Marc Bizer, University of Texas-Austin
For those seeking an alternative to Microsoft Word which has become impossibly unwieldy in its latest incarnation (version 6), FullWrite Professional 2.0 may be a godsend. It is hard not to begin this review by enumerating which Word "features" FW Pro does not have. It does not have toolbars. It does not have dialog boxes which open into yet other dialog boxes. It does not awaken the hard disk on your PowerBook every few seconds, for actions as insignificant as moving the cursor. It does not print envelopes in its current configuration (more about that later). There is no EndNote plug-in available for it (yet). It does not have "keep together" and "keep with next paragraph" options for styles, alas. On my PowerBook 170, FW2 scrolls quickly, seemingly as fast as WriteNow 4.0. A complete install, including English spelling dictionary and thesaurus, occupies 3.3 megabytes on my hard disk (it does require at least 1 megabyte of RAM, and 2 to 2.5 megabytes are necessary for long and complex documents). FW2 is so reasonable in its hard disk requirements that when I received the package for review, I thought that diskettes were missing: there was a total of only four disks, of which two were the program disks! (the other two contained the spelling dictionary and thesaurus). Akimbo seems to adhere archaic principles of software design, preferring compactness and efficiency to a gargantuan and ill-conceived design based on ill-conceived inclusion of every possible feature requested by users. There is a model document in the FullWrite manual where it is explained that the designers of FullWrite felt that they could not guess the needs of all of the users of the program, so that they designed it to be extendable, using extensions placed in a folder just as Macintosh users modify the features of System 7 by placing extensions and control panels in the appropriate folder.
FW 2 surprises one as soon as it is launched by displaying a bare window with a simple "chapter ruler" atop (sections are called "chapters" in FullWrite). Startup is not fast, even slower when you are opening a specific document. The page is initially displayed without margins (although this can be changed in the preferences), so that the entire window occupies little space on your computer screen-- I assume that it would fit nicely on the screen of a Plus or an SE, which the program is supposed to be able to run on (a minimum of System 6.0.4 is required). This view is called the "icon view" because little icons appear in the left hand margin to mark the insertion of such formatting features headers and footers. Ruler icons also appear, since FW 2 does not have use a transcendent ruler for all formatting changes, but rather displays a ruler icon every time that you make changes to tab settings and margins. Because of the user of rulers, styles in FW2 can either be character or paragraph styles. There are a total of five different views, each one being WYSIWYG, with small breaks appearing between pages. Some people do not like the "page layout" view in Word for this reason, but unlike Word which displays only one page at a time, in FW2 one page smoothly follows another on the screen, so that the break is only slightly more obtrusive than the dotted line in Word's normal view. The user selects a different view by means of little icons placed to the right of the page number indicator which is placed exactly where one finds it in Word 4/5 (in the lower left-hand corner of the screen). Following the icon view, there is an outline view, a change bar view, a page view (the plainest), and a two-page view.
A few words about the different views. The "outline view" adopts some of the Macintosh Finder's file list features. Items have little rightward-pointing arrows next to them when items subordinate to them are hidden; double-clicking on the arrow causes it to turn downward and display what was hidden. Besides implementing the usual promote and demote functions using both key commands and a drag interface, FullWrite offers many different labelling schemes: Harvard and Chicago (the I, A, 1 ) sequence, legal (1, 1.1, 1.1.1), numerical, Roman, bullet, and custom. There is an outline overview display showing all of the outline items in a document not unlike Word as "master document" view; this is particularly useful for long, complex documents such as books. The "change bar" view tracks document revisions by displaying bars to indicate which parts of a document have been changed. Revision tracking is an extremely well-implemented feature in FullWrite 2 because of its flexibility. You can specify, for example, that black bars show irreversible changes that have been made to the document and have it use gray bars to indicate changes since the last save. You can select a color to signal changed text, or choose different types of underlining. FW 2 can automatically clear the change bars after each save, or it can lock them so that they are never cleared. In fact, only the left-margin bars are affected by the "change bar" view, for underlining and color changes can indicate revisions in any view. You can select text and have FW mark it as changed or unchanged. In FW, the "page view" is the plainest: it basically shows how the document will look when you print it. The "two-page view" is particularly suited for large monitors: it displays pages in facing-page format (odd-numbered pages on the right, even-numbered one on the left), with one set of two pages appearing below another. You can use the scroll bars to go where you want, or press the option key to change the cursor into a hand which allows you to drag or push the text, with the screen being updated as you move (this feature works in any view).
