I am DESPERATE for a proper Word Processor. MS Word stinks: it crashes, the UI is kinda sucky, and it is slow, and it hogs cycles even when it’s backgrounded. WTF!? And to any of you opensource geeks, let me tell you this: OpenOffice looks like a rejected MS Word interface from the 80s. To its credit, it is significanlty more stable than MS Word and isn’t half as slow… but OS X deserves better than something that is that ugly… I would like to see a nice Apple word processor… and puh-lease do not tell me about AppleWorks. AppleWorks is so not Aqua it’s not funny… not to mention it has no features and hasn’t changed much since MacWrite II which I actually DID use in the 80s on a Mac Classic… I want iWrite.app!
Yea: 3 Nay: 1
I would be willing to work with a team of developers and develop a KILLER shareware app on my own time:
Yea: 0 Maybe: 2 Nay: 1
Have you seen LetterStar? [http://objectpark.net/letterstar.html] This is more along the lines of the WP I’d like to see from Apple than a MS Word clone.
Wasn’t to my liking. The interface used Apple’s pretty horrible ruler, and that alone is a giant turn-off. There are, in my imagination, three components to a word processing app: (1) the UI (Take Acqusition, for instance – there’s a beautful UI, and that’s what I want in WP) (2) The text editing (keyboard shortcuts, text navigation, selection, finding/replacing etc – think TextWrangler, or Emacs – I want POWER in WP) and (3) features: I love Apple’s Spell server, I hate AppleWork’s dictionary. What I want is a nice typewriter for this century – I don’t even want fancy pants layout tools or anything. But as I’m describing all this, I wonder if I can write this app myself, and use emacs or vim as a back end…
Best UI Ever: LaTeX! — JoshaChapmanDodson
Best word processing results: LaTeX. Certainly not UI! For a good/great environment for using LaTeX under OS X, check out TeXShop [http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~koch/texshop/texshop.html].
Not sure which implementation you have in mind. I know there is an OS X GUI front end to LaTeX – I’ve only used X Windows versions, and must admit I’m no LaTeX expert. I have however, seen the screenshots of the OS X GUI, and it stunk so bad they should have made a complementary pair of nose plugs downloadable together with the dmg. But, LaTeX isn’t exactly as user friendly as you might like either. You can’t just sit down and start typing, learning features as you need them. In that respect pico does the best job of the old school editors (except that it is really short on features), then emacs, and then vi(m) – which basically sux for newbies. What I want is something that has the power, but doesn’t make you learn all of it at once… LaTeX makes you dig into a lot of stuff – which is fine for professionals, but most people will never need that kind of layout power and can’t justify the learning curve.
TeXShop makes this task considerable easier! It still requires more knowledge than a simple Word Processor, but the results are worth the effort.
IMO word processors are a dying application genre. It’s just no longer true that a wp is THE killer app that everyone has and uses most often. Word processors are being squeezed down from above by page layout software and document management systems, and from below by Email and things like TextEdit and WordPad. I’m not questioning the OP’s need for a word processor, just trying to come up with a rationale for why there isn’t one for OSX yet.
Out of curiosity, what features do you consider must-have in a word processor?
That is very interesting… and is probably the kind of thing marketing thinks about on a daily basis – I myself have no insight into such matters, though I agree that WP is significantly less important now that it was before, not only because other apps are providing the functionality (from above and below as you mentioned), but also in terms of what percentage of time WP runs. Computers used to be typewriters – at least for the common masses. Now they’re browsers, email machines, movie and music players too – all for the common masses, and a crap word processor takes away a small percentage of the computer’s value/utility, which is another reason I imagine Apple hasn’t jumped and providing a reasonable word processor.
As for features, I haven’t really thought this through very well… and am exploring the idea on this page as it unfolds… Basically, I want good nagivation: I want to jump words, lines, paragraphs (CR) and phrases (comma sparated strings) and sentences (period/exclam/question separated strings). I want the same power in selection, except I want better controller over exetending and shrinking selection from the keyboard. I want the keyboard commands to be easy, and use the invterted T cursor. That’s basically all I want out of power navigation – few edits take place over the course of many pages, and editing usually involves jumping around at the kind of scale.
Next: Some layout is essential. Indenting, alignment (center/right/left/justify/blah/blah) and columns: I have BIG complaints about Word’s columns. I don’t want to have to add white space manually (including breaks) to get the layout I want. If I want, I want to mouse click and type – that’s it. Same goes for end of page crises. MS has an incredibly static solution of moving stuff around across pages, and it stinks. So, white space and should be done mostly behind the scenes – no reason for me to fiddle with spaces, tabs and returns, if I can just drag something where I want it, or indicate that I want something to be separated from something else, and then left the WP take care of what that means in terms of white space.
