The bottom line is Word for Windows is unacceptable. While Microsoft’s Word might be able to masquerade as a competent Word processor for those who don’t have to do anything more challenging than to write letters or memos, it is a complete nightmare to work with for anyone who must do far more complex and challenging projects such as formatting a print ready novel. But before comparing Microsoft Word to Corel’s Wordperfect it’s necessary that I bring everyone up to date on how we got to this sorry state of affairs.
A few years back even before Windows 95 was just getting established, I used to really enjoy doing my Word processing with Microsoft products. Back then Microsoft had a beautiful little program called Microsoft Works for Dos. It had three basic components, a Word processor, a spreadsheet and a database module, and each component was accompanied by an absolutely terrific hands on tutorial program that was far superior to anything Microsoft has produced since. But after a year or two the Windows operating system started to take over. Microsoft was quick to introduce its Microsoft Word for Windows which according to most software reviews was far more user friendly than Wordperfect’s first releases of its Wordperfect for Windows. I wound up getting a copy of each and I kept trying out one, then the other. I quickly found, however, that the not so user friendly Wordperfect was at least as easy to work with as the far more favorably reviewed Microsoft Word for Windows.
It wasn’t long,however, that Microsoft started to virtually give away its Word for Windows software. Meanwhile I wrote and published my first novel, Death on the Wild Side and even typeset the entire novel with the help of Wordperfect’s excellent technical support department. That was back in 1995 when I was able to call Wordperfect any time I liked while being hand held through all the intricacies of line and word spacing, gutter margins, and formatting for two sided printing. But of course that level of technical support costs money so back in those days Wordperfect needed to pass the cost of all that superb technical support onto its customers by charging them a pretty hefty initial price for its Word processing software. What I didn’t realize back then was that Microsoft was throwing out the seeds of addiction to an unsuspecting user base. In those days, just as now, when every time you bought a new computer you had to buy Microsoft’s operating system. However, to make the bitter pill of being forced to buy Windows a little easier to swallow Microsoft would often include a freebie or two that would go with the computer and operating system software. That freebie usually included either a free CD of Microsoft Word for Windows or Microsoft Works. At first Microsoft Works contained an abbreviated version of its full blown Microsoft Word software but it wasn’t long before it supplied the full featured version of Word even though its Spreadsheet module didn’t have all of Excel’s capability.
So here’s what happened. Nearly everyone buying a computer wound up getting some version or the other of Microsoft’s Word for Windows for free, or so they thought. Meanwhile Wordperfect, which had previously dominated the word processing software market languished since its high priced software couldn’t compete with free. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Microsoft, which by this time was the dominant player in computer software heavily advertised its products in such magazines as Computer World and P.C. Magazine. Well, I think you already know how that one went. Think Computer World or P.C. Magazine’s going to give a bum review to the company that’s done the most advertising in their pages?
Allow me to demonstrate how such magazines have consistently trashed Wordperfect while giving excellent reviews to a product that is completely unacceptable to anyone who’s serious about his writing. I quote P.C. Magazine’s latest review of Wordperfect X-6:
WordPerfect vs. Word
The major attraction of the suite is WordPerfect, the only modern word-processing app that makes gives me almost total control over the way my documents look. Microsoft Word, in contrast, sometimes seems to have a mind of its own—formatting documents in ways I never intended, or unpredictably retaining or discarding formatting in text imported from a Web browser. But WordPerfect almost always does exactly what I want. And it’s the only modern app that still formats and organizes documents by inserting normally-invisible “codes” in the text, so when you want to troubleshoot the formatting of your document, you can open a “Reveal Codes” pane at the foot of the editing window, find the code that’s causing the problem and either remove it or double-click it to change its settings. The “Reveal Codes” pane has always looked ugly, but the new version changes the font and color so it’s not as hard on the eyes as it once was.
