Word woes

This last weekend I’ve finally been able to put my finger on why I hate M$ Word so much. My Dad’s been helping my sister write a paper, using Word, and this last weekend I was pulled in to help with some formatting. Neither my Dad nor my sister is in any way stupid, but when using Word they are clueless. Neither of them is interested in actually learning Word—they don’t use it often enough to justify the cost, but when it comes to Word it’s really painful to know nothing. An ignorant user will have about as much use of it as she would of WordPad. As a matter of fact using WordPad would probably have saved them some headaches.

Now, Word is a useful application. It has its idiosyncrasies, but it’s still useful. However, it’s usefulness has a limit—a couple of pages. Writing anything beyond a few pages in it forces the user to do things properly, the only problem is that using it properly is difficult. It’s also so unintuitive that a novice user doesn’t do it. The fact that it’s so much easier to modify the text’s style one attribute at a time rather than creating a style and then applying it means that users who aren’t interested never moves past being a novice. I believe Word suffers from “target creep” as well as feature-creep. Word simply tries to address too many problems at once. When writing a 2-page memo it’s fine to single attibutes of the text, but once the size of the document goes beyond that then it just creates problems. In a perfect world there would be a Notepad, a WordPad and a Word with no overlaps in their target groups.

Yes, I’m actually saying that Word should be more difficult to use. It should force the user to use styles exclusively. There should be no way of modifying the font, or the size, or any other single attribute of a piece of text without using a style.

Oh, by the way, OpenOffice.org also suffers from this. I must admit though that they come a little closer by using both paragraph styles and character styles.

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