While I’ve made some jokes about it, there’s a legitimate point being made here as to why journalists – and writers of all kinds – continue to use Microsoft Word despite the presence of a number of alternatives.
Being the age I am I came up using Microsoft Word in college and then in the workplace. In high school any word processing was done using whatever software was in place on the old IBM machines that were pervasive or the Apple machines available in the yearbook office.
That usage continued for years but I made the switch to online writing almost as soon as it was available, first with Writely, which offered an AJAX-powered experience and then Google Docs, which was launched after Google acquired Writely in 2006.
For the most part that system has continued working for me. Google Docs allows you to export files into Word format, as well as others, if you need to send a actual copy of a document to a boss, client, editor or anyone else. I’ve continued using Word fairly regularly when it’s been necessary, but the automatic saving of documents as well as the collaboration functionality of Docs has been my preferred experience for over a decade now.
But that’s me. Some of the Twitter conversations that resulted from that op-ed called out Apple’s Pages, Evernote and other tools as people’s preferred experience. Some people, like me, also occasionally use TextEdit or Notepad (depending on their OS) for their writing.
I’m the first to admit that Word is a lot more fully-featured than something like Docs. The problem for me is that most of those features are completely inconsequential, whereas those offered by Docs are more of what I’m looking for when it comes to my writing. It’s easier to add linked text and elements like charts and tables in Docs than it is in Word, and those have proven to be more important over the years so I’ve stuck with it.
There are times where how Docs and Word talk to each other – or, more to the point, don’t – has become an issue when working with editors or others since sometimes the formatting of text doesn’t translate well or a comment left in Word gets mangled in Docs or some other problem arises. It’s almost never been an insurmountable issue, though, and is usually cleared up quickly with little fuss. I’ll admit I’ve been lucky on that front.
That sort of interoperability is less, in my mind, a case for one tool over the other than it is for the software industry to adopt open standards that would eliminate those issues, competing for people’s attention on ease of use and not on locked-in features or in-house requirements for usage.
In the end, writing is a personal experience, even if you’re doing so for business or professional reasons. So it’s only natural that different people have different preferences. It’s the same reason one artist prefers a certain type of brush while another says a different one is the only sane choice, despite them being almost identical. Do what feels best and most effectively matches how your brain works and what your reality dictates. That’s all you can do. Just keep writing, whatever it is you use.