For around the last 20 years all of my writing, at least that which I wanted to keep or share, has been inputted to a computer, mostly via Microsoft’s ubiquitous Word. Although personally never short of an idea or three, I really had never considered if the medium was affecting my output.
That changed recently, when creating a messaging document for a technology client. Although I was clear on the messaging, following immersion in the company culture, exec workshops to tease out exactly what differentiated their offerings and of course a lot of sector-specific knowledge, words came their none. Could it be the interface?
Shakespeare famously used a quill pen, which required a lot of preparation ahead of time and constant sharpening before committing his plays and sonnets to the page. If you are that invested in creating good copy and have a vocabulary of some 30,000 words at your disposal, all of which can be obliterated by one ink splodge, the medium is important.
I also know from a recent visit with US-based consultants in the same line of work as Positive (positioning, campaign creation and social/offline PR execution) that they are all Mac users. They love the usability which seems to almost aid their creativity. The Apple tractor beam remains strong after a random Tweet (Twitter has a super-simple interface) about this, had Jamie Nathan recommending Scrivener. I have to say that this looks like an amazing product especially for professional writers using Macs. For the Mac there are also straight Word replacements.
However I am at a heart a PC – not a Mac. So, by contrast, we have the everything-including-the kitchen-sink Word. With more functionality than Kit from KnightRider, it still requires two clicks to deliver a Wordcount. Unamended its Menus look like an eye-chart and its functionality now rivals its sister solutions Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher. Could it be that this clutter sidelines writers? Why has it grown like an aggressive cancer?
Some companies just cannot innovate well (take a look at the painfully slow evolution of SAP’s User Interface). Others do it for a living. I have looked at Google Docs which is a slimmed-down and cleaner-looking version of Word, sort of like a Formula One race car to an SUV. It feels well thought-through with ‘just enough’ functionality and a smart new way to share versions of documents. There is of course also the Adobe option which promises much.
For now I am sticking with what I have for two decades. As SAP has found out, software that you input to is incredibly sticky – until recently at least. But flirting with others is definitely on the agenda. While it would be hoping for too much that this change alone will turn Positive Marketing’s output into Shakespeare, hopefully it will help put to bed the writer’s block which overloaded software causes.
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