Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Has Word hindered collaboration?


By Mick Moignard

In all the years I've been using Lotus Notes, I think I still run into more people who don't get it than do. And I've often wondered why. But for the last year I've been working within a strange community.

We're developing an application that is Notes and Oracle. The company is basically an Oracle shop that has developed a Notes team to do this application. The Notes team uses Notes, obviously, to develop the app, but doesn't really use Notes for anything else. And collaboration is not as strong in that community as it could be, or would be, if Notes were ubiquitous.

"What actually is the real inhibitor to collaboration?"

What electronic collaboration there is tends to be in the form of attachments to emails, mostly Word attachments. The company uses Outlook and Exchange for email, too; all but myself and another colleague from Unipart who are working on this. We still use our Unipart mail via Notes from Unipart's servers. And that set me thinking; what actually is the real inhibitor to collaboration?

The real problem

I think it's Word. The team uses Word when they want to write anything, and we have the laborious exchange of Word attachments in email. So what's wrong with Word? And by the way, what's wrong with Word is also what's wrong with WordPro, WordPerfect, and pretty much all word processing programs, and to a lesser extent, almost any other generic office program. But as Word is by far the most common offender, we'll stick to Word, but keep all those other WP and office-type tools in mind. And if this article seems like a major rant, well, to an extent, it's meant to be one.

Word's biggest issue is that it's designed purely to print paper. It exists to format content on to paper. It has a page-oriented paradigm. Word users are forced to think with a page-oriented and paper-oriented mindset. Word was not designed as an information exchange mechanism. All of its functionality is there to enable people to get words, in ever-prettier form, on to paper. And while paper is an information-dissemination tool, it's not a collaboration tool. Pretty much all of the functionality of Word is there to print paper, not to help me get the words I write to other people in a collaborative context.

I'm writing this article with my Notes client. I write all my DominoPower articles with my Notes client. I can use the whole width of the screen to write the text. I have all the functionality I need to write and hone these words in my Notes client, along with almost everything I need to get the words into the hands of our editor.

I wrote this in 9-point Notes Default Sans font. I'll use some bold and possibly some italics as I write, but that's about all I need to write this, and every other DominoPower article. That's because I have to get my opinion over to you just with the words I use, and not in the appearance of the words. My job with this article is to write the words.