What about MS Word?

by Jane on November 2, 2011

I wish I lived in a world without Word.  But I’ve finally accepted that, outside our little corner of academia, when you need to send 100 words of information, you send a Word document.  Every office party flyer, every travel authorization form, gets sent as 10 MB of Microsoft bloatware. (Why?)

I used to complain.  I used to write polite emails to secretaries in the Dean’s office, pointing out that there are perfectly good universal formats (.txt, .pdf, .rtf, googledocs) that everyone can read, that don’t require a Microsoft license.

I failed to change the world.

Have you all given up too?  Do you load it all on open-source or Apple products and accept the bad fonts and unreadable figures?  Or, what?  Or are you just assuming that the cloud and social networking will gradually render Word obsolete?  (Ye Olde Worde?)

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tom November 2, 2011 at 8:58 am

I haven’t had Office installed on my computer for nearly 5 years now. Luckily, 99% of forms I have had to fill in are PDF files, and ones which aren’t get sent back as PDF files exported from Pages or Google Docs, even if the formatting gets messed up. If you *really* need to read a Word document, you can use Microsoft’s online Word document editor (I think it’s in Windows Live).


2 Sivaramakrishnan November 2, 2011 at 10:54 am

Luckily, I’ve comfortably managed to live about 4 years without having to touch MS-Word. I get frustrated when the prof mails a questionaire as a .doc when a .txt would have been perfectly fine. Google docs has helped assuage the problem somewhat. But I guess that unless MS comes up with a slick cloud solution and reinvents MS-Office for the tablet (Dunno how they’re doing that in Windows 8), I think MS-Office will slowly be on it’s way out.


3 Eilat November 2, 2011 at 4:09 pm

If possible, I write my proposals in Word. I wrote my NSF fellowship proposal in Word. IRTF proposals have a word template which I use, and my Keck proposals at Caltech were in Word. They always come out looking a little bit… richer? fuller? nicer!
Also, figure placement is as easy and moving the mouse, and allows for placing figures and captions exactly where you want them. If only NOAO would allow word uploads instead of their infuriating web /TeX based hodgepodge, life would be bliss!

Papers are still in TeX, of course, but I am happy with the docx.


4 Adam November 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I use google docs whenever I have to deal with otherwise proprietary formates. I’ve used Pages, but it’s annoying too. The last document I maintained in Pages was my CV, but I finally switched that to TeX. I’ve found that tex.stackexchange.com has made TeX much more useable for general cases; it used to be impossible to find out how to do simple things in TeX, but I find that’s no longer the case.

I still cringe when I get a .doc in e-mail, though.


5 Kelle November 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm

I have not given up, but I choose my battles. I don’t email the Dean’s Asst when he sends around an invitation in .doc, but I do chat with the admins in my own dept and teach them the beauty of PDFs and GoogleDocs.
For proposals, I’m trying to use GoogleDocs as much as possible. But for things that need to be pretty, I use Pages. My CV is in Pages.
I’ve tried to use Numbers, but frankly it sucks compared to Excel for more complicated functions.


6 Matt K November 3, 2011 at 5:49 am

It’s a lost battle, IMHO. If you can persuade people to “Print to PDF” and send that, at least it is an email attachment size win.

Eliat: I praise you for persevering with Word for proposals! One paragraph of caution though:

I was a Word 98 fanatic and used it to write my thesis. My love affair with MS products came to an abrupt end when (i) above 200 pages, Word98 silently started dropping floats and figures from my thesis and (ii) No later version of Word would correctly open my thesis document – since I also drew about 100 figures using the Word inline diagram creator, that means I’ve lost ALL the figures I drew for my thesis…. Of course this probably doesn’t worry you for smaller proposals, but it still is annoying when you lose all that work!


7 Carolyn Brinkworth November 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I’ve more-or-less given up on the whole subject, and have accepted the inevitability of needing Word installed on my laptop and desktop. I use Pages whenever I need to typeset something quickly and easily (like a reference letter/CV/my class notes from my MA course – love the LaTeX emulator for the equations) but try to use Google Docs for anything I need to share.

I will never use Word (or Pages or anything that isn’t LaTeX) for writing proposals or papers – IMHO they don’t look as professional when written that way, and I’m always terrified of the missing figure problem. We used Word to write up the software manuals over here, and we had a hell of a time (plus regular crashes as soon as the documents exceeded 50 pages or so). Total nightmare.


8 Rodolfo Barba November 9, 2011 at 1:18 am

I’m also part of the world outside from Word. We use OpenOffice, and recently shifted to LibreOffice instead (libreoffice.org). This open-source office suite works fine in 99% of cases of Microsoft file formats, enough to fill most of bureacrathic forms. Also, LibreOffice has the possibility to save the files in MS formats (doc, ppt, xls, etc.). LibreOffice is available in many flavours, including Linux, Mac OS, Windows, etc. Googledocs is also growing as alternative in our group to share relatively simple information as notes, tables, etc. Cheers from Buenos Aires.


9 gps November 11, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Just use gmail.

It will let you view anything like this in your browser so you do not need to open the evil thing 99% of the time.


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