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I want Microsoft Word to die. I hate Microsoft Word with a burning, fiery passion. 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. 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.
But what exactly is wrong with it? I've been using word processors and text editors for nearly 30 years. There was an era before Microsoft Word's dominance when a variety of radically different paradigms for text preparation and formatting competed in an open marketplace of ideas.
One early and particularly effective combination was the idea of a text file, containing embedded commands or macros, that could be edited with a programmer's text editor such as ed or teco or, later, vi or emacs and subsequently fed to a variety of tools: These tools were fast, powerful, elegant, and extremely demanding of the user.
Programs like WordStar led the way, until WordPerfect took the market in the early s by adding the ability to edit two or more files at the same time in a split screen view.
Then, in the late s and early s, research groups at MIT and Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center began to develop the tools that fleshed out the graphical user interface of workstations like the Xerox Star and, later, the Apple Lisa and Macintosh and finally the Johnny-come-lately imitator, Microsoft Windows.
An ongoing war broke out between two factions. One faction wanted to take the classic embedded-codes model, and update it to a graphical bitmapped display: But another group wanted to use a far more powerful model: In a style sheet system, units of text -- words, or paragraphs -- are tagged with a style name, which possesses a set of attributes which are applied to the text chunk when it's printed.
Steve Jobs approached Bill Gates to write applications for the new Macintosh system inand Bill agreed. In the end, the decree went out: Word should implement both formatting paradigms. Even though they're fundamentally incompatible and you can get into a horrible mess by applying simple character formatting to a style-driven document, or vice versa.
Word was in fact broken by design, from the outset -- and it only got worse from there. Over the late s and early s Microsoft grew into a behemoth with a near-monopoly position in the world of software. One of its tactics became known and feared throughout the industry: If confronted with a successful new type of software, Microsoft would purchase one of the leading companies in the sector and then throw resources at integrating their product into Microsoft's own ecosystem, if necessary dumping it at below cost in order to drive rivals out of business.
Microsoft Word grew by acquiring new subsystems: All of these were once successful cottage industries with a thriving community of rival product vendors striving to produce better products that would capture each others' market share. But one by one, Microsoft moved into each sector and built one of the competitors into Word, thereby killing the competition and stifling innovation.
Microsoft killed the outline processor on Windows; stalled development of the grammar checking tool, stifled spelling checkers.
There is an entire graveyard of once-hopeful new software ecosystems, and its name is Microsoft Word.
As the product grew, Microsoft deployed their embrace-and-extend tactic to force users to upgrade, locking them into Word, by changing the file format the program used on a regular basis. Early versions of Word interoperated well with rivals such as Word Perfect, importing and exporting other programs' file formats.
But as Word's domination became established, Microsoft changed the file format repeatedly -- with Word 95, Word 97, inand again in and more recently. Each new version of Word defaulted to writing a new format of file which could not be parsed by older copies of the program.
If you had to exchange documents with anyone else, you could try to get them to send and receive RTF — but for the most part casual business users never really got the hang of different file formats in the "Save As And "fast save" made the picture worse, by appending a journal of changes to the application's in-memory state.
This isn't a data file format: In the 21st century they tried to improve the picture by replacing it with an XML schema It's hard to imagine a corporation as large and [usually] competently-managed as Microsoft making such a mistake by accidentWelcome to The Literature Network!
We offer searchable online literature for the student, educator, or enthusiast. To find the work you're looking for start by looking through the author index. Julie Lythcott-Haims is the author of How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kids for Success. The secret of a good essay?
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Corey Robin mentioned sexual harassment to invoke an indefensible idea that turned out to have defenders; I fear this essay does the same. The BHLs are conflicted about far simpler questions like “can you contract yourself into slavery?”, so the answer to “what manner of rights do they believe are inalienable by contract?” is “very, very close to nothing”.
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It’s a look into whether there is any role for individual reason in a world where you can always just trust expert consensus.