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Progress

Despite the fact that most major word processors have been through a dozen versions, they have not become easier to learn. The ads make that claim, but what they really mean is that it takes less time to get started. Almost anyone can begin doing useful work within minutes of completing the installation. After that you hit the wall. The best of today's word processors is significantly harder to really learn—to master—than the early systems on CP/M or Apples. Here we are, several generations down the pike from such forgotten gems as Electric Pencil and Spellbinder, and the tools, though much more powerful, are in many ways also more unwieldy.

Part of the problem is that simple, early text processors evolved into word processors, primarily by doing more; then word processors were transmuted into “word publishers” with still more capability. Then high-end systems, such as WordPerfect and Word for Windows, became almost indistinguishable from full-blown desktop publishing software in terms of what you can do with them, even if they operate in somewhat different ways. They are crammed chock-a-block with bells and whistles, and it takes a slew of hooks and handles to get them to ring and toot in the right places and at the right times.


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