In contrast to WordPerfect’s code-based formatting, Microsoft Word and all other modern word-processing apps format documents by “painting” them with attributes such as fonts and margins, and it’s almost impossible to tell where the invisible format “painting” begins and ends. If you’ve ever deleted a few letters in Word, only to find that that the format of a whole paragraph changed unexpectedly, you’ll see the point of WordPerfect’s method. Of course, Microsoft Word performs tricks that WordPerfect can’t do at all, like split a document window so you can edit the first and last page of a file on the same screen.
Now, here’s what this review tells us. It tells us that there is no way to predict how one’s final output is going to wind up looking in Microsoft Word and that it has a mind of its own. This means that when I write a book, I’m not creating the book, I am allowing Microsoft to make my book look the way Microsoft wants it to look. It also tells us that Microsoft’s Word Processor is tremendously difficult to use since its nearly impossible to try to figure out how Microsoft has changed a document’s formatting or how I can go about changing it so my document looks the way I want it to look.
But let us not forget that Microsoft is paying P.C. Magazine a lot more advertising dollars than Corel is so the reviewer who’s being paid by P.C. Magazine must come up with some miraculous way to give more stars to Word than he’s giving to Wordperfect even though he’s already said that Word is a terrible program, although he’s not said it directly. So in the last sentence the reviewer states that Microsoft Word allows the user to edit both the first and last pages of a document of a file on the same screen.
Now just what kind of nonsense is that? At first the reviewer for P.C. Magazine states that it’s nearly impossible to edit a document properly in Word under any circumstances, and then after he tells us you can’t do it, that it’s a huge advantage to be able to edit the first page and last page of a document on the same screen. Now do you really want to be able to edit the first and last pages of a document on the same screen? I don’t. I can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time so why would I want to be able to do that?
Nevertheless it’s obvious that the reviewer probably actually hates Word just as much as I do, but he can’t actually come out and say what he really thinks because if he did, he might wind up losing his job. So his conclusion goes as follows:
“ For years I’ve been using WordPerfect and Word side-by-side. Neither is ideal, but once you’ve learned—as I have—what WordPerfect can do that Word can’t, you may not be willing to live without it.”
The bottom line is Microsoft Word gets 4.5 stars whereas Wordperfect only gets 4 even though Wordperfect can do so much more than Word ever could.
My experiences with Word have been so horrible that I wouldn’t even be using it if I wasn’t being forced to rely upon it. I have recently published still another book in Kindle format. My problem is that I cannot upload a Wordperfect file to Amazon’s web site. Instead I must use a doc Windows file or a pdf file. It’s easy to write the e book in Wordperfect. The formatting’s a cinch and the file winds up looking perfect no matter how many pictures it contains, tables or captions. Moreover, Wordperfect converts its wordprocessing files into perfect pdf’s that in theory should work very well when they are uploaded to Amazon’s web site for e book publishing. Unfortunately the table of contents that works in the pdf file does not work in the resulting Mobi or Kindle file once its uploaded and converted at Amazon. So that alone forces me to go back to using Word.
Just about everything about Word is terribly difficult, from its outlining feature to doing something as simple as page numbering. The ribbon interface is difficult to say the least which requires me to do internet google searches on just about anything I want to do in Word. My latest revelation from doing a google search was that I had been suspecting that Word was automatically compressing the pictures I was inserting into my latest book. Since there were 115 pictures this wasn’t a small deal. For one thing, the overall size of the file I was submitting to Amazon was only about sixty percent the size I had calculated it out to be. So when I went through the ribbon to see if there was a feature for compressing pictures I couldn’t find what I was looking for. Which was typical. Google, however told me where to find it, and sure enough there it was. Word automatically defaults so that it compresses any pictures one puts into his documents. I was overjoyed. Here I had spent days formatting 115 pictures so that each one represented the best compromise I could come up with between quality and file size. Amazon, after all would be charging me more than seventy-five cents each time a customer bought one of my e–books at so many cents a megabyte. I had been thinking the cost would be more like a dollar and a quarter based on my file size. The end result was I had used my graphics arts program to compress my images at a 30 % factor and here Microsoft was compressing them even more.
