Review: Nisus Writer 6.5
Developer: Nisus Software, Inc.
Price: $99.95; $49.95 (upgrade); $69.95 (competitive upgrade for owners of any previous version of MS Word, Word Perfect, AppleWorks, Claris Works, and Write Now).
Requirements: Mac OS 8.5, 35 MB disk space. Note: runs in Classic, but Mac OS X-native version is not available.
Trial: Fully-featured (30 days)
The first two questions in the FAQ are: how do you pronounce Nisus, and what does that cool logo signify? They answer, “If you refer to your Nisus Writer manual or your nearest unabridged dictionary, you can confirm that ‘nisus’ is an ordinary English word deriving from the Latin ‘Niti’ meaning ‘a striving, effort, or endeavor.’ It is pronounced to rhyme with ‘Nice us.’ Hence the pun, ‘We have the Nisus word processor in town.’” Good thing they answered that—I thought it was pronounced Nee-sus, as if someone had their sister’s daughters to babysit one day…
This dude in the logo is intended to evoke the memory of Hermes, the Greek god who delivered messages. Nisus sees it as their business to help you deliver your messages, and they seem to be doing so very well. They have several products designed to help you create, send, and display your message, in several different formats…and languages…and characters…oh, and you want it spoken? Can do. In Italian? No problem. Export to e-mail? Sure, Nisus has an e-mail program, too.
Here’s my secret: I’m not a ‘super user,’ who knows all the gadgets to look for on this program, to see what it can do. But since this e-zine is supposed to provide information about real products for people like me, I thought I’d find out if Nisus could teach me how to do some things. First off, installation was a snap. You can download the program or purchase a CD. I suggest you try one of the free programs first, to be sure you’re getting something you’ll be able to use. There’s a Nisus Compact and a Nisus Writer 4.1.6, although the latter has some restrictions if you’re using Mac OS 9.1 or later. Oh, and if you buy the CD, when you open it, push down on the button in the middle of the CD case. Your CD case-opening experience will be much more fruitful than if you don’t.
So how much progress have we made with an untrained user? I’m writing this review in Nisus. I’ve used their Help file at least five times already, plus visiting the Nisus home page and checking out the FAQ (in the Help section). These are all very informative, a must for a regular, ignorant user like me. I’m green but teachable, so having access to all this stuff means a lot.
The program is auto-saving, so after I started work on this file it asked me to name it and tell it where to save, so that the auto-save could continue. A feature like that is really helpful for folks who don’t save very often, but if you hate it, you can turn it off.
Just now, I asked it how to import a graphic from Photoshop, and the Help advice was succinct: open the graphic in another application, Copy, and then in Nisus, Paste. Simple. The Nisus logo will probably have to be reformatted by our crack design team, but the point is that it was easy for me to learn how to get the software to do something I wanted to do. They’ve made it easy by building a tiny toolbar on the right side of the window, with five buttons on it. Each adds a menu for us to play with: text, tabs, graphics, sound, and a layout preview. I don’t know what all this is called, but even I can click on stuff and see what it does.
And oh, what it does! I got nothing done for an hour after I found the sound menu. Lots of languages, lots of voices. I think I’ve found a good way to practice for a trip to Paris in May—write the stuff in English, and then have Nisus read it back to me in French!
Nisus Compared To Others
You know how, in AppleWorks, when you select a word and delete it, you also have to select a space before it or after it, so that you don’t end up with two spaces between the words? And how you don’t have to do that in Word, because it’s smart enough to know that if you want to remove a word, you also want to remove that extra space? Nisus knows that, too. Shoot, as much as I write, I believe that’d be enough to justify the cost of the competitive upgrade over AppleWorks, which was free with the OS.
Not that I’m knocking a free program. AppleWorks has done the job for me for two years of undergrad and five semesters of grad school. That’s ten 30-page papers, near enough, and they’re all still here and readable. I’m looking forward to being able to post some of these papers on the Web, though, and it looks as if Nisus will be able to teach me how to do that. I’ve started monkeying around a bit with HTML—the Style menu has lots of ways to code text and graphics that make it easy for non-techies like me. You just write it, same as always, and then pick a Style.
The Bottom Line
Like I said, I don’t know a lot about other word processing programs. I hope I’m writing this from the perspective of many of our readers, who don’t have time to explore lots of different pieces of software. Here are my recommendations: if you’re using MS Word, and you’re 99% satisfied with it, then stick with it. Nisus is as good or a little bit better for the average user, but even the competitive price isn’t enough of a bargain for me to want to swap.
This is purely a matter of what you’re willing to put up with. If it’s worth 70 bucks to you to get rid of the nagging aggravations that come with Word, then you know the answer. If you use Word and aren’t very happy with it, then think hard about Nisus. Try the free Nisus Compact; most likely you’ll want to go ahead and buy the full version. If you use AppleWorks or ClarisWorks, and you wish there was more, Nisus is certainly a more affordable alternative than Word. Nisus also has lots of other features the freebies don’t, and it seems very Mac-friendly.