MS Word 2011 for Mac: a typewritten review

by | Sep 11, 2011 | Uncategorized | 20 comments


  1. Anonymous

    Richard, I understand completely. Like so many of my colleagues, I hated Word and was a Word Perfect guy. The original DOS version and I think it was 6.1 on floppies that ran on Windows 3.1 and then 95 was terrific. I have a friend, a physician, who wrote two novels on that Word Perfect. It was simple, intuitive, and of course that wouldn't do. WP now, from what I can see, is as dopey as Word. I had that version of Office that had that dumb-ass paper clip popping up all the time. And yes, they did the same thing with Excel, putting out a different format with xls.x or something like that. Half of the people in my company coast to coast couldn't access what they needed coming out of corporate. You know, though, we first started hitting computerization on the middle and lower levels in the late 70's. Hospitals kept swearing to us that the computers would make our work quicker and easier, no file cards, no hand-filled forms. Of course it didn't. Old hands like me just shut up and roll our eyes now if someone is stupid enough to start that drivel! BTW love your websites- Richard K/Texas

  2. Rob Bowker

    Office (any era) always feels plain wrong to me on a Mac, or a Windows pc for that matter. Luckily, I haven't had the same compatability issues you are experiencing, yet. The oddest thing on loading was the automatic assumption I a)knew what Microsoft Communicator was and, b)wanted it. After 8 months, still not looked at it.

  3. rino breebaart

    Oh lordie, that Word 5.1 screengrab brought back a lot of memories. I remember how in the early days Word had nothing of WordPerfect, which just felt like a natural word processing app. And then Word just got fatter and denser with features and a whole way of thinking that wasn't so much intuitive as well, windows-based.

    For some clean-cut minimal first-drafting I use Dark Room for pc – but like you, most of my first drafts benefit from being writtne on a typewriter, for all the right reasons. reens

  4. Martin A. Rice, Jr.

    Always hated Word myself. It's not user friendly in that you can never find the icon for doing something, like change formatting or font. On 2010, you can't even find how to print a damn thing unless you click something very non-intuitive in the upper left corner then you stumble upon it buried layers of screen down.

    My first word processing program was Ami Professional from Samna corp., a gorgeous program with easy to find, intuitive icons that you could change and customize. Ami Pro is now part of Lotus Smart Suite which is a much superior program to Word in terms of ease of use. I highly recommend it.

    When someone sends me a damnable .docx file, I reply that this is not a word file and MS word won't open it. Please send it to me in a readable format! And your guess about why Micro-soft is using .docx is absolutely correct–force everyone to buy new software! Bill Gates: Enemy of the People!

  5. rino breebaart

    Actually, that reminds me of the first word processor I ever used: PerfectWriter. Hideous drop-down menus, monochrome screen, the needly tearing sound of the dot matrix printer…

  6. Ton S.

    Thanks for this informative review. I was all ready to be sold to Word 2011 until I read that it won't open 50% of your old .doc files. Bummer.

  7. Richard P

    "Be sold to Word": I like that phrase!

    Word 2008 opens all the old .doc files, so I use it when I need to. But of course, that should not be necessary. By failing to ensure that their new software can open any old files without fail, Microsoft has committed a great act of vandalism against digital history.

  8. Philosophothinker, ThD

    I downloaded a "converter" from Microsoft to convert .docx files into the .doc files my Office 2004 for Mac needs, it was supposed to do it automatically when I opened one file. Guess what it doesn't do? I have to ask for plain text files because it's simpler for people to do that than find how to save in the old Word format.

  9. Strikethru

    OK, my defense of Microsoft response officially wins the record for the shortest-lived comment in the typosphere!

  10. Mike Speegle

    Gotta say that I’m not a big fan of the latest version of Word for Mac either. It just seems like Msoft keeps adding toolbars to the point where it feels like they’ve forgotten about the importance of leaving compositional space. I’m writing this up in Word right now, and the text, even at 100%, is a little tiny block in the middle of the screen.

    I too use the full screen viewing mode I’m editing, but when it comes to first drafts, the Lettera 32 is where it’s at.

  11. Richard P

    In case anyone's wondering, Strikethru's defense of Microsoft wasn't deleted either by me or by her; Blogger ate it for some reason. She's welcome to put it back up.

    I'd like to add that I'm sure that most Microsoft programmers do good work in good faith. It's just that there is a computer logic that is bigger than any employee, and even any corporation, that dictates that New = Good and More = Better. One of the points of this blog is to call that equation into question.

