You can write a book in Word, but it works against the grain. And the output is below par. It is a great tool for memos, letters, internal docs that aren't too big. Templated stuff is ok (but Frame is better). Mathematics is no longer hopeless, but still far inferior to some options. I could go on. Writing large complicated documents is not what the *vast* majority of Word users are doing, is not what it is designed for, and is not what it is good at. Use the right tool for the job. Horses for courses, and all that.
I agree with you, people use tools to accomplish something. My complaint is that too many have chosen Word as opposed to the "TheRightTool". They need to be influenced into using a more appropriate tool which will not confuse users with either hopelessly inadequate or perhaps far too complicated features. Even though there are millions and millions of users of Word, perhaps they need to be educated that tool they are using may not fit the job as well as another tool. It may be that the output that they have produced might be more easily produced if they were to use "TheRightTool"
Not all jobs require the use of a WordProcessor. Many users find that NotePad, emacs, or some other text editor are sufficient.
Perhaps that "TheRightTool" is even free, or less expensive!
In the interests of helping people pick TheRightTool for TheRightJob?, this page contains lists of tools in various categories, along with information that might help someone decide which tool is right when.
Big. Very big. Everything it does can be customized using EmacsLisp (a rather clunky Lisp dialect with special support for text-editing features), and over the years it's grown packages that do all sorts of things. Syntax highlighting. Syntax navigation. Build tool, version control tool, and debugger interfaces. WebBrowsers. Mail clients. InteractiveFiction. Emacs has a fierce learning curve (lots of hairy key combinations), but it's capable of doing almost anything. It was once thought to be a memory-munching behemoth, but by today's standards, it's pretty lean. On my PC, my emacs process footprint is 20 megabytes, or less than half the size of a typical web browser.
Much smaller, faster and simpler than Emacs; where Emacs's aim is to enable you to do absolutely anything, Vi's aim is to enable you to edit text. That's all it's for. There are many versions of vi; one of the best is Vim (ViImproved?). Some people Feel that Vi is just as clunky and cryptic as emacs, others feel that it is smooth as silk, because the emphasis is on the idea that your fingers will never leave the home row. It's a HolyWar.
A combination text editor and formatter, with text-editing commands that are similar to Emacs. As a formatter, it is menu-driven and easy to learn, in the popular style of the "What You See Is (pretty much) What You Get". EZ is part of the AndrewProject? at CarnegieMellonUniversity. Is anyone still using it?
A widely used WordProcessor with many features. Includes Easy to use tool-bars and Wizards for many different kinds of documents, including Letters, Mailing Lists, Forms, Presentation Documents, and many more. Can be customized. Certainly the most widely used word processor at present. Its many versions, with their conspiracy-theory-inducing file format incompatibilities, mean that its ubiquity doesn't give quite as big an advantage in document portability as you'd hope. Runs on Windows and Macintosh.
A powerful word-processing and document preparation package. FrameMaker, with a special template, can be used to produce a thesis that meets all institutional formatting requirements. Runs on Windows and Macintosh.
A text formatter rather than a word processor; you feed it plain-text files containing markup commands, and it produces typeset documents ready for printing. LaTeX is based on DonKnuth's Tex (TexTheProgram). LaTeX is likely to produce more polished and consistently formatted documents than (for instance) MicrosoftWord, but it is harder to learn to use and makes no concessions whatever to WYSIWYG. LaTeX excels at typesetting mathematics. Runs on almost anything.
A full-featured spreadsheet which can be used for many different kinds of applications, including accounting, reporting, monitoring, databases, and mathematical computing. Has toolbars containing icons for commonly used operations, and wizards for use in many standard situations. Can be extended using VisualBasic. Certainly the most widely used spreadsheet program. Runs on Windows and Macintosh.
An interactive program for scientific and engineering numeric calculation. Applications include: matrix manipulation, digital signal processing, and 3-dimensional graphics. Runs on Windows. There is a FreeSoftware reimplementation of much of Matlab called Octave, which runs on many other systems.
A powerful and easy-to-learn spreadsheet, with a full range of mathematical, statistical, matrix, and string functions. It can be useful for scientific and engineering computations, as well as to general and financial users. Runs on Linux.
A mathematics program that can perform numerical and symbolic calculations, including formal and numerical integration, solving algebraic or transcendental systems and differential equations, and series expansion and matrix manipulation. It also has extensive graphics capabilities. Runs on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Solaris and more.
A sort of mathematical word processor: you use it by writing a document containing text, mathematical formulae, graphics and so on; numbers and graphics are automatically recalculated if things they depend on are changed. Symbolic algebra is based on a stripped-down version of Maple. Has some rudimentary but painful programming facilities.
Provides a computing environment similar to Matlab, but with emphasis on statistics. It is an open source implementation of the S language (EssLanguage) (S-Plus is a commercial option). Very strong user community. Contains Sweave (EssWeave) as a tool to implement LiterateProgramming. It can be integrated with LyX (LyEks).