The Wrong Tool for Writing

I was trying to explain to a friend why I hate the experience of writing in Microsoft Word. I couldn’t convey it last night, but thinking about it this morning I believe it has to do with the extent to which the tool gets in the way of the writing. There’s so much to manage in Word that I find it hard to focus on my writing1. Instead, I end up in an epic battle of paragraph, character, and style formats that feels more like a war of attrition than an enjoyable task.

I went looking for an image I remembered from David Pogue’s 2006 TED Talk, Simplicity Sells. I think this represents my problem with Word perfectly:

Microsoft Word with all menus shown
Image credit to Jono Bacon

That’s taken to an absurd level, but even with just a few menus showing I have an ominous sense that I’m using the wrong tool. In contrast, a tool like Byword just feels out of the way. I’m able focus on the text without worrying about whatever it is all those menus do in Word.

  1. When you need a 408-page For Dummies book to understand your word processor, I’m inclined to think the tool may be overkill for the job.