A word about Word alternatives

Nisus Writer ExpressA while back I wrote about how I had discovered Nisus Writer Express, a Mac OSX word processor that easily outperformed anything I tried up until then. I’m still on the 30-day trial, and still enjoying its ease of use and friendly interface, but I did venture onto the net again today to see if there was anything else I ought to try before actually buying it.

MellelMellel was another recommended candidate, so I downloaded the trail version of that too. Text handling was much the same quality as Nisus Writer Express, though the styles management was rather difficult to get into at short notice. The main thing that put me off though was the interface – as much as I like iTunes, I’m not sure I’d want my word processor to look like that! Apparently Mellel is very good at handling large documents, like novels or reports, but it’s a long time since I did any hefty word processing like that. Image handling is pretty poor too, with no ability to wrap text around an image. That said, I’ve discovered that NWE doesn’t do that either.

Just as I was about to give up the hunt and remain faithful to NWE, I came across Apple’s offering – iWork. This is a package of two products, Pages (word processor and desktop publishing program) and Keynote (presentation tool). From having looked through some of the features and watched the guided tour videos, it looks stunning. Bearing in mind that it’s designed by Apple, it can be pretty much guaranteed that it will look and feel perfectly at home in OSX, making full use of the built-in anti-aliasing (font smoothing) effects and animations. The built-in templates look suitably stunning (as you would expect from Apple), charts can be given a very impressive 3D feel with textures and lighting effects, images can be given complex masks (enabling you to quickly put a picture of your beloved in a heart cut-out, for instance) and you can apply filters and effects without having to edit the photo in an external program. You also get a very neat navigation aid by way of page preview thumbnails, in much the same way as window thumbnails in the OSX dock. On the presentation side, Keynote compares to MS Powerpoint in much the same way a Mercedes S Class compares to a go-kart. 3D effects, reflections, 2D and 3D transitions, video-quality text effects, and complete control over the timings and animation orders make this an equally amazing program.

So here comes the crunch. Do I make the bold step and buy iWork and hope it’s as good in practice as it looks on the web site, or do I stick with NWE which I at least know for sure works? iWork doesn’t provide a trial version, as far as I can see, and I don’t want to make the same mistake I made with AppleWorks (another word processor by Apple which is absolute rubbish). If anyone out there has used iWork I would value your opinions! I already have Adobe CreativeSuite 2, which comes with InDesign (a professional-grade layout design program), but I feel that’s overkill slightly if all I want to do is write a letter, and doesn’t really cope with large text documents like stories (it’s more suited to constructing booklets, posters, newsletters, that kind of thing). And of course if anyone can recommend any other Mac OSX programs that might fit my hazy requirements, please do let me know!

3 thoughts on “A word about Word alternatives

  1. I tried several different word processors, but I have to say that the MS Office package for Mac is miles better than any of the alternatives I tried. Speaking to friends who have Macs they all agree, and even go so far as to say that Mac Office is considerably better than PC Office!

    Office for Mac also has the advantage that it is completely compatible with the PC version, which might not matter to you, but as we use PCs at work and I need to be able to work on files at home and at work, it is crucial for me!

    You might feel you’re selling out by using MS Office, though – it depends if you use a Mac because you think they’re good or because you’re a militant Microsoft hater!

  2. I did actually try MS Office for Mac, and found it to be less impressive than I was hoping. Sure, it was better than the Windows version, but it wasn’t giving me enough benefits over NeoOffice for it to be worth the extra money! Compatibility with PC Word documents would be nice, but not essential for what I do. I just found that on my Mac, Word was rather too slow and gimicky for my liking. Thanks for your comments though, Simon!

  3. Like Simon (above) I would be concerned about compatability with PC-land, with which you deal in your day job. Here at work we all use M$ Office for Mac, partly because Entourage is better than Apple’s Mail software which comes with OSX. We don’t use Office because it’s pretty but because we’re constantly exchanging documents with clients (Word docs, PowerPoint slides).
    If (like OpenOffice) iWork can open and export in Word format, go ahead. But if not, you may need both variants in order to open and create documents when dealing with your clients.
    As for InDesign, we find it OK for both letters (which we can export as PDFs if required) and large documents. For instance, we’re creating the entire Princess Yachts brochures for 2006/7 in InDesign and that’s 100+ pages. You can divide the document into sections for easy navigation and printing.
    I’ve never seen or used iWork but will watch this thread with interest!
    *Update: I’ve just checked your link to iWork (above) and it DOES include compatability with Word but you’d have to check how it translates unique features (like 3D charts with lighting effects) into a regular Word doc.*

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