Nisus Writer Cures My MS Word Blues

by Derrick Story

I have to deal with many more .doc files than I care to. I have Microsoft Office X, and I use it when I need to work in revisions mode for a shared document. But to be honest, Word is hard on my computer. And when I'm using it, I feel like I'm hiking up a hill and someone just slipped a 10 pound boulder in my backpack.

The vast majority of Word docs I have to contend with don't need revisions. They are articles from contributing writers, memos, and general correspondence from my photo customers. I could use AppleWorks to handle these, but I have to be honest about this too: I don't like AppleWorks very much either. (Yes, there's Open Office also... but it's not there yet for me.)

I had been a fan of Nisus software for many years and loved using their word processor on OS 9. But they were slow to port to Mac OS X, and I had to move on to native tools.

When I read that Nisus finally had a Cocoa version of their Writer application, my hopes were that it would handle .doc files with ease. After using Nisus Writer Express for a couple weeks now, I'm happy to report that it opens, edits, and saves to the .doc format with virtual transparency. I've sent a number of these files to friends and coworkers, and they assumed that they were created natively in Word.

Originally Nisus tried to rewrite their popular word processor themselves, but in the end they decided to buy the Okito Composer and make it a Nisus product. Adam Engst has published a very informative interview with Jerzy Lewak if you'd like to know more about the evolution of this product.

As for me, I like using a word processor again. The Nisus writer has that clean OS X look, beautiful Cocoa functionality, lots of features, and it's easy on my Mac. I opened the Terminal app and ran top. I can have Nisus open in the background and it uses no CPU resource. When I start to work in the application, it only takes what it needs at the moment, then goes back to 0 percent as soon as the task is complete. Microsoft Word, on the other hand, used an average of 10 percent CPU just sitting there open on my dock.

Nisus plays nice with the other text formats. In addition to the .doc, I can save files to AbiWord, .txt, and .rtf. It supports multiple clipboards, macro, and a host of other valuable word processing features. I love the side-opening tools drawer that shows my word count as I type and puts a number of handy controls right there at my fingertips.

If you want to see for yourself, you can download a fully functional demo and use it for 30 days.

I still use Microsoft Word when I have to, but when it's my choice, I'm enjoying Nisus Writer.


2003-09-11 10:42:50
"10 pound BOULDER", not "bolder".
2003-09-11 11:06:16
The old MS Word Blues

While Nisus works well and has a nice elegant look, lets not forget the ThinkFree Office Suite, (with 'cyberdrive' storage), it might be a better all round value.
Join the Thrifty Scotsmen club - if the software works and saves our bawbees.......we like it.


2003-09-11 15:44:11
The old MS Word Blues
Indeed ThinkFree is a worthy alternative, as we've covered on Mac DevCenter. For more info see: The ThinkFree Alternative by Daniel H. Steinberg.
2003-09-11 15:44:46
Re: Typo
Fixed now. Thanks!
2003-09-12 07:38:53
Thanks for enlightening me
I *have* to use Word because my group has standardized on it for features like "Track Changes" and integration with EndNote. However, unlike every application I use, other than those in the MS Office suite, I quit Word the instant I am done editing a document in it. I noticed that even when idle, and hidden, Word eats up between 10-15% of my cpu cycles (PBG4 667), much as has been your experience. I can work all day without the cooling fan turning on UNTIL I start working in Word, then the fan kicks into high gear. That seems unreasonable for an application that is not only doing nothing at the time but it is ONLY A TEXT EDITOR, for crying out loud. Worse still, Word seems to have a "memory leak" or something (not sure of the correct jargon here); the longer it remains open the more its cpu load increases and the more unstable the app becomes. Furthermore, the only apps I can reliably crash on my machine are MS Office apps (admittedly I can get and Safari to crash on occasion, but that is rare). Stemming from this, the only apps that have caused me to lose data are MS Office apps, in fact I've lost data from all 4 of them on different occasions. Needless to say, I have very little confidence in the MS Office suite and am always looking for alternatives. One would think that AppleWorks would be a contender, but what a dog! For reasons I can't fully articulate, I think I hate using AppleWorks even more than MS Office!

