Word dies; irony hardest hit

August 3rd, 2009  |  Tags: ,

Jeremy Reimer wrote an article for Ars Technica claiming that Microsoft Word is dead. Some incidental aspects of his argument surely deserve additional scrutiny (e.g. the “people prefer software with more features” claim), but the main thrust is that Word is dead because documents now appear on the web instead of in print, or something, and there are better formats and tools for writing for the web:

What everyone had lost track of in the heat of battle was why we were still using Word (or OpenOffice Writer, which is—let’s face it—just a clone of Word) to create documents that were likely never going to be printed.

Word, to this day, is still largely a digital representation of a bunch of 8½ by 11 pieces of paper. Pages have numbers which you must use to reference them, and every page has a header and a footer. Word does have a display mode called “Draft” that makes it look more like an endless stream of toilet paper than separate pages, but I always switched to “Print Layout”—partly because Draft was so ugly, but mostly as a kind of unconscious reflex, a need to “know” what the printed form would look like even though I was rarely printing things out any more. Even in Draft mode, the pages are still there, and are always the same size.

One almost hesitates to point out that Reimer’s article — as it appears on the Ars Technica web site, unfettered by the antiquated constraints of physical media — is paginated. Furthermore, each page has a header, a footer, a sidebar, and a number. Perhaps some constraints die harder than we might wish.