Sunday, October 15, 2006

Whither the word processor?

I was reading this Steve Hargadon post about word processing and Web 2.0 and his comments about the newly merged Google Docs and Spreadsheets application. It got me to wondering when I had last used my word processing application? I took a look at my document directory and found that the last time I'd used it to write was on February 23, 2006. This was when I'd written a letter for someone else's signature. Are we entering a post word-processing era? I guess that depends on your definition of word processing. Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

A word processor (more formally a document preparation system) is a computer application used for the production (including composition, editing, formatting, and possibly printing) of any sort of printable material.

By this definition I would say word processing as an application is mostly ancient history. I write all the time, but I never-ever think about Word as the right tool for the job. Most of my writing is done either collaboratively or in a thinking mode. If I‘m making notes to myself, or where I am writing in solo I use a text editor (Textmate). If I'm working with just a single person to flesh something out I've been using Writely (now Google Docs and Spreadsheets) and Backpack. If I‘m working with a small group of colleagues I write in a wiki.

So my question, if you‘re writing for online consumption why would you use a tool made for putting words on paper? Seems like serious overkill. Every time I hear, “write it in your word processor and just cut-and-paste” I‘m left scratching my head. Why not use a more appropriate and lighter-weight tool? I‘m thinking word processing as we have known it is obsolete.

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