Mention Nisus Writer to a Mac user of a certain vintage, and they're likely to go all dewey-eyed and start muttering things like "Remember Compact?" and "Lovely macros!".
It's a powerful word processor with a long and illustrious heritage. The move to OS X a decade ago, however, meant that the developers had to go back to the drawing board. They regrouped and brought out Nisus Writer Express, a simple word processor (more a souped-up TextEdit than a cut-down Word, and none the worse for that) then introduced its big brother, Nisus Writer Pro.
And now we have Nisus Writer Pro 2, which adds more features and further consolidates Nisus's position as a credible alternative to Apple's Pages and Microsoft Word, even for power users.
In fact, while you can treat even Nisus Writer Pro 2 as 'TextEdit with knobs on', you could argue that it's actually a far more powerful and flexible word processor, and one that can be better customised to suit your particular needs and style of working, than the behemoth that is Word. It's clean, fast, stable and can be personalised in many ways.
Nisus's traditional strengths are there too – its crazily powerful Find and Replace, and its macro system, to name just two. But there are lots of new features to tempt upgraders and new users alike.
It gains support for Track Changes, making it easy to collaborate on documents, add comments and review changes made by other team members. It's not without fault: though it can happily open DOC and DOCX formats so you can share files with Word-using colleagues on both Mac and PC, it converts them on opening, forcing a slightly awkward round-trip if you're pinging the same document back and forth. (Nisus's default file format is the widely supported RTF; annoyingly, while Word opens RTFs with Track Changes turned on, Pages only seems to accept Track Changes in DOC/DOCX.)
Writer Pro 2 also adds some simple drawing tools – shapes, lines, floating text boxes – in a nod towards basic desktop publishing abilities. It would be foolish to think of it as a DTP package, however; Pages is much better for DTP, though it's a weaker word processor than Writer Pro 2.
One small but welcome feature is an easy way to add special characters to your documents. You can customise one of the panels in the Tooldrawer to suit.
As well as some additional formatting and style options such as paragraph-level borders, shading, and document watermarks, this new version builds on its predecessor's rich tools for building structured documents by adding the ability to export PDFs (with clickable links for cross-references, tables of contents and more) and EPUB. You'll need to tinker to get the EPUB export right, such as for viewing/selling on iOS's iBooks app; nevertheless, it's good to have the option.
It's a very different beast to apps such as iA Writer: it has similar complexity, power, and flexibility to Microsoft Word, with none of the bloat or – to some – irritating automation.
If you write long or complex documents, collaborate with others, or just want a clean, elegant word processor that you can customise to suit how you work, you should at least try the demo of Nisus Writer Pro 2 on your MacFormat disc.
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