Menus, too, show the originality of Nisus’s philosophy. A number of menus are hierarchical. You can make the Macros menu and the Windows menu pop down directly from the title bar of a window with a click while holding down the option or command key, so you don’t have to go to the trouble of finding your way in from the menubar. A click while holding down shift and option will drop the Macro menu from a window title bar but instead of executing the menu selection, you will be put into the current macro file with your cursor ready to edit the selected macro, a very useful shortcut for those of us with numerous macros. And finally, an option-click on the menu bar of the clipboard window allows you to select which of the ten clipboards to display.
You are free to assign command-key combinations to any item in any menu. These command-key combinations may involve a function-key, a keypad key plus command, or a normal key plus command; and, in addition, any or all of shift, option, and control. Furthermore, you may make a command-key combination up to three characters in length! Note that this is not like the terrible WordStar commands, like Control-K-Q to save a file; since Paragon merely provides the facility and does not force it upon you (any idea what Command-F15 does in Word?), it turns out to be one of the most useful features in Nisus. This is because you can assign a shortcut for infrequently used commands and still remember them easily. The Save As command is a good example. If you wanted to assign a keyboard shortcut in Word or even QuicKeys, you’d probably have to settle for something like Command-Shift-Option-S, because you want to be able to remember the shortcut as being the shortcut for Save. But then what do you use for Spell Check? In Nisus, though, you can just assign Command-S-A to Save As (hold down command, hit S-A in quick succession) and never worry about forgetting because you’ve used a built-in mnemonic. Adam adds that utilities like QuicKeys would do well to emulate Nisus in this regard since it’s getting harder and harder for him to think of meaningful key combinations for his QuicKeys macros as the number of them continues to increase.
When I say that you can assign a key combination to any menu item, I really mean it. If the menu item is one that changes or in some other way comes and goes – for example, a particular font that may or may not be loaded – Nisus allows you to assign it a key combination that is completely name-dependent; if the item is present, the key combination applies to it. Or, you can make your key-combination position-dependent instead; it always designates, say, the first font, regardless of what it is.
What’s more, the menu items available in menus can change, not only according to what mode you are in, but according to what modifier-keys you hold down. In the Edit menu, the Copy command appears in the usual place; but if you press shift it changes to Append Copy, and if you press option it changes to Clear Clipboards. This works even if you have already selected the menu; you can press different modifiers or combinations of modifiers and watch some of the menu items change right before your eyes. (In certain cases, though, such as a User-Defined Style, option-selecting opens an item for editing rather than applying it, and this fact is not registered by any change on the menu.)
The editing tools offered in these menus also reflect of Nisus’s originality. Not only can you Cut or Copy, you can Append Cut or Append Copy, gathering additional material into the clipboard without wiping out what is already there – and remember, you have 10 clipboards to work with, and can look at any one of them (though not several at once, alas). You can Paste; you can also Swap Paste, swapping what’s in the clipboard with what’s selected in the document. You are given virtually infinite Undo and Redo power: all changes to your document are remembered (up to a number that you set, based on how much memory you want to devote to this) and you can move backwards through the list, undoing them all one by one. Just about everything can be undone, so one has very little fear of making alterations to a document. Saving the document does not affect the Undo level, so there’s no need to fear accidentally selecting all and replacing your document with a single character the instant before an autosave utility kicks in and saves the single character; in other word processors your document would be toast. Not so in Nisus. What’s more, a very cute recovery feature is that if you Copy when no text is selected, the text that you last deleted – even if you deleted it with the Delete key or by over-typing it – will be moved onto the clipboard, whence it can be Pasted!
The only capacity I miss is that you cannot Paste as Text Only, stripping what is pasted of all character formatting and making it conform to its surroundings. (It turns out that it is possible to write a macro to permit this; the method, attributable to Jon Matousek of Paragon, is so unlikely that I cannot believe it was ever discovered.) Also, I actually have a complaint about Undo: when you Undo, the insertion point is not restored to where it was, so that you can undo the effect of some dumb thing you did, but you may well lose your place in the document. Surely it would not have been that hard to add the location of the insertion point to the list of things Nisus is memorizing each time it adds to the Undo list. [Adam: Picky about those insertion points, isn’t he? Am I strange or do very few people actually ever notice where the insertion point ends up after some action?]
Another place where a valuable suite of menu items appears is under Style. This refers in the first instance to character styling, and you get a lot of options here. In addition to the usual Bold, Italic, Underline, you get two levels of super- and subscripting, three kinds of underlining, strike-through, overbar, boxed (apparently useful for creating a blank box with an option-space that can then be filled in with an X later on), inverted (white on black), and eight colors. The colors are not trivial additions, even if your monitor is black-and-white. You can use them to help in the writing of powerful macros, as a way of marking text temporarily. Further, making text White, the background color, renders it invisible without stopping it from taking up room; this is valuable if you want to make an indent match exactly the width of some text above without resorting to the ruler.
I do sometimes wonder about the menu status of certain items. For example, if I want to type a forced return or a soft return, I have to hit characters from the keyboard, which I must remember; they are not menu items, and they cannot be made menu items. But if I want to type a forced page break, I go up into the menu. Why don’t these actions, which seem to me perfectly parallel, have the same status? Why should one be available from the menu, while the others require that I remember a keyboard code? However, Adam replies that lots of reviews have criticized Nisus for having too many menus, so there’s no reason to put commands like soft return into a menu when almost no one ever uses them and most people wouldn’t even be sure why they would want to, whereas forced page breaks are extremely common and should be put out front. In fact, Adam goes on, the basic problem Paragon faces is that Nisus has so many features that it’s hard to decide where to put them. In some ways Nisus’s interface is quirky, but they do some things that make perfect sense. For instance, Font, Size, and Style are all right in the menubar since those are some of the most commonly used menus in any word processor. In any case neither I nor Adam agree with those who criticise Nisus for its heavy use of hierarchical menus.