Besides email and browsers, word processors are next in line for the requirement to have a comfort zone. Whatever we write with has to “feel” right. If you’re a Mac user for any length of time, you know the major players. Microsoft’s Word (part of Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac OS X), and the venerable AppleWorks (included free in the non “Power” Macs.
To be fair, AppleWorks does much more than words. Layout, spreadsheet, database, graphics, and more. Still, most users use AppleWorks to write. The same holds true with Microsoft Office. Word is the premiere application for most users and gets the most use.
Both applications are mature, well known, get the job done and are as different as night and day.
Word is expensive and has nearly every feature a writer could think of. AppleWorks is (mostly) free and has features most writers would never need.
What’s in the middle? Plenty.
At the top of the stack is an old favorite from Mac OS 9 days—Nisus Writer.
Nisus Writer for Mac Classic (still available) was loved by many and had almost a cult following. It was fast, efficient, designed for writers and word processors (not the same) with enough features to make most writers happy and not so many that you’d lose precious time figuring out how to use them.
Then along came Mac OS X and word processor developers had to move their Classic applications to the new environment. Nisus Writer Express 1.x had some problems making the transition. Much of that can be attributed to the near impossibility of taking the old and making it new and work well in Mac OS X. Nobody did that too well.
Still, what’s important is progress, improvement, and paying attention to the customer base. Nisus Software appears to have worked hard on all three.
The result? Nisus Writer Express 2.0
For the sake of brevity, I have to compare the new Nisus Writer Express with something. It’s not AppleWorks, or Word. Frankly, it’s not much like the dozen or so other word processors and text editors for the Mac. So, let me take a moment and go back about 20 years.
One of the early Mac word processors was a package called WriteNow. Small, fast, efficient, and with a Mac “feel” that was so popular among users that many swore they’d never use anything else. WriteNow made it to Steve Job’s NeXT system in the 80s as one of few word processors on the precursor to Mac OS X.
Nisus Writer Express (NWX2) can be compared favorably to WriteNow.
First, NWX2 is a massive enhancement over versions 1.x. So much so that it doesn’t feel much the same, only it feels better. It’s easy to get comfortable with NWX2 rather quickly. Just like the WriteNow of old.
To a certain extent, NWX2 looks and feels like Apple’s Mail.app. It’s clean, uncluttered, has a big area for the text you’re writing at the time, a toolbar across the top for handy tool requirements, and a pop-out tool pane to the right.
We like to customize our toolbars, right? NWX2 is no exception and there’s plenty of additional tools you can drag direct to the top tool bar.
What’s remarkable about Nisus Writer Express 2.0 is the ability to get something done quickly, find the tools you need for certain functions quickly, and follow the learning curve for more advanced functions, well, uh, quickly.
That was a strength of the old WriteNow and Nisus has captured much of that “essence” and “feel” in NWX2.
For example, maintaining compatibility with Microsoft Word is often (not always) a must. NWX2 can save documents to Word format, read Word format, and manage to get it right most of the time. The default save setting is for RTF (sometimes known as Rich Text Format) which is compatible, sorta, across most platforms, Mac, Windows, Linux, et al.
Writers, those who consider a word processor as their number one application will appreciate many of the built-in extras of NWX. It’s a big list. So big we need two whole pages for the review.
To read the rest of the review, Click Here for PAGE 2 and more Nisus Writer Screenshots.
Continued from Page 1…
There’s three main areas to Nisus Writer Express. First, the writing window (duh). This is where you spend most of your writing time so it needs to be simple and not cluttered. It should also reflect exactly what’s going to print out (a problem I still have with Microsoft’s Word and AppleWorks—WYSIWYG isn’t always the case). With NWX2, it does.
The tools you need aren’t buried among 14 levels of buttons, menus, and nested menus. They’re right there, laid out in a logical (for writers, anyway) form.
Second, the top toolbar area ,which can hold plenty of tools so a wide screen Apple Cinema Display, comes in handy. The list is impressive but you control what goes where: copy, cut, paste, redo, rulers, save, undo, print, insert table, and so on. Think of the top toolbar as the basics. Everyone needs these tools just to get something written and formatted.
