Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 133 / SEPTEMBER 1991 / PAGE 119

Word for Windows. (word processing software) (evaluation)
by Denny Atkin

Imagine the ultimate wordprocessing software. It would be easy to use, with intuitive commands. It would be so powerful that you'd never run up against a wall creating a complicated document. It would allow you to use graphics and multiple fonts, like your desktop publishing program, but would also keep up with your fastest typing, like your text editor. A dream word processor? No, it's Microsoft Word for Windows.

The original version of Word was always respected as a powerful program, but its quirky menu interface gave it something in common with WordStar: You either loved it or hated it. When I first tried Word back in early 1984, I was amazed at the program's power, but the user interface kept getting in my way, and I eventually fell back to a simpler word processor.

After seven years of development, the program has grown even more powerful, but it wasn't the new features that drew me back to it--it was Microsoft's announcement of a Windows version of Word.

Word for Windows 1.1 (WinWord) is an amazing program. Its titanic suite of features will please the college student, the professional writer, and the home office user alike. Yet its simplicity affords pleasurable ease of use to the novice computer user or the keyboard-wary executive. In fact, only the steep price and hardware requirements should keep anyone away from this astounding program. You'll need at least a 12-MHz 286 with 2MB RAM to get decent performance from the program, but that's true of all Windows applications. You'll also need Windows 2.11 or later (if you're not using version 3.0 yet, upgrade now) and about 4.5MB of free hard disk space to use the program.

No matter how many features a word processor has, the most important characteristic is ease of basic text editing. WinWord excels in this aspect. The program handles even the speediest typing with no discernible lag. Scrolling through documents is faster than I thought possible in a graphics-based word processor; the speed is especially surprising on a 286. You can highlight blocks of text in a snap with the mouse; click once with the left mouse button to start selecting text or twice to select the word under the cursor. Use the right button for columnar operations.

All commands can be accessed using the keyboard or mouse. While I found the program quite usable sans pointing device on my Grid laptop, I was much more productive using the program with a mouse.

A row of menu items tops the screen, with a control bar called the ribbon and a ruler below that. At the bottom of the screen, a status bar keeps you informed of your current page, line, and column number. You can toggle the ribbon, ruler, and status bar off if you prefer to have the entire screen available for editing text.

Fonts, point sizes, styles, tabs, and spacing can all be adjusted with single operations on the ribbon or ruler. You'll find keyboard equivalents for all icon and menu items, but there are so many choices in WinWord that you'll appreciate having rarely used commands on the menu bar. (In fact, there are so many choices that the included keyboard template wouldn't fit above my PC's function keys!) If you do have trouble finding a function, WinWord's comprehensive context-sensitive online help is only a keypress away.

WinWord has a plenitude of features to simplify document creation. The one l've used most is the glossary, which lets you abbreviate often-used text. For instance, for this review, I created a glossary item called ww, standing for WinWord. Whenever I needed WinWord in my text, I just typed ww and hit F3. The abbreviation expanded out to the full word, complete with italics. You can also store longer blocks of boilerplate text as glossary items, such as addresses or standard greetings.

Style sheets let you record a group of character and paragraph characteristics, assign them a name, and save them. For instance, consider using WinWord to create a newsletter. You could create styles for headlines, subheads, body copy, and sidebar text. When you create a new element, you can change font, spacing, style, size, and justification with one operation instead of five. Style sheets can be stored for use in other documents.

Even more comprehensive is WinWord's document templawte feature. Each template can store boiler plate text, style sheets, glossary items, macros, and custom menu and key configurations. The 20+ sample templates included with WinWord simplify the creation of articles, legal briefs, brochures, contracts, dissertations, envelopes, form letters, mailing labels, memos, and other documents. They also serve as excellent examples for creating your own glossary items and macros.

