then it won't show you the codes so you can fix it. Really, if Microsoft made a decent word processor I would use it just because I'd be happy to have some of my money ultimately go to the Gates Foundation. But they don't, so I don't.

Just this week I used reveal codes (on a word document, actually) to discover student malfeasance (ok, not exactly malfeasance, just silliness). When something about a paper made me suspicious, I downloaded the student's file. I couldn't find anything looking at the file in OpenOffice or Word*. I opened it in WordPerfect and discovered through my trusty reveal-codes, which I have on at all times, that the student had increased the font size on every single period. Seriously, font change before and after every period.

I circled the first few periods in the paper and wrote "What's up with gigantic periods?". Let him wonder how I did it.

*ok, I have word on of my computers just so when people send me a file I can grab the text and paste it into WordPerfect. This removes many of the annoying codes that Word adds and that I would see if I just opened the file in WordPerfect.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:22 PM on April 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


From the above link about WordStar:
In 12 months a team of 12 people produced WordStar 2000, a great improvement over WordStar in terms of ease of use and feature set. However Dan died [of AIDS], and the marketing dept. head, Leigh Marriner was given control over the future of WordStar. Needless to say, the marketing dept., once it got total control of the product went and destroyed the company.
Truer words - about any company - have never been spoken. Beware the false prophet of the salesman.

..and some insight from Almost Perfect about the pivotal year 1985
Although individuals would buy more WordStar in 1985, and large businesses would buy more MultiMate, government offices and agencies would buy more WordPerfect.
posted by stbalbach at 2:28 PM on April 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, and I'm gong to check out this book . Thank you .
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:29 PM on April 5, 2009


I opened it in WordPerfect and discovered through my trusty reveal-codes, which I have on at all times, that the student had increased the font size on every single period.

What is up with that? I don't get it.
posted by Lleyam at 2:33 PM on April 5, 2009


It made the paper 3 lines longer, spilling it a couple of lines into the required minimum number of pages. Really.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:35 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


In law school, I took notes with vi. Moving to Word or WordPerfect after law school felt like trading in my robe and lightsaber for imperial armor and a blaster with bent sights. I'd used Word, of course, and hated WordPerfect for the week it took me to get used to it. Unfortunately, since they've killed WP for the Mac, I'm stuck using Word again. In the end, you just have to put up with both the inelegance and injustice of it all. Now I just have to know the exact number of points between line numbers in my pleading template, and things will turn out mostly-ok.
posted by Hylas at 2:36 PM on April 5, 2009


My petty beef with WP comes from high school: Our "computer" class wasn't on how to program in C, or even use frickin DOS- it was how to use Wordperfect. I spent 2 semesters going through typing on the archaic typing machines in order to learn how to type on the computer?!?

Sorry Wordperfect, it's not your fault that you're at the center of a lot of bad memories :P
posted by yeloson at 2:41 PM on April 5, 2009


I will miss WordPerfect, eventually, when I stop using it every day of my life. Which, thank god, is not now.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:42 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I will never forgive my high school guidance counselor for convincing me to take a WordPerfect class. "It's an invaluable skill you will use for the rest of your life!" My ass.
posted by Ugh at 2:42 PM on April 5, 2009


A year after I left, I received an anonymous letter from someone at WordPerfect Corporation. This person used WPCorp stationery, WPCorp postage, and, no doubt, WPCorp time to tell me he was glad I had left the company. Even though the writer admitted he had never met me, and that he had never worked for me or in a department which reported to me, he had gone out of his way to tell me what a poor job I had done. I was a little hurt by the comments, but I was even more upset that this employee would misuse company resources to send the letter. He was obviously not focusing in on the purpose and objectives of his employer.

Note to self: Wait a year, use company stationary.
posted by Brian B. at 2:45 PM on April 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Alright, here is my standard speech regarding Reveal Codes.
Fundamentally, the biggest difference between typing and word processing is that with typing you had to have a vision, you needed to know what your document was going to look like finished before you began. Word processing allows us to type everything in and then apply formatting to specific selections. The most likely cause for you to need Reveal Codes in a document you created is when you get ahead of yourself and try to format as you type. Now, I'm not saying it isn't possible, just that care has to be taken when doing so.

Okay, so your documents are good, now you want to use Reveal Codes to see what is going on with a document created by someone else? First, I would highly encourage you to have the Show/Hide ¶ on, (ctrl-shift-8). This shows you, graphically, what is going on with the document. If a space looks like it is greater than another space, turning this on will show you if there are two spaces rather than one. It will show you tabs as arrows, etc.

Still not enough? Let's say that like If only I had a penguin... you just have a need to see exactly what is affecting each character at a nearly forensic level. Word, for at least a couple of versions now, has the ability to turn on Reveal Formatting, (shift-F1). Not only can you now see what is affecting the display of each character, you can compare text in one part of the document with text in another part of the document.
Incidentally, at lunch the paralegals and assistants that were in my class and I ran into a senior partner and a visiting attorney from out of state. As they were leaving the visiting attorney remarked to me, "I'm impressed they could find licenses for any version of WordPerfect."

WordPerfect had it's time. It was a brilliant bridge when most word processors were actually typists. Today, the workforce has changed and people fundamentally get word processing.

I'm not a Microsoft evangelist by any means. Word isn't the be all end all, it has flaws, (where is the close a document button that Excel has but both Powerpoint and Word are missing?), but if you can't see that Word 2007 is fundamentally superior to WordPerfect . . . well, just wow. And good luck with that.
posted by geekyguy at 2:47 PM on April 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


I HATE Word 7--10,000 options for things I don't want to do and a very unclear path to the basics--save, copy, print, etc. WAY too many doodads meant to keep every user in the planet happy, or at least busy trying to figure it out. It came preloaded on my laptop and I cannot stand it for its lack of clarity.
posted by etaoin at 3:04 PM on April 5, 2009


Two words: Perfect Writer
posted by BlueMetal at 3:06 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, I just tried that geekguy and it didn't show me where codes were changing. (Word 2007). So if I change the font on something I can put the cursor there and the font size listed on the sidebar changes, but I don't see (font size 13) .(font size 12) in the text as I can in wordperfect. Ditto for things like Bold on/Off, italicizing. I wanted to check for block-protect codes, but searching the various menus + 5 minutes in Word Help and on Google and I can't figure out how to block protect in Word.

