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Friday, July 10, 2015

Mini Reviews of Three Small Word Processors

Mini Reviews of Three Small Word Processors 


I read a review by Bambi Brannan at Mac360 of a small word processor called TinyWord. I decided to check it out and compare it to two other small word processors. 


I'll start with the TextEdit program that Apple includes with every OS X installation. 


This picture shows you TextEdit. It is basic by nature and design. The toolbar across the top of the windows doesn't offer friendly icons to guide you. 


Screenshot of TextEdit


You have to go into the Help to uncover where TextEdit's power lies. 


Want to know how to set up a list that automatically increments from a non-zero number? Want to know how to set up a table with some merged cells? Well, you have to  read the Help File. 


It uses the multiple document interface with each document in a separate window. This works best for a few documents.


TextEdit does not show you a document's statistics, such as word count. If you search the Internet, you can find simple AppleScripts and free programs to add this feature. You'll want to advance to a more sophisticated writing tool if you need to write to a deadline or to a word count on a regular basis.


TextEdit uses the Alt/Option key to add extra features to menus, such as the Save As...option under the File Menu. Move your cursor out of TextEdit's windows, hold down the Alt/Option key, click on File to see Save As...


You can add graphics to it through the Insert menu and links to Web sites, too. If you look carefully under the Format menu; you can change a document to read-only, thus making it a template for the future.  


TextEdit relies on the system-wide spelling and grammar features of OS X, which makes it better than many comparable Windows offerings. I'm sure, though, that you can see where  you'd want to improve TextEdit. Many developers have done just that.


TinyWord 2.0, an improvement over TextEdit...but is it worth your $2?


TinyWord is an enhanced TextEdit. It offers a better organized toolbar with colorful icons that you can customize by right-clicking on the toolbar's blank areas. Functions that you would need to drill down into TextEdit's menus to find appear as separate icons on the toolbar. It even offers icons for Save and Save As. 


Screenshot of TinyWord

Besides the toolbar icons, TinyWord offers a statistics windows which you can find under the View Menu. The keystroke to show statistics is Shift+G, but it didn't work under 10.10.4  You can also just click on the Get Info icon in the toolbar. 

Screenshot of Tinyword Statistics window

I found the help file scantier than that offered by Apple's TextEdit. It's a single 7-page PDF, but it contains a lot of information. If you want to create Word documents with floating graphics, you need to read why the Export function differs from Save As.


TinyWord relies on OS X"s system-wide grammar and spelling functions. No need to duplicate what Apple included that works well.


If you want to move up from plain TextEdit, TinyWord is a suitable candidate for consideration. It fleshes out the feature set with colorful icons, adds a couple of extra touches in a Statistics windows and Word export feature, and looks more inviting than TextEdit.


The price charged for TinyWord in the Mac App Store may prove the sticking point. Right now, TinyWord only costs $1.99. It used to cost $18.99. It's not worth $18.99 in my opinion. 



Bean 3.2.5: Free, but no development any more


Bambi started off her article by praising Bean, a donation-ware simple word processor written by James Hoover. Mr. Hoover stopped development in 2013 because too many people stole his freely available source code without giving him credit or compensation. So you can still get Bean here. It still works under 10.10.4,  but with no guarantee that it will continue to work in the future.


With that said, Bean remains many user's ideal of a simple dedicated word processor. Mr. Hoover didn't make it to write graduate theses on. In his Help file, he advises people with heavy duty word processing to get OpenOffice

Screenshot of Bean 325


The template feature, though, sets Bean apart from TextEdit and TinyWord. Whereas TextEdit and TinyWord can save documents as read-only that you can use as static templates, Bean sets up a folder within the User Library dedicated to its templates. You can add dynamic text, such as time and date and ipsum lorem text that serves as a placeholder. Bean even provides the option of a signature line to automatically insert your name and title.


Bean doesn't use the Apple Help file format, choosing to use a single .rtfd file liberally illustrated and full of tips. It opens in a Bean window separate from the main text window.


So which one should I get?


TinyWord 2.0 offers a features and appearance upgrade from TextEdit. The colorful icons across the toolbar help neophyte users find the exact feature they want. The addition of the Get Info window, although with a non-functional shortcut key, helps those who have a word count requirement. The Export to Word feature improves the fidelity of Word documents.


On the negative side, if TextEdit didn't satisfy you with its feature set, then TinyWord won't satisfy you, either. The header and footer feature remains the same as TextEdit with no customization. The Help PDF file at best supplements the TextEdit Help File. 


If you just want a word processor for writing single columns of text, like this article, then TinyWord fits the bill.


James Hoover's Bean 3.2.5 offers more features such as multiple columns, but suffers from the lack of development. You cannot be sure Bean will continue to work with each successive upgrade to OS X.


The single window as the focus of work with the choice of tabs, buttons or a sidebar to choose the particular document simplifies your writing when working with multiple documents in my opinion. 


The template feature recommends itself to those needing to modify a standard document frequently, such as a resume or a school paper


Use Bean for the time being, emulate its interface in a word processor you develop, and have a Plan B for the inevitable day when it fails to open with the new version of OS X.

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

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