Good words; four new word processors for the Apple. (evaluation) Stephen Arrants.
Four New Word Processors For the Apple
It seems that there are more world processors for the Apple than for any other machine. It is a crowded field. Hardly a day goes by that a new software announcement does not cross my desk. I have to admit, I sometimes got a small thrill out of testing each one. It is like a game. How much further can an author push the Apple? What new tricks can he squeeze out of the 6502?
Friends are used to this by now. I am forever raving about some new word processor, comparing it to my standard, Apple Writer. Forget the games? Give me a good, solid word processor! I think my friend Ted said it best. I was talking up Word Juggler IIe, rambling on and on, when he said "OK, fine. But tell us, Steve--What's your highest score on Screen Writer II?' Sometimes I think PC users have no sense of humor.
To get this madness out of my system for a while, I recently tested four new word processors for the Apple. One is specifically for the IIe, one was a hit when it was shown to a third grade class, one is more than just a word processor, and the fourth is good, but perplexing.
Word Juggler IIe
Word Juggler started its life as a word processor for the much maligned Apple III. (See our review in the June 1983 Creative Computing.) Apparently, the people at Quark were not going to adapt it for the Apple II. Apple was going to have to adapt the machine to the software!
If you have ever worked on a dedicated word processor, you know how smooth and easy operation can be. There are not complicated control codes to memorize, no finger-twisting keystrokes. Each command has its own key. Now, Quark can't give you a new keyboard for the Apple. Instead, they supply replacement keycaps for the IIe keyboard. The keys look just like the normal Apple keys with one important difference. Printed on the front of the new keys are the special Word Juggler IIe commands. That's good.
One problem with using a word processor is memorizing a long list of commands. Does CONTROL-C mean Catalog or Change Case? IS CONTROL-S a Search command or a Save command? With the new Word Juggler IIe keys, you can almost forget the commands before you learn them. Not only are the command keys labeled, but they are logically grouped, not placed all over the keyboard.
Formatting text is simple. A plastic template placed over the top row of keys lists printing options and how to generate them. Hit ESC and the proper key, and you have control over spacing, justification, pitch, and other printing commands. It is then inserted at the current cursor location and shown in inverse to distinguish it from text.
Information from DIF files can be inserted; variables can be used for form letters and can be defined within a document and made conditional.
One difficult part of using Apple-Writer is using WPL to spool files together for printing. Word Juggler IIe lets you insert document names into a taxt file in such a way that it automatically retrieves the named file and prints it out. No WPL to struggle with, and no limit on the number of spooled files that other word processors hit you with.
Suppose you want to print in 80 columns. Many word processors will format the screen this way, showing you how the text will look on paper. What if you want to print in 132 columns? Unfortunately, other word processors aren't set up to allow this display. You end up with word wrap and must guess at how the printout will look. World Juggler IIe lets you edit in 80 columns, but you can display on screen in more than 80 columns. What you do is scroll left and right, moving the entire text. It is like having the left or right part of text off screen, but available.
Word Juggler IIe is written to operate under ProDOS, Apple's new operating system. ProDOS is compatible with the Apple III SOS, giving access to the Pro-File hard disk drive. You can also access files written under SOS. If you need a word processor that can handle large files, must be easy to learn, and be in constant use. Word Juggler IIe is an excellent choice. Coupled with Quark's Lexicheck IIe, this is a full-fledged, fully configured system.
From a small, relatively unknown company comes a word processor that is extremely powerful and easy to learn. Write Away is a good choice for a word processor to grow into.
What can it do? Quite a lot! Five tutorials ease you into the difficult aspects of word processing. You can manage a mailing list, read and use DIF files, use macros (or "glossary' terms) by defining a key sequence to represent a word or phrase, and much more. For example, say you use the phrase "Apple IIe' throughout a document. Define the A key as the macro, and it is saved in a special buffer to be recalled when needed. A-ESC ESC will then retrieve the macro and insert it into the text.
You can tab through the text by letter, word, paragraph, or page. Search and replace is a standard feature in many word processors. However, Write Away also makes use of logical operators, which insert certain text depending upon which criterion is met. Logical operators are analogous to IF . . . THEN . . . ELSE statements in programming. If you are writing a form letter, you can program Write Away to find a person's title--Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. Depending on which is found, you can then have Write Away change all gender references in the text. I can't think of any other word processor that offers this feature.
Write Away consists of two modules, the word processor and the print drivers. With an 80-column extended memory card, both modules are loaded. Without it, the Apple must switch between them. But because Write Away contains The DOS Enhancer, disk access is very fast. I clocked Write Away at about one-fourth to one-third faster than Apple Writer.
There are five printer drivers provided. One each for the Anderson-Jacobson 831/832; the Centronics 737; the Diablo, NEC, and Qume printers; the Epson MX-80 with Graftrax; and the Epson MX-80/100 with Graftrax Plus. There are instructions for configuring Write Away for use with other printers.
The files created by Write Away are standard Apple text files, readable by many other Apple word processors. You can also use Write Away to create EXEC files or to edit Applesoft programs--a great help when dealing with a long listing. Once you learn all of the features of the program, it can almost do all your writing for you.
The documentation is a bit rough, but the tutorials are very helpful. If something in the manual is confusing, the tutorial examples clear it up. A few evenings or afternoons is all you will need to use most of Write Away.
Write Away has excellent error trapping, constantly prompting you when you are about to make a permanent change or delete a file. It is one of the few word processors that is not copy protected. I welcome this. Chances are that a word processor is in frequent use. The constant read/write access can cause a disk to crash at the worst possible time. Making your own backup is better than waiting three or four weeks for a replacement from the manufacturer.
