There are a few types of learning ‘curves’. There are the kind that are nice and gradual where minimal effort is required to reach the top. Then you have what I call learning cliffs, where it is impossible to get anything done until you have a decent understanding of the system. A simple generalized implication is that the more difficult a tool is to learn, the more useful it will be. This does not always hold true.
A simple example of a tool that falls into the high learning curve, and is next to useless is the Office Suite. These things are monstrosities with very little true utility. The size and complexity makes them impossible to use at worse, confusing at best. The number of mouse clicks one has to go through in order to accomplish mundane tasks is astonishing. In short, these apps suck.
A better alternative would be xhtml and perl or python. xhtml for the presentation layer, and perl/python for data processing. With the office suite you have to learn a thousand commands unique to that specific application, which usually have unpredictable results. It takes a lot of experience to be able to utilize the most simplistic of styling rules. Once such knowledge is gained, it is not portable to any other application. In other words you are now locked in.
A lot of people use spreadsheets for crunching numbers. Any rudimentary task requires some type of code skill, usually in a language unique to the app. Ever try to load a csv file that did not meet the ridiculously finicky requirements? Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe the situation. Writing macros or little plugins is the only workaround for such situations. This can only be done in a language unique to the suite.
All of these problems can be avoided by moving away from bloatware and into the world of minimalism. I do not mean minimalism by opening up notepad and composing your thesis in it. Minimalism in the sense of using multiple tools that each do one job and do that job well. emacs for text editing, xhtml for presentation, python/perl for number crunching.