Macbook, Software

MacBook Word Processing Part One

Since getting the MacBook I’ve been in need of a decent Mac word processer. I have NeoOffice and OpenOffice for the heavy duty stuff (and to be honest the ports are a bit heavyweight/ponderous too so you’re rarely tempted to crack them open for writing a little blog posting like this) but there is then a gap between them and TextEdit (which is what I am using now). The OpenSource alternative is AbiWord and I cannot deny that it is fast, usable and has some of the necessary functions for article writing (such as Word Count) however there is no denying that the WYSIWYG element of the processing window leaves a lot to be desired particularly in the area of font kerning. The best commercial alternative I’ve found so far is Mellel. That has the required features and a pleasing appearance as well as native performance.

However it also has its quirks such as a poor styling system, a strange desire to hyphenate words rather than do normal paragraph alignment. Hyphenating words automatically is only really of interest if you want to print the document from the application which is actually, in my view, the minority case. Most times my work is either transferred to the web or sent on to a publisher who wishes to import the raw text and styles for formatting according to their tastes. The major problem though that affects both Mellel and Abiword and really makes me hesitate to purchase a license to Mellel is lack of a “Zoom to screen size” option. The MacBook’s wide screen means you really need to able to seamlessly stretch the program to the width of the window and then have the text automatically resize to an appropriate size. There is nothing worse than looking at a long narrow column of tiny text that leaves two-thirds of your widescreen unused.

In the end the decision was made for me by Mellel, the evaluation license ran out and despite downloading a later version of the application I could not renew the evaluation. The end of the evaluation meant I was locked out of my documents, or rather I could not export the document to external formats (fair enough) and I could not cut and paste from the documents I had created during the evaluation period. This last restriction really bugged me, partly because it was shit (you could still take text from the buffers it was just more complicated to do) and secondly because if you are genuinely evaluate something and decide not to use it in the long run you should be able to transfer the content of your documents while not using any of the fancy features the application offers.

This kind of thing is the argument that is used against closed source and I for one would prefer to spend time and effort on Abiword despite its deficiencies because the effort will never be wasted and the software will never be taken away.

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