Web dev at the end of the world, from Hveragerði, Iceland

Once upon a time, I couldn’t imagine a better word processor than Word

Then Microsoft released version 6.0, bringing the Mac version ‘in line’ with their Windows version.

I still miss 5.1a occasionally.

As Word’s decline spiralled on, I found it difficult to imagine that any word processor could be worse. (Nisus was my beat.)

Then, proving the world full of despair, I tried OpenOffice. I still maintain that software that awful to use can only have been made as an elaborate troll.

As if to prove that MS doesn’t have exclusivity on uncomfortable and ill-fitting software, Google develops Google Docs. Joyless and bland.

Apple’s Pages feels like a writing tool designed by the VP of Sales: it makes it easy to make glossy crap that only looks good on an offset printed poster while normal writing feels like trying to use a typewriter wrapped in cellophane. Everything feels wrapped in plastic and guided on rails.

I didn’t leave word processors, they left me. Word processors wandered off away from the hill that they had conquered and assumed that I had no option but to follow.

I don’t write primarily in markdown because the format is nice but because markdown apps like Ulysses and Byword value the joy of writing as well as the need for structure. They recognise that writing is equal parts emotional and executive reasoning. Favour emotional logic too much and you get Apple’s glossy, wrapped-in-plastic writing experience. Favour executive reasoning too much and you get Microsoft Office’s kitchen-sink-included helicarrier.

And, if you value neither the executive nor the emotional parts of writing, if you treat the writing process like a socially mediated process—as if it were 1990s suburban household trying to pick which videos to rent for the evening—then you make something like Google Docs.

If you need to write meeting notes or a shopping list with half a dozen people, use Google Docs.

If you want to make a brochure or a fancy looking CV, use Pages.

If you work in an Office, use MS Office. Not because it’s the best for the job but because it’s the one your tech team will have installed. (No One Ever Got Fired For Buying IBM.)

The rest of us? Stick with text documents that use minimal markup formats, I guess. Until somebody other than markdown app developers realise that we are a market worth targeting.

You can also find me on Mastodon and Bluesky