Microsoft Word is a Terrible Product

I HATE Word. It’s a bizarre franken-product, somewhere between an honest-to-goodness text editor (like emacs, vim, or even Notepad) and an honest-to-goodness desktop publishing program (like InDesign, QuarkXPress, or even Microsoft Publisher), which only succeeds at being bad at both text editing and desktop publishing.

Now, I’m not a master designer, but I do know my way around a few design tools. For example, in every competently designed desktop publishing program, you can drag out “guides,” little colored lines that do not print but which mark, say, the center of the page, or the left margin, or any other given point on the page. It acts like the straight edge of a ruler, so that you can make sure you’re getting everything lined up properly. Word either does not have this basic feature, or it is buried deep in Microsoft’s terrible user interface.

And on the other hand, it’s not a good text editor. If you ever try to write a program or a web page in Word, you will quickly learn that this is a huge mistake. Word “helpfully” autocorrects your quotation marks with “smart quotes,” which, while nice enough if you’re writing a letter, aren’t recognized as quotation marks by compilers or browsers.

In fact, the only thing Word seems to be actually good for is writing and sending letters, especially using mail merge. But most letters and memos are being sent by email now. While hand-written personal letters are still being sent, typed paper letters and memos are a dying breed (and good riddance!). The vast majority of typed letters are some kind of mass mailing–usually junk mail.

The only other thing that I can think of is academic papers, since there are strict requirements on the “right way” to indent and italicize and double space your documents. But in the real word, almost all of what people use Word to do, they could do better with another program.

The thing that reminds me of my hatred is that today, I am forced to use Word to write something for work. I worked on a database for my employer. and now I need to write documentation for it so that people other than me can use it. I would use InDesign, but I need something that can be revised in the future, and only one of the computers at work has InDesign. All of the computers have Word, and everyone sort of knows how to use Word, so I’m stuck with it.

(Now, Microsoft, if you had just made pictures in Word work right, you could have spared the world this rant against your product. When I move a picture to within two inches from the top of the page, it should not immediately jump up to meet the edge of the page. The picture should stay where I put it, or at the very least, move from the edge of the page when I drag it or use the arrow keys. Grr.)

So, no, I’m not planning to buy Office 2007 just yet. How about you?

One thought on “Microsoft Word is a Terrible Product

  1. Jeremy, you’re trying to use Word for all the wrong things bro… It’s not meant to be a design tool and definitely not meant to be a source code editor LOL! Word is best at things like technical documents, invoices, papers, books, tables, charts etc… it’s got a lot of business/collaboration features that you would probably never want to use but none the less are very useful for many people in the “real world”… you make a big mistake trying to compare it to InDesign and notepad, not the same thing at all!
    (BTW, I have office 2007 and the new UI is awesome)