Tools: Apple Spell Server is awesome – it’s fast, but if you paste something in, it doesn’t check the pasted spelling… so fix that with a delagate. Next, versioning: for Pete’s sake – if developers have had versioning, why can’t word processing. Word makes a pretty pathetic attempt at diffing and tracking changes – I hate CVS (subversion is more modern) but even CVS which is ancient is light years ahead of Word. Every implementation of grammar checking blows, and it’s kind of an AI complete problem, actually… so I think we can do without that crap weighing us down.
Footnotes/endnotes/headers. Word headers are fine, though they don’t allow for too much flexibility. Footnotes in word suck. I’d like an easy way to make footnotes endnotes and the other way around. I would also don’t like being jumped to the footnote – why not double click on it, and have a something pop up, or slide out… the “tooltip” mouse over effect isn’t bad, if only it worked reliably, and I didn’t have to scratch at that damn footnote with 100 mouse movements to get the damn thing to pop up.
These are just some thoughts, and I haven’t said anything about graphics… but I see no reason they can’t be treated like text, or like a paragraph of text. It would be nice if you get could text to “wrap around the image” like in a newspaper column without having to set up columns manually, or doing the WP equivelant of a fricken HTML table. Transparaent behavior is what we want. As I scan over what I’ve written, I see I’ve mentioned MS Word and no other WPs…. sadly, that’s because Word is in my opinion the best game in town, and even if you don’t think so, it’s the biggest for sure. And it stinks.
The other thing is that word has a giant toolbar with icons and crap. Ditch the clutter… I don’t need a fricken’ button to save, print, copy, cut and paste, when I have menu items and kbd shortcuts, for crying out loud. Also, I don’t need a gazzilion features. If I want nice drawing, I’ll get nice drawing and do graphics in Photoshop/Illustrator or 3D renderer of my choice. WP is supposed to do WP… not drawing/painting. Focusing on power word processing, and word processing only would result in the user absorbing more of what the app has to offer, and figuring out how to do something won’t involve sifting through, spreadsheet, graphing, painting and REAL BASIC functions. I’ve used Word for about 6 years and I have no idea what half the shiny buttons do and don’t think I’ve seen all the menus and submenus it has to offer. If you line up all the menu and submenu and subsubmenu items in Word, I hear you can form a line that can wrap around the globe 2 times :) That’s no good.
I should add that unless this app can read (and write) MS Word files, the app is essentially useless, even if it can export PDF. Not being compatible with the number 1 format is essentially providing functionality that can’t be used. Apple understands this (Keynote works with PowerPoint) and they’re making progress on reading word format (eg text edit kind of reads word files)… This is a MUST
And another idea: the native file format must be very transparent and easy to read – I’m thinking XML. This will allow other developers, should the app ever catch on, to add cool formating and “efects” plugins – I love that photoshop allows me to add my own plugins without too much pain. This killer WP.app I’m dreaming of should have that, although, that’s a perk, not a must.
I just can’t stop :) But I never liked the split view. Being able to see non-contiguous segments of the text is vital. But splitting your editing view that way, makes visual navigation very hard for some reason. Some R&D should go into how to make this easier, however, a quick survey of 7 accademics and proffesionals I know revealed that they all hate the split view.
I will point out, that the fact that BBEdit exists, and the fact that BB decided to release TextWrangler, and the fact that people complain about Xcode’s crappy text editing suggests to me that there still is plent of room for a well polished and powerful aqua WP.
So anybody intrested in coding this puppy up?
I would never consider BBEdit and TextWrangler word processors. They’re text editors. Word processors are focused on formatting text and printing it. Text editors are concerned with manipulating text as data.
I agree with you 100%. But I used to program ASM using Word 5… back in the day. The point is that if you consider email and layout programs as WP competition, and I think you should, then you could conclude that if text editors have a place in this lousy world, well then maybe WP should be given another chance too :)
Check this out: http://www.thinksecret.com/news/office2004unicode.html That should give you some feel for how bad the next version of Word is going to suck… “the layout engine”… Word doesn’t do ANYTHING fancy with layout. The “Engine” in question can’t (or, rather, shouldn’t) be more than 3k lines of code… that’s the kind of crap I’m talking about.
After spending a couple of hours today in MS Word, and working on my own PHP content publishing system, I’m inclined to think that a) Word is awful and b) something based on John Gruber’s Markdown [http://www.daringfireball.net/] would be interesting.
I took a look at Markdown and liked some of the features I saw. I did not like the interface. A complete aqua front end would be in order, and again, markdown makes me do too much layout work that should be done transparently by the system, with, drag-and-drop simplicity.
