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Nisus Writer 4.0.6, Part 3: Multimedia

[This article began in TidBITS-263, continued in TidBITS-264, and finishes here. -Tonya]

Sound and Speech — Nisus Writer can speak, and not just using Apple’s PlainTalk either – it comes with its own English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Nisus does not do translation; but it can use different accents and pronunciation rules. So if you want to hear how your document would sound spoken with a French accent, or if your document is in French, Nisus can oblige. However these voices take up rather a lot of disk space, almost 1.5 MB, so you might want to rely on PlainTalk, which Nisus happily uses.

Nisus Writer also allows you to annotate parts of your document with sounds and to record sounds for your text by word, sentence, and so on. Sound annotations are shown by an icon, but – curiously – if you record a sentence there is no indication that you have done so. Nisus Writer offers a catalog of sounds (which are stored in a folder, not your document), and you can play them all back – so though you can’t see which parts of your document might have attached sounds, you can find them.

Looking at the sound features prompts the question "Why?". Having the Mac read back your text using "Good News" (a MacinTalk 3 voice) is great fun for my seven-year-old son – but he uses SimpleText for this, not Nisus Writer. Nisus is not a presentation package and does not come with a "player" application, so it is not the best program to use for a multimedia presentation.

Tonya tells me that people with a variety of disabilities find Text to Speech features enormously helpful. When she took calls at Microsoft, the two most common types of people requesting Text to Speech features were people with vision problems or dyslexia who wanted to "proof read" documents by listening to them. Nisus Software might have had this in mind, but this still leaves me questioning the decision to include comprehensive sound recording abilities.

Movies — Nisus Writer has jumped on the QuickTime bandwagon. Unfortunately, this part of Nisus Writer is poorly implemented. A movie appears in a document just like any other graphic and can be inserted into a document as a character graphic or on the graphics layer. However, for movies inserted on the graphics layer, there is no indication that the picture is a movie, not even QuickTime’s standard film strip icon. To run a movie you must first double-click the picture – if its not a movie, you end up in the graphics editor; if it is a movie, a new window opens over the top of the picture and this one has the file strip icon on it. Click the icon and the movie controller comes up and you’re away. Why a new window, why not inline? Nisus Software says it’s so you can scroll your document and not lose the movie, but this could be made an option for those who wanted it. And of course the window title can obscure part of your text, so you have to move the thing – assuming you have anywhere to move it.

Don’t get me wrong, I like QuickTime, I even write programs which use it, but Nisus Writer isn’t for QuickTime aficionados. [And frankly, essentially no one ever uses QuickTime in a serious word processing document – it’s a red herring feature flopping around on the word processor beach. -Adam]

So, Nisus Writer leaves me with but one question about multimedia: Why?

Overall Conclusion — Though Nisus Writer suffers from a number of quirks and annoyances – in particular in the word and document processing areas – its text processing is unparalleled. It does have bugs – some of which are still left over from Nisus – but I can also put Microsoft Word into a tailspin.

An enormous opportunity was lost when Nisus Software chose to add new features, some of questionable value, rather than concentrate on finishing the job they started with Nisus. I don’t understand what market they are aiming at with some of the additions. Had Nisus Software chosen to make the styles work more flexibly, Nisus Writer would be hard to beat for many different types of document creation, though for documents requiring high-end layout features, you’d still need to look elsewhere.

Nisus Writer currently runs in 68K mode only and requires System 7 or later. It works on any 68000-based Macintosh or newer, with the exception of the Macintosh Plus. Nisus Software plans to include support for the Plus in the Nisus Writer 4.0.7 update, which should be ready (with a free updater available online) in a few weeks. A Power Mac native version of Nisus Writer is in the works, but the program is relatively speedy even now. To use all of Nisus Writer’s features, you’ll need to allocate 3 MB to the program, but to do basic word processing in shorter documents without tables, equations, and sounds, you can run reasonably in 1,700K of memory. The full installation, which includes examples and tutorial documents, consumes 7 MB of disk space.

If you have been using Nisus for the last four years and it has met your needs – which it probably has as well as any rival or you would have switched already – then the upgrade is worth it.

Nisus Software — 800/890-3030 — 619/481-1477
619/481-6154 (fax) — <[email protected]>

[For more opinions and resources related to Nisus, check out the Nisus Writer page on World of Words. -Tonya] NWMain.html

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