I do not word process, and neither should you
A common piece of software to find in an office is a word processor—it’s also often one of the most expensive pieces of software that is found in the office! This makes little or no sense, when there are a multitude of alternatives and any business that wants to do so can make requirements that documents be submitted in some reasonably sane format such as PDF.
First, let me start by saying that you should read this Ars Technica article on “The prospects of Microsoft Word in the wiki-based world” which is a great article on how unnecessary something like a word processor is in today’s world. The article is nearly a year old, but it’s still a good read.
Creating information from data does take some work and that work should go somewhere. A wiki seems a natural choice: everyone in a workgroup can collaborate using a wiki, and the data from the wiki is all in a single place so that it can be easily backed up. Of course, it takes some getting used to the notion that you are using a wiki and not a word processor, but that’s not all bad.
Most things that you work on in a word processor these days are done only to send to someone else in an email anyway. And word processors do not guarantee that formatting is kept intact unless you send in a strong, font-embeddable format such as PDF anyway, so they have little point. At least with a wiki, you have the ability to quickly write and save, and others can come along and update, and so forth. If you need to, you can even upload things that people send you (graphics, documents, whatever) into the wiki and use the wiki to keep track of those things.
In fact, I sometimes wonder why we don’t actually use things like wikis for information storage and retrieval more frequently. After all, once upon a time, a folder that held paper was an acceptable form of record keeping. The analog to that is a folder with text documents located in a filing cabinet, or a wiki (the cabinet) with articles and hierarchies (folders and files). Then you can have files that are as long as you need them to be without actually having to worry about how much physical space they take up. With the recent apparent movements from structured databases to unstructured information storage systems, that seems to make sense to me. At least then you’re still using a solid database that performs well, but instead of using a highly inflexible database schema that is application-specific, you can use the wiki instead.
Well, anyway, just a few of my thoughts—2¢ worth of them anyway. Back to my regularly scheduled day, which today involves reading source code from the Mozilla project.