I may be doing it wrong, but this doesn't look at all like reveal codes to me. Also, I can't pick up the codes and throw them out like I can in WordPerfect (WP X3, if it matters).

Also, it doesn't seem to let me select formatting codes for finding, like WP does. So if I reveal the paragraph markers and then select a paragraph mark and tab (which by the way isn't labelled left, right, centre, or decimal, like it would be in WP) and then hit Ctrl-F, it's not set up to search for a hard return and tab. Yes, I could search for those things by clicking around on the find settings, but really why can't it just know that's what I want to search for, like it would if I'd selected a word and hit Ctrl-F?

I just selected in WP everything between the end of a title and the start of the first paragraph and hit Ctrl-F. It knew I wanted to search for [Bold-Off][HRt][HRT]. Will Word do this?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:07 PM on April 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I HATE Word 7--10,000 options for things I don't want to do and a very unclear path to the basics--save, copy, print

Ctrl-S, Ctrl-C, and Ctrl-P.

Or, if those shortcuts are unclear there's a Copy button in the default "Ribbon" toolbar, and Save and Print buttons in the Office menu. I've never used WP for comparison, but really, how could it saving, copying and printing be any clearer?
posted by matthewr at 3:15 PM on April 5, 2009


Word 2007 hides the print and save icons by default. You have to click the windows icon to find the print and save icons. That is so fucking retarded and user-unfriendly I can't even think of anything pithy or obnoxious to say about it. It's just pitifully dumb.
posted by autodidact at 3:21 PM on April 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


how could it saving, copying and printing be any clearer?

Put the icons in plain view?
posted by autodidact at 3:25 PM on April 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


If you're enforcing a particular font and size on student's papers, can't you just Select All (Ctrl+A) and look at the font/size drop-downs? If the whole document is in a single font or size, the corresponding drop-down will show that value; if not, the drop-down will be empty. This doesn't show you where the change occurs, but why does that matter?

If you're really fixated on knowing about the "codes", save in the new XML format (or as HTML) and go rummaging around in the start- and end-tags. That should give you a warm, satisfying glow.
posted by The Tensor at 3:30 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The save icon is visible to the right of the big button, by default.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:32 PM on April 5, 2009


The Story of the Ribbon, via Joe Beese on AskMe
posted by geekyguy at 3:32 PM on April 5, 2009


I learned to type on blue-backgrounded Wordperfect, and now I'm all nostalgic.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:36 PM on April 5, 2009


LaTeX isn't so bad, just like unix, it has a steep learning curve. But once you're past that, it's sailin'. I should postface this by saying that once I learned how to install arbitary PostScript fonts to work with LaTeX, things got amazing.
posted by oonh at 3:37 PM on April 5, 2009


Word 2007 hides the print and save icons by default. You have to click the windows icon to find the print and save icons. That is so fucking retarded and user-unfriendly I can't even think of anything pithy or obnoxious to say about it. It's just pitifully dumb.

Yeah, because having print and save in the File menu was so much more convenient.

I swear to god 99% of the people who started using computers after 1995 are absolutely goddamn lost the instant something changes. User-friendliness is nice, but it feels like a lot of the time it hurts users- and those around them- by discouraging users from actually learning anything about the devices they spend hours a day on.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:40 PM on April 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


PFS: Write baby!

(Okay, I admit that I keep a copy of WordPerfect 8.0 on my PC to open a bunch of encrypted files I created throughout the 1990's since I've never gotten around to transferring them to a newer, different word processing program.)
posted by Jaybo at 3:40 PM on April 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


And yet all the open source WPs rip off Word...
posted by Artw at 3:58 PM on April 5, 2009


For most people, switching from one product to another was almost unthinkable. WordStar was especially hard to learn and master, and fans of the product defended it with an irrational fervor. Their loyalty was similar to that of a mother who has given birth to a very ugly baby. It was almost impossible to get expert WordStar users to admit their product had any flaws.
From the beginning of Chapter 6. I think this discussion (or any emacs/vi discussion) shows that "WordStar" isn't the only text editor/word processor that fits in this paragraph.
posted by Llama-Lime at 4:04 PM on April 5, 2009


Hey! I went to the Computer History Museum today! And while those PDP-11s and that Cray-1 are cool, do I miss them? Hell no. WordPerfect? Holy shit people, move on.
posted by GuyZero at 4:05 PM on April 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I miss WordPerfect 5.1 on my 386SX w/640k. I also miss ClarisWorks 3.0 on my Performa 6115.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:09 PM on April 5, 2009


For the record: I'm not lost, My parents and people like them are.
posted by autodidact at 4:19 PM on April 5, 2009


I have loved and continue to love WordPerfect. It continues to be a great program, one hundred times better than Word. WordPerfect's main flaws are when it tries to emulate Word.

I have screamed at Word when it repeatedly corrects my writing in ways I don't want it corrected. I don't want smart apostrophes or quotation marks. One dash is what I want. If I want to use the small letter i as a word, it's because that's exactly what I want to do.

I bought and use WordPerfect X4 (version 14 - or they may have skipped 13 because it is unlucky). It allows you to sue a legacy keyboard setup of your choice.

You can make very simply fantastic macros in WordPerfect. As a molecular scientist I have made programs for converting nucleotide strings into amino acids. It is still simpler to align nucleotides in WordPerfect than in any gene sequence editor.

WordPerfect Universe is a great resource and a place to check in with those who remain true to the pure faith.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:19 PM on April 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


TBH it sounds like what a lot of you want is a text editor, not a word processor.
posted by Artw at 4:21 PM on April 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, all of this griping about the lack of reveal codes, and yet not one mention of why that option was so very necessary : because without it, your doc inevitably wound up looking like a mangled piece of shit.

WP was made with the assumption that J. Random User grokked the whole idea behind text markup, and furthermore wanted to jump in and get their hands dirty with it. If you knew how to hack the reveal codes, you could do all kinds of neat crap. If you didn't - well, god help you. WP would stick in all kinds of markup that would inevitably get moved around as you updated your doc. After a certain number of revisions, you would have a ton of markup in there, and sometimes there would be conflicts that would make your doc look all weird. The only way to clean this up was to hit reveal codes and do the dirty work yourself. I think later versions had a "clean up" function that was supposed to do that, but it never worked. Well, never worked for me anyway.

