Why I Hate Microsoft Word

Dr, Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #292

The issue described in my open letter below has been resolved since I wrote it. According to Microsoft:

We’ve addressed the issue, and you should be able to activate successfully now. For those who still experience the issue on Mac, please try to remove the Office license files using the removal tool and then activate again.

That being said, this column is called, “Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves,” so I like to give you a rant every so often.

–Rant On–

August 16, 2018
Dear Microsoft,

I wanted to thank you for the 1.5-hour troubleshooting break you forced upon me… I suppose expecting the software I pay for to work when I need it is asking too much.

When I walked into my office yesterday, your program (Word) had unilaterally decided it was unlicensed and required activation. When I attempted to activate it, I received the message “An unknown error has occurred. The error code is 0x800706BA.”

With deadlines looming, this was the last thing I wanted to see...
With deadlines looming, this was the last thing I wanted to see…

Wasted Time—Not Just an Eagles Tune Anymore

I Googled the error code and found numerous articles… but they were all about fixing Windows or Windows Update errors and shed no light on the issue on my Mac. I did all the usual things one does… rebooted, Safe Booted, ran Onyx… but nothing helped.

After nearly an hour of frustration and troubleshooting, I'm still unable to activate Office!
After nearly an hour of frustration and troubleshooting, I’m still unable to activate Office!

I tried to activate Word again and got the same message but a different error code this time: 0xD00711F7. Much to my surprise, when I Googled this code I found several articles that applied including one from the Microsoft Answers database that said I should:

  1. Download and run a script from Microsoft’s Knowledge Base.
  2. Reset my keychain (in macOS).
  3. Completely uninstall and then reinstall Office.

After wasting at least an hour so far trying to activate my software, I didn’t want to download and run some undefined script from Microsoft, nor did I want to reset my keychain. 90 Minutes Later…

I had a hunch, so I downloaded a fresh copy of Office 365 and installed it without uninstalling the existing copy first. Much to my surprise, it worked and Word hasn’t asked to be activated since.

Just so you know, this has NEVER happened to me using Apple’s productivity apps— Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—which I prefer anyway. In fact, I can’t remember an Apple app forcing me to waste a single minute “activating” or “authorizing” or other nonsense, much less the 90 minutes Word cost me this morning.

And so, thank you very much, Microsoft, for wasting half of my morning. Even with a deadline looming, there’s nothing I like more than troubleshooting issues that should never have existed in the first place.

Denying access to paid-up subscription software borders on criminal. Legitimate users should NEVER be inconvenienced by copy perversion schemes.

You ought to be ashamed.

One last thing: I would delete Word and switch to Apple’s Pages in a heartbeat if my book publisher didn’t INSIST I use Word.


Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus
An Unhappy Office 365 subscriber since last Thursday.

P. S. When I posted a rant along these lines on Facebook, many people asked why I didn’t just compose the work in Pages and then export it as a Word document.

That might work in theory, but sadly, the revision tracking data — which is the feature my book publisher cares about most — does not export (or import) correctly.

P. P. S. I want you to know that I wrote my latest book — Working Smarter for Mac Users— in Apple’s Pages. Here’s why:

  1. The author (that’s me) prefers Pages (over Word or any other word processor).
  2. The publisher (that’s also me) prefers Pages (over Word or any other word processor).

Bottom line: I look forward to the day when other publishers are as enlightened as Working Smarter 4 Productions LLC (my self-publishing company) so I can delete Word once and for all.

–Rant off–

20 thoughts on “Why I Hate Microsoft Word

  • Bob – have you noticed yet that the AutoSave function of Word doesn’t work unless you store your document in Microsoft OneDrive? Even though Preferences/Save shows that AutoSave is turned on by default, IT’S NOT WORKING.So the 90% of the world that doesn’t use OneDrive is only one power outage away from finding this out (especially since AutoRecover is so notoriously spotty in performing its given job). The other day it failed to capture a half day’s worth of Excel edits I’d just input. That’s when I discovered this little AutoSave issue.See more detail in my Feedback rant to Microsoft: https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/msoffice/forum/msoffice_excel-mso_mac-mso_365hp/why-does-autosave-in-office-365-only-work-on/473a3dea-658d-4292-aa4a-4a8141964596?tm=1549230805486Larry

  • I can offer one suggestion, for your line-drawing exercise: After you draw and format the line, right-click on it and select Set as Default Line. Any further lines you draw will maintain the same weight and color until you reset the default. If you keep the line selected, the Drawing Tools | Format tab will be displayed, and the Insert Shapes palette will include a line, which you can select to draw another line, which will have the color and weight you selected as the default. As for the text boxes, you can also format one of those, right-click, and Set as Default Text Box. Text box borders are always on all four sides, but when you select a text box with a line border, for some reason the top and left edges appear heavier. This doesn’t happen if the text box is set to No Line, so I’m not sure what the purpose is.

  • So Bob, why don’t you tell us how really feel?

    I had to laugh out loud on this one.

    I’ve never had the problem you’ve described, but I have had others; notably being forced to use Outlook for a brief period when my university did not enable Mail support on their exchange server, and Outlook deciding to go buggy. I won’t regale you with the details.

