Why Are You Still Using Microsoft Word?

So you're still using Microsoft Word. Seems like an odd decision in the year 2017, but I didn't come here to judge. I'm legitimately curious why some people continue to pump their money into the MS Office Suite, despite mounting evidence that the software offers shitty security and a historically terrible user experience. So why bother?

Image: Lifehacker

Listen, it's fine. If you own and love Word, you do you. I would recommend that you update the software today, though. McAfee recently identified a dangerous zero-day attack in the wild that targets all Microsoft Office users. It's a nasty little thing, too, since hackers are hiding the exploit in .doc files that appear to be regular Word documents. Opening the document will actually give attackers full access to your computer, and that's obviously a bad thing. Microsoft quietly issued a patch to fix the vulnerability on Tuesday, so if you really are one of those people who still uses Word, you'd better update your software.

But that brings us back to the original question: What on Earth compels anyone to use Microsoft Word these days? Google Docs offers a lot of the same features for free. TextEdit on macOS is also free and delightfully lightweight. Heck, you can even just do your word processing in Evernote, if you're that kind of computer user.

Fact of the matter is, Microsoft Word seems to be a hot hacker target lately. Ahead of this latest .doc threat, a so-called Word macro virus popped up in the news a few weeks ago and potentially put millions of people at risk. While macro malware used to be relatively common for Windows users 10 or 15 years ago, the new virus affected Mac users who opened infected Microsoft Office documents and unwittingly downloaded a bunch of malware disguised as a macro. So that's inconvenient to say the least.

The big problem with Microsoft Word and malware is that the files are so ubiquitous, there's a good chance someone will get duped into opening the file. Pro tip: Don't do this. Seriously, don't ever open a mysterious file attached to an email or on a USB drive. There's a decent chance it's not only mysterious but also malicious. Some security companies have entire webpages devoted to warnings about Microsoft Word malware. You should really consider using another word processing tool, perhaps something like Google Docs that lives in the cloud and presents less of a threat to your precious computer. Did I also mention that it's free?

I really don't mean to judge, though. If you use Microsoft Word and it makes you happy, go get 'em, you Clippy enthusiast, you. If you use Microsoft Word and don't really know why, however, you might be needlessly putting yourself in harm's way. You might also be stuck in a time warp where MS Word is quite obviously the superior word processing tool, because (at least compared to WordPerfect) it once was. The truth is, that isn't the case any more. So if you remain a Word enthusiast for whatever reason, let me know in the comments. I'm genuinely curious about what's going through your head.



    LaTeX, whilst it takes a little time to set up (and next to no time if you get your templates online) and get used to, is great for formatting. Everything just looks so much more professional using it.

      Setting up time is pretty much nil these days... if you ignore the download time. It's just two downloads, and installing. Mostly coffee drinking procedure.

    Get yourselves some Libre Office

      I use MS Office for exactly one reason. The PowerPoint Morph transition. The moment Libre Office can do that, I'm out. It is just too damned useful.

      I don't expect the moment to come very soon ...


      I've recently been pushing both my parents to use LibreOffice instead of MSOffice. Ironically they like it because it's more like the "old" version of office they're used to (no ribbons).

      I'm still using OpenOffice but I think I'll be switching to Libre any day now. It's more a case of lazyness when it comes to uninstalling OO and installing LO.

      As for MS Office, I still like Access if I need to tinker with a small database. The OO/LO equivalent Base is fine, but clunky. I also prefer Excel to Calc if I'm needing to work with code. Mainly since I've got a lot of experience with VB/VBScript so it's just easier. That said, I'm no longer using the MS products simply because I don't want to keep buying new versions that offer little in the way of upgrades.

        Try running LibreOffice as a portable program, either load it to a USB drive or stuff it in a folder somewhere - for the few minutes it takes it's worth it.. No need to change your file handling preferences that way either so your current OO will continue to be the default if you don't like LO, and it at least gives you the choice to use LO later if you choose.

        I've always preferred the 'old' method of loading software to a computer where everything related to a program like dlls reside in the program folder as was used in win3.11 and such - and opening the program then loading the file rather than relying on shell integration launching the default prog when the file is clicked. For a start it saves having to faff about freeing system memory by editing msconfig and shutting off start launches, and secondly it stops nosy (and clueless) sods who might get on your computer from poking around opening things. Makes me think of the case where the authorities poked around for years on a PC in a case before they finally discovered the users browsing history after they found he'd been browsing via a prog in a folder that (*gasp*) didn't have a desktop shortcut or program launch in the start menu. I have 5 text editors for different purposes, default file handlers just get in the way.

        If you're really feeling malevolent you can set some very weird and annoying integrated software as default launchers while keeping your preferred programs in a conveniently stashed folder, with a desktop shortcut to the software masked behind an innocuous pseudonym.