In my whole history of using Word, I have never needed a reveal codes mode to clean up formatting disasters. The thing just works. So yeah, as cool as reveal codes was, and as much as I occasionally think it would be a cool feature, I don't miss it too much. Or rather, I don't miss the need for it.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:22 PM on April 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Oh yeah, and to the word Word haters out there - you do know that you can turn all those doodads and auto-whatevers off, right? Once you've turned off ALL the optional features, Word is actually a pretty sweet app.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:28 PM on April 5, 2009


This might be an issue of knowing how to use each program well, since this is the exact beef I have with Word: "would stick in all kinds of markup that would inevitably get moved around as you updated your doc. After a certain number of revisions, you would have a ton of markup in there, and sometimes there would be conflicts that would make your doc look all weird." Except in word there's no markup to show you what went wrong, there's only the mangled document.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:34 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just whispered "WordPerfect" in my wife's ear and the former legal secretary in her shivered with delight.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:49 PM on April 5, 2009 [11 favorites]


LyX - The Document Processor
Basically LaTeX in a word processer, so your rate at the beginning isn't as excruciating slow or confusing. Seems friendly enough to me, and as you learn more latex commands you can do more things by hand a little quicker than the grand amount of toolbars let you click to do. As it accepts LaTeX commands, you can ultimately do (close to) whatever you can do in LaTeX. There is a lot of documentation (that is readable too!).

I too miss that processor of my salad days: Word Perfect
posted by incompressible at 4:49 PM on April 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I miss WriteNow.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:01 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


geekyguy:
Oooh geekyguy. I know you mean well, really I do, but man... I just want to throttle you.

Documents get created in all kinds of ways and none of them is any more right than another. Sometimes one has to edit a document that he did not create, and has no idea what kind of crack the doc's creator was smoking when he decided to adjust margins 0.5" left through half the damn file. The whole idea of word processors is to let people create their text however they feel like it, and change it later in any way they want. If one must create his document in a just so way to make it compatible with Word's workflow then it is nothing less than a step back towards the typewriter.

Reveal Codes is the feature that Word Perfect has that no one else does, that for some bizarre reason no one else has stolen, and it is still, after all these years, an immensely useful thing to have.

With Word, even now, even after all this time, there will be times when I accidentally boldface a space, or an italics or larger font-size code will get stuck at the end of the document or paragraph, and every time I add new text to that spot it'll be formatted by default, and I'll have to switch it back to normal every time.

Why does it happen? I am still not sure. It seems to be random behaviour, that happens sometimes and not others. WordPerfect, I'm sure, does it too, but the difference there is, with the hit of a key, I can SEE the code that's causing all the trouble, and DELETE the damn thing.

WHY IS IT THAT NO OTHER WORD PROCESSOR WILL LET ME DO THIS SIMPLE SIMPLE THING?
posted by JHarris at 5:06 PM on April 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


Documents get created in all kinds of ways and none of them is any more right than another. Sometimes one has to edit a document that he did not create, and has no idea what kind of crack the doc's creator was smoking when he decided to adjust margins 0.5" left through half the damn file. The whole idea of word processors is to let people create their text however they feel like it, and change it later in any way they want. If one must create his document in a just so way to make it compatible with Word's workflow then it is nothing less than a step back towards the typewriter.

That was a major part of a job I used to have - formatting exam papers. Most of the courses were taught by multiple lecturers, and each one would use his/her own preferred word processor (mostly Word) to write his/her part of the exam. Results varied a lot. Some, who'd grown up with typewriters, liked to align text with spaces and paragraph breaks. Some would use list numbering for multiple-choice questions, some wouldn't. Some would adjust margins, etc, etc.

I used Word to fix it all up, and never had any major problems doing so. My usual process was to print each contributor's section so I knew basically what they wanted it to look like, then copy and paste unformatted into a pre-produced exam format document. Then I'd add back in the necessary formatting. I'm thoroughly in the habit of typing with all possible codes etc shown - spaces, tabs, marks, etc. I used to do that with WordPerfect too.

To me using a different computer program that does the same basic thing is like driving someone else's car. Sure, this one has a narrower body, wider turning circle, different braking distance, the steering wheel is a little bigger, the pedals are over there, the speedometer is a digital readout rather than a dial, and so on. But it's still a car. It will do what you want it to do. Sometimes you might have to go look in a manual, but mostly, it's just like every other one.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:48 PM on April 5, 2009


Really. Word is like having an HTML editor with only WYSIWYG and no codes screen.

And I believe the complaint people are making about Word 2007 is not that the Print and Save options have moved from the File menu to the Office menu but that there are no icons for those things on the main toolbar anymore. So people who don't use Ctrl-S or Ctrl-P have an extra click now.

ProfessionalWrite and DisplayWrite and dot commands in WordStar. Good times.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:52 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I miss Bank Street Writer.
posted by zippy at 5:52 PM on April 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, and I also miss late 1970s IBM Selectrics, especially the smart ones with memory.
posted by zippy at 5:54 PM on April 5, 2009


WordStar was okay, not great. WordPerfect was willfully obtuse and always sort of annoyed me, but I could understand why people liked it. But, honestly, no word processor I used before or since came anywhere close to the awesomeness that was Borland Sprint, which was a superset of all of the them anyway. The product even shipped with the ability to switch the UI to a WordStar or WordPerfect 4.x interface and behavior.

I would kill a man with my bare hands to be able to go back to writing using Sprint and video hardware that had a decent text mode chargen.
posted by majick at 6:06 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


One of the genuine joys of no longer being part of the corporate world is having absolutely no use for a word processor more complicated than TextEdit 97% of the time.

(For that other 3%, I have OpenOffice, which is close enough to Word to remind me why I'm so thankful)
posted by briank at 6:06 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even with "all" the auto-whatever turned off in Word2007, it *still* wants to muck up my documents. Odd bug that really bugged me recently; selecting a single sentence that starts at the beginning of a paragraph, change font style (bold, unbold, italics, you know) and it changed the formatting for the entire document. Clicking the undo button got rid of the global change but preserved the change that I wanted to make. Still.

Kerning and line-spacing is a little borked in Word but it's downright broken in Powerpoint... and why can't I open multiple instances of ppt when I can word and excel?!

That said, I remember the learning curve for WP5.1 on my 386SX16 but it. did. what. you. told it. to.
posted by porpoise at 6:14 PM on April 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


WriteNow 4 Life, yo.
posted by verb at 6:25 PM on April 5, 2009


I learned WP 5.1 on my father's 386 back in the early '90s, but I never became expert at it, since I was just a kid who typed up school reports from time to time. For the past three years I've been using Word (pre-2007, my employer hasn't switched yet) on a daily basis, and WordPerfect 10 and Lotus Word Pro from time to time.

