by Alan Zisman (c) 1992. First published in Our Computer Player,
September 18, 1992
Ami Pro 3.0
by Alan Zisman (c) 1992. First published in Our Computer Player,
September 18, 1992
Way, way back in the dark ages before the June 1990
release of Windows 3.0, there was a graphical interface for PCs called
Windows 2 (or Windows 286 and Windows 386). Everyone seemed to enjoy
making fun of it, except Apple, who filed a lawsuit against its
originator, Microsoft, over its overlapping windows.
Even though it lacked proportional screen menu fonts
and 3-D icons, and was limited to 8 colours on-screen, it did run some
powerful applications such as PageMaker, Excel, and Micrografx
While many people used the "run-time" Windows versions that shipped
with these products, so that they could pretend to run, say, Excel
without having to know that there was such a thing as Windows, some
users tried to work in the Windows environment all the time.
That was not easy, however. While Windows version 1.0
was released in 1985, for a long time, there were no Windows-based word
processors except Windows Write, the minimalist free sample that
Microsoft has included with Windows, and which has remained basically
unchanged from 1985 to today.
Finally, it wasn't Windows evangelist Microsoft who
released a real Windows word processor, but tiny, Atlanta-based Samna,
who put out a product called Ami late in 1988. It had an icon-bar for
quick access to many functions, and supported multiple columns and
graphics with a true, editable, on-screen appearance.
A year later, Microsoft finally released Word for
Windows, and the idea of using Windows as a full-time computing
environment began to be taken seriously. By then, Samna had released
Pro, it's full-featured product, and had been bought out by giant Lotus
Since that time, Ami Pro and Word for Windows have
played features catch up, becoming larger and more powerful with each
release. Many users, however, waited to see what DOS favorite, Word
Perfect would do in the Windows environment. Word Perfect 5.1 for
Windows was finally released, late, this past winter.
There are other contenders for the Windows
full-featured word processor market (Word Star for Windows, Legacy, and
DeScribe, for example), but they lack the clout of the 'big three'. And
ferocious price-cutting and 'competitive upgrades' by the market
have kept lower-priced/lower-power products like JustWrite from gaining
much of a following.
Users of word processors seem to develop an almost
religious attachment to their products, so I'm treading on dangerous
ground in trying to briefly describe them. Word Perfect for Windows,
however, has been widely viewed as an awkward attempt to move the
DOS-product's strengths into a new environment. It seems slow, and
doesn't always follow Windows' conventions. A recent 'silent' upgrade
has fixed many of the original problems, and added features like
'drag-and'drop'. Its biggest virtue is 100% compatibility with DOS Word
Perfect files, macros, and printer drivers.
Microsoft Word for Windows has tended to be the
features leader, with a product that had more power than most users
what do to with. Microsoft has been touting usability research lately,
and W4W has made mail merge and envelope printing simpler, and
pioneered drag-and-drop. Here, a user can slect text, and pull it to a
new spot in a document, without having to use the cut and paste menu
items. Nevertheless, W4W remains a powerful, but staid, and sometimes
unfriendly choice of a word processor, especially for users wanting to
integrate graphics and text.
From the beginning, Ami and Ami Pro haven't been
staid. It's always had the jazziest interface of any word processor.
With its row of icons down the side of the screen, the original product
could easily be mistaken for a paint program. And from the first, it
seemed to be infringing on desktop publishing with its power in mixing
images and words. It tended to lack some of the power of W4W, but made
up for it with the ease with which users could access its features.
Perhaps because it looked more fun, it lagged behind Microsoft's
in sales, even with the help of Lotus's marketing muscle.
While Word Perfect is on its first generation, and
Word for Windows is up to ver. 2.0, Ami Pro has just released version
3.0. As the longest running Windows word processor, it has had the most
time to smooth out the rough edges. As well, it has caught up to Word
for Windows in the features offered, while remaining the easiest of the
three to learn and use.
Version 3 looks almost the same as v.2.0 on screen---
same SmartIcons, that can be placed anywhere on screen, same status bar
on the bottom, that can be clicked to change font, size, or style
The same ability to change screen view easily, and to edit your work in
any screen view.