        But the best bit of 'portable' or fully folder stashed programs is being free of the requirement to back them up - just copy them wherever, load to a USB drive and they're wherever you need them to be whenever you want them.

          I have no concerns about using LibreOffice v OpenOffice, they're so close to the same there isn't much learning curve. Honestly I see LO as the better alternative these days since they're much more active fixing issues and making improvements. I'm just lazy :P

          I think now with multi-terabyte drives it'd make more sense to go back to the old idea of a program being self-contained. Like you say all DLLs and resources in it's own folder. The original idea of space saving and version control where apps installed shared DLLs seems much less important now. And it might save some of the weird bugs we see from time to time with multiple versions of the same DLLs.

          I don't have a problem with default programs, I do wish MS had made handling them more elegant though. Way too clunky managing multiple apps opening the same file type.

    I'm not a massive MS Office fan, but Word is the defacto corporate standard for document production. When I send a client (every one of my clients uses Word) a draft report, they expect it to be in Word so they can send track changes edits and make comments in Word.

    Google Docs is blocked by about half of my clients networks so it's a no-go most of the time. Most of them wouldn't know what Evernote or Libre Office was.

    When I'm working it's all about getting things done. A word processor is a word processor, so you might as well use what all your colleagues and clients are using. There's little to gain by trying to push people to use alternatives.

      Exactly. If you work in an environment that uses Word, you need Word for proper compatibility. Google Docs might be fine for your tech startup or whatever, but a lot of the government and corporate sectors are using MS Office.

      Also for general word processing it's fairly full featured, especially in its mobile form.

      It's the industry standard - pretty much every professional office in the country uses it, and it's very powerful and flexible.

      I'm not a fanboy and I don't see anything wonderful about Word, but when it's what you have to use at work and so does everyone else, it's much easier to keep using it at home as well.

      I use Google Docs and Google Sheets for personal stuff sometimes, but since they're laid out a little differently and the functions are in different menus, it can be frustrating to switch between them.

      Yep. That and many companies aren't ready to go cloud based either because they have current infrastructure they are invested in, want to self manage or there's privacy hurdles (such as at a government level).

      I also think the author has been a bit dramatic in how they've damned Office. Particularly on the user experience front.

        This. The author is misrepresenting the product in a pretty stupid way. Claiming that .doc files are exploitable is news for 2003. Not 2017 when the format isn't used anymore.

      Like others I use Word because it is commonly used. I wouldn't call it the standard; it is common because of Microsoft's marketing and bundling tactics.

      While I do use a newer version, I personally like Version 6 and don't feel much as changed except for the UI since then.

      At least the suit has come done in price in recent days. Around $300 for the whole suit now as opposed to over 1,000 back in the day.

      Unless you buy the products individually which for some reason are basically priced at $50 less then the full suite.

      I'm the same with Adobe Creative Suit. I have to use it because that's what everyone else uses otherwise I'd be using something else.

    I use LibreOffice as it allows to save documents in .docx format.

    It is expected at my school, to submit most assignments in .docx format.
    It is frustrating in the age of cuts and reducing costs, that a proprietary format is used for things like text documents.
    Why does a student need to pay Microsoft for creating a text document?

    Why even charging all students for licences to use Windows at school while Linux is available for free?

    It came with excel... I use it to maintain my resume and that's pretty much it.

    I've used th alternatives and they don't compare to Word, particularly when dealing with other Word docs.

    Google Docs is great for convenience and basic word processing (or collaboration) but if you need docx or doc compatibility, you need Word.

      No, you don't need Word ($$$$), you need Openoffice (free) or Libreoffice (free).

        Sorry, he said "compatibility", not "strange bugs and horrible user experiences".

          The user experience is the same. It looks the same, the menus are the same, it works the same. And 'compatibility' - yeah, the Microsoft reps at the major corporates I work for always raise that FUD. "Oh, that table on page 6,587 of that 10,000 page tender response document might not display properly and you might not win the deal, better not risk it." Bullshit, but it goes down well with clueless CIO's afraid to ever do anything. If you grab 1 guy from the I.T. department, tell him to grab 100 different random user docs from the servers and do a doc by doc comparison between LO and Office you'll get the real answer and know that you can move and ignore the FUD. Been using Openoffice for personal use for over 5 years, never had an issue with a single corporate document I have dealt with on my private machines, neither word, excel or powerpoint documents. Can't speak for the database. Just FUD, nothing but FUD. OO and LO work and are highly compatible. Steven Worrall getting all you MS boys to write in eh?

            Horse. Shit. OpenOffice was 75% of MS Office at it's peak and I hit formatting fuck ups on document number two I fed it from work. I am no MS fan but it ain't FUD - OO and LO just do not cut it for complex corporate documents.
            End of story.
            For jotting down your transpotting notes however, LO does fine.

