In 2013, Microsoft released a new iteration of Word folded into their ubiquitous Office suite. Amazingly, it came with the option to pay a recurrent subscription fee for a premium license.
Even five years on, the notion of paying a subscription fee for something you’d find floating somewhere in pre-installed bloatware anyway was a shaky proposition. That’s not to mention the free version was relatively feature complete for someone not interested in much more than simple formatting or editing functionality.
If you bought a laptop with Office pre-loaded around that time, you were probably spoiled with a generous free trial from Microsoft, but you’d eventually get a prompt to re-up for continued service.
And service really is the operative word here.
At a certain point the entire business realized that as for selling software outright,
there just isn’t cash in it like there ought to be. We’re now buying services in lieu of
programs, games, or utilities because the real money is in the customer captured.
That is, the sustainer. In the subscriber.
The consumer should be a dairy cow eager to be milked, not some one and done steer ready for slaughter.
Okay, that’s a bit much, but the point is that regular (and palatably inexpensive) purchases became standard. Take a look at Apple’s highest grossing apps list. How many offer in-app or incremental purchases?
This is really all to say I can’t call myself a fan of this business model, and I know I’m not alone because the term “microtransactions” by itself is enough to raise a certain type of person’s blood pressure, but I’m burying the lede here.
What I want to address isn’t just the incremental payment model, but the resulting feature creep of software. Why do we need so many versions of Microsoft Word if not to justify the narrative that it’s not a page you put words on, it’s a whole ecosystem?
You should be signing up for another year of service, looking at banner ads next to your unfinished novel (really coming together, by the way), and boning up
on Word’s upcoming Chinese social media integration.
Thing is, this user experience is fundamentally antithetical to creative work.
Luckily, there are alternatives.
All kinds: stone tabla with stylus, dictating to a manservant, screaming your copy directly to readers, pen and paper.
Now, if you’re like me you can’t afford yet another manservant. I also like typing on computers, and the way they can save my writing as document files. So really, none of those quite get the job done.
What I do instead is use an ancient (and static) program called Darkroom, a minimalist word processor for Windows adapted from the yet more ancient Writerroom for Mac. Darkroom has features like allowing line breaks, 48 options for text color, and saving in .txt format.
It has few other features, and it’s perfect.
Well, almost perfect. Like I said, it has no other export options besides .txt, doesn’t have shortcuts for bold and italicize, and I have not been able to discern what the middle two buttons in that upper right column actually do (seriously, let me know if you find out).
Also, if you rely heavily on spellcheck, well, this probably isn’t for you, albeit if you’re like me you find autocorrect more frustrating than helpful and that’s mercifully absent as well.
In any case, I’d highly recommend checking out minimal software like Darkroom. I saw a noticeable uptick in productivity when I started using it. It feels good to write outside the visual context of document creation for once.
There’s nothing but the words when you’re finally writing “writing” rather than a Word or Google doc.