Thursday, March 8, 2007

Microsoft Tightens Its Grip

I always knew the day would come when I would be forced to use Microsoft Word whether I wanted to or not. Well, that day is just about here.

I've always used Wordperfect. It's the superior product. At least, it was the last time I did a serious comparison -- I have to confess that I'm about three product generations behind on both products (my employer still supplies me with Wordperfect 10), and for all I know Word has caught up with or perhaps even surpassed Wordperfect. So what I say may not be true any more. But really, the "reveal codes" feature of Wordperfect makes things so much easier. And Wordperfect is (or was) much better for footnotes. Legal writing is footnote-intensive, so this is important. And if there's one thing I really hated about Word (again, for all I know this is fixed in the most recent version), it was that if you try to delete from where you are to the end of the text in a footnote, you get the message "This is not a valid action for footnotes." You have to delete from where you are to just before the end. Sheesh. As though the software couldn't be set up to do that for you.

Anyway, I now have nearly 20 years of investment in Wordperfect. I know the keys, I know the tricks, I know how to use it. I've got nearly 20 years of files in WP format. Changing would be a royal pain, especially since WP to Word file conversion doesn't work very well.

But here it comes, I'm just going to have to change. The problem is that everyone else uses Word. It's what the economists call a "network effect." Part of a law professor's life is submitting written work to others, and all the others expect the work to be in Word format. If it's not, it causes problems.

In particular, every law review I know about now uses Word. When a law review accepts your article, the first thing they do is convert it to Word. Formatting disappears, footnote cross-references disappear, other problems arise, it's a pain.

But even with all that, I've just been putting up with it, but now, the end is in sight. Law reviews increasingly insist that articles be submitted in Word format, electronically. So long as I could submit on paper and get my articles accepted, I could put up with the annoyance of conversion difficulties afterwards. But being disadvantaged in the acceptance process is too much. I'm just going to have to switch.

It's a pity that Microsoft gets so much advantage because it's a monopoly. But once pretty much everyone is using Word, there's a substantial disadvantage to being in the minority. I've held out for a long time, but I can see I'm just going to have to switch.


Anonymous said...

Professor Siegel, for what it's worth, my law review (for which I'm currently an articles editor) will accommodate authors who want to use WordPerfect to edit. Ultimately, we submit the article to the printer in Word, but I just finished up an edit in WordPerfect, at the author's request. So maybe there's still hope.

Anonymous said...

The only times in the past five years I've ever seen Wordperfect files has been in law school course syllabuses posted online. So apparently you're not the only prof out there that feels that way about the program.