Business-like, isn't he?


 

 



Word 6 for Windows-- for now, as good as it gets

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, January 14, 1994.

Ever notice how software upgrades seem to happen in bunches?

Last spring was Windows database time, with Microsoft leading off with
Access, then Borland following up with Paradox, then Microsoft back in
with FoxPro?

This summer brought us spreadsheet wars, with Lotus 123 release 4,
followed shortly by Borland's Quattro Pro 5, with Microsoft's Excel 5
delayed until now.

And fall brought us the battle of the word processing titans. First the
return of the DOS giants... Word Perfect and Microsoft Word, both with
version 6.0 for DOS. Then, with hardly a skipped beat, the same duo,
this time all dressed up for Windows.

We've looked at Word for DOS and Word Perfect 6 for Windows in recent
issues... now, I've gotten a look at Word for Windows 6.0.

You may wonder how it is that the last version of Word for Window was
version 2, and now it's magically jumped to version 6. Cynics may claim
that this is simply to appear to keep up with Word Perfect, who you may
recall, started their Windows versions with 5.1... Microsoft, however,
states that it's to bring the numbering of all their versions in line,
and to reflect that the Windows version shares features and code with
the Macintosh version, which has, in fact slowly evolved from version 1 all the
way to version 6, skipping only version 2.

Word for Windows (W4W) was the original full-featured Windows word processor,
and for a long time, ruled that market segment almost unchallenged, much
as Word for Macintosh has been the best-seller there. While Lotus Ami
Pro often gave it a run for first place in magazine comparisons, W4W has
tended to outsell it by as much as ten to one.

Word Perfect for Windows, however, has been a different sort of
challenge to Microsoft's domination. That product was a late entry
in the Windows market, and was condemned as slow and awkward, at least
until its latest version. Its vast DOS following, however, guaranteed it
massive sales, and for many users, Word Perfect's entry legitimatized
Windows as an operating environment. And with Word Perfect version 6
finally performing like a 'real' Windows product, the pressure was on
Microsoft.

This time around, Microsoft's goal was to combine more features with
ease-of-use... a sometimes difficult combination. They've done a good job
in pulling this off.

The first thing you'll notice, starting the new W4W up, is the Tip of
the Day... each session starts up with a little how-to-do-it box.
Clearly, Microsoft is taking  seriously the task of bringing users up to
speed.

After that, though, you get a pretty familiar looking W4W screen... some
changes in menus, more colour in the tool bars, but nothing startlingly
unfamiliar. But choose to start a new file. You get a choice of Wizards
and templates.

Like most other new Microsoft products, there are automated Wizards,
that will create a pre-made document to your specifications. Want a
resume? Answer a few questions, and you've got one, complete with
boilerplate text waiting for your customization. You can even get
prewritten business letters. More traditional templates are now
available, if you already know how you want your document to look.
 

AUTO-THIS, AUTO-THAT

Then there's what seems like Auto-everything. The flashiest is Auto-
Correct. I often type "Micorosft" and "WIndows". As soon as I press
spacebar at the end of these words, however, W4W has learned to fix
these. I can even use it to automatically change "az" to my full name,
or replace straight quotation marks with the classier curly kind.

While previous versions of Word featured a 'glossary' function, version
6 has AutoText. You can store straight text, formatted tables or
mastheads, or graphics... type the item's name, click on the AutoText
toolbar button, and there it is.

AutoFormat will let Word set up your document with its idea of proper
styles. It works surprisingly well, and you can always fine-tune it if
you think you can do better.

A Table Wizard simplifies table-creation, with a Table AutoFormat giving
you a choice of styles. You can have multiple lines in a cell, while
column width will automatically adjust for best fit. Bullets and
numbered lists and headings are easier than ever to create.

