Why I hate Microsoft Word

Look, I’m no Mac fanboy – you’ll notice that I don’t write Microsoft as Micro$oft – but I’ve just about had it with Microsoft products, and a few minutes ago the final straw came using Microsoft Word. (Today’s rant shoots hot lead John Woo-style – you know, sideways through the air and in slow motion – at Word for Mac 2004.)

My novel, Proper Job, is a nice, single Word document (not too big; only a meg or so) with carefully applied styles, continuous section breaks, and chapter numbering that automatically updates, and has a neat list of chapters in the table of contents. In other words, this is not an exceptional document. Its complexity should be well within the grasp of Word.

Well, m’friends, it ain’t.

Today, while removing some snippets of Proper Job to put on the new PJ page, I noticed that – steady, Ian; deep breaths – Word has randomly removed line breaks between sections (those blank lines that indicate a change of viewpoint). I can’t describe how angry this makes me, but will attempt to do so. I put those frickin’ breaks between the sections because, otherwise, the ever-lovin’ reader will get confused when one section appears to run into the other. Not only that, but, dammit, I spent more than a week proofreading the entire novel and, though typos will doubtless remain, any agent/publisher looking at the manuscript will think, ‘Tcha! He hasn’t even read it – and this guy wants to be taken seriously as a writer? I’ve got a million writers lined up behind him who can actually format their manuscripts. I haven’t got time for morons. Next!’

I am so fed up with Microsoft Word. This whole incident brings back fond memories of the day of my PhD submission deadline, when I foolishly wanted to print out a couple of pages in colour. Because the colour printer was attached to different computer, I loaded up the document on that computer’s version of Word (which was, ostensibly, identical to the version that I’d written the PhD on in the first place) and oh! how I chortled when I discovered that the second computer had paginated my thesis in a completely different fashion. That second copy of Word had a whole different take on what my thesis should look like, and if I didn’t like it I could eff off and use Notepad.

Grrr.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been evaluating some Word-replacement products, and though I haven’t found one that completely fits the bill, there are several candidates. In a future post, I’ll write a brief review of each.

Here’s a summary of what I hate about Word:

  1. It’s dog-slow on my Mac (this is because the code base is PowerPC and my MacBook Pro is Intel, so I can’t be too fussy, but the app is soooo slow I have to mention this)
  2. It is unpredictable = untrustworthy = unusable if you want to look professional (do I have to re-proof my entire novel the next time I print it out, in case Word has randomly inserted porn or italicised on a computery whim or switched every third paragraph to right-justify?)
  3. It says my book has too many spelling errors and refuses to show them on the document itself. Since the word-by-word spell checker is a usability nightmare, this poses a problem. Anyway, how can there be too many? Even if every word was spelled wrong in a million-word document, shouldn’t my 1.5 gig o’ RAM MacBook Pro be equal to the task? Hello? Bill? Hello?

Here’s what I like about it:

  1. Nothing! Haven’t you been listening? Grrr!

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

8 thoughts on “Why I hate Microsoft Word”

  1. Hey, Ian. I don’t know about the rest of it, but you can turn off the random porn insert option under Preferences > General.

    My experience printing out my dissertation was nightmarish too: I had to do it at school because our printer back then wasn’t a laser (this was 1996). This meant sending it from the computer room in our building to computer printing services blocks away, and for some reason the transfer wasn’t taking. And you had to call them and make sure the package was received and tell them how many pages it would be. And I had to keep resending it because it wasn’t working. Insane. But making it far, far worse was the fact that Rebecca was, let’s see, probably about a week old, and she was hungry roughly every 17 minutes, so she had to be with me, but I couldn’t deal with her while dealing with my dissertation, so my husband was there, and he was being impatient about waiting around with her while I got the thing printed, which I still haven’t forgiven him for. Horrible.

  2. Thanks, Debra. It’s the obvious things one overlooks…

    Sounds like you had a bit of a nightmare! Still, if it didn’t have nightmarish properties, it wouldn’t be a PhD. I remember giving a tutorial a couple of days before my submission – i.e. telling the students to do group work while I worked on the thesis in the corner of the room – and managed to walk through the power cable, flinging my laptop into the centre of the room. Miraculously, only the power socket had been damaged. I had a dodgy battery, though, and only about fifteen minutes to reach my office and back it up to the network…I’ll leave you in suspense as to whether I actually managed to do that…

  3. **Hey, Ian. I don’t know about the rest of it, but you can turn off the random porn insert option under Preferences > General.**

    Oh, God. That made me laugh so hard I think I ruptured something.

  4. Eric, there doesn’t appear to be a Universal Binary build of OpenOffice yet, so it’ll be slow like Word (though maybe not AS slow). Not sure what you mean by Google- do you mean Docs and Spreadsheets? As a browser app, it’s a bit on the slow side.

  5. I’m using OpenOffice and though it has it’s quirks, it does seem to do a bit better than the MS stuff.

    Just found your blog and I’ll return often. I’m a humor columnist here across the pond. Nice to meet’cha.

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