It’s 2007 and I’m using LaTex

4.2.07

I’m not sure if I understand what word processors are supposed to do, but I have found that there isn’t one which meets my needs. For me a word processors should be: fast, simple, flexible, and mobile. Most of the time when you want a word processors you want it because you need to type something, not do something advanced, so why does OpenOffice take several seconds to load when Notepad takes a blink of an eye? Typing doesn’t require much technological advances and so anything which takes more than a second or two is clearly lagging behind what state of the art should be. The biggest culprit to this fallacy is the fact that most word processors are hardly simple. When MS Word starts you are presented with half a dozen menus and toolbars each with their unique and rarely used feature. I use the following features: Font size, double/single spacing, lists, header/footers and endnotes/footnotes. These features probably don’t make even one percent of what word processors offer. Perhaps this abundance of useless features is due to vendor’s hopes that their product be flexible. They are indeed flexible so much so that I have found myself stuck trying to fix a list which the word processors insists being indented five times more than I want it to be (or the blank lines that just don’t seem to want to go away). Flexible should be giving me options when I request them, not executing options without my request. Yet with all the flexibility mobility is the one feature that no word processer has yet succeeded in implementing. Mobility is not only giving me a small file which can be read in any computer, but giving me a file which accessible from any computer and that looks exactly like the original one which the user made. Some word processors offer good file sizes, others offer formats which look the same on any computer (ex. PDF) and some offer access to files from anywhere (Google Documents) but no vendor offers one program that does it all. In order to find a solution the problem will be dissected into three parts: language, interface, and platform.

There are several languages for formatting text most notably used today being XML based. It is indeed very good, it offers many features and extensions but it fails at being simple. For every formatting component there is usually two tags associated with it making it highly inefficiently when compared to other languages such as Latex. In Latex every thing is tightly written with small tags and braces. A file can be written in a much smaller space and yet it is readable to the user (if he or she chooses to read the code for his or her document). True, neither XML based languages nor Latex were created for every day use: they all require some sort of GUI.

Any form of formatting other than spaces will most likely require some sort of GUI but not your average GUI. When a designer hears the word GUI he or she most likely thinks of buttons, toolbars, menus and dialog boxes. I believe that the GUI should never interfere with the editing of a document. If I require something from the word processor I should be able to invoke without leaving the editing environment. This implies that a mouse should not be required nor fancy sequence of keyboard shortcuts. Yes, Control-B and things of that nature are alright, but whenever a command is more complicated a user should be able to invoke it by simply typing the feature in the document and pressing a specific key. Example: user needs to add a picture so he or she could type “add picture [press tab]” and a file selector would appear. This way the user never leaves the “editing” mind set to become a button pusher and menu navigator.

If both Language and GUI are simple, mobility should exist very easily. Any platform that supports a Terminal should be able to support a version of this word processor. The file being compromised by a simple language should allow for a very simple implementation of the client to be able to be accessed from the Internet, mobile devices and computers.

Right now the closest thing that exists to such a word processor are text editors which support macros. However, no word processor exists which has implemented the above. HTML editors do a good job except that they are neither made for print nor support a simple GUI. Both the internet and OS X offer a very good platform for a creation of a new kind of word processor.