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… Mommy's gonna get you a bucket of latex (to drown in).

Who cares whether some Microsoft Office format is a formal standard and not just a de facto standard? It's of no consequence: it's crap that you have hard time avoiding in either case. Yet, some people seem to be having a big problem with that. And what do these whining FOSS wackos have to offer? Yes, that's right: the same shit in a different package! WYSIAYG+XML: crap to the power of n, times two. They just want to have their name on the standard, not Microsoft's. You see, it's not about better technology; it's about beating Microsoft: about being able sit back in calm contentment and watch the computing experience deteriorate even further from the present painful situation, with them and not the big bad Microsoft laughing at the poor suckers who have to use word processors and their favoured formats. From this perspective, it's probably good for Microsoft's format to be formally standardised. At least then I can laugh at these copycat suckers to whom the greatest problem in IT and life is some folks formally conceding a de facto status.

Microsoft Office isn't the problem. The whole Office WYSIAYG (“What You See Is All (or even more than) You Get”) concept is the problem. OpenOffice isn't any better than Microsoft's. It is worse, in fact. Just like most fresh open source crap, it doesn't even try to appear not to stench, unlike Microsoft's much more carefully chrome-plated crap. From the moment it has finally managed to finish loading, you notice the dirty blurred (or poorly rasterised) fonts, epidemic in FOSS these days. And once you dig deeper – well, either you hit a stone wall, or the floor crashes. Microsoft has a slightly bigger room and sturdier floor – but not by much – and someone has cleaned the place in the last decade.

Aside from all the Office software being unusable WIMP crap, the whole WYSIAYG concept is totally unmanageable, designed for the kind of people who prefer eye candy over functionality at any cost. Unfortunately, they appear to be in the majority and this the taste of the herd, the embodiment of present skin-deep pseudo-individualist mass culture. WYSIAYG is focussed on style over structure, even to the complete absence of the latter. By emphasising fiddling with fonts and margins over defining logical document structure completely separately from style – through an interface that hides even what little support there is for style classes – it is totally unsuited to documents longer than just a few pages. WYSIAYG versus structural documents is the equivalent of a windowing environment that makes you manage windows, versus one that actually tries to manage windows.

LaTeX for standard! – de facto and otherwise. It's crap too, but at least it's not fresh, and there seems little hope of the world ever producing anything that would suck less. IT is fucked. My estimate is that writing even the simplest documents will become a huge chore with the software of the future, and even the mathematical journals – the last bastion of LaTeX – may eventually be forced to migrate to WYSIAYG crap, once a new generation emerges that has been brainwashed from the cradle to accept no substitute.

Well, if there's something to be said for formal standards, at least they help writing quick&dirty converters from unformatted plain text, once everyone starts requiring that format. Oh, the wonders of advanced technology! Oh, how technology makes life easy and rich! Not. Usually the outcome is the opposite. Any suitably advanced technology is indistinguishable from a straitjacket. Pencil and paper is more usable and manageable than Office-style word processors, and their file formats.