Nisus Writer Pro 1.4 review

In 2005, we reviewed Nisus Writer Express and gave it good marks, while noting that it may not appeal to anyone who needs the tools found in Microsoft Word. Now Nisus Writer Pro might actually be able to woo some users away from Word.

For ordinary writing, Nisus Writer Pro and Nisus Writer Express are equally capable. Both have excellent writing environments with a variety of ways to view your writing. Our favourite is full-screen view, which removes menus and buttons from the screen and leaves you alone with your thoughts; but there is a WYSIWYG page view and window-width draft view, if you prefer.

Both Express and Pro have excellent support for paragraph and character styles for formatting text systematically and both support page-layout basics such as multi-column sections, inline graphics and basic tables. Add in powerful grep-based search tools, non-contiguous selection, support for non-Roman languages, basic macros, and the ability to create your own keyboard shortcuts for nearly every menu command, and either Nisus Writer Pro or Nisus Express is a very attractive option for serious writers.

Going pro

Express is designed for students, business users, and, well, ordinary writers (which is to say, most users). Pro is designed for writing professionals and has the advanced document management features that are required by users who are not just writing, but producing documents.

Nisus Writer Pro supports comments, and we were able to move a commented document between Nisus Writer Pro and Word. Nisus Writer Pro also lets you create an index and a table of contents. Want to add bookmarks and cross-references, so you (or your readers) can find your way around long documents? No problem.

For scholars, Nisus Writer Pro provides hand-in-glove integration with the popular citation management program for Mac users, Bookends from Sonny Software. We tested Nisus Writer Pro 1.4 with Bookends 10.6.1 and were impressed at how nicely the two programs work together.

Nisus Writer Pro also supports line numbers; auto-updating variables for things like date and time; endnotes and footnotes; finding by text attribute (for example, finding the next text in italics). And it can be programmed with macros written in Perl.

If you share your documents with anybody else, file-format compatibility may be an important issue. Fortunately, both Nisus Writer Pro and Express preserve one of Nisus’s original 1989 strokes of genius – namely, saving documents by default as RTF (Rich Text Format). RTF isn’t proprietary and is supported by nearly all word processors and even by more basic programs like OS X’s Text Edit, so if you need to open a Nisus Writer Pro file and the only program you have handy is, say, Microsoft Word, you’ll be able to do it.

Nisus Writer Pro (as well as Express) also provides excellent import and export support for Microsoft Word’s widely used .doc format. However, support for .docx, Microsoft’s newer Office Open XML file format, is more limited. Nisus Writer Pro can’t write .docx files and .docx files imported into Nisus Writer Pro may lose complex formatting elements such as footnotes. Of course, since Microsoft has been instructed to remove proprietary .docx technology from its word processor by antitrust courts this should not be a problem.

OUR VERDICT

Nisus Writer Pro still isn’t Word and for some users, this may still be a deal breaker. Nisus Writer Pro doesn’t integrate with Excel the way Word can, nor does it support change-tracking as fully as Word (or OpenOffice.org). Nisus Writer’s outlining options are less useful than Word’s, and its page-layout options aren’t as extensive as those found in Word (or Apple’s Pages). Nisus Writer can’t generate a legal table of citations and lacks some of Word’s very advanced long-document management features. For a lot of users, including those with advanced document-production needs, Nisus Writer Pro is a solid and very satisfactory alternative to Word, offering more than two-thirds of Word’s features in an easier-to-use user interface, for about one-third the price. In particular, for SOHO business users, and students and scholars using Bookends, Nisus Writer Pro 1.4 is an unbeatable bargain.

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