Anyhow, all that to say thanks for showing me to Nisus Writer (which is actually called Nisus Writer Express now, thew me for a minute thinking they had 2 versions). I hadn't looked into it since before the merger with Okito and much has changed since then, for the better. I've been trying out the demo and it is as you described. I like that Nisus uses drawers instead of palettes (although they seem to be an option as well), makes for a more tidy work space. Opening Word docs was mostly OK. Predictably features like "track changes" don't make it through the translation, and Nisus did mess up some tables, but other than that formatting was perfect. If nothing else I may just buy this word processor for all my non-group related editing needs (except for writing code, for that I love The Application Formerly Known As Hydra: SubEthaEdit, a fantastic little app).

Cheers, Mark

PS I wrote this in Nisus Writer which has been running for >12 hrs, hasn't crashed, uses <<0.1% of my cpu when hidden and my fan hasn't turned on once. Joy!

2003-09-12 09:27:23
Security benefit?
It appears that Nisus neither shows nor saves Word's infamous not-so-hidden possibly sensitive information that you might not want to be sharing. Like this:
2003-09-12 10:37:56
Genie likes!

I tried to open a word 5.1 doc in OpenOffice, but it wouldn't open....

Don't know why.

2003-09-12 12:55:39
Nisus 1.1 Announced
I just received my Nisus newsletter with this announcement:

"I should tell you all about the upcoming Nisus Writer Express 1.1. This is a release that will include new features such as a Language Palette, show invisibles, an integrated thesaurus (Nisus Thesaurus, to be exact!), the ability to change the background color, WordPerfect translation and Panther (Mac OS X 10.3) compatibility. There are also the usual bug fixes, and much faster performance across the board. We are talking on the order of 20x improvements in some cases."

Personally, I'm pretty jazzed that they are going to include their new Thesaurus. That was on my wish list...

2003-09-12 17:48:17
My experience with MS Word
We all, of course, have our own particular situations, but...

After trying Nisus Writer Express, I still prefer Microsoft Word. In fact, I'm quite fond of Office v.X in general. I have experienced no data loss, no Office failures, no CPU hogging...the package just works.

The Word v.X interface is clean and crisp, unlike some Carbon apps. AppleWorks 6, for example, is a bit of an eyesore. I can set Word up to be as simple or complex as desired. It doesn't have to be over-powering...most all the interface elements can be turned off.

Yes, the Nisus product is only at version 1, but the design just didn't thrill me. The toolbar is limited and the slide-out tool drawer pales in comparison to Word's Formatting Palette. For basic RTF use, TextEdit is all I would need. Otherwise, its Word.

2003-09-12 23:36:22
RE: My experience with MS Word
Ah, word processors, text editors, and bowling balls... they're all quite personal, aren't they? I wouldn't for a minute quibble with anything you said in your post because you know your machine. Microsoft has done a fine job with the Office product. But on my machine, Word is a heavy load. I really like the speed and lightness of Nisus, and I think interface is good.

Thanks for chiming in; I appreciate your comments!

2003-09-13 03:40:00
Nisus gains it's converting power by embedding the GPLed AbiWord inside it. So whilst it looks nice and works well on OS X lets not forget that it's open source power behind the scenes. :-)

I think that Nisus also paid someone to hack on abiword to do this too, so Kudos to them for being sensible.

