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The StartX Files: Anyware's Words - page 2

What's In a Name?

  • September 25, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

I had downloaded and installed Words earlier this summer, when I was getting ready to write this article the first time before the Great Hiatus. Then, as now, the downloading and installation process was a breeze, especially when someone else is picking up the $50 tab then and the $99 tab now. Words and Anyware Desktop were soon happily ensconced on my Red Hat 7.1 desktop, the Desktop suite will take up to 236 Mb in a typical install process.

I have often heard Applixware/Anyware as a whole described as "quirky." I would not ascribe such a label to it at all, and certainly not to Words. Words is built around the Word interface model, which, along with WordPerfect, are the two predominant interface templates most word processors on any platform seem to follow. There was nothing unfamiliar with neither the interface nor its controls. This similarity to Word's interface should blow a big hole in the whiny argument that it's too hard to switch users to a new word processor because you have to retrain them. If someone were to make that argument with Words, I would suggest smacking them back to reality.

Everything about Words is simple and clean, so what few differences that do exist between it and Word are easy to figure out. There is not a lot of complexity in this application, but I do not say that like it's a bad thing. In an age of overblown megaapps, a nice quick tool that gets the job done is a welcome change. And this is a quick tool, too--if you are willing to wait for the rather pokey startup time. Once Words and the rest of the applications get going, you're off to the races.

Word processors need to help users commit their words to paper--real or virtual--and not much else. They don't need to be desktop publishing applications, they don't need to be image viewers, or Web browsers. They just need to make text look presentable. Words has little problem meeting this expectation. In fact, it does a lot more than you would initially think.

A quick tour of the menus and controls reveals a lot of features that would satisfy even the power user: mail merging is available (which was easy to configure), as is multi-column and image layout. I like the way you could manage the styles in Words, too. I played around with the forms editor, which was not too difficult to learn, and I thought the HTML output was good (definitely a lot cleaner than Word's metatag-fest).

Cross-application work was good, with .DOC and .RTF files opened readily. You should have little trouble sharing files with your Microsoft-bound colleagues, though don't look for a lot of collaborative tools. It seems Words will indicate a change has been made with revision mark in the margin, but no revision marks within the text itself. I spoke to a VistaSource developer who indicated that this could be a new feature introduced in later versions of the application.

With its use of GTK+, Words is a great fit for the GNOME desktop, which seems to be lacking a bit for native word processor offerings.

In all, I found Words to be a very reasonable facsimile of the Microsoft application it emulates. It also works very well with the rest of the Anyware Desktop suite--another solid point in its favor.

What can be improved in this application? Again, I really think VistaSource has got to settle the marketing strategy for all of the Anyware products once and for all. Get the name finalized, and make the different products clearly defined. The Web site, which is this company's front door, makes the product offerings muddled and confused.

As far as the product itself goes, more collaboration and revision tools would be a great idea and more format filters are always welcome. Making the Words application available again as a separate product again would be a good idea, too. In fact, I would suggest making Words a freeware product to increase its market penetration and entice users to purchase the remainder of the Anyware products. But that's just me talking.

Available from: http://www.vistasource.com
Versions reviewed: Applixware Words 5.0 for Linux/Intel and Anyware Desktop 2.0
License: Commercial
Cost: $99.00 US

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