I find Word much less frustrating to use than WP or LWP, but I think that's mostly because I've come to know it rather well, and I have customized it to "sane" defaults -- as few icons on the toolbars as possible (I use key combinations for almost everything), most automated stuff turned off, and no goddam "simplified menus". I find that once you get the "object" model used by Word (everything is an object that has various properties [e.g. for text, bold, font, size, etc.; for a paragraph, alignment, justification, etc.] and can contain other objects), formatting problems do not happen very often, even with documents that can come from dozens of different sources. The only times I get really stumped is when I have to deal with fields, especially with buggy stuff like auto-numbering.

When I need to use WP, I get very frustrated because I haven't found out how to customize the keybinding correctly. It says I'm using the "Word for Windows" keymap, but ctrl-del doesn't do delete-word as it should, which is very frustrating because I use that constantly. The help is also not very helpful -- but I might check the forums I've discovered doing this post.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:31 PM on April 5, 2009


When I write papers, WordPerfect lets me easily have one or two pages without numbers, and every page after that with numbers, different margins, etc. It's much more of a headache in Word. Is this why it's still favored in legal circles? I haven't tried LaTex, looks like too steep of a learning curve, WordPerfect works well for what I want to do, so ...
posted by raysmj at 6:32 PM on April 5, 2009


I love WordPerfect and still use it for everything I possibly can.

I think the thing I hate most about Word is that it always thinks it knows better, while WordPerfect is like, dude, I trust you: If you want your endnotes to come before your list of references, that's cool. Word is all NO NO NO DOES NOT COMPUTE WE ARE A BUNCH OF COMPUTER SCIENCE MAJORS AND DROP-OUTS WHO STILL SOMEHOW KNOW MORE ABOUT THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND GRAMMAR AND FORMATTING AN ACADEMIC ARTICLE THAN YOU DO WITH YOUR STUPID PHD AND YOUR SENTENCES THAT WE THINK ARE UNGRAMMATICAL FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN THAT THEY ARE LONG!

The sad thing is that everything that is wrong with WordPerfect now is clearly a result of their trying to make it too much like Word. WP used to have the most awesome thesaurus feature, but in later versions (I am using 12 now), the thesaurus is so much like Word's that it is 100% useless.
posted by isogloss at 6:42 PM on April 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


In my whole history of using Word, I have never needed a reveal codes mode to clean up formatting disasters. The thing just works.

See, that's where I have to disagree. At work, I get a lot of documents that are the fourth or fifth reuse of the same doc, because no one can find the original corporate template. And I see a lot of weird stuff. Tables where setting the cell spacing just doesn't do anything. Or paragraphs that mysteriously have a hanging indent when you paste in new text, even though the Normal style has no hanging indent. Just random junk that's a mess, but that works fine in a new document.

I think the problem is that Word tries so hard to make your new text match what is already there, and that applies even when you just want it normal.
posted by smackfu at 6:51 PM on April 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


You guys with your rotary telephones and AM only radios are cracking me up. You're right, rotary telephones don't have that annoying "BEEP" sound. Clearly superior technology. And it makes telephone calls just fine. amirite?

Turning off auto-correct in Word 2007 should take any competent computer user less than 1 minutes to perform. And you only have to do it once.

Adding permanent icons for open, save, print, preview, undo, redo, and any other frequently used function should likewise take less than1 minute to perform. It was literally the first thing I did in 2007. And you only have to do it once.

I love how people who use a program at least several hours per week can't be bothered to spend 5 minutes customizing it to fit their work style ONE TIME.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:11 PM on April 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


WHY IS IT THAT NO OTHER WORD PROCESSOR WILL LET ME DO THIS SIMPLE SIMPLE THING?


We invented something that does this; it became rather popular ten years ago: we call it HTML. It supports a universal name space and retrieval. It even later developed an editing protocol using that same universal namespace. (as opposed to mailing files around). But you can still blame Microsoft, because it's implementation of WebDAV is craptastic I hear.

In the meantime, many people are arguing for the separation of formatting from content. If your students were made to use a specific, limited style sheet, you'd eliminate funny formatting tricks to extend page counts.
posted by pwnguin at 7:21 PM on April 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Word UP for the Atari.

heh.
posted by pywacket at 7:30 PM on April 5, 2009


To everyone going on about how they love "Reveal Codes" - did you all go and get an aftermarket choke installed in your new car as well? You people have Stockholm Syndrome; you're actively defending a feature that exists to let you deal with the fact that the rest of the application was designed by retarded sea cucumbers.

Also: application-specific printer drivers! Now supports 3 fonts! Good times.
posted by GuyZero at 7:47 PM on April 5, 2009 [11 favorites]


I used to run Paperclip at home and SPF/PC at work.
posted by rfs at 8:02 PM on April 5, 2009


pwnguin: We invented something that does this; it became rather popular ten years ago: we call it HTML.

Then I look forward to the day when people in organizations standardize on this wonderful file format for passaround documents. Jerk. This is actually the reason I like WP's Reveal Codes so much, it looks a lot like HTML.

Separating content from formatting would be great, but a lot of people never caught on to it, and probably won't until the guys that does it the old way retires.

All the people here who have never had these kinds of problems with Word are lucky in my opinion. It's great right up until the moment you encounter the kinds of problems smackfu describes, and when that happens you might as well kiss your day goodbye unless you pull out some serious mojo to fix it. I usually end up copying the document into Notepad then back to make sure all the multiple-editor cruft is gone, then re-implementing the formatting using more sensible means. Some of these things Clear Formatting is not known to solve.

I wasn't a fan of Word before, but I grew to outright hate it when I helped a favourite professor get his book ready for publication. Many of its sections were pasted in from different sources and I had to regularise the whole thing. (Don't talk to me about using Word as a desktop publishing program, the publisher wanted it that way.) All that time spent making sure margins were okay throughout and footnotes numbered properly throughout the document, and that innocent changes elsewhere didn't cause them to revert... and yet, I don't think anyone else in the English department would have had the patience for figuring it out besides me.

Just figuring out what the problem was caused me headaches, and that's why Reveal Codes is useful. Could someone tell me what purpose is served by NOT having a quick-and-ready option available to see exactly what modifiers are active in a document? If Word's always so easy to use, I fail to see what could be harmed by making it available. It's not like anyone forces you to use Reveal Codes on WP.

