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FullWrite, Part I of II

Although FullWrite is only at version 2.0, the word processing program has been around for years. It began life in 1988 as Ashton-Tate's FullWrite Professional, but after Borland acquired Ashton-Tate, not much happened with FullWrite until Akimbo Systems purchased the program in 1993 and released version 1.7.

Akimbo released FullWrite 2.0 in October of 1994. My enthusiastic plans to use FullWrite as my primary word processor for a month or so before reviewing it were set back substantially by my car accident last fall, and it's becoming clear that I should write the review already, and not try to base it on a month's experience. The review came out a little on the long side, so it will finish in next week's issue.

Currently at version 2.0.3, FullWrite runs on a Macintosh Plus or newer, with System 6.0.4 and newer. Although the PowerPC-native version is not yet available, FullWrite runs fine on a Power Macintosh in emulation. FullWrite takes up slightly less than 4 MB of disk space for a complete install, and asks for a preferred RAM allocation of 2 MB, though its suggested size is 1.5 MB and minimum size is 1 MB. Akimbo suggests that Power Macintosh users set a preferred allocation of 3 MB. You'll need to increase the memory allocation for complex documents or documents over 100 pages; the "FullWrite 2 Read Me" file explains this nicely.

Running on my Duo 230 (33 MHz 68030) and running in emulation (approximately Mac IIfx speeds) on my Power Mac 7100, FullWrite is fast enough that I don't notice its speed - it just works. Dialog boxes appear promptly, text formats apply quickly, and scrolling with the scroll bar or the Page Up and Page Down keys goes fast.

FullWrite has no toolbars, and it keeps its number of clickable doodads to a minimum. Its rulers (which show optionally) offer an intelligent and manageable number of options. The bottom edge of its document window displays a small status box and five small buttons which let you switch among FullWrite's five views: Icon Bar, Outline, Change Bar, One Page, and Two Page (you can also press Command-Comma to switch views). The first three views include visual elements that help in creating a document; the latter two remove the visual elements and give one- and two-page views of the document.

FullWrite's keyboard shortcuts are weird - it offers a few on the menus, but not many. You can issue any command on any menu by pressing a logical sequence of keys, but I'd prefer to have more shortcuts pre-assigned. I've seen FullWrite criticized online and in Connie Gugliemo's "War of the Words" (MacUser, Apr-95) for having most of its options stuffed in dialog boxes that require you to access them through the menus; this is only partly true - FullWrite has a number of subtle tricks for working efficiently, but you must read the manual to learn them. feature1.html

That said, let's see how FullWrite would work in a few different situations, starting with my fourteen-year-old sister, Rebecca. Rebecca needs to write reports for school and wouldn't mind dabbling with graphics.

High School Student -- Rebecca may have trouble finding the Spelling Checker by looking at the menus, and if she looks up Spelling in the online help, the help incorrectly directs her to choose an unspecified command from the Edit menu. The manual, suggests that she use the Edit Word submenu. Eventually, Rebecca will discover the Check Document command in a hierarchical menu off the Words command, which is in the Tools menu. Once you find the Spelling Checker, it works fine. Suggested replacement words appear with Command-key shortcuts.

FullWrite employs a main dictionary, which comes with the program; a user dictionary, which you add words to in order to supplement the main dictionary; and a document dictionary, which holds words that are considered correct in a specific document. You can purchase FullWrite with any main dictionary, and there are many choices (though no Arabic or Asian options), including two varieties of English, two of French, two of Portuguese, and two of German. Additional dictionaries cost $40.

FullWrite comes with many extensions, add-ons that enhance the program. Some extensions provide standard features (such as spelling and balloon help); others are more esoteric. Learn Selection, an extension that began shipping with more recent versions of FullWrite 2.0.x, enables you to add batches of words to the user dictionary. If you bought FullWrite before Learn Selection came out, you can download the extension from the Internet. selection.sit.hqx

The footnote and endnote features should carry Rebecca through high school and her undergraduate years at college. Endnotes can go at the end of each "chapter" or at the end of a document. FullWrite does not work with Niles and Associates' EndNote referencing software, but it does offer a Bibliography feature to help in referencing situations where you place the author's name and date in the document text and list the complete reference at the end of the chapter or document. To get the most out of referencing and other features, Rebecca will need to become comfortable with Icon Bar View and note panels.

When you type the text for a document element such as a footnote, header, or annotation, you type in a separate window-like area called a "note panel." The note panel looks much like a window, although pressing Command-W to close it does not work - you must use the mouse or press Command-` (that's the single quote on the Tilde key). After you insert an element, FullWrite shows an icon just left of the line where you inserted it. (The icon only shows in Icon Bar View.) You can double-click an icon to open its associated notes window. The icons make sense, but their tiny size may make them cryptic for some, and FullWrite does not offer a zooming feature. Footnotes, headers, and so on show on the page in the correct location in most views, though to edit them you must work in a note panel.

Rebecca likes to create cards and letters that have creative, colorful touches, so she'll appreciate the capability of formatting text in any of 32,768 colors. FullWrite also offers a competent picture editor for creating graphics; unfortunately, you cannot import graphics except through the clipboard. Rebecca will enjoy adding borders by paragraph. Borders can be colored or in shades of gray and you get six or so options including single and double lines, and hairlines.

If Rebecca becomes concerned with formatting, she'll encounter a gentle introduction to styles through the Base Styles dialog box, where she can format common document elements such as document text, footnotes, and headers. By using the Base Styles dialog box you are setting styles, though you don't have to think of it that way.

Graduate Student -- My other sister, Rachel, is currently about to spend two years working for the Peace Corps in The Gambia, West Africa, but she recently completed her masters degree at Yale, and I'm pretending she's still there for the sake of this review. Rachel has a PowerBook 145, writes long papers, and works with scientific data.

FullWrite uses EGO (Edit Graphic Object - EGO works much like OLE from the user's standpoint, and it does work) to integrate an Equation extension, which is a "junior version" of Design Science's Math Type. Any EGO-savvy application can hook into FullWrite, and Rachel might be keen on trying Cambridge Scientific Computing's line of chemistry-related products.

Rachel will also use the Classify feature, which flexibly lets you number figures and other items. Classified items can be cross-referenced, though I found the steps, terminology, and interface for cross-referencing awkward. You can create multiple references to a single footnote, endnote, or bibliography entry. Although FullWrite has no features for numbering or referencing across multiple documents, you can create hypertext links within a document.

Because Rachel writes longer documents, she will use the Chapter Ruler feature. FullWrite documents can be broken into chapters, and to start a new chapter, you insert a Chapter Ruler. (Chapter Rulers function much like section breaks in Microsoft Word.) The Ruler sits in your text and you use it or double-click it to fiddle with the columns in the new chapter, the header and footer height, or the page numbering. I like this method of dividing a document and formatting the resulting "chapters" - it's the most elegant approach I've seen yet.

Next week -- Next week I'll continue this review with a look at how my Mom and myself might use FullWrite, along with some concluding thoughts.


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