Microsoft Word is the worlds most widely used word processor and document creation tool.
But for online publishers it can be a nightmare!
When you create an article in Word, behind the scene it adds in lots of HTML code to the document. Microsoft does this with the best intentions so when you paste the page into your online editor it keeps the formatting on your website.
Let me show you what I mean.
This is a standard text box which you will see on all good website publishing platforms, such SubHub. It allows you to prepare documents offline and then cut and paste them into the text box ready for publishing on your website.
If you click on the source button, you will see the HTML code that formats the document.
To non-technical people this stuff looks pretty scary … and it can be, but you should never have to look at this code or understand what it all means.
However if you use Microsoft Word, it uses non-standard, inconsistent bloated code.
The result is if you try to make changes to the document as you publish it on your website, you are very likely to run into formatting problems. Page layout, spacing, colours, bold, paragraphs and text position can all suddenly change in ways you didn’t expect or want.
I have spent many frustrating hours trying to correct Word originated pages that I have published on the web.
But I no longer have these issues because I no longer use Word!
Recommended Microsoft Word Alternatives
There are now many simple and free (or at least cheap!) document editors which create content that publishes to a web page perfectly every time.
I have tested many of them and the ones that I recommend are:
Google Docs (www.google.com/docs) - Free
Google Docs is not the best online document editor, but I use it because it fits so nicely into the whole suite of free Google services. I use Gmail, Google Reader, Google Sites and Google Calendar, so it is convenient to use the Docs services as well. It also makes document sharing within a team very easy.
The user interface is fairly intuitive. You can import documents in most formats, although not all formatting is always preserved. Editing functionality is limited compared to Word, but I find it still meets 90% of my needs
Zoho Notebook (http://notebook.zoho.com) – Free
Zoho Notebook is a much sexier web service. It allows all sorts of media to be collected within a document, with each bit of content being editable independently. This makes it a bit more complicated for the beginner, but very flexible for someone with a bit more internet knowledge. If you want to create exciting and varied page layouts it is worth persevering with it.
You can drag and drop boxes of text, images, video and even screen grabs of live websites around the page. Web clips update on the fly and audio can be recorded directly into the page.
NoteTab Pro (www.notetab.com) - £15/$30
The two services above do a good job and are free, but they have one big limitation … you have to be online to use them.
I often find that I want to write articles when I’m travelling or sitting outside without an internet connection.
That is why I also use the excellent NoteTab Pro application. It’s not sexy, but it is easy to use and does a great job.
They have a reasonable free version, but I think the Pro edition is well worth the money.
It is a small, fast tool which is easy to use and yet fully functional. From its multilingual thesaurus and spellchecker, to its search-and-replace features, it has everything you need.
Microsoft Word is more trouble than it is worth if you want to publish your documents on the internet.
There are lots of alternative document editors available. Many are free, but some of the paid ones offer better value. The three that I use and recommend are Google Docs for convenience, Zoho Notebook for its multimedia capabilities and NotePad Pro for portability, simplicity and flexibility.