Writer Steven Poole has shared this great history of his experience with word processing software, culminating in his recent decision to leave Microsoft Word behind forever in favor of modern text editors Scrivener and (my personal secret weapon) WriteRoom.
The last question is one of interoperability, and on first sight it’s a serious one. Surely if everyone else is using Microsoft Word and we are sending documents back and forth to each other, then I need to use Microsoft Word too? I imagine that kind of reasoning sells the majority of new copies. But for me it doesn’t matter at all. If I just need to read a Word document, I can open it in pretty much any Mac program. If I need to exchange files back and forth using comments or Track Changes, I can do that through Google Apps or Pages. If someone really insists on sending me a Word document so festooned with all its formatting “features”, tables, graphics, and so on that it doesn’t work in another program, I am just likely to respond: What the fuck?
There’s a practical beauty to working in plaintext files, and it’s lovely to be able to get at my work quickly every time I decide to move to a new text editor. (I’m writing this in TextWrangler, but when I need to turn off the world and bash out some words, WriteRoom is tops—and opens up my text files just like every other sane application out there.)