How to Process Text

Tom Scocca in Slate:

Nearly two decades and several text-handling paradigms ago, I was an editorial assistant at a weekly newspaper, where a few freelancers still submitted their work on typewritten pages…. You couldn’t blame them, really, but for those of us who were fully in the computer age, those dead-tree sheets meant tedious extra work.

Nowadays, I get the same feeling of dread when I open an email to see a Microsoft Word document attached. Time and effort are about to be wasted cleaning up someone’s archaic habits. A Word file is the story-fax of the early 21st century: cumbersome, inefficient, and a relic of obsolete assumptions about technology. It’s time to give up on Word.

This has been a sound view for at least ten years. I use Word occasionally when students send me .docx files, and I resent it. Get the message out: sending Word documents is like having a hotmail or yahoo email address.

It wouldn’t be appropriate for most purposes, but if you want really good-looking text documents, you should use LaTeX (or some other TeX variant—I use XeTeX myself).