Product Review: Microsoft Word 9x

In short: Use it if you have to, but there are better programs available.

I've used a number of different versions of Word, from the DOS versions to Word 95 and 97. Why do I find myself sometimes wishing for the DOS version, rather than the razzamatazz of Windows?

Word's strengths

Word's customizability is nice. (I must be reaching here, if this is the best I can do.)

I suppose Word has some strengths, but frankly I never found them. There are a lot of features I didn't use, such as its Web and Office integration. Let's not forget its animated text feature, too. Can you say "bells and whistles"? I don't need that much word processor. I'd settle for a simple, powerful, stable application. Instead Microsoft now offers us security-hole Visual Basic macros in a 5MB executable (not counting the dozens of other megabytes of Office in the directory tree). Why would I need that?

Addition, 2001-04-01. Word's customizability is worth more than I originally gave it credit for. During a stint editing scientific papers, the ability to customize keystrokes saved me a lot of time and frustration. When I later returned to using another word processor (Lotus Word Pro, version 9), I found myself wishing that this feature were implemented in it. For serious, repetitive editing, I'd choose Word 9x over Word Pro.

Word's weaknesses

Problem #1: instability. No program on my system crashes as regularly as the Word 9x. I've taken great care to build a system that is useful and stable. Word is useful, but not stable. I don't consider it ready for serious use due to its instability.

The other big weakness I have with it is its graphics placement problem. If you import a graphic, there's no telling where it will end up. Flush with the margin? Flush with the edge of the page? On another page entirely? For all I could figure the ultimate location depended on the phase of the moon. I use graphics a lot in my writing, and Word's inability to place them was a major factor in my abandonment of it. Trying to get graphics to flow with text was like trying to hammer bent nails with a 4 pound barbell.

The only reason I have a copy of Word on my system at all is to read legacy documents. I haven't converted all the old documents to RTF yet. When I finish that project, I hope to remove Word completely.

I use Lotus WordPro now, and am happy again.

Last updated 1 April 2001
All contents ©1999-2002 Mark L. Irons