Macbook, Software, Web Applications

MacBook Word Processing Part Two

Well now, hold the line, since writing my last post Writely finally opened for registrations again, NeoOffice posted Beta 2 and I also decided to give Mariner Write a go.

So then, first impressions? Well first of all NeoOffice Beta 2 is a big jump up. Performance is much better and the whole thing looks a lot slicker while retaining the great OpenOffice functionality I know and love. This is such an improvement that I am not sure I need to use something lighter like AbiWord.

Writely is something I have been waiting a long time to use as I only heard of it after the Google buyout when they closed registrations. So does it live up to such long held expectations? Well the short answer is yes in that I am not disappointed by it in the least at the moment. Naturally as a web-based word processor it has its strengths and limitations. I certainly like being able to snatch a moment at work to write something up and not have the hassle of working with a USB drive or anything similar. I haven’t tried the ODT export yet but if it works as advertised then the integration with OpenOffice is going to be a big win for me as it will allow me to mix the applications while keeping the data consistent.

So far Write just isn’t getting a look in although I did download the Mariner MacJournal software at the same time and that looks quite good.

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.


Faint Alarm at Myself

I accidentally switched on Photobooth while beavering away and was suddenly confronted at no less than myself. It’s kind of like a mirror but the sudden appearance just gives it a shock value. What’s that on my screen? My god it’s me.


Where has all the WiFi gone?

Wandering around with the MacBook I have been disappointed at the lack of free WiFi to tap into. What’s going on when even in a community arts centre I can’t get no love and in the AnonymousBusinessHotel you have to pay a fiver a day for the internet connection and then when you do it comes via cable rather than over the glorious ether.

A lot of people don’t see the point of free internet access but I think Google has got the right idea by focussing on places like airports where there is an enforced idleness anyway. Once you’ve done the round of shops there is nothing to do but wait. The chance to jump on the web and be active again (in both mental and commercial meanings) is something I would really welcome and I can’t wait for free wifi to permeate all travel including trains.

I was reading in Computing something about constant connectivity on train carriages, but to be honest I’m not seriously interested in streaming material on the move just having the stateless web access would be a serious move in the right direction.


The Macbook has arrived!

At last I have the power to surf the web from my bed! The MacBook has arrived! It flew all the way from China with me watching all the way, via the TNT website, like some obsessive voyeur. First impressions are that it is small, sexy, with a great keyboard. The negative impressions are that the thing runs hot (was there any point in getting the lower MHz), is slightly heavier than expected and eats battery time.

It is also turning my world upside down as I am now forced to leave my Windows comfort zone and look at a new way of doing things. Suddenly the issue of cross-platform software is very pressing. Web applications (such as WordPress) seem more valuable than ever.

Overall though it is just what I wanted: a small powerful machine that is quick to launch and allows me to act on any idea I may have. The only negative right now is heat. Apparantly Apple have stopped calling the MacBook a laptop in favour of the term “notebook”. Good call, “lap griddle” would probably be a more accurate term.