DATE: Thu 18 Mar 2021 By:

Microsoft Word

It’s annoying.

I recently changed my position at work and because of this I’m having to use “word” a lot more. I have been a long time defender of Excel so imagine my shock when I have to spend a little time in Word.

Excel is not to my tastes but it is a very competent piece of software that I have had to use every day for eleven years. Other than a few odd UI things (ribbon) it’s actually okay to use. Works well, has lots of sensible short cut keys and doesn’t do anything to actually work against you.

Word on the other hand is quite a different beast. It’s a monster that tries it’s best to abuse your freedoms in very real ways. It will reformat your text, add these off mini-new lines places and some time’s decide to double line space things for seemingly no reason.

I get that most of these decisions are related to purpose. There is an expectation that everything written in Word will end up in print. So when it swaps my regular quotation marks for “smart quotes” it makes sense. It looks nicer in print, I get it. But I’m very accustomed to writing things in terminals and I find my text suddenly changing style quite jarring.

I tried to turn it off but first had to figure out what the options were called. Some of the odd things it did were coming from the “Smart” options, some from autocorrect options. Once I realised that, it was a case of turning off “corrections” in the autocorrect options, and then turning off the “autocorrect as you type” stuff at the same time. Then editing the autocorrect “swap list” because they card entered the “smart” versions of the apostrophes and quotations marks into there too.

All of this I feel is in an attempt to make things look like they were done in Word. To make the Word way of doing things the apparent “correct way” I understand this subtle brand control. I even do agree the angled “smart” punctuation and formatting characters look pretty nice when printed.

What I object to is the fact that there isn’t just a plain text mode that lets me use the characters I type (as Notepad does) but allows me the benefit of words spelling and grammar tools. I mean, ideally I would just have my home Vim setup at work but that’s not likely to happen.

That Vim want you expect.

Yeah, I know Vim has quite a learning curve, yeah I know it’s not for everyone but seriously! Microsoft Word feels like I’m editing things with a children’s tool. It’s like editing for idiots. Where as Excel has sensible shortcut keys and some nice little formula tools to make my day easier, Word is the enemy. Everything it does seems to be designed to make me mad.

Vim on the other hand, takes some work to understand but once you do, it’s like being a text wizard. It’s like a fucking magical power. The ease with which I can make changed to text is like having he editor plugged into your brain. After a short time you start to think in Vim terms when you look at text. Not to mention macros and extensions. Vim is bliss.

The disconnect.

There is a strange disconnect between peoples skills as writers and the effort they put into their tools.

When a carpenter wants a specific tool they will either make it themselves or spend time customising what they have to make it something way better for them.

With people who write a lot, be it code, pros, whatever. They seems to resent having to put work in to learn Vim. It’s like they think it’s unreasonable to put effort into the tool when all they are about is the output. It baffles me. I don’t see why they feel like this.

I spend a few days messing with Vim before I was capable of performing basic tasks, a year later I was using it as my main editor. Fast forward to now, a good few years down the line and I even use Vim navigation in my web browser. I don’t have any office suites installed on my machine and if I type, it’s in Vim. The effort I put it was a drop in the ocean compared to all the time I have saved and all the quality of life perks that Vim has given me.

I honestly think Vim should be taught in schools. Even if it’s just a basic familiarisation or something. We should be making sure that everyone understands there is a more elegant way to do his stuff.

Word is only the default choice for people because they don’t know better. (imo)