Nailed It

WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS […] was the greatest word processor ever—a blank screen illuminated with only letters and numbers, offering just enough bold and italics to keep things interesting. I remember WP51 the way a non-nerd might remember a vintage Mustang. You could just take that thing out and go, man.

— Paul Ford, What Modern Humans Can Learn From Ancient Software (Wired, Sept. 15, 2022).

I hate everything about MS Word except “Track Changes” which I admit they did pretty well — the only way in which it is better than WordPerfect, even in its modern, adulterated, Windows versions.

About Michael Froomkin

A. Michael Froomkin is the Laurie Silvers & Mitchell Rubenstein Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Recent work on technology law includes articles on AI and medicine, on drones, and many articles about law and the Internet, and on technology and privacy. He is the founder and editor of the online law review Jotwell, The Journal of Things We Like (Lots). He is a founder (2012) and sometime Chair of the We Robot conference, which returns to Coral Gables in 2019. He is on the Advisory Boards of several organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Prof. Froomkin is a non-resident Fellow of the Yale Law School Information Society Project and a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, of the University of Miami Center for Computational Science. Professor Froomkin’s publications are listed at Before entering teaching, Prof. Froomkin practiced international arbitration law in the London office of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. He clerked for Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, and Chief Judge John F. Grady of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois. Prof. Froomkin received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as Articles Editor of both the Yale Law Journal and the Yale Journal of International Law. He has an M.Phil in History of International Relations from Cambridge University in England, which he obtained while on a Mellon Fellowship. His B.A. from Yale was in Economics and History, summa cum laude, phi beta kappa with Distinction in History.
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4 Responses to Nailed It

  1. Martin Hoffman says:

    Have you tried the “Focus” feature under the View menu in MS Word? It hides all the the menus and toolbars. Nothing but a white page on a black background. And if you prefer a black page with white letters, there are instructions on how to set that up here:
    Hope that helps 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind thought, but I am fully capable of ignoring the busy stuff.

      It’s the random formatting, the absence of track changes, the insane ways styles go wrong, the fact that big documents slow down and then start crashing every time I get near to finishing an article, the random arbitrary placement of features on the ribbon, the crazy system for numbering pages… I could go on and on ….

      Basically it’s the whole philosophy of the thing. And law reviews demand it.

      • C.E. Petit says:

        The sheer number of defaults and features of Word that are positively hostile to lawyers and law professors makes one wonder whether hostility to the family trade (those of us who were neighbors know about the Gates family as lawyers prior to William H. Gates III) isn’t a bug, but a feature.

        To identify just one: Default numbering schemes omit the most-common legal numbering schemes, and manual redefinitions are difficult to make work. Instead, they have multiple/alternate forms of the same numbering scheme just using different punctuation.

        I could go on for a while. Before mentioning the dictionary.

        My mild disagreement is on version numbers; WP6.0 for DOS was better than 5.1, and operated JUST FINE under Windows 3.x and 95 and in 1990s Citrix environments, with a lot fewer crashes than 5.1.

  2. Just me says:

    This must be a generational thing. Word is the warm blanket that I snuggle on at night. I have been using nothing but Word for about 20 or 25 years. Its “bugs” are known quantities that I count on – they are like texture on the wall that I can feel with my hands that help me walk to the kitchen at night in the dark. Meanwhile, the current trend away from Word to Google docs and other software has me yelling at 20somethings and early 30somethings to get off my lawn.

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