Wordperfect’s X-6 Office software now has an e book publishing feature. What it does is it will transform the wordperfect file one is working on to a Mobi file which one can then upload to Amazon thus bypassing the need for using Microsoft. When I had finished using the e book publishing feature everything turned out letter perfect. I was able to create perfectly formatted columns and I was able to easily create captions for a large number of those 115 pictures that came out just the way I wanted them to look. The e book that I wound up with at the Amazon web site was perfect in every way except for two unacceptable glitzes. At this point I don’t know if it was something I did or if Corel has not quite perfected its e book publisher yet. The first problem is that the image or picture that would be the first page the potential buyer of my book would see was only about a quarter the size it should have been. It looked like a postage stamp. The second defect was that there were a few lines of code or garbage appearing on the page between the title page and the publishing page. Other than that the table of contents worked like a champ and all my tables, margins, and captions underneath my pictures were gorgeous.
I was forced into using Microsoft Word and it took me something like three extra days doing what I had already done in Wordperfect. When I published my Word file to Amazon most of my picture captions were either missing entirely or they were all over the place. The tables were all screwed up as well. I wound up having to delete all my captions, and then when I tried to put new lines of text in that weren’t actually captions but which I hoped would appear similar to captions I found out that they’d appear on top of some of my pictures instead of beneath them or they’d appear a paragraph down from where I had placed them. As for the caption feature in Word, the bottom line is it didn’t work. At least not when it came to doing an e book.
I also had a problem with some of my tables. Many of them would be hidden behind my pictures and even when I moved the pictures around with my mouse oftentimes I couldn’t find them. But their being there in the first place sure played havoc with where how some of my other lines of text appeared. Only by actually deleting the pictures could I find some of the hidden tables.
I was having such a tough time that I decided to try saving my Word files in docx format instead of doc, because this being a much more up to date file type and being billed as being more fully featured I felt that it might allow me to do some things in Word that I had been able to do easily in Wordperfect such as my captions. But once I tried converting the 2003 Microsoft doc file to a 2007 docx file and uploaded it to Amazon I found that the docx file format had turned a lot of my formatting to absolute gibberish.
I finally got the job done so now I have a new e book for sale over at Amazon. But it still doesn’t appear exactly as I’d like. So I then moved onto publishing a printed version of my new book. Among other things this meant having to deal with all 115 pictures again since print requires a resolution of at least 300 dpi whereas e book publication is best done at 72 dpi. The pictures would be far larger than the ones I had been putting into my E book file so I wound up having to deal with inserting all those pictures again, captions, etc. But surprise surprise, I was no longer having to deal with Word. I might be dealing again with Amazon but this time I’d be uploading all my files to their Createspace web site which is the one that’s used for their paperback printing business. And Createspace does do a good job with pdf files.
I could line up all my text and my margins exactly the way I wanted them to appear, and when it came to dealing with the pictures, once I had prepared a picture the way I wanted it in my graphics arts program all I had to do was to click on the 72 dpi picture that was already there, go to “content” which I found easily with one click of my mouse and change the filename, and voila, my new picture would instantly appear replacing the old one. My caption if I already had one appeared just the way it had before, and if it didn’t it was very easy to correct. Sure, all this took a little time but there was no frustration at all because everything worked the way it should work while the process of making all my adjustments and formatting changes was very intuitive.
Make no mistake. Wordperfect is very easy to use and it does what it’s supposed to do. You can write complex books with it, prepare newspaper and magazine layouts, insert pictures while sizing and placing them exactly as you want them to appear. As for Word, as one of the reviews I once read about it suggested, “it handled e-mail very well.” Now I don’t know what email has to do with word processing but I suppose someone has to give Word a star for something that it handles responsibly because as a Word processor, it’s so bad that it shouldn’t be allowed to be sold anywhere.