            If you grab 1 guy from the I.T. department, tell him to grab 100 different random user docs from the servers and do a doc by doc comparison between LO and Office you'll get the real answer and know that you can move and ignore the FUD

            In a business world that's a cost/benefit analysis that already costs too much to analyse. It's more logical to stick with the accepted system rather than start looking at the cost in staff hours for implementing a new document system because the program's free.

            It's free, but it's unfamiliar, and it takes time to replace existing working software. Then you deal with the rejection from users who liked the old system and don't want to use the new system. Then you deal with the compatibility issues -- both real and user-imagined. Then you hope MS don't release a new feature in the next version that your clients/suppliers decide to make use of, because it'll be a while before your editor updates to be compatible again.

            Or... you stick with the working system and accept that you're paying for it either way.

        I'd sooner use Google Docs than LibreOffice or OpenOffice. At least GDocs is convenient.

    All documentation at my job is written in ConTeXt.

    Because I got a copy for free (ligit) but otherwise would be using Libre Office

    Gawd, I've been using Open Office for the last 5 years. I wasn't even aware they still made Microsoft Office. :-P

    Because it does the job i want to it to do.

    Why waste my time fiddling with free versions? I get word for free anyway. (Gotta love MSDN access)

    Last edited 12/04/17 10:26 pm

    Adam (the author), as you appear to be genuinely oblivious to why people use Word, let's begin the lesson...

    1. While it is true the typical home user (myself included) doesn't need Word on a regular basis, it comes down to one word: employment. The biggest and most obvious example is resumes. Try doing your resume in Google Docs and see how far you get... oh you got your resume to fit nicely to 2 pages in Google Docs and it looks awesome? Sorry, when your potential employer opened it in their browser it was rendered differently and now it's 3 pages and looks amateur. No job for you.

    Other than resumes, there is just a general expectation that if you get sent a Word document from an employer (e.g. a form to fill out), you should be able to open it, see everything that the sender expects you to see in the right spot, edit it, and do whatever it is you have to do with it. Complaining that you shouldn't have to deal with a .docx file would be frowned upon.

    2. Businesses of all sizes all around the world rely on (to varying degrees) Microsoft Office. Heck, my company used to use the Google suite of products but switched 100% to Microsoft mainly due to the fact that they wanted to expand into China, and China has a history of blocking Google related things whenever they feel like it (e.g. https://www.quora.com/Is-Google-Apps-for-Domains-usable-from-China)

    But why do businesses use Office? Again, it comes down to one word: Excel. By a large margin, Excel is the most useful app in the Office suite. Maybe as a home user you open up Excel and just see a blank of blank cells and think "what's the point?". But in the business world, everything is held together by Excel in one way or another. If every version of Excel in the world simultaneously stopped working, you probably wouldn't get paid on time, finance departments wouldn't be able to reconcile anything, analysts wouldn't be able to analyse anything, stock markets would crash, and a doomsday bigger than Y2K and Y10K combined would result.

    Yes, businesses in theory don't have to use Word. But if they're already using Excel, then of course they are going to be inclined to use Word as well (which integrates relatively nicely with Excel when needed).

      Good point about Excel. Back when I was working for the Govt all the complex accounting info and reconciliations were done in excel. Which was actually pretty painful because they were storing the volumes of data in it that rightly belong in a SQL database and wondering why it was slow and buggy and occasionally crashed.

      To be honest I think MS made the smartest business move ever bundling their apps into a suite. Back in the day the typists where I worked all prefered WordPerfect. I distinctly remember more than one of them saying how it worked more like the word processors they were familiar with. But once Word became bundled with Excel we dropped Wordperfect like a stone.

      I will however, say that for most docs converting/opening works fine between Word and OpenOffice. I can't remember the last time I saw noticeable problems between the two. That said, I'm not working on ridiculously complicated documents anymore so your mileage may vary.

        For straight text, converting is fine, but for stuff that's more complicated and fancy, it's a gamble. If you convert something from Open/Libre office into docx format, if you had any sense you'd probably want to check it in Word to make sure it looks correct before sending it, so you could have saved yourself the trouble and just typed it in Word in the first place.

        It's especially bad if someone sends you a docx file, you open it in Open/Libre office, make edits to it and save it in docx to send it back - for example filling out a form or report template. That almost never works.

        Also, yes Excel is still probably the best spreadsheet software, especially when it comes to functions and graphs (Google sheets is pretty good but noticeably lags the more stuff you put into your spreadsheets). The other factor to consider is Powerpoint - almost everyone uses Powerpoint for their presentations and none of the free options are nearly as nice to use nor are they as feature-rich as Powerpoint is. You can also run into the same compatibility issues you do with Word if you edit a ppt file in a free option and try to reopen it in Powerpoint.

