Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Pastors – wouldja please stop using WordPerfect 5.1?

Too many pastors are still tethered to their office via their desktop word processor – at least if we can assume the numbers from a recent ReadWriteWeb are any reflection of how too few are taking advantage of online options such as Zoho Writer, ThinkFree Write, or Google Docs.

In fact, according to the recent RWW poll & analysis entitled ‘Word Processing: Most of You Still Use Desktop Software,’ less than 25% of their tech-savvy readers use an online word processor as their main documentation tool.

Here are the results from RWW‘s 2008 poll:

  • OpenOffice 16% (374 votes)
  • Microsoft Word 50% (1162 votes)
  • StarOffice (Sun) <1% (11 votes)
  • Another desktop word processor (please comment) 5% (109 votes)
  • A Text Editor (e.g. Notepad, Emacs) 7% (166 votes)
  • Buzzword (Adobe online wp) 1% (28 votes)
  • Google Docs 16% (374 votes)
  • ThinkFree 2% (42 votes)
  • Zimbra <1% (5 votes)
  • Zoho 1% (26 votes)
  • Another browser-based word processor (please comment) <1% (11 votes)
  • Other tool (please comment) 2% (36 votes)

Results made all the more interesting when compared to a similar 2007 poll taken this time last year, which indicates use of MS Word is up 2%, while Open Office is down 2% … that said, Google Docs enjoyed a bump up from 11% last year to 16% this year.

What has this got to do with my church and/or charity website? Glad you asked …

One of the questions I would have like to have seen answered was “what version of Word are you using?” I ask this because the poll reminds me of the frustration I had at one church where I’d get weekly sermons to post online … sent to me by a pastor stuck on WordPerfect 5.1 … until later he got stuck on another loser in the desktop arena, WordPerfect for Windows.

I’d spend an hour or two per sermon banging it into something resembling HTML , unable to convince the this excellent student of Scripture that the world was chaning, his word processor along with it.

All of which makes me wonder here and now, I wonder how many of you out there are dealing with old operating systems running old versions of old word processors? Then I wonder, how much time is lost in getting the important and compelling content in sermons that could draw in literally draw in thousands of visitors and dozens of new members … if only it weren’t so doggone hard to get them from the old desktop application to the webspace.

If you’re feeling the same pain or wondering the same thing, here are 5 quick points to consider:

  1. online word processing systems such as Google Docs have a publish feature, that can send a document straight to a sermons blog using any publishing software that supports XML-RPC;
  2. several online word processing systems have a shared/collaboration feature – meaning a pastor with a Windows 2000 based PC can work on the same document as his editor layperson equipped with a Mac at their office;
  3. moving from the desktop to the webspace means avoiding the confiscatory licensing and upgrade costs associated with desktop applications;
  4. a number of online word processing have import and export capabilities, allowing a pastor to revise an old sermon written in Word back in 2002, saving the new version back to their hard drive in Word, HTML, PDF or Word;
  5. you can go home for dinner … meaning staff need not stay at the office all night to work on a church budget, but instead can save the unfinished document just before leaving the office … then pick up right were they left off from the comfort of their home computer and browser.

Yes, there are some concerns about privacy, ownership, and backups – but there are similar problems that exist with desktop applications as well – meaning there’s no SaaS substitute for good contingency planning.

Oh and one other argument I might pose a pastor permanently stuck on dead desktop apps … “what % of the features on Word do you actually use?


  1. Man I love you guys! You really know how to point things out in a gentle… well, okay, a prophetic way! Another advantage of some online publishing applications is the ability to make documents public – a great feature for sermons.

  2. I personally haven’t switched to online apps because I don’t have an internet connection half the time I’m on my laptop. Not at school and not at my full-time job (I’m “part-time” at church). So it doesn’t make sense for everybody, unless I’m missing something.

  3. Years ago, my church was entirely a WordPerfect shop. I have finally weaned them off WordPerfect to using MS Word. The last straw was when we hired a new office manager and she said, “WordPerfect? You’ve got to be kidding.” I haven’t raised the subject of Google Docs to the pastors and staff, yet. The lack of user-defined templates is a major Google Docs killer.

    Six months ago I moved the church to Google Apps. That has worked great for email. The staff didn’t have to change the way they work, but they see a lot less spam and it’s easier for me to administer. We have used Docs and Sites a little bit for special projects with tech-savvy volunteers.

  4. I always puzzled over the church’s widespread adoption of wordperfect. And I assumed it had to do with money. Microsoft didn’t give as good of a deal as Corel, I guess.

    Online apps “in the cloud” are a good direction to think about. I’d love to hear more from Bill about how the docs are working for him.

    (On a side note, we talked with a big national research company that uses google notebook and google docs to do their research!)