Word processing is so very retro.

It’s like saying “Letraset.” Or those days when my
producer would splice the “s” from the end of one word and have the audio
technician tape it to the end of another word to make a

Sometimes I miss Wordstar.

Microsoft Word is everyone’s default word processor. We’re all used to it. We
might not use all the little buttons, but when you need to bang out a press
release or an advertorial or a term paper or a report on one thousand and one things you can do with liquid
, that ubiquitous W is there at your

Joey prefers TextEdit. It uses
much less memory, and all her copy gets cut-and-pasted into a Freehand document
for layout, anyway.

Still, inspired by my
adventures with journal programs, I wanted to find out if there was more (or
less) to word processing than Word. (Again, PC users will not benefit from
this.) So off I went, gobbling bandwidth downloading 30-day demos.

Redlex, Mellel is billed as “the word processor for Mac
OS X.” Hmmm. Not very catchy. However, the retro-cool typewriter icon and the
brushed-steel skin give it that Olympia electric typewriter vibe. (Our old one
used to vibrate so assertively the entire table and the floor beneath would hum
along with

opened a Word document directly with Mellel. It imported it with formatting
intact, but image missing. They’ve made a comparison chart here. Long documents that
require precise stylesheet control, writers obsessed with hyphenation, and
compulsive cross-referencers will find an easier life with Mellel. If you think
in two languages (say Hebrew and English), Mellel will let you type left to
right and right to left. How’s that for

Nisus Writer

Nisus says this is “the writer’s word
.” It’s more expensive than Mellel, and comes with a free
Nisus Thesaurus. Creepily, the program automatically offers word alternatives as
you type. It’s like having an English teacher mumbling synonyms in the backseat
while you drive the words along at a sputtering 5 kilometers per

Nisus Writer Express opened this Word document directly, with formatting and
image intact. My cursor was on the word “welfare;” as you can see, the thesaurus
on the right immediately offered “social welfare,” “relief,” “social insurance”
and “dole.” For copywriters who are constantly on the lookout for yet another
word for “amazing” or “prize,” this can be a less painful alternative to banging
one’s mouse against one’s forehead.