Other nice features include multiple-level Undo and Redo...
click on these toolbar buttons, and a drop-down list appears... ready
for you to select the change or changes desired. Drag and drop editing
has been revised, allowing you to move text or graphics between open
Word documents, or even between applications. A Drop Cap command lets
you easily create this effect from single letters, whole words, or even
graphics. A Paintbrush icon lets you copy the formatting from one
section, and 'paint' it over other areas of your document... one of
several good ideas Word (like the newest Word Perfect) has borrowed from
Ami Pro. Also borrowed from Ami Pro is a full-screen view, hiding menus
and toolbars, while maximizing the work area.

Newspaper-style columns can now feature unequal widths, and since you
can set Word to let you work directly with your actual output ('
WYSIWYG'), again mimicking Ami Pro, you can more easily take advantage
of this feature, without having to jump back and forth from a working
view to a non-editable Page Preview. If you do now jump to Preview,
however, you'll find it much enhanced... permitting multiple thumbnail
pages, letting you drag text and graphics from one page to another, and
zoom in for finer editing.

Mail Merge is automated, and permits links to outside databases.
Similarly simplified is the Envelopes and Labels commands. You can even
add US postal bar codes when you print envelopes.

You can select multiple toolbars, and move or hide them as needed. You
can customize existing toolbars, even creating your own icons for macros
or other custom commands (again, something that Ami Pro users have taken
for granted for two versions now). Mystified by some of the toolbat
icons? Simply let your cursor rest on an icon for a second or two, and
the icon's name appears below it. Like Microsoft's Excel, and other
spreadsheets, a click of the right mouse button on some text or a table
brings up a shortcut menu with commands that are frequently used on this
sort of object. And down on the bottom of the screeb, the status bar has
been beefed up with more information, and a short row of icons to
quickly change views.

A nice feature in Word (and the new Excel version 5, expected 'any day
now') is the tabbed dialogue boxes. In the past, users had to click on
buttons or icons to choose multiple pages within complex dialogue boxes,
such as "Options". Now, the pages are arranged with tabs on top, like in
a box of 3x5 file cards... pick the tab to flip to a new page. (Yes, OS/
2 users... this will be familiar to you).

DOS Word Perfect users will find special help to get you used to this
new way of working.

Much of the new power comes from two enhancements that Microsoft is
providing across all their newest applications. OLE version 2 is the
power behind the new drag and drop features, and permits users to drag
and drop between OLE 2-capable applications. As well, the newest add-
ins, such as the much improved Word Art version 2 (which debutted with
the new version of MS-Publisher and reappears here) are OLE 2 servers.
This means that they can also be used by any OLE 2-capable client
applications (but not by applications that only support the older OLE
vertsion 1 standard). When you double click on any OLE 2 object, you get
editing in place. Instead of a new window opening up, with your object
inserted, your menu bar changes to reflect the new set of commands, and
you can edit your object directly in your document, seeing how your
changes will appear in the final product.

Also enhanced is in the macro-language. While
Word 6 permits conversion of  the WordBasic macros from previous versions,  Microsoft
is now moving towards a cross-aplication macro language, based on Visual
Basic. As in previous versions, there is only minimal reference to the
macro language in the supplied documentation (although WordBasic Help in
available from the Help menu). If you are interested in making use of
the powerful macro language, you need to get the "Microsoft Word
Developer's Kit" from Microsoft.

All this comes with a cost, primarily in hard drive space. While a full
install of W4W 2.0 was about 15 megs, this one is pushing 24 or so. With
a careful selection of features, you can shave this down, and a minimum
installation takes 'only' 6 megs. For comparison, a full install of the
new Word Perfect takes as much as 32 megs. (Remember when DOS would only
recognize a maximum of 32 megs on a hard drive partition?) Microsoft
claims to only require 4 meg of ram, but as with most high-end programs
today, Word will perform much faster with 8 megs or more.

Still, Microsoft has done a good job here, borrowing from the
competition where appropriate, while making this the most full-featured
and simultaneously easy to use word processor now available. While the
third-party in the word processor wars, Lotus Ami Pro is still to be
heard from, for now, Word for Windows 6.0 is the one to beat.
 


(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1994, as a review. A decade or so later, I've gotten a series of emails from  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 copies 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.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan