Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 11, NO. 7 / JULY 1985 / PAGE 46

Microsoft Word; a full-featured word processor for the Macintosh. (evaluation) Glenn A. Hart.

Microsoft Word

Software Profile

Name: Microsoft Word

Type: Word processor

System: Macintosh

Format: Disk

Summary: Superb word processing makes the Mac a serious business system

Price: $195

Manufacturer: Microsoft 10700 Northup Way Bellevue, WA 98009 (206) 828-8080 (800) 426-9400

One of the most eagerly awaited programs for the Macintosh has been the Microsoft Word word processor. As the Mac software drought has eased, Mac owners have been inundated with one database management program after another, but the only word processor available has been the MacWrite program supplied by Apple with each new Mac.

MacWrite is a rather primitive word processor at heart, saved by the beauty and intuitive operation of the standard Mac user interface. While it lacks many features standard in even simple word processors, MacWrite is so easy to learn and use that a tremendous amount of useful work has been done with the program. Serious wordsmiths, however, have long chafed under the limitations of MacWrite and have longed for something more powerful.

Microsoft Word has been a best seller on the IBM PC for quite some time, and has earned an enviable reputation for flexibility and competence. Word on the PC can be used with only the PC keyboard, but it is obviously designed for and works much better with the two-button Microsoft mouse. Thus it was natural to assume that the long-delayed Macintosh version would be well suited to the Mac environment and a real powerhouse.

Well, Word for the Mac has finally been officially released, and it is a strong implementation. Word is simply light years ahead of MacWrite, and brings serious word processing to the Mac for the first time. It is very well integrated into the Mac user interface, for the most part, yet it is reasonably easy to use. It is a thundering cliche that "with flexibility comes complexity,' and Word is no exception, but the program is so well constructed that a beginner can do useful work without learning all the bells and whistles available. As the user's expertise and familiarity with Word increases, the fancy stuff is readily accessible.

Functions and Features

The basic Word screen is pure Macintosh--pull-down menus, scroll bars, and all. Minor deviations are a page number in the lower left of the horizontal scroll bar and a black bar at the top of the vertical scroll bar. Pulling down this bar reveals horizontal windows.

Scanning through the various pull-down menus begins to indicate the breadth of commands provided. Most of the File menu is standard Mac fare, but two of the options are unique. Word includes a powerful merge facility for printing form letters, legal documents, and other "fill in the blanks' projects. Simple commands are placed in the main document to indicate where blanks should be filled in. The actual data are stored in a separate file. The syntax is very straightforward and easy both to understand and to use. Conditional merging is included, so different segments of text can be printed based on the characteristics of an individual recipient.

Also on this menu is a Printer Setup option which configures both hardware and software to drive daisywheel printers as well as the standard ImageWriter. NEC, Diablo, Brother printers as well as the AppleDaisy and something called "typewriter' are supported. The printers can be connected either to printer or modem ports, and Word sets the baud rate (300 through 9600) and the pitch (10, 12, and 15 characters per inch and proportional spacing). The appearance of screen text varies based on the printer selected, so line breaks are shown correctly on the screen no matter which printer and pitch are selected.

Note that the new Apple LaserWriter printer does not appear as an option. Word does support the Laser Writer in all respects, but the printer driver is supplied by Apple with the Laser Writer and automatically appears as an available printer when the laser printer driver is installed.

The Edit menu uses the standard Macintosh Cut, Copy, and Paste commands to move text; Clear is also available to cut text totally without moving it to the clipboard. An Undo command reverses the last editing or formatting activity. An interesting wrinkle allows this command to delete or restore recent typing.

The Glossary function stores frequently used words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. A name of up to 64 characters is assigned to each snippet of text (although the names would obviously be kept short normally). Entering the name and a key sequence "expands' the glossary reference to the full stored text. The phrase Glossary works much like the PC version, although the procedure to save text into the Glossary is a bit more cumbersome.