(If you really want to talk about classic word processors, may I introduce you to The Write Stuff on the lowly Commodore 64?)
posted by JHarris at 8:07 PM on April 5, 2009


JHarris: "geekyguy:
Oooh geekyguy. I know you mean well, really I do, but man... I just want to throttle you.

Documents get created in all kinds of ways and none of them is any more right than another.


You started to lose me here. There are in fact right ways and wrong ways to use tools.

With Word, even now, even after all this time, there will be times when I accidentally boldface a space, or an italics or larger font-size code will get stuck at the end of the document or paragraph, and every time I add new text to that spot it'll be formatted by default, and I'll have to switch it back to normal every time.

Why does it happen? I am still not sure. It seems to be random behaviour, that happens sometimes and not others.

This explains a bit. Do you really think that a major word processor does things randomly? Can you consider that you might not be using the tool correctly? Because, as I stated earlier, if you type your unformatted text and go back to apply formatting where you specifically want it you might not end up fighting yourself in this manner.

WordPerfect, I'm sure, does it too, but the difference there is, with the hit of a key, I can SEE the code that's causing all the trouble, and DELETE the damn thing.

WHY IS IT THAT NO OTHER WORD PROCESSOR WILL LET ME DO THIS SIMPLE SIMPLE THING?"


And then, you start yelling. Not much to say to this except to reiterate what Afroblanco said,
You know, all of this griping about the lack of reveal codes, and yet not one mention of why that option was so very necessary : because without it, your doc inevitably wound up looking like a mangled piece of shit.
posted by geekyguy at 8:40 PM on April 5, 2009


This explains a bit. Do you really think that a major word processor does things randomly?

Heh. You know that saying that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"? There's a corollary, "any sufficiently advanced software model has behaviors that are indistinguishable from randomness".
posted by smackfu at 8:58 PM on April 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Word doesn't have reveal codes because it is built fundamentally differently than Wordperfect. Rather than use plain text with markup codes (as used in WP, LaTex, HTML), Microsoft decided to create an "object oriented" word processor, where every paragraph, every line, and every character would have a variety of attributes which were to be easily changed through GUI controls. You can't reveal these codes, because they would vastly outnumber the document contents.

The downside is that many of these attributes are invisible, so you can't tell when your format / style / font / whatever changes. Word also has to guess what you want when you type insert a new paragraph, leading to all kinds of stupidness like suddenly finding yourself typing in bold. And some elements (like hard pages and table definitions) behave completely opaquely.

The upside is that Word processes the document the same way for every page context. WordPerfect (still) has the annoying habit of changing the pagination every time you switch printers.

What bothers me is that no one has come up with a "third way". Shit, wordprocessing is a thirty year old problem, someone should have had a better idea by now. My company has rolled out it's own markup language! for our reports because that was easier than spending weeks on every document trying to get Word to massage the tables and headers and bullets into a consistent format.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:01 PM on April 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Because, as I stated earlier, if you type your unformatted text and go back to apply formatting where you specifically want it you might not end up fighting yourself in this manner.

Sure, you do that the first time you write your document. But a typical document will be revised and updated many times; sure, you could re-do the whole formatting every time, but that would not be very effective, especially for stuff like keeping citations and titles in italics, or dealing with tables.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:04 PM on April 5, 2009


I HATE Word 7--10,000 options for things I don't want to do and a very unclear path to the basics--save, copy, print

I hate Word 2007 because I invested a lot of time becoming a power user of Word 2003. I knew that program backwards and forwards, and used most every feature when contracting as a technical writer (you want an example of a bad and archaic program, try Framemaker).

Now, activities that used to take me a few seconds in Word 2003 - defining styles, formatting bullets, all that sort of thing - take me tens of seconds in Word 2007. It's kind of depressing.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:24 PM on April 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Word is all NO NO NO DOES NOT COMPUTE WE ARE A BUNCH OF COMPUTER SCIENCE MAJORS AND DROP-OUTS WHO STILL SOMEHOW KNOW MORE ABOUT THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND GRAMMAR AND FORMATTING AN ACADEMIC ARTICLE THAN YOU DO WITH YOUR STUPID PHD AND YOUR SENTENCES THAT WE THINK ARE UNGRAMMATICAL FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN THAT THEY ARE LONG!

Disabling on-the-fly spelling and grammar underlining, as well as all auto-correct functionality, is the first thing I do when I install Word on a new computer. It's very, very easy (instructions are for Word 2007):
  1. Click on the big four-colored Word button in the top left corner of a new Word document.
  2. Click the "Word Options" button at the bottom center of the menu that pops up.
  3. Choose "Proofing" options entry at left in the Word Options dialog.
  4. Click the "Autocorrect Options" button at the top of Proofing Options, then customize Autocorrect options in the resulting dialog box as you see fit. Unless some very specific default behavior is severely annoying you, you can probably leave automatic formatting options in tabs other than the default "Autocorrect" tab alone .
  5. Click "Ok" to close the Autocorrect options dialog box and save your changes to Autocorrect.
  6. Next, move down the list of Proofing Options. Under the headings "When correcting options in Microsoft Office programs" and "When correcting spelling and grammar in Word," uncheck every checked option.
  7. Click OK to close Word Options.
Now enjoy the serenity of writing without having to fight the algorithmic corrections of an idiot machine.
posted by killdevil at 9:43 PM on April 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I love how people who use a program at least several hours per week can't be bothered to spend 5 minutes customizing it to fit their work style ONE TIME.

I totally agree with you here, but the thing is, when prioritizing all the things I have to do during the day, this gets shoved down to the bottom of the list. Every day is a full-on shitstorm, with tons to do... I rarely even take lunch.

Logically (and even intuitively) it makes sense to spend five or ten minutes and customize or even study your productivity software. But whenever I do it feels too much like playing or avoiding "real" work. The flight or fight instinct kicks in and I move on to making phonecalls, sending out emails or updating spreadsheets.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:52 PM on April 5, 2009


Yes, you can turn off all of the Autocorrect functions in Word.

Now, go on and try to make a nested set of lists, some using numbers, some using letters. Easy as pie in HTML, but completely ridiculous in Word. I am quite sure there is some way to do it, but it eludes me. Here is where Reveal Codes would be handy, but damned if I have access to it. Instead, I get annoyed and go back to HTML for documents where I want multi-level formatting. It looks like I'm going to have to make a macro so I can quickly paste text without formatting, which is what I almost always want to do.

