Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Michael Jennings quote of the day

First of all, it is time to speak some truth to power in this country: Microsoft Word is a terrible program. Its terribleness is of a piece with the terribleness of Windows generally, a system so overloaded with icons, menus, buttons, and incomprehensible Help windows that performing almost any function means entering a treacherous wilderness of pop-ups posing alternatives of terrifying starkness: Accept/Decline/Cancel; Logoff/Shut Down/Restart; and the mysterious Do Not Show This Warning Again. You often feel that you’re not ready to make a decision so unalterable; but when you try to make the window go away your machine emits an angry beep. You double-click. You triple-click. Beep beep beep beep beep. You are being held for a fool by a chip.

-- Louis Menand, writing in the New Yorker. Go read the whole rant. It is great. I actually pretty much agree with this. Microsoft Word contains a vast number of features, all of which have been grafted on top of others over the years without any logical design. Word can do almost anything, but actually figuring out how to make it do what you want, especially when what you want is complex but precisely defined, can be quite difficult. I am with Neal Stephenson. TeX doesn't look pretty and is harder to learn than Word if you only want it to do something simple, but once you have learned how it works everything is logical, and getting it to do exactly what you want is easy, no matter how complex the thing you want it to do (Word is absolutely hopeless at doing complex things systematically). On the other hand I am a vi man rather than an emacs man.

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