The final Edit options control display of a ruler line which shows indents and tab settings, display of the normally invisible characters for end of paragraph, tabs, etc., and a Preferences option which permits changing the default measurement unit. Word normally measures everything in inches, but centimeters, P10's, P12's, or points can be chosen instead. P10's and P12's represent the length of one character when a document is printed at 10 or 12 pitch. The availability of points will become more significant as laser printers become more common. Word also can display text as it will be printed in the typeface or daisywheel font selected, or, alternatively, in a standard format which does not take the font selected into account. The user preferences selected are retained by Word and are in effect when the program is next used.

The Search menu offers Find and Change, both of which work as expected, and Go To, which is used to jump to a specified page. This only works if the document has been paginated by having been printed or if the Repaginate command has been issued. One of the few ways in which MacWrite is superior to Word is in automatic pagination and display of the header on each page.

The Character menu controls attributes like underlining and boldface. Calling these attributes from the keyboard is not as convenient as with MacWrite, because the Command sequences to invoke the attributes from the keyboard require multiple key depressions (e.g., Command-Shift-U for underscoring) in Word. On the other hand, a new style is available. Small Caps, a style often used for speeches, looks very much like the Orator font available on some daisywheel printers.

The keyboard commands to change font also allow changing the size of the font. Character formatting changes affect whatever text is selected. It appears that the special characters available with the Command key have been disabled, because the command key begins so many Word keyboard commands. This is a significant loss if the special characters are important to the user. Character font, size, and position can also be changed with a dialog box, which allows making multiple changes more easily than typing a series of keyboard commands. In fact, the Word method of changing fonts and selecting font size is noticeably easier than that of MacWrite.

The Paragraph menu and a Paragraph Formats dialog box allow extremely flexible formatting options. Paragraphs can be left or right justified, fully justified, or centered; single or double spaced; an extra line can be added before or after each paragraph. Left and right indentations can be specified, and the first line of each paragraph can be indented. The first line indent can be negative for hanging paragraphs. Keyboard commands also can indent paragraphs for outline structures, and the mouse can be used to move symbols on a ruler line to set margins as well. Groups of lines or paragraphs can be kept together across page breaks, so tables and other entitles can be entered without worrying about breakup during printing.

The Word tab facilities are unusually powerful. In addition to the normal left tab and the decimal tabbing offered on MacWrite and many other word processors (a decimal tab aligns decimal points and is helpful when typing charts and statistics), Word has centered and right tabs to center text around a tab mark or right align text. A leader character can be specified for any tab. The lead character fills the space up to the tab. Periods, hyphens, or underscores can be chosen in addition to the normal blank lead character. The period is especially useful for tables of contents and similar projects. Tab stops can be specified with the mouse by moving symbols on the ruler line or by entering the exact tab position from the keyboard.

The Document menu controls Division layout, footnotes, headers, and repagination. The Word concept of a Division is a useful idea not seen in other word processors. A Division consists of pages or segments of text which have a consistent design or layout. It can be of any length. Many aspects of page layout can be specified, including page numbering and positioning, the number of columns (Word can print multiple columns in a single pass) and the spacing between columns, where headers and footers appear, where footnotes appear, etc.

Footnotes can be numbered automatically, or a user-selected symbol can designate a footnote. Footnotes are renumbered if one is added or deleted. Footnote text usually appears in a special window, but is edited just like any other text. The footnotes can be of any length, and Word will automatically split very long footnotes over multiple pages if necessary. Footnotes can be printed at the bottom of the page on which they appear or grouped together at the end of the Division or document.

Word allows headers and/or footers of any length, and any character or paragraph formatting can be used in them. The program can position headers/ footers differently on even and odd numbered pages, skip the opening title page, etc.


On the most basic level, Word is not terribly more difficult to use than MacWrite. Unless something special is needed, the user just types, makes corrections with the mouse or Backspace key and prints. There is no question that most beginners will find Word harder to use and more complex than MacWrite, but this is more a function of the many options that simply aren't available in MacWrite.