        Last edited 13/04/17 11:04 am

        At my work place there is also integration into excel as well.
        Design programmes that export bill of materials straight into nice excel spreadsheets.

      hot tip for anyone scared of using a document writing program for resumes who may be fearful of employers not seeing things the way you've created them - save the effing things as a PDF.

      Foxit pdf writer, primopdf or any other one of the dozens of free pdf creators can handle this..

      Also using one part of an office suite for seemingly essential compatibility does not preclude a user from using a different program for other functionality, I use Photoshop for editing individual elements of images but for gross image edits I use irfanview - it's faster and can batch handle hundreds of files in the time it takes PS to handle one. That sort of approach to file handling is just sensible (though know plenty of folk who do every single operation in Photoshop because 'it's the industry standard' -cough-). It pains me looking over the shoulder of someone wrestling with opening, closing and reopening an office suite for the purpose of editing a simple txt file.

        I have applied for jobs that specifically ask for your resume, letter etc as a docx. It happens.

    Hot tip - Gizmodo office uses Google Docs for everything, hence this article as it probably came up around the watercooler.

    As other people have mentioned, it's the defacto corporate standard for the majority of businesses around the world, works seamlessly with OneDrive, it's familiar to pretty much anyone who has ever used a computer, and most of us get it for free anyway (or through less authentic means...)

      Outlook.com (old hotmail) now has Office online for free. So free legit as well.

    Um... well... because I login to my cloud-based FREE OneDrive account from any device and create or edit my Word docs or Excel spreadsheets FREE and share them... FREE.
    The author reminds me more of a disgruntled ex-employee of Microsoft (dismissed for not knowing about the products he worked with... or maybe a trolling competitor?) I sometimes (rarely) use other word processors, but MS Word is industry standard.
    If you do happen to download MS Office to your desktop/notebook, you are immediately prompted to turn on Automatic Updates for all Office products including MS Word... there's no deceptively 'quietly' about it. I honestly think MS do a fantastic job of keeping their products patched.
    Oh, and did I mention the cloud-based Office & OneDrive is free? ;-)

    Typical Gen-Y comment....

    Word makes the business world go around. As the previous poster covered, it's the defacto standard for the corporate world with most cloud services that are non Microsoft, blocked. I'd put money on 99% of banks, finance and legal companies in the western world all only using Word.

      Don't you know that tech startups are the future!?! We won't need banks and engineering firms and law firms in our disruptive, biohacked, 3D-printed, sharing economy utopia!!!

    I've not used Microsoft Office for nearly 10 years now. It used to be LibreOffice but with the fantastic collaboration capabilities its been only eSuite from Google now.

    But those who cannot use cloud based apps there's a step in LibreOffice that needs to be done that unfortunately - for copyright reasons - cannot be automated by the developers, but is a "must do" to resolve the issue of incompatibility that so many claim "exists".

    Firstly in Windows associate DOCX, XLSX and PPTX files with LibreOffice. So launching them from your Thunderbird email InBox is automatic.

    Secondly make the default SaveAs format DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

    I'm quite sure all those who've had "compatibility issues" with LibreOffice failed to do this. (Perhaps I should write the action steps - with pictures -
    into a blog!

      Yeah until you get an MS powerpoint presentation of what the client wants you to code and LibreOffice changes the layout and neglects to show some of the content just enough for the client to later wonder if you can even read.

      I've been running LO for a long time now and it trashes large docx documents. I've switched back. Styling in LO is terrible as well. The whole suite needs a UI and functional overhaul.

    When the author of this "article" writes and releases the final draft, I would recommend editing out the condescending tone and the passive aggressive attitude. I believe it would be greatly improved.

      Agreed. While I was reading it, all I could think was, 'what a smarmy, shitty attitude!'. Irritated the hell out of me.

    Geez, this guy that wrote this is the most angriest guy in the world! YES! you are Mr i hate Microsoft products.
    Its just a piece of software mate take it easy.

    I agree with the Excel comments, but also would add Active Directory is why. Most big companies use Active Directory and the really tight integration of Outlook, Share Point, and Office does deliver all sorts of productivity improvements.

    I also agree the tone here was pretty poor, but being a 'glass half full guy' hope it was a legitimate lack of understanding.

    I had options for a bunch of applications at my last job (Thunderbird, Editplus etc etc). Get a new job and it's standard images rolled out with Outlook, Notepad++. Kind of annoying but roll with the punches.

    I hardly doubt any home user is coughing up retail costs for Word. As the million other people have said, it's more than likely because excel is generally a must have app in the business world. Once you factor that in you might as well just use excel and the rest of it.

    For our startup we're using google sheets, but even then it can be annoying when trying to do anything semi advanced tasks. I have to use openoffice as a backup... and even then I'd prefer to just have excel but don't need to shell out for a license just yet.

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