I am a little bit provocative. Word processing softwares are still important and have been a gateway to the use of computers. Nonetheless last 10-15 years have seen a great evolution in technology. Actually an evolution in the paradigm of use of technology: systems are smaller, more portable but mainly our view and use of them has evolved.

An overly expensive typewriter

In the 90s personal computers started appearing in homes and schools, even before internet connection was a common thing. A typical setup was a pc case with screen , speakers, keyboard, mouse and a printer.

People were already used to typewriters so by analogy it was one of the best pardigm to approach personal computers.
Word processing softwares offered an intuitive representation of texts, in particular through the concept of What You See Is What You Get: the image on the screen faithfully reproduced what would end on printed page.

Contents vs presentation

The problem with this approach is the tight bond between contents of the text and their representation on printed paper.
This way the focus in writing shifts from the semantic meaning of a title, a paragraph or a section to its styling (bold, italics, font, size…). It is still possible to focus on the role of text paragraphs in a document by using styles thus focusing more on the content, but there’s still the problem of envisioning the document in only one possible final form: a printed page.

Accessibility

But paper is not the only media we can use to transmit our information, we now read articles and texts using different and dynamic formats through screens of various sizes (computers, smatphones, tablets, ebook readers…). We can alter the presentation of text to better suit our needs: bigger fonts, different colors with higher contrast or even feed the text to a reader software. Start thinking texts and documents focusing on contents semantics instead of a unique final format will open the doors of accessibility.

Technology

There’s always been an alternative to WYSIWYG softwares: LaTeX is a markup language WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean) that focuses on content leaving the presentation to a piece of software responsible for rendering, HTML and in particular HTML5 has shifted is focus from a combination of content and presentation to a semantic markup and leaving the presentation to CSS stylesheets.

But if markup languages seem to difficult to you, MarkDown is a good bridging alternative that will allow you to focus on content with few extra commands to learn and that can be translated automatically to HTML code. These posts are actually written using MarkDown.

Image from WikiMedia Commons