Oh, yeah. The Ribbon can go to hell.
posted by adipocere at 10:08 PM on April 5, 2009


Yes, you can turn off all of the Autocorrect functions in Word.

Now, go on and try to make a nested set of lists, some using numbers, some using letters.


I definitely feel your pain here. Usually, I'll just do it all by hand, using tabs and inserting the bullet symbol. This would be just fine if Word supported block indent like every programmer editor known to man. Instead I have to keep fucking with the tabs every time I want to add something to one of my bulletted items. Pain in the ass, and really my only major complaint about Word.

If anybody knows how to cajole Word into supporting block indent, please say so. (I should note that I'm still using Word 2003)
posted by Afroblanco at 10:22 PM on April 5, 2009


This argument is why I write everything on the built in text editor on whatever computer I am using (textedit on my mac, notepad back when I had a pc) and worry about the formatting last. I usually just copy/paste into LaTeX and put in the right codes. Or maybe into OpenOffice (a free version of Office that's like crushing your genitals and your pinky toe in a car door instead of the simple genital crushing experience found in Microsoft Office) when I'm desperate.

It's not just that your favorite word processor sucks. All word processors suck.

(And on that note, does anyone know where I can get a copy of Beast? It was a game that came with the WP shell for DOS. You were a little diamond that went around and squished Hs by pushing blocks around. And then there were super Hs that were bold and could push back. I loved that game, wish I could play it now.)
posted by Hactar at 10:27 PM on April 5, 2009


Afroblanco: I usually use Ctrl-T/Ctrl-Shift-T to do lists, but it sometimes goes haywire.

I don't know if they've "fixed" it in 2007 (I still use 2000 at work), but lists in Word (up to 2003 at least) are just completely fucking insane.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:31 PM on April 5, 2009


Now, go on and try to make a nested set of lists, some using numbers, some using letters. Easy as pie in HTML, but completely ridiculous in Word.

Easy-peasy. Create your nested list. Now right-click on one of the bullets or numbers (we'll use "markers" to refer to them generically). A context-menu will pop up. See all of the list formatting stuff in that pop-up? Select the "Bullets" option if you have number markers you want to reformat as some sort of bullet, or the "Numbering" option if the converse is true. You can now define whatever marker character you like for the list level in question.

Word isn't the best tool for unencumbered composition -- I use a text editor for that. But it's a pretty sweet tool for many other purposes.
posted by killdevil at 10:37 PM on April 5, 2009


While we're hating on Word 2007, though... what's the deal with the hiding of keyboard shortcuts? The ribbon makes 'em totally non-discoverable. How do I reveal keyboard shortcuts for functions that have been relocated from menus to the Ribbon?
posted by killdevil at 10:39 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a guy who did a bit of technical writing and copy editing ten years ago...I still wake up screaming from nightmares about all the bugs in Word.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:44 PM on April 5, 2009


(If you really want to talk about classic word processors, may I introduce you to The Write Stuff on the lowly Commodore 64?)

I know someone who wrote an entire novel on a C64. You could only put ~ 2 chapters per file and it took a couple floppies for the entire thing. Plus the drafts were printed on an very old-school dot-matrix tractor-feed printer.

Which I still own. If anyone needs a few boxes of tractor feed paper, drop me a line. I have 3 boxes of it which I've apparently had for decades, moving from house to house, never unpacked until last month.

Also: tractor-feed paper! I bet everyone here things that shit was awesome too! And I remember when I got a dot-matrix printer that had a proportionally-spaced font. That was fun because if you didn't configure WordPerfect just so your lines were freaky ragged and didn't match what was on-screen. Gosh, WordPerfect was so great.
posted by GuyZero at 10:50 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


How do I reveal keyboard shortcuts for functions that have been relocated from menus to the Ribbon [in Word 2007]?

Same as any other Windows application: tap (press and release) the Alt key. You get little letters in white boxes appearing across the ribbon: these are the shortcut keys. So "Wordcount" is Alt, R, W.

Fine if you're sighted. If you're blind - no menus! Your old combinations will still work, but you can't explore the menus to find different options.
posted by alasdair at 11:32 PM on April 5, 2009


Also: tractor-feed paper! I bet everyone here things that shit was awesome too!


It did have one good property. You could buy a fuck-you big box of paper, put a new ribbon in the printer, hook the paper to the little pins, and you wouldn't have to change a single fuckin' thing for a year or more. No new printer, no new ink, no new nuthin'.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:47 PM on April 5, 2009


Well, hell, if we spend all day in a word processor, why can't we aftermarket customize it? Reveal Codes is awesome if you know how to use it. Of course I would never insist that everyone use it, which is why it's hidden by default. In Word, well, you don't get that choice. I swear no matter what I do in Word half of my issues are things where I try to continue working and it appears WYSIWYG in an unintended style. The NORMAL.DOT default? The last paragraph? The bullet paragraph I accidentally started but then backspaced out of? Guess what, it's baaa-aack.

Knowing WordPerfect was actually how I made enough money to hold my head above water the year and a half I was in New York, so yay that.

Adding permanent icons for open, save, print, preview, undo, redo, and any other frequently used function should likewise take less than1 minute to perform

You must realize that yes, this task that seems utterly simple to you is beyond the capability and comfort zone of the vast majority of users. I've made good money doing just this sort of thing for folks who are out of their depth when they accidentally drag a toolbar from the top to the side. You can look at that functionality and say, wow, how useful to be able to customize, or you can look at it and say, wow, that sure can be confusing.
posted by dhartung at 12:04 AM on April 6, 2009


Petersen writes:
In February [1989], as was a tradition, we invited a few representatives from our largest accounts to come to Deer Valley to ski with us and tell us how we were doing. All of them were concerned about our lack of a WordPerfect for Presentation Manager, and some of them wanted a Windows version. We tried our best to reassure them that we would eventually run on all important computing environments. We told them that while we could not always be first to release a product for a new environment, we could catch up quickly. Our large accounts were not too impressed with our answers.
I was one of the representatives at that meeting, where I and others stressed how important we thought Windows was to become. There was a big internal struggle at our Fortune 500 company I worked for, trying to define the 'new direction' for desktop computing. Eventually, the company decided on Word.
posted by wfitzgerald at 12:11 AM on April 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Alan wanted the screen to look like the printed page, with the correct line endings and page breaks and without any ugly codes"

Oh, the irony.
posted by flaterik at 1:27 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can't reveal these [Word] codes, because they would vastly outnumber the document contents.