Click the Tools icon and the tools window pane pops out to the right; the third area of tools.
The side window pane is where you’ll find the rest of the formatting tools. There’s plenty and they’re context sensitive, too.
This shows font family, font options (bold, italics, size), paragraph options (line spacing), and borders for sections of text and tables. This is much easier than Microsoft’s Word. Below that are shading, headings, and other styles. Both graphic icons and text are used to describe each function. Small “grabber” handles allow you to move Formatting sections up or down, revealing more features.
Now we’re getting more advanced yet all these functions are one click away. Your document can be broken into sections, header and footer. Margins are controlled here, too, including the all-important gutter. Multiple columns? They’re a cinch.
Yes, how about tables? This is an area of using the window pane tools that make writers happy. There are multiple ways to do the same thing. Tables can be selected and modified with easy-to-understand icons. Format an entire table if you wish. Or only sections, and cells. Add borders, change fonts, add and delete headings. The whole Tables menu is one click away.
This is a more advanced context sensitive menu that contains the NWX2 Thesaurus, a Styles section (set up your own styles, implement them with a single click), paragraph formatting, and one of my all time favorites—stats. Character count, word count, paragraph count.
The User-Defined Styles section lets you create a pre-determined style so everyone in the office can use it (am I suggesting that MS Office can be replaced? Think about it…). Each style carries its own properties of text, attributes, and so on. Click, and you’ve got style.
Those are the basics. How does Nisus Writer Express “feel”?
Well, it feels good, comfortable, as if everything is where it’s supposed to be. Having come from years of Word and AppleWorks use, it didn’t take long to recognize that Nisus put lots of time into figuring out how to make NWX2 “feel” good to the user.
NWX2 also feels quick, but I’m biased. My Mac is a new dual 2.5 ghz PowerMac and everything feels quick these days. One thing I’ll say right away is how quickly files open in Nisus Writer Express. My Mac tends to open everything quickly, but file opens for NWX2 RTF files were even faster than AppleWorks, and faster than Word.
Nisus did such a good job creating a steady, simple learning curve that it’s easy to forget how much raw power is in NWX2. Features I didn’t expect in a word processor for $60. For example, there’s both File and Template support for Microsoft Word documents and Templates.
What else? Language.
Of course, Mac OS X makes language use a breeze and Nisus brings it all together. Pick a language. All the ones that I can’t speak are right there, just a click away. Little touches like language sensitive Smart Quotes and automatic typo fixing (lordy do I ever need that). A click away.
Imagine that. A language palette.
The old Nisus Express for OS X had a klunky interface for a feature most of use often; search and replace. I’m happy to report that not only is Search and Replace back to where it “feels” good, it also works well.
What’s missing? I’m one who writes constantly and there’s not much. A few items popped out right away. The side window pane needs icons and text to define Formatting, Sections, Tables, Writing instead of the pull-down menu. That saves time and brings the potential tools to mind visually rather than after a click.
What else? Automatic line numbering would be handy, but I’m using BBEdit for coding, so that’s more of a nit. Footnotes and Endnotes required some effort to find (for those who publish documents and want to create the nearly finished document on the fly as they work).
I’d also like to see a small section in the menu bar that’s always visible and displays stats. Now, the stats list is in the Writing section of the window pane, and down at the bottom (easy to move, though). However, it updates the stats (words, characters, paragraphs) in real time. Sweet.
After using the pre-release version of NWX2, I’m convinced that Nisus didn’t miss much. This is not a kitchen sink word processor (can you say “Microsoft Word”). It’s an elegantly designed, pleasant-to-use, thoughtfully intuitive application that’s fast, efficient, and comes with more true “word processor” features than most users require.
For a writer, Nisus Writer Express 2.0 is a worthy addition to your Mac and worth every penny.
Click Here to review the Nisus Writer Express details page.
Got a need for more specialized word processing? Click Here to review the Best Mac Text Editor on the Planet.
Do you write more email than anything else? What email application do you use. Click Here for a review of the Best Mac Email Program on the Planet.
We’re a planetized group, aren’t we?