For the last few months I’ve been test-driving Write!—a word processing application that lives in the grey area between a text editor and a WYSIWYG word processor.*
Why, you might ask, are we talking about another entry in the word processing universe? And that’s a fair question. Since you’re reading this online, I’d be shocked if you don’t already have a go-to program when you want to hammer out a few pages.
But every job has tools—carpenters have hammers and chisels, analysts have computers and spreadsheets, and writers have pens and paper and word processors. And anyone who performs a job for any length of time can get a little particular about the tools they use—just listen to a chef grumble if you tell them to use knives that are not their own. Writers are not immune to this pickiness. Bring it up at a gathering of writers and you’re likely to hear a dozen different opinions on what word processor—or lack thereof—works best. Personally, since Ami-Pro—of the 1990s—disappeared, I’ve been drifting aimlessly. But for many people—and I’m one of them—using the right tool, or at least the tool that’s right for you, can be a critical thing.
This review has taken me longer than I expected; and while part of that has to do with the way free time dries up when you buy a house, it also took me a while to figure out how I felt about Write! Not because it’s difficult to use—on the contrary, you can be up and running, and comfortable in your surroundings in less than 5 minutes—but because it’s fundamentally different that other word processors I’ve used.
After using it for several months I’ve started thinking of it as the Goldilocks of the word processing spectrum. If you’re a high-end user of the fully-functional WYSIWYG programs, especially if you need something with powerful layout tools, Write! just isn’t going to be for you. Conversely, if you’re like me, and gravitate toward the ultra-simplistic, barely-more-evolved-than-Notepad choices, Write! may have enough features to distract. But if you fall somewhere in the middle, Write! could be the program that offers just the right mix of features to enable your writing, while getting out of your way.
Likewise, Write! sits in the Goldilocks price zone. High-end packages like Word can cost quite a bit, and the free software generally just isn’t full-featured, or can be a bit buggy. Write!, at $24.95 for a lifetime license, is inexpensive, and if it’s features are what you’re looking for, that’s not a lot to pay for a slick, well-programmed word processor.
At its core, it’s that dichotomy that made this review so difficult for me to wrap my mind around. It took a long time to understand why there needed to be a middle-ground between the extremes. The way I’ve worked for years is to open up PSPad, or the WordPress post-creation screen, and once the writing was done if I needed to make it look pretty, I’d copy/paste it into MS Word to do the heavy-lifting. Write! won’t solve that problem—if you need to get a document presentation-ready to take to the printer you’ll still need something else to make it look professional.
Instead, Write! has included a suite of features that can help you with the technical work of pounding out the pages. Instead of fancy fonts, and clip-art packages, Write! includes features focused on productivity—cloud storage, powerful cross-document search capability, quick publishing of documents to allow sharing and collaboration. Focus Mode—where the paragraph you’re working on is highlighted and others are de-emphasized—is a feature I thought would bother me, but I found surprisingly helpful.
As with any program, it has it’s quirks, some of which may resonate with you and some won’t. I don’t love the way the spell-checker works—I think it takes one too many clicks once a word has been identified, but a friend tried it and liked it better than what she was used to.
There are a lot of things to like about Write!, but there is one feature that I REALLY need that Write! just doesn’t do very well—Portability. The main reason I’ve come to rely on Google Docs is that if I find myself with the time to write I can open the document on my home laptop, my work computer, my tablet, my phone, or any computer I borrow—all without installing extra software. Write! has the ability to export documents to other formats (docx, pdf, txt, and a couple of others), but without a phone app, or web version, portability is limited.
So is Write! worth it? That will depend on how you intend to use it. It seems tailor-made for writing copy for online use, because the text it produces isn’t bogged down by formatting codes. However, it doesn’t do everything as well as it does the basics, and if you use your processor to make flyers, brochures, or anything that needs graphics, visual elements and formatting, it’s probably not your first choice. To me, it’s a solid program and it has it’s uses, but until I can edit documents on-the-go, I’m only going to use it when I’m home or toting my own laptop to the coffee shop.
*DISCLOSURE: I received a free license for Write! in exchange for agreeing to evaluate it and share my thoughts. Since that agreement my only contact with the Write! staff was to ask a few clarifying questions, and to let them know this review was scheduled for today.