Escape from Microsoft Word

The orig­i­nal design of Microsoft Word, in the early 1980s, was a work of clar­i­fy­ing genius, but it had noth­ing to do with the way writ­ing gets done. The pro­gram­mers did not think about writ­ing as a sequence of words set down on a page, but instead dreamed up a new idea about what they called a “doc­u­ment.” This was effec­tively a Pla­tonic idea: the “form” of a doc­u­ment existed as an intan­gi­ble ideal, and each tan­gi­ble book, essay, love let­ter, or laun­dry list was a par­tial, imper­fect rep­re­sen­ta­tion of that intan­gi­ble idea.