Open-Source Love

I write my scripts with Word.

Yes, I do.  But let me explain.

I learnt on WordPerfect way back when.  I knew no better: its WYSIWYG was non-existent and its interface was spartan if not downright ugly.  But I managed to publish a newsletter with it, complete with pictures and two- and three-column layouts, all courtesy of the wonderful and powerful ShowCodes feature.  In pre-mouse days, that kind of stuff needed DTP-capable Macs.

Then I changed jobs and had to learn Micro$oft Word.  It was a painful transition.  It wasn’t just the different way of doing the same things, it was the range of inconsistencies in one package (one package!) that made me want to toss the CPU out the window.  In those early years when I wrestled with The Transition, it took a long time for Word to catch up to the capabilities of WordPerfect.

I still use Word.  Fifteen years of contemptuous familiarity will do that.  I’ve survived each of Micro$oft’s updates with cascades of epithets.  But I’ll allow this much for it: now it’s a powerful flagship wordprocessor and if you know what you’re doing, you can be pretty shit-hot with it.

A few years back, I migrated from the Blue Screens of Death and onto some Apple goodness.  And lo, having coughed up for Office for Mac out of necessity, I discovered that WordPerfect for Mac was not only downloadable, it was free, too.

Of course I downloaded it.  And upon installation it looked so… Eighties.  Call me shallow but its optimised-for-640×480 look clashed too much with the 1280×854 resolution of everything else on the desktop.  Any thoughts of full-migration were dashed by a complete lack of forward compatibility.  And so it sat patiently on my dock for a couple of years, a gesture to the good ol’ days and nothing more.

Some work-avoidance surfing last year put me onto OpenOffice.org and its cousin NeoOffice.  The idea of a free, open-source productivity suite seemed too good to be true.  The time and effort required to retrain both my fingers and whatever options it offered seemed wasteful since I was already using Micro$oft Office.  But… I wondered what it might have in store for me.  In a lull between shooting anything that moved, I gave NeoOffice a go.

I was quietly impressed.  It will do almost everything Office for Mac does, most of the time the same way, it’s compatible with at least twice as many programs out there (as opposed to, say, Word and its ability to open… Word documents), and best of all, it’s free.

Yeah, it’s crashed.  Once.  A damned nuisance but heck – c’est la vie for a free program.  (And who’s Micro$oft to snigger?  Of all the apps I use, it’s the Micro$oft apps that fall over the most often.)  After the crash, I upgraded and updated appropriately and NeoOffice has been the suite of first choice since last December.

I may have taken a backward step by migrating from the devil-I-know Word to an open-source app.  But it feels good – I exercised choice, something almost forgotten on this Micro$oft-infested planet.

And as for the scriptwriting – will I plunk down for a professional program like stalwarts Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter, or upstarts Celtx and Sophocles?  Why should I?  I can generate industry-standard scripts with both NeoOffice and Word already.

I’ll migrate to a professional program eventually.  But until then, it’ll be me and my new bud, NeoOffice.

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