2003-09-13 08:37:07
You should check out Mellel
2003-09-14 08:48:57
RE: You should check out Mellel
Why should I or any of our readers check it out? Please provide some commentary about your recommendation.
2003-09-15 16:11:39
RE: You should check out Mellel
I agree with above poster. After using Word, Mellel, and Nisus Writer, Mellel is the best deal($25). Word needs major upgrading as it is very lacking compared to PC Word. Nisus Writer's 1.0 is more a text editor than word processor. It may work well with small MS Word documents, but even with a 1.6 G5, large documents take 20 mins to open. Nisus has a lot of potential, but it just is not there yet. Mellel is very good for using Hebrew or Arabic(rare among OS X programs). It has a very clean metal look and has many major features such as footnotes, styles, etc that you would expect of a word processor(but lacking at least in 1.0 of Nisus). Nisus Writer has a lot of potential, but the more I have used it, the more disappointed I have been.
2003-10-01 15:15:11
Nisus Writer
Like it a lot, though functionality is still limited compared to Word. I'd like to see text boxes and some graphics capability, nothing huge, just simple object drawing, and Word's nifty ability to import and resize images. In this respect, the old Nisus *was* pretty clunky. Also tables, and the font editing capability.

Major plus is that the thesaurus is far superior to Word's (okay, so that is a little akin to saying someone's taller than Danny deVito). Also, Word seems incapable of recognising quite a few freeware fonts, and lists all fonts in an incomprehensible order. No such problem with Nisus.

Anyone remember WriteNow? Now there *was* a lean mean word processing machine. I have fond memories of being able to put the entire program, including dictionary and thesaurus, on to a single floppy, and still have plenty of room for several files.

2003-10-07 09:26:12
RE: You should check out Mellel
(a different poster than above). I used to use Nisus on OS 8, now I use Mellel on OS X. Yeah, those MSWord blues are chased away.

I use Mellel all the time now. The only major barrier is that they don't support .doc formats. They have been promising .doc translation, but it's not scheduled for the next release.

Mellel is lean, and I think shares many of the benefits of Nisus (I switched over to Mellel from Nisus with Mac OS X. I'm not sure I'm going to switch back to Nisus now that they have an OS X version.) Like Nisus, it uses no CPU time in the background. The standout aspects of Mellel are:

1. Great (e-mail) support.

2. Clean, elegant interface, with great handling of formatting -- takes a little while to get used to, but soon becomes addictive.

3. Tiny, and fast (and cheap $25.)

4. Awesome typewriter icon for that retro look.

5. Multilingual capabilities -- Mellel handles arabic, hebrew, asian, etc. text very well. So well, in fact, that Mellel's sort of become the default word processor for anybody who's doing that sort of work. (The authors are from Israel, and so presumably have a stake in being able to combine left and right directed text.)

The new version coming out is integrated with a reference management system. Mellel has it's own document format, but also transparently handles .rtf for compatibility, so you can exchange documents with MSWordies (you just have to explain to them how to save as .rtf.)

2003-12-17 09:02:45
Already in love with it
I downloaded Nisus Writer only few days ago and already love the application!
I actually found it only because of the thesausurs and decided to give a full try in these busy days.
So far no problems at all.
I like the clean GUI, the opportunity to change the palette to fit my needs, the powerful (still made so easy) find and replace functions and the noncontiguous selection handling.
In the next days I will also know how windows and mac users handle the .rtf and .doc documents written with it.
If the resukts, as I believe, will be good Nisus got another customer :-)
Robert F
2006-05-16 13:43:03
NisusExpress has met my two major needs--complex tables and Word compatibility--far better than four other word processors for Mac.

I tested Mellel, AbiWord, Appleworks WP, Mariner, and Nisus (out of unwillingness to pay hundreds for Word and all its bloat.) Only Nisus was able to (1) open complex Word tables received by email without garbling them, and (2) create complex tables that could be emailed to, and opened by, Windows without getting garbled. AbiWord was too unstable to depend on, Mellel and Mariner didn't handle the multiple rows, columns, shading, or cell merging reliably, and Appleworks is extremely awkward and not Word-friendly enough for regular use in a Windows world.
Nisus could use further refinement to bring its table capability up to the former Framemaker standard; let's hope they make the effort!