October 13th, 2013
I'm guessing that Charlie Stross has just lost a day's work to Microsoft Word:
I hate Microsoft Word. I want Microsoft Word to die. I hate Microsoft Word with a burning, fiery passion. I hate Microsoft Word the way Winston Smith hated Big Brother. Our reasons are, alarmingly, not dissimilar …
Microsoft Word is a tyrant of the imagination, a petty, unimaginative, inconsistent dictator that is ill-suited to any creative writer's use. Worse: it is a near-monopolist, dominating the word processing field. Its pervasive near-monopoly status has brainwashed software developers to such an extent that few can imagine a word processing tool that exists as anything other than as a shallow imitation of the Redmond Behemoth. [...]
He's right, of course. The trouble is, Word's file format is holding hostages, in the form of uncounted millions of documents across hundreds of thousands of companies large and small across Europe and North America and much of the rest of the world. Yes, you could install LibreOffice, or switch to another word processor and access your old files by using file viewers that are more-or-less capable of interpreting both the content and formatting of your old Word documents1, but if you've already paid for Microsoft Office licenses and been able to rely upon most staff being able to get along with Word without the need for any training then that's a hard sell. Good luck persuading everyone to learn MarkDown.
On the other hand, some of the things people use Word for are so fundamentally wrong that anything, not excluding reverting to pen-and-paper, would be preferable.
- You just have to hope that the authors didn't get too ambitious with embedding objects in proprietary Microsoft formats, or rely to heavily on pulling fancy tricks with styles to get their layout pixel-perfect, or fall into one of the hundred or so other traps Microsoft laid for the unwary. Or – heaven help us – use the Save As HTML option to build your web site! ↩