It seems like poor old Microsoft Word gets so much hate in this digital age of beautiful typography, fancier word processors, and new simplistic writing platforms. Today in class, we were introduced to two old different word processors- WordStar and Writer. In the days of pre-Microsoft Word, this is how the world of writing was run. After we typed along in these two older systems, we played with the platform Write or Die. Here are some screenshots from today’s exercises. Disregard the spelling errors- they’re only apt to happen in these word processing environments!
This first screenshot is from the ancient platform WordStar. It’s not even operable anymore; you have to download a file to use its emulator. The task at hand here was to write a letter to someone. I wrote to anyone who would read, and basically just went through a stream of conscious here. (Hint: click on the pictures to see what I was actually thinking at the time!)
If you can train your eyes to be able to endure this for long enough, you’ll see that I expressed concerns about the difficulty of backspacing and deleting misplaced characters. I noted for myself that for some reason, my spelling errors were less than they normally are. This is probably because with WordStar, the content matters much more than any styling…mostly because there are no styling options.
There is a keystroke for deleting, but I didn’t take the time to figure it our today. I just went for it and typed. You can use the arrow keys to go back and add letters should you forget them.
Another 20th century staple- COPY AND PASTE- does not exist. This was devastating news. How did people do without this wonderful feature? Of course, I dealt with its absence. It just required me to take a screenshot instead of copying and pasting my letter into this post.
One other thing I forgot to mention- you do not use a mouse with this program. Not at all. It’s purely keyboard strokes. My grandpa has a taped note to his laptop with his rudimentary keystrokes. In WordStar, clicking on the screen will get you nowhere. It can be frustrating!
This screenshot features Writer. It was a little better (read: lots) than WordStar. Although the colors are a little more creative, it’s still pretty cut-and-dry. There is the option, though, to change the fonts and colors and other personalized options. Writer also features the indispensable ability to delete words. When you’re flying by typing, it’s so necessary to be able to go back and fix errors. (Editor’s note: the work done in these screenshots was not edited.)
There is a word count in the bottom right-hand corner, and you can even set a goal. In fact, a little fanfare even plays when you have successfully reached this goal.
Other innovative options offered by Writer include a one-click PDF converter, as well as the ability to print. If you’re feeling stuck, an embedded link (although you can’t insert hyperlinks in the text itself) will take you to an online thesaurus.
Another plus is that your work is automatically saved, which is always helpful.
All in all, Writer > WordStar.
At the end of class, I was introduced to Write or Die. I had heard of this but had never actually used it. It was a hopeful concept at first, but then just became stressful as I went along. The goal I set was 400 words in 5 minutes- which turned out to be a heck of a lot! I don’t have a screenshot posted because I wanted to reach the goal; to do so, I figured out that one letter alone counts as a word, so I had a lot of that going on toward the end. Oops. Maybe next time I won’t set such an crazy goal. Mind you, this was also in “Kamikaze” mode, with the “Evil” setting for punishment. (aka my text started deleting itself if I didn’t type fast enough or paused!)
I would recommend trying Write or Die for brainstorming. Just getting everything out at once and going from there can be a relief.
So, the next time you open Word with all its bells and whistles, think about how far writing technology has come. Be glad you’re not staring at a black screen, and think about all those cool features that used to be unavailable. If you still think Word is boring, old school, or inhibits your productivity, try one of these other options! But whichever you choose, don’t stop writing.