I started the writing of this article in a plain text editor. [photo: Henrik Hemrin]

My first word processor I recall was WordPerfect. It was at Ericsson. Probably on an Ericsson PC, or perhaps an Nokia PC. Ericsson sold the PC division to Nokia, as I remember. At Ericsson the company was EIS, Ericsson Information Systems. This must have been using DOS Operating system, well before Windows arrived.

WordPerfect had one nice feature: With a Function key, you could split the screen horizontal. The upper half was the text. The lower half was the text with the "markup" included; like "<title"hej< title="">. This made it very simple to clean and correct the markup. I do not know which markup language WordPerfect was using, if it was their own version or a common one. At that time, I would say WordPerfect was dominating the market. WordPerfect still exist, now owned by Corel.

Some Ericsson colleagues had before WordPerfect used an Ericsson word processor. I probably came across it sometimes, but do not believe I wrote with it.

When I later started to write web pages, I found my WordPerfect experience useful, because web pages are based on HTML. HTML is a markup language, so it was very familiar to use from looking at code in WordPerfect. Nowadays web pages are generally more complicated than only HTML, but still there.

My next word processor at work must have been FrameMaker, a desktop publishing software. FrameMaker is very powerful, using layers, and also having decently good drawing capabilities. I draw numerous mechanical drawings of components in FrameMaker. Later on Adobe acquired FrameMaker. I used FrameMaker for very many years, both on PC and on the SUN Unix Workstation. I also used it at home. FrameMaker is still on the market.

At work, I believe next to come was Word from Microsoft. The software which came to dominate word processing, and still do so to my knowledge.

Talking about Word, Microsoft also had the low budget Works, which I also used somewhat at home.

At home I have also used several other word processors. I think I used one from Lotus, maybe the name was Lotus Notes. Lotus was owned by IBM. I do not believe I used it extensively, at least I do not recall much of the software. Lotus was included in the software package when I bought my IBM Aptiva desktop PC.

For a period I used the word processor from SPCS, Scandinavian PC System, with headquarter in my home town Växjö. SPCS is now part of Visma, the name SPCS still exist. I think they just called it Ord (Word in Swedish). It worked very well, but SPCS stopped the development of their office suite when competition from Microsoft was too hard in that software segment.

StarOffice was a suite developed by a German company. StarOffice was acquired by Sun, who gave it out to use for free, in order to compete with the Microsoft office suite. Sun was later acquired by Oracle. For a period, as I recall, StarOffice had a small fee due to some included proprietary graphics, in parallel with the free OpenOffice variant. I'm not fully clear in my understanding if OpenOffice current relation to Oracle and Apache software foundation which has the Apache OpenOffice.

Anyway, I have been using OpenOffice as my main office suite at home for many years, on Windows as well as on macOS. It currently is my main office suite. However, the development of OpenOffice has stagnated. LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice.org. LibreOffice development is very much more active. I use LibreOffice to some extent on macOS. On Linux it is my main office suite. Eventually I will switch to LibreOffice only. But as long time user of OpenOffice... it's hard to say goodbye.

I should mention that both OpenOffice and LibreOffice are fully free to use. But of course, donations to them as to other free open source softwares are welcome and needed to manage software to stay free.

On macOS I also use Pages from Apple. The Apple office suite generally works well for my need. The big advantage is that Pages can both be read and written also on iPhone and iPad.
I prefer to use a word processor installed locally on the machine. I have used Google Documents online, was well as Word online, but not much.

Finally, Text editor with plain text! Text editors of various kinds, where I write in plain text format, e.g. files like document.txt. And in my case normally without any markup include, just pure plain text. Actually, this article, I have started in a text editor. I will import the file to the website and add the html markup when I create the web article in my Joomla Content Management System, with the JCE extension for the article creation.

I have lately gone back to use a plain text editor more often. Why use this more boring format? Because it's simple! Files are as small as possible. And more importantly, the format is understood by every word processor. The format will live on, if any format will live. It is standardized. I believe you can say text format is open source.

Many word processing formats are unique and proprietary. You need to be careful so you will be able to read the files later. Maybe also save as pdf so files can be read at least. Or convert to another format before the software disappears from the market or from my own environment.

Another positive side with plain text editor is I can focus on the text to 100%. Of course, it is often good to start in a word processer where formatting is done at the same time. Shorter notes, like personal minutes, can often be fine to only keep in text format.

I understand some inlcude markup in the text file, maybe using Markdown and possibly with a dedicate Markdown text editor. That will mean the text basically is in text format, but has basic formatting so it can be nicer to read, and directly prepared for web pages or formatting in a more advanced word processor. Something to consider.

I like open source of both the software and document format. Therefore I will probably focus on OpenOffice and LibreOffice for years to come, whenever I am in charge of the decision. In addition to text format. Both OpenOffice and LibreOffice primarily stores in ODF. ODF stands for Open Document Format, an open standard. So I believe for as long time as can be foreseen, documents in ODF format will be possible to read and write in one or another software. The OpenOffice and LibreOffice also have modules for spread sheet, presentations, data bases and more, so they are not only word processors. 

Henrik Hemrin
3 November 2019

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