The learning process is eased considerably by the superb Microsoft documentation and a fine on-line Help system. Given that the Word documentation for the PC is abysmal, the excellence of the Mac documentation is rather a surprise. (I understand that new manuals for the PC version will be issued by the time this review appears.) The on-line help system is entered either by clicking the About Microsoft Word entry on the Apple menu or by typing Command-? The Apple menu method displays a menu of the available help topics from which the user can choose. Typing Command-? changes the cursor to a question mark; selecting any menu option displays help about the selected item. The help file takes a while to load in the first time it is called, but help is available much more quicky after this first time.

The use of the single button Macintosh mouse is rather different from the two-button Microsoft mouse used with the PC, but the concepts are similar and will be instanlly familiar to Mac users. Microsoft has attempted to make as many commands as possible available through keyboard sequences. Their choice of key sequences is rather questionable, however. For example, Command-Spacebar inserts a nonbreaking space (a space which the program cannot use for breaking a line and wrapping a word down to the next line) and Command-Hyphen inserts an optional (conditional) hyphen. These are seldom used actions which could probably have been assigned more usefully to other functions (i.e., attribute assignment).

Many Mac users feel Apple went a bit too far in not putting any cursor control keys on the keyboard. The mouse is wonderful and makes many editing jobs much faster, but it can slow things down if you have to move only a character or so. Microsoft has added keyboard commands to move the cursor a character or word at a time. The sequences use a diamond-shaped cluster of keys, obviously inspired by WordStar except that keys on the right side of the keyboard rather than the left are used.

Before you cheer too loudly, however, remember that the cursor movement commands were clearly added after the rest of the keyboard sequences were finalized. They aren't even discussed in the manual proper, but are explained in a separate folder instead. As a result, they require depressing up to four keys at once to move the cursor and five to use the keyboard to make a selection! This is simply poor design.

This one failing of Word detracts little from what is basically an excellent product. Besides the tremendous number of functions, everything seems much faster than on the PC. Word in the IBM environment is "sluggish' on a PC or XT, but is totally satisfactory on the Mac. Screen updating is very quick; it is impossible to type faster than the system, and even saving and loading files is quite fast.

Some other features which don't appear on menus include the ability to move standard MacPaint pictures or charts produced with Microsoft Chart into a Word document just as with MacWrite. This is a tremendous improvement over Word on a PC, which has no graphics capability. Four simultaneous windows are available, compared to eight on the PC. Eight windows are really not necessary; use of more than two or three is rare. The windows are only horizontally split, but full use of the Macintosh window sizing makes this just as flexible, or more so, than the PC implementation. Windows can be dragged, snapped to full size and back, etc., very easily.

Printing documents is straightforward and similar to MacWrite, but Word is faster in high quality mode. Some enhancements allow margin adjustment and multiple copies during printing. A special font called Dover is supplied for use with daisywheel printers. It is available in 10, 12, 15 and proportional spacing pitch. It is not particularly attractive on the screen, but it is designed to provide a screen representation of the line breaks that will print on a daisywheel printer. When using this font, the blinking bar cursor is very close to the last letter typed--so much so that the letter is not correctly formed until the cursor is moved. This is somewhat distracting and is a characteristic of the Dover font, not Word itself.

The length of a Word document is not limited by memory size, because the program can "page' text onto or from disk if needed. While this obviously slows things down a bit compared to a completely memory-resident file, 128K Mac owners can now edit the long files previously available only to those lucky enough to own 512K Fat Macs. The program does run a bit faster and has to do less paging on a 512K machine, but it works perfectly well in 128K.


Word on the Macintosh is, in many ways, easier to use and more desirable than the version available for the IBM PC. The PC keyboard sequences are much better, but the visual performance of the Mac screen and the power of the Mac interface more than compensate.

Comparing Macintosh Word to MacWrite is simply not fair. Tremendous increases in functionality of Word are obtained with a relatively small increase in learning time and complexity.

Photo: Microsoft Word.

Photo: Paragraph Formats.

Photo: Division Layout.

Photo: Character Formats.

Photo: Printer Setup.

Photo: Online helps are plentiful.

Products: Microsoft Word (Word processing software)