Gratuitous but gratifying snarky post about how awful MS Word is

Especially if you try to use it to compose blog posts before pasting them into a web publishing interface like Wordpress, which this here little blog thingy uses with gusto. Money quote:

What makes Word unbearable is the output. Like the fax machine, Word was designed to put things on paper…That’s great if you’re making a lot of church bulletins or lost-dog fliers. Keep on using Word.

…For most people now, though, publishing means putting things on the Web. Desktop publishing has given way to laptop or smartphone publishing. And Microsoft Word is an atrocious tool for Web writing. Its document-formatting mission means that every piece of text it creates is thickly wrapped in metadata, layer on layer of invisible, unnecessary instructions about how the words should look on paper. I just went into Word and created a file that read, to the naked eye, as follows:

[very long string of meta-data garbage]

The whole sprawling thing runs to 16,224 characters. When I dumped it back into Word, it was an eight-page document. Online publishing systems gag on this stuff; gremlins breed in the hidden spaces. Some publishing platforms have a built-in button especially for pasting text from Word, to clear away the worst of it, but they don’t work very well. Beyond the invisible code, there are those annoying typographical flourishes—the ordinal superscripts, the directional quotation marks, the automatic em dashes—that will create their own headaches in translation. Multiple websites exist simply to unmangle Word text and turn it into plain text or readable HTML.

The whole thing is here.  Others agree with me.

Thank you for letting me get that off my e-chest. You may now go back to your regularly scheduled conversation. Life should let up a bit soon and I’ll be ready to jump back in to the fray.

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  1. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    I rarely use Word, preferring Open Office instead, but I keep a copy handy for a couple of features that Open Office doesn’t do so well.

    Word is not only annoying for web use, but also for anything you might copy and paste into some other program.

    When typing something I’m going to copy and paste, I often still go to the spartan Notepad.

    For example, if I’m entering lyrics for ProPresenter to display on the screen in church, I use Notepad. That is the only way to ensure that just the displayed text and line breaks will be transferred.

  2. BackwoodsPhilosopher wrote:

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who complains about the aggravation of Microsoft Word. That’s why my husband will only use a Mac. We have two iMac computers and sometimes I’ll use my PC. However, when I use my PC and try to copy and paste into Typepad, I end up having to re-format the entire article. I had an even worse time with WordPress. There’s always too many spaces between paragraphs….always.

    Ever since I began using Microsoft Word a long time ago, I have found it to be “glitchy”. It can double the amount of time that is needed to work on a document.

    My Microsoft Word horror story? One time I had a major problem and had to call tech support… India. Thank God it was a toll-free number. I was on the phone for four hours. Technical problems are made worse when you have an issue of language barrier.

  3. BackwoodsPhilosopher wrote:


    Have you ever tried Scrivener? Scrivener is great for writing a book.

  4. Judi wrote:

    I, too have had this problem pasting into Blogger. Or an e-mail. I’m glad to know why all that garbage is there except the meta data I see appears to have a lot of HTML in it, which wouldn’t be necessary for publishing on paper. I use TextEdit which is the barebones notepad type app on my Mac when I am composing something for my blog. Although I usually just write and save the blog on Blogger itself and make any needed corrections before I publish. It is just easier that way.

  5. CVH wrote:

    I use Word for written docs and usually use it on my blog but you’re right - it doesn’t play well with others. Royal pain in the butt. But Bill Gates is the anti-Christ so what do you expect?

  6. swhalen wrote:

    So why is everyone complaining. You’re using a pipe wrench because you can’t find your hammer? The MS website even describes what MS is for; creating documents with enhanced features; view, edit and print “documents” . There are so many more appropriate apps if you need plain text that I don’t even understand the point of opening word.

    Reminds me of SG groups that use wild orchestrations and multiple tracks when a piano and some solid harmony are all that is needed.

  7. carl wrote:

    Big mystery is how the world seems to be held hostage by the clumsiest conceivable word processor. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s railed at MS Word out loud in the middle of night. Its unstable page layout functions must make even preachers cuss. Old word processors based on XyWrite carried less baggage, were faster and more transparent. For academic publishing I used to use Note Bene.

    For having the very best, most transparent control over text and layout for all publishing contingencies–web, print, mobile device–Adobe products are great tools (like Framemaker, for making beautiful book-length technical reports) but it’s like learning a different culture to use them and I don’t know who can afford to buy them.

  8. swhalen wrote:

    #3 BP, Thanks for the link. First I’ve heard of this app and after a couple of days playing with it I’m impressed. A great replacement for MS OneNote (at least as a project organizer) which tends to be too disorganized. Much appreciated.

  9. Wade wrote:

    BWP will give ya some good info… sometimes it might take a book to tell ya but she will!!! ;-) ;-) I love BWP… if she was single I would go after here!!! ;-) :-)
    I love OCD Women!! lol

  10. Wade wrote:

    Now Brooke I would strangle or ball gag in about 5 minutes!!!! She has OCGBR Disorder!!!

  11. Renee wrote:

    I don’t see what the problem is. I have published on my website. It’s easy…

    1) I use MS Word to write the article, spell and grammar check it.
    2) Then I copy and paste the entire article into Notepad, which is a plain text….all the “extra” stuff that messes up websites drops off.
    3) I then copy & paste into my website. DONE. Now how hard is that?

  12. ode wrote:

    5,CVH,judging by mass emails from uber right Antichrist de jour is Barack Obama. As the “ugly little charlatan” Rev. Jerry Falwell once announced, the Antichrist will be a male Jew, so Gates doesnt quilify. Sloppy work, Jerry! Should have added “or Black American”, to delight his fans.

    LOL .. oh, my baby, with your wildest personality you must have as many women as biblical King David. Proud to see that unlike him you have standards and won’t go for married ones. Enjoy women as just your christian sisters- think of savings on weddings, then divorce attorneys .. :)

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