  12. Strikethru

    OK, you know I am required to comment, since I've worked at Microsoft for 11 years, and have been a part of countless product development cycles there. ;-)

    Here's one thing I know first hand: products are designed with the earnest desire to improve experiences for people. Whether that happens or not, and I'm well aware that the 'not' happens a lot, I've never personally encountered anyone espousing goals like forcing people to upgrade or making things confusing. Take .docx for example — this was a technically complicated change that I can't explain well, but was generally done to comply with new data standards, enable more sophisticated ways to use data, and provide more security. I wouldn't dare argue that it wasn't a pain in the ass for people with old file formats. Could that have been handled better? I have no idea. All I know is, the changes were made with benefits in mind.

    I know there are people who are determined to hate Microsoft no matter what, but I always feel compelled to say that the people who work there know they have big responsibilities and most of them are really swinging for the fences and not trying to sabotage anyone. I say this not in defense of the company as a concept but in defense of hundreds of people I have known personally over the last decade.

    A huge problem in software design is backwards compatibility and changing features people are familiar with, but a large part of the reason features evolve is because new things are possible (take leveraging XML data in word files, for example, or the new form factor of touch capacitive tablets). I don't argue that capitalism is also a huge reason, but it's not the only reason, of course. Certainly pissing people off is not ever something anyone at Microsoft is trying to do.

    Now of course there are free cloud-based alternatives to Office– Google Docs, Open Office, and even Microsoft's own Office Web Apps. People should check these services out if they really don't need all of the super complicated features of Word, which let's face it, most of us don't. It can be a bloated program (Office 2011 opens very slow on my mac) and I'm not convinced average users necessarily need it if these other services do just as well, my two cents.

  13. Richard P

    I found out what happened: Blogger classified Strikethru's comment as spam. I wonder what algorithm decided that! I have restored it.

  14. Truly's Rescues

    For almost all my serious writing I still used Word 5.1a on my old PowerBook 3400 up until a few years ago. I still get the thing out now and again for this or that. I have a USB floppy drive I use to connect to my computer and print out my work.
    In the last 3 years I've started using Mellel, because they have a simple, useful word processor that doesn't throw everything at you when you just want to write. Combined with Bookends it's perfect.
    That is when I just don't sit at my typewriter and write. It's still the best portable word processor and printer all in one I own.

  15. rino breebaart

    I think Cheryl's comment is really interesting. I work for a government website – and the view from inside is way different to the media's take on issues – we do often lose track of what is right and in everyone's best interest and the spirit of actions or necessities. And sometimes everyone is right – for different reasons.

    But that got me thinking, if Microsoft were making machines and not software, and they were active about 60 years ago, what kind of typewriter would they make? [runs for the hills]

  16. Anonymous

    I would love to see a picture of your Macintosh SE. Do you still use it?

  17. Bill

    I preferred Word Perfect to anything from Microsoft. However both cluttered their software so bad that I now type or use Libre Office. It is free and does so much more than Word and will work on any operating system.

  18. paul

    If you have the previous version of Microsoft Office (2007 on PC, 2008 on Mac) there should be a small add-on that allows you to open .docx files, losing some of the features that come with that file, of course. It is automatic on the PC – don't known about the Mac.

    The new extension was a move to XTML – which is supposed to be a universal document/data format, but from what I hear the Microsoft version used in office is much like their version of 'standard' html in IE. Slightly customized.

    Office 2011 has better workflow than 2007 (PC). But if you're used to the old menus and workflow, it's a 2 week learning curve.

    You can save to the older .doc format from the newer Office versions.

    Richard, if you have a way of opening the older files that your new Office won't, saving them in RTF should resolve the issue. Not the nicest way, but pretty universal.

    Change is irritating. But keeps us IT people employed.

    Love the SE screen captures. Brings back memories. That was a huge step up from the old II+ I started on.

  19. Jason

    I have an HP Scanner that, as far as the physical aspect, works perfectly. The problem is that it is about 8 years old and HP never released drivers to Vista and 7 to support it. It's now a large paper-weight. I bought a new scanner (not an HP).

    Do I think that HP was malicious in doing this? Not the individual employees. But I don't see why they wouldn't support their older hardware except that they wanted people to upgrade.

    You need to constantly upgrade software in order to keep hardware compatible which I believe is a strong downside to computer technology. Its probably a huge reason we all love typewriters, once it's created its good for as long as the actual physical form is functional.

  20. Cameron

    Richard, it's interesting that your history with your Mac SE is very similar to mine: same time-frame, same ImageWriter, software etc.

    And now we come full=circle with using typewriters again! It's good to be able to use both mediums for writing. I haven't used Microsoft Word much, but am glad to have it through my temporary job last year.

    Very interesting to read these reviews of the latest version.


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