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Nisus Conclusions

Adam and I each get a separate say here, since our differing uses for a computer give us differing orientations on Nisus (though we are in agreement over the details of Nisus’s strengths and weaknesses).

[Matt] For large documents with layout needs such as tables, Nisus cannot compete with Word. But it is perfect for what I bought it for: conversion of documents from other formats into Mac format. On the other hand one would rather compose the basic text of a document in Nisus than in any other word processor I know. In fact, Nisus’s find-and-replace and macro facilities are so handy and powerful, and its Rulers and Styles so convenient, that one is actually tempted to use it also as a sort of front end for Microsoft Word: Nisus can read Microsoft Word files with some small loss of information, and (surprisingly) can write files as Microsoft Word 3.0, again with some loss of information. (It can also read MacWrite I files and carry formatted text across to MacWrite via the clipboard.) It can actually be worth the slight loss of information across the boundaries to convert a document from Word into Nisus, edit it, and convert it back again.

[Adam] Since I don’t create formal documents as Matt does, I don’t use Word at all. In the past I used Word occasionally to convert those Fast-Saved documents that Nisus couldn’t open. Now I don’t even have to do that, because there is a completely undocumented feature in Nisus 3.06. If you have Claris’s XTND translators installed and hold down the option key when opening a file, Nisus will open any document for which you have a translator. Since there is an XTND package available for anonymous FTP on, I recommend that anyone who has had to deal with different document formats in Nisus check it out. In addition, if your XTND translator has export capability (not all do, I gather) you can do an option-Save As to export a Nisus file to another file format using XTND!

[Matt] But although I love Nisus’s look-and-feel, and give its creators an A for effort in their rethinking of how a word processor can operate on the Mac, the point I keep returning to is that despite my genuine longing to use Nisus as my sole word processor of choice, I cannot. Things that I find constantly necessary that are easy in Word – the writing and appearance of footnotes, placing paragraphs in complex ways, tables and side-by-side paragraphs – are clumsy, difficult, or downright impossible in Nisus. These things won’t change until Paragon recognizes the problems and makes time to fix them, something which can be difficult for a small company that provides at least seven different language versions of its software. Those of us who want a word processor with the features needed to write a book without the expense of a full page-layout program are going to have to go on, for better or for worse, riding a different train. But don’t forget: I wouldn’t be writing these words if I didn’t love so much about Nisus as to wish fervently that it would fix its tables and footnotes and beat the pants off the Microsoft juggernaut.

[Adam] Here’s where Matt and I differ most strongly. I agree the footnote facilities could be lots better, and there are some quirks with the way styles and rulers interact at times, but when it comes right down to it those are document processing and page layout features. I feel that Paragon added those features to compete in the advertising check box wars with Word, not because they wanted to make Nisus into a serious page layout tool. Nisus is and always has been a text processor, not an document processing tool.

The Mac helped break down the classical division between writers and printers, and that was good, but it doesn’t mean that the division should be taken to the extreme so that every writer must also be a graphic designer and a printer. For those that dabble in it, like me, Nisus will do a little page layout and I find that I can use the graphics feature solely for my graphics needs. True designers seldom use anything less powerful than PageMaker or Quark XPress or FrameMaker for good reason – today’s do-it-all word processors can’t compare. However, if you need to produce formal documents and need sophisticated text entry and manipulation features, no one program can do that right now. Perhaps you should use Nisus as a front-end to Word, as Matt is tempted to do, or perhaps you should use Nisus along with FrameMaker, although that’s more time and money than you may want to invest in the final document. Nisus just won’t do it all now – so send your suggestions to Paragon. But should Nisus do it all?

I applaud Paragon’s unique approach in writing a program that is not just another word processor because a large portion of the time spent creating any document must perforce be spent writing it. We need better writing tools and Paragon has provided that. I’m even willing to jump to the other side of the fence and suggest that they should strip out the graphics and the Place Page feature and all those things that are merely lip service to the great god of desktop publishing. Rulers and styles can stay, because although you’d think they are only for formatting a document for printing, they do have plenty of other uses in manipulating and editing text that are not initially obvious. [Matt: And in a way I agree; my whole point is that Paragon should either make its bells and whistles fully useful or eliminate them altogether.] I’m sure that Paragon is considering these comments and those from other users seriously and will deal with many of them in future versions of Nisus, although I have no idea when we might see that next version.

Nisus’s true calling will come when Nisus XS, the module for 3.06 that will enable full AppleEvents and interapplication communication, ships sometime this spring. What I’d like to see is all those programs that require sometime significant amounts of text editing, QuickMail, uAccess, FileMaker, PageMaker, etc., all link to Nisus’s text editing and manipulation tools so we can have an advanced writing environment no matter where we’re writing. Too many programs use Apple’s limited TextEdit routines. Let’s face it, Nisus stands no chance of taking over the word processing market from Word, but it would be an incredible coup if suddenly all the major programs could link to Nisus and use its full power in whatever context made sense. I congratulate Paragon on providing a program that stands out, a program with a difference, and I encourage them to continue on their unique and often misunderstood path.

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