XyWrite for Windows. (word processing software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Phillip Morgan
XyWrite for Windows is an ambitious attempt to bring to Windows the speed, efficiency, and extensive typesetting capability of XyWrite for DOS. The program offers maximum configurability, total keyboard control, and all the professional word-processing features of its major competitors--plus a few extras of its own. But however much XyWrite for Windows offers, its delivery suffers from a rough interface and complexity inherited from its DOS ancestor.
XyWrite is one of those DOS programs you never thought you'd see in Windows. It was designed to emulate Atex, the typesetting system used by many magazines and newspapers, and it's never gotten away from two-letter commands issued from the command line. It was a good program in its day, offering speed and powerful word-processing features to those who took the time to learn the program and used it regularly.
XyWrite for Windows has the potential for even greater word-processing power than its predecessor, with new and enhanced features such as drag-and-drop editing, text wrap, automatic capitalization, automatic word replacement, and redline editing. It can handle complex sorts and mail merges, track in-text references to chapters and pages, and create fill-in forms. But the program is still based on those anachronistic two-letter commands. While menus, toolbars, and dialog boxes can save you from some of the alphabet soup on the command line, you must memorize a number of the commands to truly understand the program and make full use of it.
Working with the program, you get a strong sense that it hasn't adapted to its new Windows habitat. XyWrite's semi-WYSIWYG Graphic view definitely needs improvement. It displays TrueType and Type 1 fonts, but it won't display justified text or graphics overprinted with type. The screen is slow to respond when you hold down the Delete or backspace key, making it easy to delete too much. Three non-WYSIWYG view modes--Page-Line, Draft, and Expanded (for viewing embedded codes)--use the Windows System font for faster typing and scrolling, but they're difficult to read.
The interface seems unrefined in some ways. Selecting text with the mouse is hit or miss; the insertion point frequently jumps to the wrong character. Dialog boxes cause a number of annoying glitches. They pop up unexpectedly, often with obscure messages, and it takes several clicks to make them go away. Formatting text to be overprinted by a graphic caused such an unexpected box to pop up. A minor file correction from tech support seemed to fix the problem for this review and allowed overprinting of type using the XyWrite printer driver for the HP DeskJet 500. Using the Windows driver locked up the system.
A problem with the program's installer may prevent import and export filters from being installed. XyWrite 4.11, an update to the first Windows release, only partially solves the problem, requiring some filters to be installed manually. But getting the filters installed is still only part of the solution. The Word and WordPerfect filters tested did import and export text, but the formatting was consistently incorrect. (Speaking of the next upgrade, the program desperately needs an undo command.)
If you're currently using XyWrite for DOS and would like the familiarity of the command line and embedded codes in a Windows word processor, XyWrite for Windows may be for you. But the quirkiness of its interface can be annoying, especially if you're familiar with other Windows applications. Unless you're already a XyWrite fan, you should probably consider one of the other Windows word processors that take less time to learn, have fewer glitches, and offer essentially the same features.
The Technology Group (410) 576-2040 $459 $129(upgrade from XyWrite for DOS) $149(competitive upgrade)
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