Write Away is written for the Apple II, II+, and IIe. If you do not have upper/lowercase, they will send you a free E-Z Hook to make the necessary modifications, and you can also order a lowercase adapter.
Write Away from Midwest Software Associates has so much going for it--so many great features--that it can hold its own among the top sellers. It is an excellent choice for almost any user.
Format II-- Enhanced Version
OK, I'll be honest from the beginning. Format II is a perplexing package. I found it difficult to use, exasperating, and a general pain in the buffer. But, lest you think I plan to trash it totally, read further.
Some word processors are designed for long manuscripts, such as books, master's these, and the like. Others are designed for short, one- or two-page documents. Format II falls somewhere in between, and that is my main gripe with it.
After booting Format II, the screen clears and a menu appears at the top. At the bottom of the screen two question marks and a cursor ask for input. All you need do is enter one letter--no RETURN is required. To load a page from disk, just follow the prompts and press RETURN. A CONTROL-D sends you into the Editor.
At the Editor level, you can enter text and do simple editing. With Format II, what you see on the screen is what you get on paper. Solid bars at both top and bottom show the current margin settings, and a status display tells the current line and position on the page. To edit and change previously written text, press ESC to get to the Format Text mode. Here, you can search and replace text in either direction, both locally and globally. Novel features include a command to align columns of numbers, and a command to compress text, removing multiple spaces.
The printing capabilities of Format II are very powerful. A self-prompting menu lets you use almost any printer. By typing OPEN-APPLE and a number from 1 to 9, you have software control of print fonts--useful if your printer has enhanced, bold, or shadow printing. In some respects, the print features seem too good for Format II. Since text is stored as pages, you can print them in any order. The print features are very easy to use, and almost totally idiotproof.
A mail system is included with Format II, organizing data in index card style. Data are entered onto a screen area of up to 16 fields. Up to 450 records or cards can fit on one disk. Sorting is easy and powerful. You do not have to set up a sort field at the beginning of the operation as you must with high priced database packages. Retrieve names and addresses for use in documents or for printing as mailing labels. This minidatabase is much more powerful than I thought.
The documentation is the best I have seen for a word processor. It was prepared by professional writers who slowly and gently lead you into using Format II. They realize that some people are impatient, so the Quick Guide Tutorial gives the bare bones. Don't stop there, though; the manual lets you in on every aspect of Format II.
My main complaint with Format II is that text is stored as individual pages. You can edit whole documents across pages; Format II searches through the disk for pages stored under the document name. But if you want to review a different page, you must reload it. That is time-consuming and frustrating. But that is really my only complaint.
Format II takes time to learn, offers some great features, and is a good choice for simple, light word processing and database storage. You can also back up the disk, freeing yourself from "crashanxiety.'
The unfortunate fact about word processors is that it takes time to learn how to use them--more time than a casual user wants to invest. There is a market for a word processor that is quick to master and easy to use. Sierra On-Line produces Screen Writer II, one of the most popular word processors for the Apple. Their newest product is Home Word, a program that is easier to use than a game.
Home Word uses icons--pictorial representations--instead of control codes for most commands. It is specifically designed for a casual user-- someone who just wants to write letters, simple papers, and memos.
After you boot the program, the screen is divided into three areas--the text page, the icon area, and an area representing what a completed page will look like. There are six main icons: Print, a printer; Edit, a page; File, a file cabinet; Format, a ragged page with an arrow leading to a neatly organized page; Customize, a question mark; and Disk Utilities, a floppy. A joystick or cursor keys move a frame over an icon. You hit RETURN or a joystick button to enter the selected mode. A second icon display replaces the first. At each command level, there are more icons.
As text is entered, a representation of the finished product is shown in the lower right of the screen. Words are small dots separated by tiny spaces. This area is updated after every few keystrokes. The icons are replaced by a graphic display of free disk space and free memory.
Home Word has many features found on more expensive and more complicated word processors. Global and local search and replace, underlining, boldface text, and print spooling and formatting are all here. Text can be taken from one file and inserted wherever you decide. A rudimentary outline generator is included for marking off specific areas of text with "bullets.' The text can be previewed on screen before printing, giving you an idea of what the final copy will look like.
I saw only the preliminary documentation, but that was fine, because Home Word doesn't need documentation. Keep it as a reference, and learn Home Word by using it. An instruction cassette is included. To use it, connect your cassette player to the Apple casette I/O. The cassette player can be turned on and off with the joystick or cursor keys.
I like Home Word. I use it instead of Apple Writer if I want to write a letter to friends or a memo. Home Word will have enormous success, in banishing fear of computers. It is almost too easy to use!
Of course, Home Word will never replace Apple Writer or Screen Writer II. It isn't intended to do that. We all know people who don't use a computer because they think it is too complicated. Home Word will change that. The students in that third grade class had no problems using this software. Within an hour, they were writing short essays and letters without having any instructions or documentation on Home Word. I think that is the real test of user-friendly software.
Well, which word processor is best for you? Sorry, this is where I bow out. Each of the programs has its own strengths and weaknesses. The market is full of good word processing software. Try some out at your dealer and make a choice. Keep in mind that you will be using it for a long time. Try to predict what you might need to do in the future.
Products: Word Juggler IIe (computer program)
Write Away (computer program)
Format II - Enhance Version (computer program)
Home Word (computer program)