/ Review: AmigaWriter v2.2

Written by: Eldee Stephens
article originally published by the author on (01/03/12)

One of the biggest issues with using an Amiga NG system for me when I discovered the Amiga in 2010 was the lack of productivity applications -- or rather, the lack of productivity applications written in the modern era.  Maybe folks these days aren't in great need of the old-fashioned word processor, but I still prefer writing in such an environment.  On my little SAM I do occasionally fire up AbiWord in AmiCygnix when I need to edit a massive Word document, but the sluggish speed and non-native GUI means it isn't something I want to use on a regular basis. So late last year I spent some time with three word processors from the classic Amiga era to find what works for me: AmigaWriter, FinalWriter, and Wordworth.  All have their plus points; most Amiga NG users prefer the latter two, but for me, AmigaWriter was the best fit.

For starters it's actually still available for sale and is still supported, something not be taken lightly by an Amiga newbie such as myself.  Sold by Alinea Computing, this title -- which actually saw an update this century -- was previously developed by Haage and Partner in the 1990s and certainly is the 'newest' of the classic Amiga word processors out there.  For only e15 including a printed manual you can hardly go wrong.

And unlike FinalWriter, with its rather complex user interface, or Wordworth, with its rather dated user interface, AmigaWriter looks and feels like a word processor you'd find on any other platform even today.  The rulers are easy to use, the toolbar makes sense, the menu structure is well thought-out, and the dialog boxes are not unfathomable.  There's excellent help facilities, such as floating 'bubbles' that appear over every GUI element or dialog field telling what it does.

AmigaWriter Screenshot
Figure 1: Screenshot of AmigaWriter v2.2

I quite like the text handling features as well: I like that I can easily create, save, and edit styles for characters, paragraphs, individual pages, chapters, etc.  I like that I can export them and import them into other documents.  I like the support for TrueType fonts and that I don't have to futz with the settings for it to pick up the fonts already installed by the OS.  I especially like the easy font substitution features when I try and open something created with fonts I don't have installed.  And the chapter management abilities are quite nice.  Generating a table of contents automatically rather than by hand is a terrific feature.  Lastly I like how easy it is to set up margins and page options for later printing, which by the way is rather speedy and delivers superb output with the native printing system.

Some things, though, I don't like.  Editing footnotes may be simple and straightforward, but if I remove the text I'm annotating I need to manually 'update elements' for the accompanying footnote to disappear.  That should be automatic.  The search and replace features are a touch rudimentary  and if you're planning on doing much page layout, you can forget it: you can insert graphics and textboxes, but PageStream this isn't. Yes you can create free layouts in AmigaWriter, but you wouldn't want to if you have another option, despite the 'box-based interface' being an advertised feature.  FinalWriter especially is much more capable in this respect.  I'd also like the ability to automate things, such as bulk conversion or re-layout or parsing fields from an XML file and inserting the results in a pre-defined template.  The absence of support for AREXX is a real shame.

Then again neither Finalwriter nor Wordworth advertise the ability to import documents created by Microsoft Word on mainstream platforms whereas AmigaWriter does and can.  You can't import modern formats -- such as the DOCX format from recent versions of Word -- but you can from Word 95/97/2000, and that's good enough for me.  The font substitution features come in handy here as well.  Exporting is only ASCII and RTF, I'm afraid, but you won't find much better among the competitors.

But if Wordworth is has better search/replace and layout facilities, and an extensive AREXX interface, why would you want to spend money on AmigaWriter?  Well AmigaWriter is frankly just easier to use and has a much more pleasant GUI.  With Wordworth you have to install the program somwhere, apply a patch, alter tooltypes, create a custom screen with just the right attributes.  With AmigaWriter you insert the CD, install, and enjoy.  It integrates better with the OS, too -- no futzing about with fonts, everything is automatic -- when it comes to text handling, it has support for native datatypes, and has excellent (and fast) print output using the native printing system and can do even better if you have TurboPrint installed.

If you need more extensive page layout facilities, FinalWriter is your best bet, but good luck trying to find a copy; Wordworth is terrific and has greating scripting capabilities; and it also has been released into the public domain but again locating a copy isn't terribly easy unless you already have it.  Besides for real page layout work, Pagestream 5.0 is much, much, much better.  And neither FinalWriter nor Wordworth have Word import capabilities, neither are supported by any developer, and neither are especially easy to use.  I know AmigaWriter has taken a bit of a bashing from folks in the fora over stability and speed, but on my SAM, I've never had it crash and I find it more responsive than its two competitors.  Lastly it just feels more 'modern,' and that's something I appreciate.  Give it a shot: there is a free demo version available from Alinea. 

And hey, if you don't like it, FinalWriter and Wordworth are excellent choices as well.  And admittedly more powerful ones.

To comment on your favored word processor(s) on Amiga NG systems, please visit the comment thread on AmigaWorld.

Last updated: 09.09.12