- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The arrival last week of Nisus Writer Pro is in some ways the return of an old friend mixed with the welcome arrival of a newcomer. Nisus Writer had its origins in the early days of the Apple Macintosh world, becoming a niche player in a niche market.

Nisus, as a company, goes back to 1983, with its first word processor arriving in 1989. Through the next 20 years or so, the software developed a band of followers who liked a lot of power without many layers of software menus and other complexities hiding the capabilities.

After 2001 saw the introduction of Apple’s Mac OS X, the original Nisus Writer faded for a time because it had been written for the classic Macintosh operating system. Two years later, an express version of Nisus Writer for OS X appeared, and while this has been very good, it did lack some features of the old program. Time, the Nisus people promised, would bring a fuller program to light.

And so it happened that Nisus Writer Pro has just arrived, and for only $79, with a family pack of three licenses available for $99. While price alone would make these two of the greatest bargains for Mac users, saving money is the least of it, even if the full version of Microsoft Word 2004 for the Mac is $199.

What is nice about Nisus Writer Pro is that it works very simply, elegantly and cleanly. The writing screen is uncluttered; tool bars and information panels, by default, are on the right-hand side of the screen. The features bar above the typing area is very simple; the Mac menu structure makes finding the right tool for the job rather easy. One little informational window on the right side keeps a running word count of a document, something those of us who write to specification can truly appreciate.

There’s a built-in thesaurus that offers alternative words for each word as you type, so long as a suggestion is available. Spell checking runs as you write, although you might think Nisus would know its own name, rather than suggesting “sinus” as the intended word. Those who want to control the appearance of their text will rejoice in a drop-down formatting menu. This isn’t a professional publishing layout program, but it comes very close.

Footnote and endnote styles can be adjusted, and footnotes can run over multiple pages, something I have seen, from time to time, in academic works. If you want to generate indexes, tables of contents and even cross-references among footnotes and the like, Nisus Writer Pro will enable such tasks.

If you write in Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew or Korean, Nisus Writer Pro will support you, even changing writing direction from right to left, if needed.

While the program doesn’t read the new DOCX format used in Microsoft’s Office 2007 program, it does read and write files compatible with earlier editions of Office, and for Windows as well as Mac users. It’s also compatible, via the Rich Text Format, or RTF file format. A clean screen, easy-to-follow instructions and file compatibility. What more could you ask for? Some templates would be nice, but not necessarily worth the $120 you would need to spend extra to get Microsoft Word and its templates. As you might guess by now, I like this program. Nisus is nice for many of us.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech Blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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