WinWord has the most sophisticated macro facility I've seen in an application program. You can create macros by recording keypresses and menu selections, as in most other programs. However, WinWord also has a builtin programming language called WordBASIC that lets you create truly potent macros. You can automate even the most sophisticated operations. For instance, you could create a macro for developing a resume; that macro would bring up dialog-box requesters asking for each piece of information individually and then assemble them into a formatted resume. You'll need some programming background to take full advantage of WinWord's macro facility, but if you've ever used Microsoft QuickBASIC, you'll feel right at home using WordBASIC. Unfortunately, the documentation for WordBASIC isn't in the manual--you must either print a 77-page document included with the program to get basic documentation or purchase the helpful Microsoft Word Technical Reference for Windows and OS/2 for $22.95.

If your needs are fairly simple, you can use WinWord as a desktop publishing program. It supports multiple columns (side-by-side or newspaper-style snaking columns) and can insert pictures within your text. Manual kerning gives you DTP-style control over letter spacing. You can directly load TIFF-format graphics or paste them from the clipboard. WinWord also supports the DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange) feature of Windows 3.0, so you can link a graphic from another DDE-capable program into your document.

If you're using WinWord to create documents that will be seen and modified by more than one author, you'll appreciate the program's redlining and annotation features. Redlining allows you to make changes in a document while keeping the original text around for reference (the old text is shown with a line through it). Alternately, you can use the document-compare feature, which will mark any paragraphs that change between two versions of a document. Annotations let you attach comments or suggestions to any block of text. The comment author's initials appear in the text, and the annotation in a window below. You can lock documents so that annotations can be added but no changes can be made in the text.

WinWord has just about every other feature you could want in a word processor. You can automate the creation of columnar tables, outlines, indexes, and tables of contents. Students and researchers will appreciate the program's footnote and endnote capabilities. WinWord will perform math operations on groups of numbers within your text, and you can type mathematical and scientific equations and see them onscreen as they'll look when printed. Other standard functions, such as search and replace, spelling check, and mail merge, work as expected.

Writers will find the online thesaurus invaluable. It not only provides synonyms for the selected word, but it also gives youa choice of definitions for the word in different contexts and lists the part of speech. For instance, different synonyms are given for the word clear, depending upon whether you're using it to mean "transparent" or "to remove obstructions from."

If you're moving up to WinWord from another word processor or if yous hare documents with users of other word processors, you'll appreciate its file-conversion features. You can load and save files in DCA, DisplayWrite, MultiMate, RTF, Windows Write, Word for DOS, Word for Macintosh, WordStar, WordPerfect, and Works formats. All but the most esoteric formatting codes are supported, so you should lose little or nothing in the translation.

WinWord uses the standard Windows printer drivers, so the quality of its output is excellent overall, but at the same time, dependent upon your printer. Generally, your printer's built-in fonts will look quite good, but the Windows system fonts will look rough. If you need to use fonts not resident in your printer, pick up a copy of Adobe Type Manager. The print-preview function lets you view single or facing pages before printing. You can choose whether or not to include summary info, annotations, and hidden text in your printed document.

WinWord's documentation lives up to the high standards set by other Microsoft products. A 25-page Getting Started booklet will walk you through installing the program. The 126-page Pocket Guide is a tutorial that will introduce you to WinWord's major features. The 475-page User Reference tome lists all the program's functions in alphabetical order, making it a snap to find any feature. Also included is a 90-page Printer Reference Guide and a keyboard template. All the texts are extremely well written--simple enough for the novice but not condescending to the knowledgeable.

I couldn't find anything to complain about in Word for Windows, except perhaps the fact that the company doesn't make a version for the Amiga, the other platform I spend much of my time using. Once you've used WinWord, other word processors seem like simple text editors in comparison. The only negative aspects are the program's hunger for memory and its sluggish performance on machines slower than 12 MHz. However, those are more the fault of Windows than WinWord and a small price to pay for versatility and power.

If you're looking for a no-compromise word processor and have the hardware to handle it, Word for Windows' herculean features and connectivity with other programs make it the obvious choice for all your text-editing needs.