Microsoft has been a pioneer responsible for wonderful software. But being first, can sometimes have its drawbacks
Listen, we might come off as Microsoft Word haters, but we aren’t. However, we are certain that no tool is the best for all uses. Especially if you value your content management and your writers’ sanity.
Microsoft Word has been around for a long time, it was there for content developers when nothing else was, and it’s usable.
But, at a certain point, “usable” isn’t enough. We need tools that enhance our ability to write, manage, and deploy content to modern platforms, not a tool that kinda works.
Microsoft Word Was Designed Around Physical Paper
Literally. Actual paper.
When’s the last time you printed something? Same.
Technology has advanced at breakneck speed: cloud storage, modular content, and omnichannel publishing have replaced printing text on paper.
Having an authoring program that still formats content for an 8×11 piece of printer paper doesn’t translate well to the demands of today. Content needs to be fed into diverse web frameworks, chatbots, and the like. It may play nicely with publishing PDFs, but it’s been a while since just a PDF was enough.
Still, regardless of its relative lack of modern progression, Microsoft Word remains ubiquitous across techcomm because it’s conveniently there. There’s also the fact that over the last 30 years, businesses across the world have been culled into using the Microsoft Office Suite of products.
And, Microsoft, as one of the biggest players in enterprise software, wouldn’t risk an overhaul to something people use because it plays it safe.
We go a little more in-depth on proprietary software, or closed standards, in this article: What is the Best Standard for Documentation?
Microsoft Tries to Have an Answer for Everything
Jack of all trades, master of many. But not this one.
Think about the number of products in the Microsoft Office Suite. Microsoft Word was among the first to populate the OG lineup of a handful of programs, but now the list resembles a nightclub entry list.
As far as enterprise software is concerned, Microsoft really does try to do it all. Which is why Microsoft is a tech industry pioneer. However, the greater the number of trades, the more difficult it is to master them all.
So it goes with Microsoft Word. Over the last 37 years, there have been many updates aimed at making everyone happy, but these updates haven’t addressed some of the primary concerns for techcomm professionals.
Which leads to my final point.
Microsoft Word Is Designed for Itself
It’s a word processor that’s never stopped being a word processor.
And it won’t stop being a word processor because, if you recall earlier, it has no reason to change. Being the original morningstar of the word processing world, Microsoft Word’s updates and changes have only served the purpose of ensuring its own preservation.
Content made in Microsoft Word is wrapped in its own proprietary markup, which makes your content difficult to cleanly export. There are no Microsoft Word APIs that can communicate with multiple publishing channels.
There’s just… Microsoft Word. You build content based on their rules and pay the price of those rules when it comes time to ship your content. The ‘ol fingers-crossed-send-and-hope that your content doesn’t break during its journey from Microsoft Word to wherever you need it to be.
The Role of Microsoft Word?
We’re not sure what that role is, and that’s the problem.
Let us be clear, we are not saying that Microsoft Word doesn’t work, we are, however, saying that over the 37 years of its existence, Microsoft Word has not necessarily focused on technical documentation. That’s not a bad thing, but that is relevant.
Microsoft Word is steeped in proprietary markup that makes transporting and publishing content tricky. Fortunately, we made it a little bit less of a hassle to move away from using Microsoft Word for your documentation.
See how easyDITA can take your content in Microsoft Word and convert it to DITA: [VIDEO] How to Convert Your Word Docs to DITA
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