I think it would be fun and I would be very excited if a lot of us started some sort of open source Word Processor project, just in our spare time, no big monumental revolutionary project. After reading the question of what we thought was necessary I thought that that was one of the most brilliant questions ever asked, because I personally am always complaining about the bloat in M$ Word, but when I sit down and think about it, I’m really not sure what is absolutely necessary. I think it would be great to just very casually and relaxed to “draw up” the perfect word processor, in other words, think what the absolutely essential features should be, and which ones simply weigh things down, as mentioned before versioning would be great (wvs??) and grammar isn’t all that great. It would also be great to have a built in plug-in architecture, and a common way to get plug-ins (menu>look for plugins) like a hosted plugin repository, for any special needs anyone had. To me, this is exactly the kind of thing Mac OS X needs, a very open, flexible, and most importantly simple solution to an age old problem.
Actually, I’ve found Mellel to be a pretty good word processor, with a decent GUI as well.
Thank you for drawing Mellel to my attention – I had never see it before. But, I will say this: it looks an awful lot like word, though it is much less awkward… it just doesn’t have any NEW good ideas for text editing / word processing… and I’m not a heavy metal punk rocker: the brushed theme really looks like crap in almost all cases. Stripping away the flab from Word, though is at least a start.
On Mellel, I think it actually does have a lot of new ideas–you should spend some time setting up styles, etc. It actually is a great app. If it would just work with markdown it’d be perfect.
Still thinking about this killer WP: or conversly, about how much Word sux. White space should not have style, font or pagination properties that are different from the surrounding text. In word, when I delete some white space sometimes entire paragraphs and pages change font, size and style all at once. That’s just wrong. Just very, very wrong.
NEW: I am also a LetterStar fan and have set it as the default app to open txt, doc, and rtf files. It works. It works with services. I like it, but wish someone (hint, hint) would customize TextEdit with 2 new features. 1) TextEdit will not let you change the R-L and T-B margins. Being able to reset margins in word wrap would be great. 2) TextEdit does not let me insert page numbers in a header or footer. I think adding just these 2 features to TextEdit (margin resets and page numbering) would make it enough of a WP for most people most of the time.
I don’t know how many of you know about book binding, but before codex, which is what we use now, “books” were written down on scrolls. Well, random access has been around for a while and it’s fricken’ time WP caught on. I love NSClipView and all as much as the next time, but I think scrolling through more than 5 pages when editing (or even reading) is just plain stoopid. How about, doing what Xcode does: add some symbol access, like Xcode does for methods. Sheesh!
Well I guess this discussion is pretty much done for now. Apple surprised us all by releasing Pages with iWork. Pretty nice application to work with, but it still needs a bit of work before it becomes an M$ Word killer. That’s not really what they’re going for though and I respect that. If I wanted to explain it in words, I’d say that it reminds me more of a mix between Pagemaker and Word.
We can change this discussion into what things we would like Pages to have. I certainly haven’t used it much, but one of the thigns I see that it is lacking is a real footnoting system. (Maybe I missed it, but I don’t think so). These days I mainly write papers that require references, and doing things like that require a good footnoting system, one that can deal with reordering of footnotes and references, etc.
Well, i think that if this page is going to continue than it needs to be about it’s title things that we wont in all of Apple’s aplications, not just Pages. If need be, it should be reconfigured to be more like AppleToolsMostWanted, with a category for every application.
In reference to MS Word, I’m a little surprised that Word, Powerpoint, and Excel haven’t been merged together. I realize that OLE provides the ability to intermingle spreadsheets, graphics, and text, but it is very cumbersome and often screws up the formatting of the object being imbedded.
I am a structural analyst who spends much time preparing reports with all kinds of calculations, graphics, tables, text etc. I have done reports in Word, Powerpoint and Excel and found all of them lacking in different ways. Word handles text and document issues well, but is awkward for page layout with graphics. Powerpoint is good for page layout but not as a document. Both allow the insertion of spreadsheets but don’t allow interconnection of multiple spreadsheets within the document. Excel works well for calculations and page layout but is cumbersome with text…..etc, etc, etc. (I currently prefer Excel. I can take advantage of Excel’s calculating ability and still work around the document issues.)
I’d really like to see a document processor with an attached spreadsheet/workbook. “Views” of the spreadsheet could be inserted in the document. These could be ranges or just values from individual cells. This way one could utilize the spreadsheet for tables, calculations, etc. (all the things that spreadsheets do well), without the overhead of launching separate applications or the disconnects currently associated with referencing the same data in more than one location.
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