And if you want to get a sense of how awful that would look, go to Word, convert a doc to html, (which in WP is a simple, elegant operation very useful for simple text-only pages), and then look at the codes you get. Eighty-seven metric tons of fucking useless garbage. I seldom need to reveal codes in WP, but every time I type something in Word, I know that fucking useless, cluttered, ugly garbage is piling up behind my every keystroke, and it profoundly offends the neat freak in me. Which I suppose is my problem more than Microsoft's but still.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:46 AM on April 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Kids, lawn, etc.
posted by brand-gnu at 6:54 AM on April 6, 2009


Ok, so I got carried away and read the whole book here at work...

I thought the author had some interesting and even healthy views on running a company (basically: the company's interests come first, and no, you won't get promoted because you feel you need to get promoted).

Anyone here with experience working at the WP Corporation? I get some vibes from the book that he was actually a bit hard to work for and work with, although his writing is quite mellow - there's an intriguing disconnect between the hatred he seems to summon at WP Corp and the persona he's trying to represent in his writing.

Also, reading those last chapters is like watching a trainwreck in slow motion. They're just sitting there, waiting for MS to come in and slice their throats. It's like they gave up, thinking: let's go IPO, take the money and run. They didn't even begin to think of a counterstrategy.
posted by NekulturnY at 6:58 AM on April 6, 2009


I was at one time a massive Word Perfect geek. I loved reveal codes, I knew all the shortcuts, etc.

Then I realized something: its as evil a trap as Word. Your documents are held hostage by their closed data formats.

Word, Word Perfect? Who cares as long as they're still playing the proprietary data format game [1]?

Some of the features of WordPerfect were and are nifty. As a geek I do highly resent that Word won't let you look under the hood, and to those of you denying that this is never necessary, that asking for that feature simply proves that we're Luddites trapped by the Stockholm Syndrome of a horrible and broken by design word processor, I suggest that you may be suffering from a bit of Stockholm Syndrome yourselves. Being able to see what really is going on with a document is useful, denying that this is the case just makes you look really silly.

Word has several useful features WordPerfect doesn't. I use it daily and its not bad at all (er, 2003 ain't bad at all, 2007 looks like they redesigned it for kindergartners.)

But, ultimately, they're both really bad in the sense that they trap your data. A pox on both their houses.

OpenOffice is nice for when you want a word processor, LaTeX is great for real typesetting, and there's a variety of extremely useful plain text editors out there. None trap your data in evil proprietary formats.

WordPerfect does seem to be the worse of the two WRT trapping your data. Different versions used radically different formats and the newer versions won't open the older stuff.

But really, ya'll are in the position of loyalists to Stalin or Mao arguing about which one of the two is the MORE evil. If you care even slightly about not losing access to your data neither one is worth using.

Ynoxas wrote Adding permanent icons for open, save, print, preview, undo, redo, and any other frequently used function should likewise take less than1 minute to perform

I'm responsible for around 100 users. When we "upgrade" to Word 2007 I do not want to have to walk to and/or remote access every frakking one of their computers to add a feature that a) they will all want, b) none will feel comfortable adding themselves, and c) MS bloody well should have made standard anyway.

Word is a nice program, except for the evil vendor lock in parts, but it isn't perfect and claiming that a horrible mistake by MS isn't really a horrible mistake makes you look less like a thoughtful commentator and more like a ravening MS fanboy.

[1] And please, don't talk to me about MS's "Office Open XML" garbage. It isn't really open and it damn sure isn't usable. Even Microsoft has yet to produce a program that is complaint with their OOXML format. By approving it, the ISO board has proven that it is truly worthless.
posted by sotonohito at 8:52 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or maybe into OpenOffice (a free version of Office that's like crushing your genitals and your pinky toe in a car door instead of the simple genital crushing experience found in Microsoft Office) when I'm desperate.

posted by Hactar at 1:27 AM on April 6 [+] [!]

I use OpenOffice on my Linux machines since I don't have MS Office to fall back on, but the first time I had to figure out how to suppress the page number on the first page was the last time I relied on it for anything that mattered.

In Word, it's a single checkbox to remove it. In OO, it's a 6-step process that involves features I'd never touch otherwise (and didn't work for me when I tried it! I ended up just printing the document and whiting out the number).
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 9:01 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, but your sacrifice is for the greater glory of Open Source! M$ grrr suXXor!
posted by Artw at 9:05 AM on April 6, 2009


The weirdest proprietary WP is AbiWord, which is used by barely anyone and yet for some reason has its own .abi format.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:16 AM on April 6, 2009


AppleWorks 4EVAR!

I still call the weird Apple key on the new Macs the open-apple key. Girlfriend has stopped trying to correct me at this point.
posted by formless at 10:40 AM on April 6, 2009


I swear to god 99% of the people who started using computers after 1995 are absolutely goddamn lost the instant something changes. User-friendliness is nice, but it feels like a lot of the time it hurts users- and those around them- by discouraging users from actually learning anything about the devices they spend hours a day on.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:40 PM on April 5 [8 favorites +] [!]

I don't want to relearn how to drive a car, either. But my latest car came with a manual and reasonably understandable instructions just in case I couldn't figure something out. I do not need dozens and dozens, literally, of buttons, menus, drop down crap to mail, put into a spreadsheet, edit with revisions, etc., crap, when all I use Word for is to write a letter or a paper. It does NOT default to the simplest uses. Worse, this arrived on the machine with zero documentation and I'm left to try to guess at what should be a simply damned process.
posted by etaoin at 11:13 AM on April 6, 2009


And, for the record, I've been using personal computers at work since 1978 (can you say ATEX?) and at home since about 1983 (Radio Shack.) So I'm no damned luddite or neophyte.
posted by etaoin at 11:16 AM on April 6, 2009


I suppose I can say "ATEX" but it rings no bells (unlike Radio Shack which rings the LULZ bell). Seriously, what is it?
posted by GuyZero at 11:21 AM on April 6, 2009


etaoin: You may wish to familiarize yourself with the function (heh) of the F1 key.

Honestly, I'm trying not to snark, but saying Word has no documentation is simply wrong. You don't need dead trees to document a process or product.

