The choice of word processor by itself shouldn't necessarily hinder or boost productivity. It would really only do the latter as part of a modern workflow (meaning it fits in properly as a piece of a modern workflow and does not put up barriers). With that said, as you say, there are tons of minimalist and specialized text editors out there (as one example, I've been using Scrivener of late), so choice of a modern solution as part of a modern workflow shouldn't be an issue.
I think the choice of word processor can very easily hinder productivity if - say - the application is difficult to use or otherwise lacking in ergonomics. It may be difficult to envisage newer
tools not being better than older
tools, but a creative pursuit like writing invites the consideration of all kinds of subtle spatial and environmental influences. One might prefer not to - for instance - write one's novel in a room with livid red walls or while listening to loud Black Metal music.
I think when I was first confronted with Microsoft Word for Windows, the screen furniture I had expected to be so productive
was - for a while at least - nothing but a distraction. I spent more time formatting text and writing macros: two classic procrastinations you can get into instead of actually thinking of something to write.
So I guess this is one reason for the minimalist editors. Depending on the nature of the book, the primary goal is to get words on the page. I'm certainly not suggesting everyone dumps MS Word in favour of AtariWriter, but if there weren't modern alternatives to cluttered, lumbering office suite word processors, I might.
As for Word itself, I've had no issues with it either. It's a fantastic, general purpose word processor. If you have specific needs, however, like writing a screenplay, then by all means there are better, purpose-built tools than Word.
Word's great, but it's canonically acknowledged that it's packed full of stuff you don't need most of the time. Of course you can go full screen, hide toolbars, etc, etc, and that's all good. However, MS Word 2013 actually started lagging the last time I tested it on this 3GHz, quad-core Windows 7 machine (it was something to do with hardware accelerated video). I found the fact office software now requires hardware assisted rendering a little ironic, but after reverting to Word 2010 I was happy enough.
Again, I love vintage computers and vintage tech in general, but my nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses don't extend to productivity software. Whether using a C-64, Amiga, Coleco Adam, 386/486/Pentium PC, etc., I've never had anywhere near the reliability, ease-of-use, and no-brainer redundancy that I can get with today's hardware and software.
Sure: I doubt many of us will go back to 8-bit computers, especially if we're producing commissioned work with deadlines. Me: I still like writing technical documentation on the A8. I can't absolutely say why that is, but then again I can't absolutely say why I enjoy writing technical documents at all, or why I enjoy using an Atari 8-bit computer.
Somehow I don't look back and wonder aghast how I wrote my dissertation using TextPro and Daisy-Dot II. That is to say, I wouldn't necessary feel the need to write it with MS Word were I able to go back and re-do it today. TextPro got the same words on the page that a modern text editor would, and an 8-bit Atari remained my primary word processing computer until around 2002. I got by just fine (although I had no Internet connection then: everything ended up on paper).
As for redundancy: the whole matter may be largely moot anyway, since I notice little functional difference between Word for Windows 1.0 and MS Word 2013 - aside from the fact the newer version appears to demand an inordinate amount of processing power. I think quite a few people never progressed beyond Word 2000 or 2003. Of course there are degrees of credulity, but newer isn't always better.
Edited by flashjazzcat, Wed Oct 21, 2015 1:24 PM.