    I too prefer Pages over Word, and that’s invariably what I’ll open to start many a project. However, when composing manuscripts for peer-reviewed publishing, most grant applications, or any collaborative work with colleagues, I have to use Word, particularly if I’m working on a document that needs to be shared between multiple colleagues. One of the issues is referencing. Using Endnote, the references remain active between different machines using the same word processing app, whether Word or Pages, but does not work cross-platform, ie Pages to Word or vice versa. I’ve written first to Thomson, then to both Apple and MS about that, notably stressing to Apple that I prefer working in Pages (as I’m doing now), but to no avail.

    In the meantime, I continue to subscribe to MS’s Office package, and work in Pages, when able.

    1. Ha! How I really feel? It’s just the whole “take my money; waste my time; and then don’t give a f#%k” attitude that gets my dander up.

      I’m in the same boat — I’ll have to keep subscribing to MS’s Office package until Apple figures out how to make round-trip revision tracking work in Pages.

      (Are you listening, Apple? Just add Endnote support and get revision tracking to work flawlessly with Word and you’ll have at least two new fans.)

  • That being said, I think it’s worth noting that Word is the brainchild of Charles Simonyi, who co-designed one of the first (if not the first?) WYSIWYG word processors ever, Bravo, on the Xerox Alto at PARC in the 1970s. This in turn influenced Steve Jobs and the Lisa and Macintosh designers – and of course several PARC alumni went to Apple as well. Pages’ ancestors at Apple such as AppleWorks/ClarisWorks, MacWrite, and LisaWrite are also spiritual successors to Bravo.


    Bravo also had a somewhat inconvenient modal interface that was great for experts but terrible for everyone else. By default it was in command/select mode, so famously if you typed EDIT it would select (E)verything, (D)elete the selection (your entire document), switch to (I)nsert mode, and then insert the letter (T) into your (mostly empty) document.

    But I still hate Word.

  • I feel as if Word and Pages set off this amazing global extinction event for word processors.

    Because Word is so dominant, it’s hard for it to gain new users. Its greatest competition is older versions of Word. Its copy protection gets worse and worse, and Word itself doesn’t seem to solve its basic usability and reliability problems. I think I prefer Pages, but Pages seems to have killed the rest of the Mac word processor market since it’s hard for any Mac word processor that isn’t Word to compete with Apple and free.

    It seems that there should be a business opportunity for high-quality, reliable and usable word processors (not to mention desktop software in general) but the cost of entry is so high since people expect you to be compatible with Word.

    Years ago I went to a Macworld Expo (remember those?) where Microsoft had decades of Word versions on display along with the Macs that could run them. What amazed me was that they all worked about the same and the old versions were just as responsive as the new versions. Maybe it’s an example of sticking with what works (and avoiding weird digressions like Clippy), but it was sobering. The biggest advances seemed to be larger displays and color.

  • Feel better now?? I had the same problem at the same time. As you know, it was a problem with Azure and many around the world were affected. Office is not a free product like Pages so it checks for authenticity – just like Adobe. I suppose you’ve never had any issues with iCloud outages.

    1. I’ve never had an iCloud issue that prevented me from launching and using an app. And Adobe Creative Cloud, much as I don’t care for it, has not caused me any issues. Nor have other copy perverted programs.

      Copy protection does not work and often punishes innocent (paid) users. I understand that some companies find it necessary… I try to avoid dealing with such companies whenever I can. In this case I can’t.

      1. Well, I don’t use Pages or Numbers (did try to though), but I’ve had countess issues with iCloud…failure to deliver mail, synchronization outages, duplication of documents, etc. So while the specific issue isn’t failure to open an app, the amount of time I’ve similarly wasted with iCloud issues is vastly greater than the time I’ve wasted with Microsoft problems. I live in the Apple ecosystem but to be fair, even with this recent issue with Azure, Microsoft’s cloud has been far more robust than Apple’s. Sometimes, one loses perspective in the heat of a current annoyance.

      2. You are exactly right that copy protection tends to make things much worse for actual customers who buy the product. And of course Office doesn’t use the Mac App store copy protection (which is perhaps less awful?) because Microsoft doesn’t want to pay Apple’s 30% cut. Although cloud storage such as iCloud/SkyDrive/Dropbox/etc. provides a clear and direct feature benefit to users, network-based copy protection does not.

    1. No, No, don’t equivocate. You said you hated Word, and you need to stick with your true feelings. Join the rest of us who have left the dark side. Join us as we rise as one. Be ye someone who uses Pages, or LibraOffice, or Scrivener, or whatever, we need to stand together. For they may have taken our productivity, but they will never take our freedom.

  • Word was good up to Version 5.1. Then, along came Version 6. It was horrible. Slow, dreadfully unstable, complicated. And from Version 6 it just got worse. I developed an itchy Command S finger. Type a word or two, save, type another couple of words, save. Crash or freeze. Reopen. Start again. Command S. Crash. Reopen. Won’t reopen. Quit all apps and restart the computer. Start again.
    The magazine I had been working for went belly up. I no longer had any need for Word or any of the Office “Sweet,” so I dumped it and saved a ton of space on my computer.
    The best Word ever got was mediocre.
    It’s utter crap.

  • I hate Word too. When they added the Ribbon I realized it was a lost cause. Then when Office went to Rent-a-Software Office365, I abandoned it. Fortunately my publisher (also Me, maybe we will see each other at the next company party) is fine with Pages.

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