Bring Back XyWrite

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Tom Scocca on the Microsoft program that needs to die:


Nowadays, I get the same feeling of dread when I open an email to see a Microsoft Word document attached. Time and effort are about to be wasted cleaning up someone's archaic habits. A Word file is the story-fax of the early 21st century: cumbersome, inefficient, and a relic of obsolete assumptions about technology. It's time to give up on Word. It took years for me to get to this point. 

I came of age with Word. It's the program I used to write my college papers, overcoming old-fashioned page counts with its magical font-switching technology: Times, tightly justified, if the writing was running too long; airily monospaced Courier if things were too short. In those days, Word was an obedient and resourceful servant. Today, it's become an overbearing boss, one who specializes in make-work. Part of this is Microsoft's more-is-more approach to adding capabilities, and leaving all of them in the "on" position. 

Around the first time Clippy launched himself, uninvited, between me and something I was trying to write, I found myself wishing Word had a simple, built-in button for "cut it out and never again do that thing you just did." It's possible that the current version of Word does have one; I have no idea where among the layers of menus and toolbars it might be. All I really know how to do up there anymore is to go in and disable AutoCorrect, so that the program will type what I've typed, rather than what some software engineer thinks it should think I'm trying to type.

Yeah, it's a problem. As Tom later mentions, Word works just fine when you're working on something big and cumbersome like a book (which I happen to be doing) but I almost never use it for anything else. I'll be getting a Mac soon and likely transitioning into something else.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/04/bring-back-xywrite/255839/