I used to be a huge fan of Nisus Software's Nisus Writer in the classic Mac OS days. In fact, producing TidBITS each week relied on a collection of Nisus Writer macros I'd written. But the program never made the leap to Mac OS X, and when we moved to our new issue-generation approach last year (see "Behind the TidBITS Curtain," 2006-09-11), I no longer needed to run Nisus Writer in Classic mode. Nisus had of course released Nisus Writer Express some years before, but it was a pale shadow of the original Nisus Writer, and all that makes me even happier to hear that they've now released a public beta of Nisus Writer Pro for Mac OS X, the application that's supposed to replace the original Nisus Writer.
Features new to Nisus Writer Pro from the Express version upon which it's based include style-based table of contents generation; indexing; bookmarks to locations within the document; cross references to bookmarks, footnotes, and list items; attribute-sensitive search and replace; floating images with text wrapped around them; customized line numbering; widow and orphan control; enhancements to the Nisus Macro Language; and greater flexibility in footnote and endnote styling, along with footnotes that can span multiple pages.
With the first release of Nisus Writer Pro, Nisus Software is focusing on bringing back the much-missed functionality of the classic Nisus Writer, which means that most of these features are aimed at increasing the core word processing power of the application. However, conversations I've had with the company over the last few years lead me to believe that they're open to adding features that will set Nisus Writer Pro apart from other current word processors, such as built-in collaborative editing capabilities. I'd also like to see Nisus Writer Pro support common markup languages and be able to act as a front-end to blogs and other Web publishing systems - it's essential that a modern word processor be able to "print to the Web" as well as it can lay words on paper. Similarly, another area Nisus Writer Pro could stand out would be in generating truly good PDFs, complete with tables of contents, PDF bookmarks, hot-linked references, and more.
Neither pricing nor release date has been determined, although Nisus Software is aiming to release in "Spring 2007," which probably means "before July." The Nisus Writer Pro public beta requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later, with 10.4 or later required for full right-to-left text support; it's a 40 MB download. Needless to say, there's no tech support beyond a discussion forum, and this is beta software, so you could lose data by using it (although it can auto-save every minute, making it unlikely that you'd lose much work).