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Rosie's Reviews

By Megan Kinneyn | Feb. 2, 2007

Law Office Management

Feb. 2, 2007

Rosie's Reviews

Which do you prefer? The $69.95 Office suite or the $649 suite? By Sandra Rosenzweig

By Sandra Rosenzweig
      Almost Identical
      These office suites are practically twins, except for pricing.
      I am writing this with a word processing program that offers normal views of text, outlined, zoomed in or zoomed out, and more. It's got the usual spell checker; document review with tracked changes; bullets; one-click options to change my document's style and typeface; customizable toolbars; a Normal template; and engines for creating indices, tables of contents, and bibliographies but not tables of authorities. It hyphenates in four languages, or it doesn't hyphenate at all?my choice.
      It's not Microsoft Word, but then you already guessed that?why else would I have called you here today? It's TextMaker 2006 from SoftMaker Software in Nuremberg, Germany, and it's good. TextMaker, which is part of the SoftMaker Office 2006 suite (www.soft, $69.95), has just about all the power of Word, missing only a few features that I don't think are deal breakers for most lawyers. It installs in a few seconds (or, if you include the setup interview that almost every word processor puts you through, maybe a minute and a half). Really, you'd think the size of the whole Office 2006 suite was only 2KB instead of about 80MB. The full suite includes the PlanMaker spreadsheet program, a free and distributable TextMaker viewer, and numerous supplementary dictionaries.
      The entire SoftMaker Office suite is available for most platforms, including Windows all the way back to Windows 95, Linux, FreeBSD, and Windows Mobile (i.e., Pocket PC). The suite is so similar on all platforms that I often have to check my current hardware to see which platform I'm using. This whole package costs less than half as much as the lowest-priced Microsoft Office Suite 2007 ($149 to $679).
      Almost all of TextMaker's keyboard shortcuts and commands are the same as Word's. In addition, its document formats are almost entirely compatible with Word's, meaning that you can swap files with your assistant or clients forth and back again without any of them realizing you modified the files with another word processor. When you are ready to distribute the file, save it as a Word.doc instead of a TextMaker.tmd. No one will ever know the difference, heh heh. Even the most complicated formatting transfers perfectly from TextMaker to Word and back again. The exception is data fields (little pieces of automated information, such as date created or date last modified). For some reason, I couldn't get some of TextMaker's fields to transfer over.
      TextMaker has several possible, highly customizable toolbars. Instead of tool tips or captions to identify each icon, it uses messages down at the bottom of the document window to explain the function of each icon.
      There are a few noticeable differences. TextMaker uses far fewer function keys than Word does. To get a word or page count, you have to go to the File menu, then Properties, Info; there you'll learn all sorts of fascinating trivia besides word count?such as the average word size (in this article, so far, it's four characters), total number of characters, and average words per sentence. Line count, page count, section count, keystroke count, character count ... I could go on and on.
      What TextMaker lacks is seamless integration with Corel WinZip, Allume Stuffit, Adobe Acrobat, and other utilities that have found a way to plug their programs into Word's toolbars. There's no reason you can't use them together, but you can't convert a .tmd file to .pdf without opening Acrobat and importing your .tmd file.
      It also doesn't have my personal Word user dictionary. I've been adding words to my Word spell-check dictionary for more than a decade, so I'm surprised when TextMaker questions Rosenzweig, say, or WinZip. It doesn't have a grammar checker, a toolbar word counter, or smart em dashes. Hyphenation comes turned on instead of off, and you have to edit the Normal template to get it to default to off.
      But let's get real here: No one wants to change from something they're used to that ain't broke, right? However, it's also true that eventually you won't be able to use your current versions of the Microsoft Office programs and you'll have to upgrade to Office 2007. And when you do, you'll discover that Microsoft's revision of its Office applications is so dramatic, it will take you weeks to adapt to it. Or rather, for it to adapt you.
      So perhaps this is the best time to switch. TextMaker 2006 looks and operates just like Office 2003, so you wouldn't need to retrain yourself. And it costs?drumroll, please?$69.95. Got that? $69.95.

Megan Kinneyn

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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