I will however agree with you that maybe having a setting of "basic/advanced" might be beneficial to lots of people. Maybe a toggle at the top "Switch to basic mode", or similar.

That one's free Microsoft. The next one costs you.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:20 PM on April 6, 2009


^ Yeah but you better damn well hide the "Switch to Expert Mode" button while in basic mode.
posted by autodidact at 12:43 PM on April 6, 2009


a second fondness for Borland Sprint. the thing was a word processor compiler. you could edit the source for the UI, change it however you wanted, compile it and presto! a totally different word processor that did exactly what you wanted and no more. it was awesome. too bad it wasn't an idea that caught on. Sprint and SideKick Plus (I think), which was basically a mini operating system for DOS popup programs, were two of the programs I got the most excited about last century. All this talk about Word Perfect brings me back to the days when my hatred for it had me rooting for the then underdog Microsoft and their superior product Word 5 for DOS. I couldn't imagine then that I would grow to hate Microsoft far more than I ever did Word Perfect. Isn't the world supposed to be getting better?
posted by sineater at 1:13 PM on April 6, 2009


Of, if we're getting all old-school text editor, then I'm going to drop Brief. It had columnar cut and paste.

Sprint, sheesh. Although SideKick was indeed pretty cool back in The Day(tm).
posted by GuyZero at 2:23 PM on April 6, 2009


I do not need dozens and dozens, literally, of buttons, menus, drop down crap to mail, put into a spreadsheet, edit with revisions, etc., crap, when all I use Word for is to write a letter or a paper.

Consider a text editor.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:24 PM on April 6, 2009


About offering separate interfaces for, say, Simple & Advanced modes- it's been a while, but I remember reading that the discomfort of disorientation from the shifting around of menu items more than offset the convenience of the simple menus.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:24 PM on April 6, 2009


The large Canadian bank I work for still uses Applixware, which is like a pay verson of OpenOffice, except crappier.
posted by pravit at 3:56 PM on April 6, 2009


ATEX was a word processing system used by newspapers in the early 80s... or, at least, the Seattle Times used it. They also had disk drives the size of washing machines in a room with raised floors and dedicated cooling.
posted by bz at 3:59 PM on April 6, 2009


You know, all of this griping about the lack of reveal codes, and yet not one mention of why that option was so very necessary : because without it, your doc inevitably wound up looking like a mangled piece of shit.

Which has been by general experience with MSWord unless I take great care to stick to a very simple document model, which I can only indirectly work with. Quite seriously I've had to deal with Word documents that were only editable once I exported them to RTF or HTML, stripped all the crud out with something like HTML tidy, and then imported them back into Word. And I think the core of all of this is that MSWord privileges typographic markup over semantic markup, so that styles are merely hints or suggestions. Without a backbone of enforcement, it's quite possible to have standard paragraphs that look like headings, and headings that look like normal paragraphs. (I've seen documents that did both.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:28 PM on April 7, 2009


Which, sadly, is what users want.
posted by Artw at 12:31 PM on April 7, 2009


Artw True, but while it sounds nasty it is also true that we shouldn't necessarily be in the business of giving the users what they want if its bad. Of course, the question of who decides what's right is always an interesting one, but frankly KirkJobSluder has a valid point, if there was a bit of enforcement WRT headings, styles, etc Word would be a better program. Users would scream, cry, moan and complain, but in the end it'd be better for everyone including the people who hate it.
posted by sotonohito at 2:44 PM on April 7, 2009


Explain to Bob Manager why the WP you need to buy is the one where he CAN'T arbitrarily make words in the headings red.
posted by Artw at 2:58 PM on April 7, 2009


WTF. Why does Word put a little (Asian) next to the name of my style? Even if I click clear formatting, it comes back as soon as I type. There must be something triggering it, but how can I find out what? That is why you need Reveal Codes.
posted by smackfu at 5:38 PM on April 7, 2009


Poor WordPerfect. Even in a thread about it, Word gets more attention.
posted by Pronoiac at 6:55 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just finished reading that PDF -- good stuff! Well, I skimmed the second half, after they started to do well, and Peterson started to think that he was hewing to actual management principles that produced that result. Not the best writer, and frankly he sounded like a pretty bad manager (in his own words!), but he told a great story.

Here's an insightful excerpt, talking about the early days of Windows, and their perspective from WordPerfect Inc. as the home of an excellent DOS-mode application; note that this is early 1989, before Windows 3.0, which was the real watershed release:

When Scott Oki, vice president of sales for Microsoft, learned that a good version of Windows was possible, he started promoting a Windows strategy rather than an OS/2 strategy to Bill Gates and others at the top. A Windows strategy offered a lot of advantages for Microsoft. If Windows was a success, Microsoft would not have to share control of the operating environment with IBM. Even if OS/2 became the eventual winner, given its delays, Microsoft could still make a lot of money selling Windows in the interim. Bill Gates was won over to a Windows strategy and became a one-man Windows promotion team.

Interestingly, early in 1989 Microsoft was still spending more time and money pitching OS/2 than they were pitching Windows, but Windows was now their strategy for the future. Those companies which had won significant market shares in the DOS world were quick to see the danger if Windows was successful. Most of us threw our influence behind IBM and OS/2, hoping that customers would not fall into Gates's trap. IBM was big, but they were not nearly as dangerous an applications developer as Microsoft. Given the choice of riding on the back of an elephant or a fox, we felt much safer atop the elephant.


I went from a DOS system (1987-1993), to an OS/2 system (1993-1998), to a Windows 95 system (1998-2005), and now am running Ubuntu Linux. Hopefully forever!

I'm still running the same cracked version of Lotus 1-2-3 that I got in the dorms in 1987. In DOSbox on Linux! Twenty-plus years of checking account history ...

I'm not running WordPerfect anymore, though -- it didn't even make the 1993 leap for me. A consistent word processor just wasn't that important to me.

R.I.P. Reveal Codes.

PBwiki recently "upgraded" their editing system, and it feels exactly like moving from WordPerfect to Word. I want to reach through the screen and throttle the PBwiki managers who thought this was better.
posted by intermod at 8:35 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


intermod: Holy cow. Surely you'd be better served by Google Docs than a cracked version of Lotus 1-2-3 from the Reagan Administration???
posted by Ynoxas at 2:02 PM on April 8, 2009


Hitting the "/" key for menus is a habit that dies hard.

:wq
posted by GuyZero at 2:16 PM on April 8, 2009


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