Bank Street Writer Plus
Requirements: Apple IIe, IIc, or IIGS computer with minimum 128K memory; IBM PC and compatibles.
There will probably never be a perfect word processor, one capable of being all things to all people, of fulfilling every writing need that may ever arise, but Bank Street Writer Plus brings us a little closer to the unattainable.
If you've been using computers for a few years, you'll probably remember that the original Bank Street Writer was introduced as a means of simplifying and/or overcoming the arcane commands with which we then addressed word processors—commands sufficiently encrypted that the hard copy returned for our labors was sometimes not worth the perf paper on which it was printed.
Along came Bank Street Writer, one of the first programs to make word processing as simple and instinctive as using a typewriter, and now comes Bank Street Writer Plus. While the goals of simplicity are the same, the implementation is better than before.
Besides giving you an 80-column by 19-line text display, with a few lines of prompts at the top of the screen, Bank Street Writer Plus also features dropdown menus that can be accessed by pressing the escape key; this may be done at any time, at any point within your manuscript. Pressing the key brings up a command line of topics such as File, Edit, Spell, Options, Disk. Move your cursor to any category, press Return, and the menu opens to show you your options. Cursor down to your choice, press Return, and the command line will provide instructions.
Many Ways To Simplify
In File, you find the options of saving, retrieving, and deleting files. In Edit, you find such things as block copy, move, erase, and find/replace as well as undo commands for these options. In Options, you can set tab stops, change disk locations, and define function keys. In this last option, each function key can be defined as a macro of up to 32 characters. Since the macros thus created are invoked by a combination of either "Apple" key and the proper function key, it follows that you can have as many as 20 preset words or phrases ready to appear in your text with only a double keystroke.
Alternately, the function keys can be defined as a series of answers to the many prompts that appear with most filing and printing options: Rather than respond to a series of questions, the entire series can be answered in advance. All function key definitions can be saved to the master disk for future use. (Since there are no function keys on the IIe or IIc computers, this feature was obviously intended for the IIGS. It also works on the Laser 128.)
Bank Street Writer Plus follows a line of logical operations, mentioned here only because not all word processors use such logic. Printer setup and formatting are done before the program boots. Disk formatting may be done at any time, for those of us who enter half a manuscript before remembering we have no disk to which it may be saved. Drive assignments may also be changed from within the main program.
With a two-drive system, my method is to boot the program disk, and then to remove it from drive one and insert the dictionary disk. Drive two holds the data disk, and, like the printer setups, these assignments are saved to the master program disk so that the system is configured to my needs each time I boot up. The thesaurus resides on the flip side of the dictionary disk, but I tend to avoid using it because it leads to text such as:… brought forth upon this continent a novel realm, conceived in leisure and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equitable.…
Should you choose to use the thesaurus in spite of this warning, you do so by highlighting the first letter of the word and pressing Open-Apple-T. If there are synonyms for the word, they'll appear in a box where you may choose a replacement by moving the cursor to highlight it and pressing Return.
The 60,000-word spelling checker is a more useful tool, and you may use it to check a single word or an entire document. When a misspelled word is encountered, it is highlighted and a list of possible choices appears in a pop-up window. Move the cursor to highlight the correctly spelled word, press Return, and it is inserted into the text. Should the word be simply unusual, or a proper name that may be frequently used, you can choose to have it ignored or added to the dictionary.
Documentation for Bank Street Writer Plus is very good. While it is aimed at the beginner in word processing, this tone of simplification makes the new features easier to understand for even the older hands. Three disks are included in the package, one containing the main program and, on the flip side, a tutorial. A second disk is a backup to the main program, and the last contains the spelling checker and the thesaurus. Should you have a hard disk system, both the spelling checker and thesaurus can be installed there, which should speed up their normally slow pace.
Of course, Bank Street Writer Plus does not have everything. I would appreciate being able to vary line spacing within a document rather than having to use one parameter throughout. Offsetting this, however, is auto page numbering, easy headers (but no footers), and the ability to save files in ASCII as well as binary form. I would also rather have a full preview option than the partial one included here, the chief use of which is to display page breaks.
But Bank Street Writer Plus is an excellent tool for the beginner. It will also be of value to the more experienced user who has felt the lack of onscreen help and such features as the spelling checker. When it comes to word processors, I am a tough customer and am difficult to please. That I've adopted Bank Street Writer Plus as a day-to-day tool means that it has passed some very tough tests.
Bank Street Writer Plus
17 Paul Dr.
San Rafael, CA 94903
$79.95 Apple versions
$99.95 IBM PC and compatibles