The ideal replacement for Word might be your e-mail program.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Goodbye, Word. I've got mail

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, The Post-Standard

   Microsoft Word is so 1990s. For everyone who does things at home, you might even say Word is dead.
   We don't write to print things any more. Oh, we might actually print stuff now and then, but only for special purposes such as homework. (But teachers are happy to get your homework as e-mail, right?)
   We write for e-mail, for Facebook, for quick text messages. It's about time we jettisoned Word and all the things it stands for. Chances are, a program now on your computer has perfectly good spell checking and other word-processor features built in.
   That's right. This replacement for Word is your e-mail program. To create a document for your own use, type whatever you want in an e-mail message, but save it as a draft instead of sending it. That automatically sticks it in your mail's Drafts folder.
   Some e-mail programs have a toolbar button called "Save as Draft" and others just have it in their File menu. Sometimes all you have to do is press the key combination for saving something (such as Cmd-S or Ctrl-S) and you've created a draft right then and there. If you turn on "HTML" or "rich text" in the options or preferences, you'll be able to put photos and colored type in your texts, too. Mac users can single click on a word, press Ctrl-Cmd-D and get a quick dictionary definition, too.
   Hold on a minute. Why a "draft"? Why can't you just write a message and mail it to yourself? Lots of people do that; they tell me they do it every time I talk about this in a class or lecture. There's nothing wrong with it -- but nothing right with it either. Think about it: Mailing something that you already have just so you can have it is ... well, a little daffy.
   Ahem. With these things you have written in your Drafts folder -- with the notes on what you need to do before you leave on vacation again, with your list of suggestions for the next meeting of the Elks Club, things like that -- what should you do to keep them organized?
   That's easy. You create folders in the left pane of your e-mail window, giving them specific names ("Vacation prep" and "Elks Club," maybe) and then drag the appropriate drafts into their folders. Then, later, just click on them to read them or to add to them.
   Easy, right? To me and maybe to you, the best thing about this plan is that all the stuff you save is right at hand. No hunting through your hard drive looking for something you wrote with Microsoft Word.
   And -- this is really cool -- when you actually need to e-mail that document to someone, it's right there in your e-mail. Just put an address on the top, tell your mail software you want to send the message (I have to click "Send again" in mine, even though I haven't sent it before -- duh!) and send it along.
   Life can be easy sometimes. Ditch that old word processor. You'll be glad you did.