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Re: .doc file concerns

From: Paul Sander
Subject: Re: .doc file concerns
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2001 22:04:23 -0700

>--- Forwarded mail from address@hidden

>[ On Tuesday, June 26, 2001 at 16:13:38 (-0700), Paul Sander wrote: ]
>> Subject: Re: .doc file concerns
>> The thing is, most writers seem to prefer WYSIWYG editors such as Word or 
>> Frame
>> Maker to using mark-up languages.  This is reasonable, because they're much 
>> more
>> productive with such tools, especially since they're much more concerned with
>> an attractive presentation than are engineers who happen to write simple 
>> documents.

>Is that really true?  I've seen studies (I wish I could find the
>references again) that suggest exactly the opposite -- i.e. that writers
>and editors are far more productive when they don't use WYSIWYG editors,
>particularly big complex behemoths like M$-Word or FrameMaker.

I would be interested in seeing the study.  My evidence is purely empirical, 
interviewed dozens of professional authors over several years.  They all 
WYSIWYG editors over markup languages.

>Certainly the learning curve is far less steep and the point were decent
>productivity is reached is far far far sooner.

Productivity over what period of time?  From the time they start to the time
they produce words, from the time that they start until they produce a first
draft, or from the time they start until they finish a document and ship it?
Sure, it's easy to start writing text in a simple editor and not use any
mark-ups (or perhaps use a few).  But to write tables, embed illustrations,
abstract out certain things (like product names), insert side bars, route
multiple flows around all of these things, and use even more complex features,
I believe what professional writers tell me when they say that complex
documents are completed faster using WYSIWYG editors than markup languages.

>Now I won't begrudge anyone the utility of having at least a half-decent
>on-line previewer, but with it only takes about two minutes hacking to
>get a nearly integrated preview tool with Emacs+lout+ghostview, and even
>without integration it's still trivial to use such tools separately to
>the same end.

>(Of course some markup languages are rather gargantuan too, which is one
>reason I've always avoided LaTeX and when using TeX I've only ever used
>PlainTeX and TeXinfo.)

My point, exactly.  Complex documents need complex tools.

>> Choosing an inferior tool just because the version control system can't 
>> handle
>> a full-featured one is a poor way to work.

>Choosing an inferior tool just because it looks pretty and claims a
>zillion more features than any normal human being would ever use in a
>lifetime seems to be an unfortunate trap far too many people fall into
>these days.

Well, professional authors are not normal human beings.  They don't write the
same way that you and I do.  You and I don't write Visual BASIC, either.  They
need complex tools to do what they do, just as you and I need a different set
of complex tools to do what we do.

>(FrameMaker will, IIRC, create reasonably consistent text-based storage
>files that are reasonably well suited for storage in CVS.)

MIF is not reasonably well suited for storage in CVS; the result of text-based
merges like those done by CVS mangle documents very badly.  And it's 
unreadable by humans that resolving conflicts is harder than replicating the
changes by hand.

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