Despite the similarities, however, many features have
been enhanced while a number of new capabilities have been added. Let's
start with the SmartIcons. Now you can have multiple icons bars, with
different selections of icons for different jobs--- one for long
documents, another for leaflets, for example. As well, there's an
included icon editor, so you can make your own custom icons for macros.
Improved filters let you import and export most of the
common word processing formats (and Lotus has a free "SwitchKit" to
the transition for Word Perfect users). The Table Editor has been made
more powerful; it can almost act as a mini-spreadsheet.
Keeping up with Microsoft, a grammar checker (licensed
from Houghton-Mifflin) is built in. It can be set to check for business
writing, as well as legal, technical, and even fiction styles. Of
course, there's a spell checker (Canadians get a French dictionary as
well),and thesaurus. The collapsible outliner can export outlines
directly to Lotus Freelance for quick presentation creation. The
math-teacher in me loves the equation editor, based on the TeX equation
language (but MUCH easier to use!).
As well, there's a draw program that includes Bezier
curve editing, and a selection of clip-art, and automatic charting,
168 chart styles, including those trendy 3-D charts. While these were
included in version 2.0, now they're available as OLE servers. This
means that they can be opened up from any other OLE-aware Windows
application. If you want, for instance, you could use these Ami Pro
features in place of the Word for Windows ones, right from the W4W
! Or they can be easily integrated into other Windows programs that
lack these features.
Ami Pro remains easy to use. As before, dialogue boxes
show "what you see BEFORE you get it". Type new margin sizes into the
dialogue box, for example, and a picture will show you what your page
will look like. To add a header, simply move your cursor into the
margin, and type your header in. Format it the way you want it to
appear. Insert a page number? Click on Insert/Page Number. As easy as
New ease-of-use features abound, as well. There's a
Help button in every dialogue box. A new paintbrush icon lets you do
fast formatting. Select some text, click on the paintbrush, and your
cursor changes to a brush. With it, you can 'brush' to copy and apply
the formatting from your selected text to new areas. You can now drag
and drop in text and tables, just like the competition.
If you want, when opening a file, you can preview it
first--- browsing it and even printing it direct from the Open dialogue
box. Similarly, you can preview a style sheet before applying it.
The under-used right mouse button comes into its own.
Right click on a frame, and the Modify Frame dialogue box opens for
changes. There's similar right click access to the Modify Style and
Modify Paragraph commands.
Mail merges have been made simple--- and in the
process, the user gets to collect addresses on 'Rolodex cards',
providing a simple database that may be all some of us need. Like Word
for Windows, the software can automatically find the sender's and
recipient's addresses from a document, and use them to format envelope
Finally, if you just want to work without all those
icons, buttons, and bars, you can clean the screen. Even your menus
disappear, although they can still be accessed using ALT+letter (whew
You still get 55 style sheets, now including some that
automate text entry, using the (often overlooked) Power Fields feature.
Frames make it easy to add headlines or graphics, though you still
automatically flow text from frame to frame, a la Ventura Publisher.
Image enhancement controls let you adjust contrast, sharpness, and
brightness of imported grey-scale images.
The Basic-like macro language is the most powerful of
its type, and used together with Power Fields lets you create
sophisticated, automated documents. Finally, a new, on-line tutorial
adds to the enhanced, context-sensitive help.
As before, Ami Pro ships with the latest version of
Adobe Type Manager (v.2.02), and a nicely varied set of 13 real Adobe
fonts (not just Helevetica, Times, and Courier clones).
In many ways, this product, and its competition, has
become an 'integrated software package' in all but name. A powerful
processor, with built in draw capability, charting,
table-editing/spreadsheet, and now a simple database for mail merges.
Inevitably, all these features have a price. A full install now takes
megs of your hard drive; as much as Word for Windows. Luckily, you can
slect what features to install. There's a more limited 'laptop' option
that will let you get away with a "mere" 4 meg or so.
Even with the added capabilities, Ami Pro has sped up;
it outpaces the Microsoft product, and zooms past Word Perfect. Draft
mode is even respectable next to some DOS, text-based word processors.