FW2 handles what I call "auxiliary text items" (such as headers, footers, notes, sounds, contents and index entries, sidebars and pictures) in a manner different from other word processors. Inserting any of these items or clicking on it causes an individual window to appear in which it can be edited. The strangely-named sidebar feature (it handles frames) is very powerful, not only allowing text to flow around pictures wherever they might be, but also watermarks. Furthermore, you can use it to create different column configurations on the same page of a document. Both footnotes and endnotes are supported, but "notes" means much more in FW2 which also allows bibliography entries (in-text citations with automatic listing at the end of the document) and floating annotations, called "posted notes." When endnotes, tables of contents, indices, and bibliography entries are compiled for printing, they are assigned individual "chapters" (or sections) governed by styles bearing their name. Last but not least, just about anything can be cross-referenced in FW2 using the "citation" feature, and there are bookmarks.
Some remarks about general features. Tables are capably implemented; you cannot drag on column or outlines to change widths (you use the table ruler for that), but this feature is much more consistently designed than in Word, since selecting a row and pressing the delete key causes the row to be deleted-- Word requires a separate "delete row" command. FullWrite offers an "incremental search" feature: type command-tab, and then the first few letters of the word you are looking for. FW begins searching forward as you type (the search is modified with each letter that you add or subtract); hitting tab goes to the next occurrence of the word, delete moves to the previous occurrence. You can also perform the search backward. FW's standard find and change does not offer GREP, but it does allow wild cards and shows formatting changes directly in its boxes, instead of Word 5's more primitive list of attributes. FullWrite offers "glossary macros," which are glossary phrases which, upon being typed, "expand" into something else. (Word 6 offers a similar feature.) This feature can be added to all of your programs if you install the shareware control panel TypeIt4Me). Kerning is supported. There is a "document statistics" box whose unusual features include keeping track of the person currently working on the displayed document, the number of times the document has been opened, the number of keystrokes entered since the document was created, the amount of time the document and active since it was first created, in addition to readability, character/word/line/paragraph count, the total number of pages, and the size of the document in kilobytes.
As can be expected of a new version, there are a few bugs in the program: for example, custom paragraph spacing does not seem to work within custom styles. Sometimes it takes a while for underlining to indicates changes in the text (this may not be a bug). There appears to be no option-space character which would keep words together as in Microsoft Word. Simultaneous multi-lingual spell-checking, associating different languages with different styles, does not appear to be possible. Although FW2 offers "intelligent drag and drop," which means that moved text is always surrounded by a space (which must be removed or added according to the situation), it does not support System 7.5's Macintosh Drag and Drag features, nor are QuickDrawGX-specific features supported (although this is promised in the future).
I would say that at this time, file translation is the weakest part of the program, and this is an important deficiency. FullWrite uses Claris's XTND architecture, but ships with only text, MacWrite 5, and MacWrite II translators. I have tested the MacLink Plus translators (which have an XTND bridge) bundled with System 7.5 on several MS Word 5.1a files, and I have found that simple documents translate well, but that more complex files can be problematic. Tables do not seem to be correctly translated at all. It remains to be seen whether the Word 4/5 XTND filters, such as those included with MacWrite Pro, work better.
Such a full-featured word processor has a very succinct manual, perhaps too much so, but it is more reassuring than the tomes which come with MS Word Online and balloon help is also available. Despite its (minor) shortcomings, in my opinion FullWrite 2 is the most promising (re)-entry in the Macintosh word processing market, and highly worthy of your consideration. It can be obtained directly from Akimbo for $99.95.
Direct general inquiries to FullWrite@akimbo.com; technical support is provided initially via e-mail, and Akimbo claims that it responds to most queries within 24 hours.
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Last Update: 9 April 95