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Word 5 Impressions

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Microsoft has begun shipping Word 5 for the Macintosh, and everyone seems to have questions about the it. Is it any good? Is it worth $129 upgrade? Will it work with my computer? Should I run right out and buy Nisus? I won't attempt to even begin to answer all these questions, but I can give a couple of my early impressions, some interesting and hopefully useful information, and some important installation tips. Stay tuned for more (yes, "Word 5, The Sequel") coming to an issue of TidBITS near you next week. In that article I'll look at all the external parts of Word, the import filters, the modules, the manual, and those sorts of things.

Quite frankly, when I first started using Word 5, I was less than impressed. It seemed as though Microsoft had upgraded Word 4 for System 7-savviness, slapped on a new interface, a thesaurus that did not require the Font/DA Mover to install (as Word 4's did even under System 7), a Grammar Checker (for people with no linguistic confidence), an Equation Editor (which is actually pretty powerful) and a drawing section. Since I'm not much of an equation person, I mainly liked the drawing section's text rotation tool, which rotates text to any angle that you wish (something that PageMaker still doesn't do).

I've had some time to work with Word 5 now, and though it still holds numerous puzzles and some features that I have not explored, I'm liking it quite a bit more than I did before. I've also had a chance to look over the manual, which is a vast improvement over the Word 4 manual, not that that would be difficult. But more about all that next week. Here's a rundown of some of the features that I have used.

Before I started using Word, I mainly wrote with WriteNow, which uses the standard Macintosh keyboard shortcuts for Bold, Italic, Select All, and a few others. Try some of these shortcuts in Word 4, and - hold on to your mouse - wacky stuff happens. Word 5 returns Word users to the standards with Command-A for Select All, Command-B for Bold, and so on, although you can completely customize the keyboard shortcuts in both programs. Word 5 ships with an optional Word Settings file having Word 4's eccentric shortcuts, so Word 4 users won't have to relearn any commands.

The menus have changed a lot too. There's now an Insert menu for inserting all sorts of stuff, and the Font menu contains "Up," "Down," and "Other" commands. It isn't obvious from the structure of the menu, but Up and Down actually increase or decrease the font size by one point, and Other appears to merely bring up the Character Formatting dialog box, probably so you can select a different font size. Even stranger, Other was in Outline style, indicating that other font sizes are available, I suspect. As a boon to humanity, Microsoft removed the old Short Menus feature (or bug, as someone I knew once called it) in favor of shipping a special Word Settings file for folks who liked not being able to do much of anything.

One obvious new part of the interface is the ribbon, a bar that appears just above the ruler and contains some of the more common formatting commands. In fact, the pop-down menus on the ribbon almost completely duplicate the contents of the Font menu. Microsoft also included the more common style commands like Bold, Italic, and Underline, which are duplicated in the Format menu, but included Superscript and Subscript, which are otherwise only available in the Character Formatting dialog box. Other buttons on the ribbon include a button to switch to the graphics section, a button to display the paragraph markers, and buttons to change between one, two, and three columns, which ought to be especially handy.

The extensive Preferences dialog box has an interface much like the System 6 Control Panel. Some new and notable preferences include a Save reminder (you specify how often, but then you have to be willing to be beeped at that time interval for the rest of your writing life, unlike most other programs which can save automatically without bothering you), Short Menu Names (this means that the menu titles in the menu bar are abbreviated so they fit on the 9" screen better), and an extremely straightforward way to set the default font (one of the major bug-a-boos in Word 4 for people who didn't realize it was the result of the Normal style).

Here's a new idea - drag and drop text. Basically, you select some text, and then you click on it and drag it some place else. Within the same screen of text, this is easier than cut and paste, but I've found myself accidently dragging things around. Luckily, this option can be turned off, so if I don't improve at it, I won't have to use it. It's also only practical within the screen since once you've started to drag, you can't use the mouse or keyboard to jump around in the document, although the window will scroll with you as you drag.