As well, it has finally gotten rid of the sometimes annoying flicker
that happened on earlier versions when starting a new line.
For speed, features, and ease of use, this is the
current Windows word processor to beat. It's easily the best of the
bunch if you want to add light-weight desktop publishing power at the
same time that you work with text. There is a low-cost 'competitive
upgrade' policy for users of most other DOS or Windows word processor,
and a free working model available for a 1-800 phone call. If you're
looking to switch from DOS to Windows, or just interested in trying
something new, you owe it to yourself to give Ami Pro version 3 some of
Ami Pro ver.3.0
Lotus Development Canada
10 Bay Street
Toronto, Ont. M5J 2R8
requires Windows 3.x, minimum 2 meg RAM, 4-15 meg hard
drive space, depending on options installed.
article was originally published in 1992, as a review. A decade and
later, I've gotten a series of emails from AmiPro fans hoping that I
could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where
it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am
not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for
of older software to check at eBay or at OldSoftware.com.If
you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly
freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements
for older programs. Ami Pro fans may be especially interested in copies
of Lotus WordPro or IBM/Lotus SmartSuite. WordPro (included in
SmartSuite) is essentially an updated version of Ami Pro.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)
Reader Arni Highfield comments:
"I still use this programme having originally bought a licensed version
of Ami Pro II back when. I had a hiatus with Ami Pro, because Windows
98 handled it poorly, causing many crashes, and Windows Millennium
Edition was worse. However, Windows XP is very stable with Ami Pro. For
example, the multiple document feature would not work under 98.
To update your 2003 comments, although I agree that WordPro was
essentially an upgraded version of Ami Pro, it was, in reality, a worse
programme in many ways, being much clumsier at handling graphics, and
having the most extraordinarily clumsy way of automating style sheets,
compared with Ami Pro’s still unbeatable method. All my colleagues use
the ubiquitous MS Word, and they are amazed what I can do with Ami,
especially when it comes to the ease of adding or changing paragraph
formatting in a document, and especially, the ease of creating
automated documents. In a Government department, there are obviously
numerous forms used for all sorts of purposes. I have created all of
them as style sheets which prompt me for the vacant fields and are set
up with all the various paragraph styles that each form requires. This
is so easy in Ami pro, its trivial. Some of this stuff cannot be done
in MS Word without reverting to programming For goodness sake!
However, a copy of Word pro is essential. The latest version (I think
9.8) is the only way of getting modern MS Word documents in and out of
Ami Pro. I use it only as a document converter.
So there it is, pity it died, somehow along the way Lotus appeared not
to want to compete, and their marketing was woeful. Shame some
brilliant programmer doesn’t buy the code and relaunch it, it is still,
after all this time, a superior product." (December 10, 2004)
Reader Chris Newton was having
problems printing from AmiPro 3.1 to his Canon i990 printer under
Windows XP; he solved the problem by gojng " to Tools > user
setup > options then disable "print in background". (March 16 2005).
Reader Martin Siegel wrote (May
2016): "I stumbled across your article on AmiPro and it brought back
old times. I'm now retired, but back in the early 1990s I took the
plunge into computerland because I had a sabbatical to do a monograph
on fictional characters in Marketing (Aunt Jemima, Jolly Green Giant,
Cream of Wheat Chef and so on). The class I took used WordPerfect 5.1
in DOS. It was a triumph getting through that and then completing my
text. I had climbed the mountain!
Windows was such a huge advance, though to my eye it seemed a rip-off
of Apple. It was very difficult choosing between Windows and Apple
(which everyone liked), but the cost of the former won out. I remain no
fan of Microsoft....
Shortly after, AmiPro 3.1 came out for use in Windows 3.1 and I felt
the combination of the two was a boon. Since I handled the creative
side of marketing, I used it over all the others at that time. There
followed great anticipation for WordPro, which as you know turned out
to be about the worst clunker imaginable.
AmiPro 3.1 had so many advantages over the competition that I wondered
why whoever owned it let it slip into oblivion. I hated going to Word,
but what else to do at that juncture, unless one was familiar with
Anyway, interesting reading and thanks for the tips."