Five Alternatives To Fighting With Microsoft Word

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microsoft word could be better

It is the rare individual that isn’t locked in some sort of love-hate relationship with Microsoft Word. Its ubiquity and feature set have made it the default for document creation just about everywhere, so chances are you’ve used it extensively and feel pretty comfortable navigating it. Many people will have Word, and their documents will play nicely with your documents. That’s the love-ish part.

The hate comes in at any number of places. Maybe you hate the price you’ll pay to get Microsoft Office at home. Maybe you hate the fact that they switched to that ribbon interface a couple iterations ago. Maybe you’ve never gotten over the trauma that was Clippy.

35-Microsoft-clippy-did-you-know-humor

Maybe you are browsing Microsoft alternatives because you’re philosophically committed to using open source software. Maybe you just really hate Microsoft as a company. No matter the reason, really. If you’re just looking around, kicking some tires to see what might work for you, here are some alternatives.

A note on my completely not-at-all rigorous testing mechanism: for each Word alternative, I stuffed a heavily formatted legal document — headers, bullet points, footnotes, signature blocks, you name it — into the program to see if it would play nice with an existing Word document. After that, I moved text around, redlined, and commented all over the thing. I also moved documents back and forth between programs with and without edits to see how things behave in Word after they’re created or altered in another program. After that, I did a feature check for things small-firm lawyers often need to handle solo, like mail merges and envelopes.

There are a couple notable programs missing from this list. First, the open source program AbiWord is still beloved, it appears, but hasn’t been updated in forever. It might be a useful choice for an antiquated system that needs something super-lightweight to work, but for a typical office computer, it will just be too clunky to even get installed. (I couldn’t install it on my Mac at all, as it hasn’t been updated since Macs were PowerPCs.) You also won’t see WordPerfect, because that’s a program you need to purchase and because honestly, if you are still wedded to WordPerfect after all these years, you probably can’t be dissuaded at this point.

All that said, let’s do this.

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  • If you want MS Office at home, Office 365 Personal is $6.99/month. Doesn’t seem very expensive to me. The ribbon interface contains buttons for which there were no buttons previously; it instantly provides the tools you need based upon what you’re doing (contextual tabs); and it is overall vastly better than the static, ancient interface previously employed. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s bad. Mr. Clippy was last used in Office 2003 which was obviously 11 years ago. In software years, that was 77 years ago. I’m not sure how that is remotely relevant today and if someone is still traumatized by an animated paper clip 11 years later, then professional help is clearly required. If you spend 75% of your time fixing auto formatting, then I can solve that for you by showing you how to turn it off permanently. Just a few check boxes.

    I hate to be Captain Obvious, but the best solution for not knowing how to control Word is to learn how to control Word. There appears to be some expectation that by simply playing around with a complex software program that one should be able to master it. It just doesn’t work like that. However, that doesn’t mean that one can’t master any program including Word. I can easily show you in 5 minutes or less how to fix or address or avoid any issue you’ve ever found frustrating about Word. For free, via web meeting. Just shoot me an email (bhenley@affinityconsulting.com). Send me ANY document you want representing ANY issue and I can solve it for you in
    seconds. I read article after article written by people who bash Word and claim it to be indecipherable when they’ve never actually read a single manual or taken a single class. If you DID take a class, then it was obviously woefully inadequate. I’m not
    saying Word is perfect – it isn’t. However, it’s controllable and once mastered, you’ll spend no time trying to fix a formatting glitch because they are 100% avoidable in the first place. Default settings need to be adjusted; default formatting needs to be adjusted; and styles and section formatting must be understood. After that, every document is a piece of cake – no matter how complex the formatting is. :)

  • Philnick

    Your justifications for leaving WordPerfect out of this line-up are (1) it’s not free and (2) WP users aren’t going to switch.

    (1) The Apple programs you talked about aren’t free except for buyers of relatively new machines, so there goes justification number one.

    (2) Since you’re talking about choices frustrated Word users might flee *to*, the fact that WP users don’t want to switch to Word is irrelevant. There goes justification number two.

    WP Office for Windows is far cheaper than MS Office, can read and write both the old and new MS Office file formats (i.e. those with or without an “x” at the end) and has for the last three versions (X5, X6 & X7), and being a Windows program it does not feel very different. It just does everything MS Office does and more (not less, as with many of the ones you list) – more consistently, more predictably, and will do what you want, the way you want to.

    • Word Perfect users are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that’s left of their religion.

      —Grand Moff Tarkin

      • Philnick

        And you saw what happened to him.