I was reading over on Digg about the extended debate people seem to be having about the importance of MSWord, and wondering why it isn’t on my list. Let me start by admitting that this list is heavily Mac biased (an invite to PC users to follow, stick in here for a moment). For those who want to use windows and enjoy using windows, please do. I personally find Mac easier to use for my academic needs, we could debate the merits of this back and forth forever perhaps, and I will admit that if you are in the science fields there are serious reasons to consider using windows. Finally, if you are a PC user and would like to outline apps for PC users in academics please do, I would even post one here if you want. That having been said, I am trying to document to those who are not tech savy how I use tech in my teaching/research to help them (again more of a problem in humanities than science)
Which brings me to . . .why no Office.
Quite simply for those who are professional writers (that is produce long documents say over ten pages) Word is not designed for you. Since I have made the shift away from using word I realize how bad a word processor Word is. That having been said, it does dominate the field of document production.
But this does not mean that you have to use word. First save yourself the $150 (academic discount price) on Word, and go get either Neo Office or Open Office. These will allow you to view, change and write .doc files without any problems. Second, almost every word processor out there will let you open .doc files. Third professors should not accept work in a .doc format. Why because it is not readable by everyone. Why fall for the corporate scam of using an exclusive format like .doc. Instead make your students save/share and turn in work in a .rtf format. (I will cover how this works for those who don’t know it in a later post.) One of the first “lectures” I give in my classes is how to save as a .rtf. This makes the document readable by anybody with any word processor program. And isn’t the point of academics to make knowledge available to the widest audience. Anything I produce in Mellel is saveable as a .rtf so I can collaborate with others (for those who read this site you will see how bad my spelling and grammar is-I collaborate all the time with other academics even if just to get their editing comments). This might loose some of the format, but not enough to make a difference, and if it does no worries just save it as a .pdf.
I will repeate my case: Word is an expensive program that uses an exclusive format. Why would you want to encourage students to use this? It’s a bit like asking students to only use Internet Explorer (which many academic institutions unfortunately do).