The Find and Replace command lets you do a bit more than Word 4 allowed. For example, you can look for a particular bold word and replace it with that same word in italic. But you still cannot look for all bold words and replace them with italic words. (You actually can do this in Word 4 and Word 5 with the file saved in RTF format, but this is not for the timid). The Find and Replace box is a bit awkward, with menus popping up and down all over the place. You can also search for a pattern of numbers, but the pattern matching stops there and doesn't come close to matching the raw power of Nisus's PowerSearch+ (essentially a Unix-like grep, which stands for Global Regular Expression Parser. Glad you asked?).

Still no macro language, though Microsoft claims that WordBASIC from Word for Windows will be in Word 5.1.

Still only one undo, grrr, unlike Nisus's unlimited undo's.

Before you can play with some of this stuff you (of course) have to install Word 5 on your machine. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Speed: Face it. If you have a 68000-based machine, Word 5 ambles. Use WriteNow. Put Word on a IIcx and it works fine. I haven't seen it on a 68020, so you'll have to try it yourself. Right now, I'm running Word on a Mac Classic, and while it certainly keeps up with my typing, I'd probably turn into a frustrated pumpkin if I had to do a lot of quick formatting to meet a deadline, since each dialog box takes its own sweet time opening and closing.

  • Hardware: Word 5 moseys on a Mac Plus and runs on machines newer and faster than the Plus. PowerBook users will want to remember to turn off the preference for Background Repagination (I still can't believe that Microsoft can't figure out how to do Background Pagination quickly like everyone else in the known universe.) so that their computers can sleep properly, and Quadra users can keep their caches on.

  • Memory: Microsoft explains this right on the package. Essentially, Word 5 is a RAM hog. If you run System 6.0.2 or later (but not System 7) your computer must have 1 MB of RAM, but Microsoft recommends having 2 MB. If you want to run the Grammar Checker, you must have 2 MB. If you run System 7 or later, you must have at least 2 MB (of course) and 4 MB to run the Grammar Checker. Word 5's suggested size without the Grammar Checker is 1024K (I believe the suggested size increases to 2048K with the Grammar Checker installed).

  • Disk Space: You need a hard drive for the installation, and you won't want to work off of floppy if you can possibly avoid it. The Word 5 program alone is 825K. Add the spell checker and the dictionary file and you'll need 1.2 MB. The drawing capability takes another 72K and the Find File function takes up 81K. I installed as much as I could on my hard disk, and my Word 5 folder takes up 2.7 MB. Notice I said I installed "as much as I could." The Word 5 installer (Microsoft used version 3.3 of Apple's installer program) requires enough free space on the hard disk to: hold the compressed files, the uncompressed files, and a copy of your System file. So, when I tried to install, I only had 7.5 MB free and I tried to install most everything. After a few tries, Word and I compromised on not installing any of the filters except the EPS/TIFF/PICT filter and not installing the Grammar Checker (I don't have enough RAM to use it under System 7 anyhow). Another solution would have been to install the System-related files in a second installation. The installer has a custom install option in which you select files to be installed.

  • System Folder: Some parts of the Word 5 package (the Equation Editor's special font, specially configured Word Settings files, and the Voice Annotation software, for example) install into your System or System folder. If you choose to install on a disk having no System Folder, none of the System stuff will show up as installation choices. So, if you normally put your startup System on one disk and your software on another, you'll need to pay attention to what you install where. The best tactics here might be to either install everything on your startup disk and then copy the application-related files to another disk or run the installer twice, once to install the System stuff on the startup disk and once to install the applications files.

Well that's enough words about Word for now. Remember, if it seems like I didn't talk about a lot of the cool features that you've been hearing about, that's because they are external to the program. So tune in next week, same bat-channel...

Microsoft Customer Service -- 800/426-9400
Microsoft Mac Word Technical Support -- 206/635-7200

Information from:
Pythaeus
Word 5 Installer Read Me
Word 5 manual

 

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