How often have we used office productivity software these days? For many of us, less and less often. There is a move from traditional document processing in monolithic applications to collaborative document processing.

We have not been using a traditional word processor to format a news release for a long time. It is unnecessary in today’s social media and digital newsfeed world. Although one or two marketing executives still insist on formatted news releases for some reason, there is no real world application for this antiquated mode of document preparation, and even less real world space for disseminating such a formatted document. In the world of search engines, search engines have no regard for formatting, just the content.

Modern online newsrooms (such as are usually based on content management systems or even blog engines, and since the intention is to distribute the online content as widely as possible, the textual content is the most important, and stylistic formatting has no relevance except for the visual delineation necessary for the human reader, such as giving a different visual definition to headlines, sub-headlines, pull quotes, bullet points, footnotes, and so on. But formatting is often through standards-based CSS (cascading style sheets) that in most instances are comprehensively compatible with different web browsers. The textual content with any associated multimedia links (images, audio and video) that are usually then presented through RSS (really simple syndication) news feeds are devoid of formatting, making the content very portable across other web applications, such as social media platforms, mobile web apps, and hybrid mobile apps.

There is a move away from traditional document processing that there is also an emergence of distraction-free document processors (or full-screen writing tools), where the writer basically types in an expanded document window, with no formatting toolbars or functions. The writer can therefore focus on just good-quality writing, rather than fuss over unimportant formatting, which the world increasingly cares little about. If you have good quality content, people will read it. No amount of window dressing can change bad quality writing.

For example, when writing, I would use the basic text editor to write my articles, rather than a traditional word processor, since I will have to put in as much conscious thought to keep my writing together rather than rely on automated spellchecking tools or get carried away by the myriad possibilities of visual formatting. Likewise, when developing content on a content management system like WordPress, I use the text editor mode rather than the visual editor mode almost always.

And because of the need for collaboration, collaborative writing platforms (such as the document module in Basecamp) have also emerged, to allow people in corporations or even in remote locations, to write, edit, and approve written documents, whether these be creative pieces, technical writing, or even legal contracts. Again, the content is of the primary importance and such collaborative writing platforms do away with the distractions of formatting, to allow everyone to drill down on what is truly important.

As writers, creators, developers, and marketers, the key question we need to ask is, what kind of communication are we delivering? Are we driven to write well and write persuasively, rather than hoping that esoteric window dressing will distract our readers sufficiently?