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Friday, May 06, 2005

Barnett doesn't get it

As is par for such rants, Randy Barnett just doesn't "get" the idea of software choice
Yeh, I know he doesn't frame it that way, but his rant "I Hate Mocrosoft Word" talks past the simple fact that word processors, like all software, are matters of personal taste as much as anything else. So he's been using Wordperfect for years and feels it's much superior to MS Word.  So? Perhaps for some niche markets it is.  But then that might be said of MS Word or any other word processing software.  (Yes, there are more choices.)
For most mere mortals it won't matter a bit which word processing software they use, as long as it does what they want.  And any word processor can be made to do darn near anything any other word processor can do.  For some, it seems (to particular users) that one is "more intuitive, easier-to-use, more elegant" than others. That's usually simply because they have used other software that's set up in a similar fashion, or they've used the so-called "more intuitive, easier-to-use, more elegant" piece of software they're rhapsodizing about for years and its way of doing things seems right to them.
N.B.--I have yet to use any software that's "intuitively" set up*.  Heck, keyboard and mousing skills are not intuitive; they're learned. And the normal keyboard layout is clumsy, inefficient and extremely counterintuitive.  Hmmm... I wonder if Barnett uses am "elegant" keyboard layout with his "elegant" word processor?  Or does he use the same clunky keyboard layout the rest of use mere mortals use with regular old plain jane vanilla word processors?
Here's a humorous quote from the Barnett article:
"...have I ever mentioned how much I detest Microsoft Word? Word reformats paragraphs and everything else as it wishes and it is sometimes next to impossible to trick it into keeping it to the format you prefer."
Here's just one of the ways you can customize how much (or how little) you want Word to  intrude with autoformatting, etc.
TOOLS>CUSTOMIZE "Always show full menus."
Bob's your uncle.
Now, catch this: I do not use Microsoft Word. Took me less than 30 seconds to drop into a google session, find the answer and type it. (I did check that process on a computer that does have Word installed.  Gee.  Had to walk 20 feet to do it. Woo Hoo!)
"...next to impossible" my fat white... arrggghhh! 
Barnett's attitude is similar to the war between PC users and Mac religionists: PC users ocassionally notice gnats nibbling at their ankles crying, "The Mac is intuitive and PCs aren't!"  The fact that Macs and PCs are both counter-intuitive to just about an equal degree matters not.  The fact that the 3%-4% worldwide market share Macs have is beneath the notice of most PC users is of no import, either.  Or that any Windows user can sit down at any 80% or more of "unfamiliar" Window machines and just start working, while it takes them quite some time to get used to a Mac (and vice versa--the stories I have! heh) —if they can find one in the wild to try out—is besides the point as well.
Diff'rent strokes,  Willis  Randy
Barnett is free, of course, to hate Microsoft Word and ankle-bite all he wants.  I'd submit that for the real world user, there's no substantive difference between Word and Wordperfect, and Barnett's just baying at the moon.
(BTW, I use OpenOffice, now, for all my office suite software needs. Read and save in other office suite formats? Sure. Save as pdf? Yes. Free? YES!  While there's not a dime's bit of difference between Word, Wordperfect and whomever, there's several hundreds of dollars difference between commercial office suites and OpenOffice.  I prefer free, as long as I don't give up functionality I need.  http://www.openoffice.org )
*One, and only one I have found, near exception to the "no intuitive software" observation is the music transcription software I have come to rely on as my primary music writing tool. "Near exception" because it depends heavily on some shared values, experiences, etc. It's pretty much, fire up the software and start playing on a midi keyboard.  Music notation appears.  It's more complex than that, of course, but the interface seems close to intuitive for someone who reads music well and can play a keyboard.  In fact, when I bought it and started using it, I didn't even crack the manual (a manual!—"back in the day" indeed! and "heh" :-) for nearly a year.  And the help file? There was no stinking help file, cos it didn't need one! Really easy to use, unlike the "other" now dominant music transcription software. Far greater contrast between my fav music transcription software and "the other one" (now dominant music transcription software) than between Word and Wordperfect, but I won't make blanket "I hate _______" statements as a result of the fact that my fav doesn't work like the other one.