Archive for April, 2008April 28, 2008
A couple of weeks ago MacWorld made a comparison between Microsoft Office and Apple iWorks, aptly titled The Office Suite Smackdown. Ben Stevens at The Mac Lawyer made a post last week highlighting the conclusion of the MacWorld review of Word and Pages. I thought this was a good time to weigh in with my software choices. I use Word, Pages, and one other application depending on the situation.
Microsoft Word will be the king for quite some time because people just can’t let go of the Word document format. I have tried using other programs to open Word documents, and they get 95% of it right. But that’s just not good enough. So I use Microsoft Word whenever I think I might have to share original documents with someone else (mostly for work). Word also does a handful of things really well – like labels, envelopes, and mail-merges – where it doesn’t matter too much which program is used. If I could avoid owning Microsoft Word entirely, I would gladly do so. But, as long as I have to pay for Word, I might as well use it for the few things it is really good at.
One thing Microsoft Word is not very good at is page layout. Microsoft Publisher seems to be the low-end tool of choice on Windows. Mac users aren’t missing anything, though, because Apple Pages (part of iWork) is a truly great program. I have Adobe InDesign CS3, and I rarely need to use it. A good designer can create really professional-looking brochures, newsletters, and other layouts using Pages. There are two modes in Pages: Word Processing and Page Layout. I never use Word Processing mode. For simple drafting, all I need is an efficient interface and good style functionality. Word and Nisus are just better than Pages for that. But neither of them can stand up to Pages in page layout.
Nisus Writer Pro
Nisus Writer Express got me through law school. I used Word v.X for the first semester, but two freak occurrences made me give it up. First, not long before my exams I noticed that the outline for a significant portion of my class notes had merged to a single level. Hierarchy in an outline carries a lot of meaning, and mine had disappeared. I am sure I accidentally pressed some disastrous key combination that caused a cascade effect. But that kind of thing shouldn’t really be possible in any sensible program. Second, I was in the middle of my Contracts exam (my first law school exam) and I got an Out of Memory error when I went to save. I had plenty of RAM. The hard disk drive wasn’t close to being full. But there this error was staring me in the face. Luckily I was able to save the situation by copying, closing Word, re-opening Word, and pasting. Still, it had me scared enough to look for alternatives.
That alternative was Nisus Writer Express. It doesn’t do everything Word does. But the features it has are intuitive and easy to use. Nisus Writer Pro adds a few missing features (like table of contents), but it still doesn’t have everything I want in a word processor. Word 2004 is much better than Word v.X, but by the time of its release I was squarely hooked on Nisus Writer Express. So I still use Word for the few things that I described above, but I try to use Nisus for most of my other document drafting.
InfoWorld has a good article on Macs in business (printer-friendly – and easier to read – version here). The article goes into some detail about why Macs are increasingly becoming an option to replace PCs in businesses. The article is from earlier in the week. But I figure that if I missed it some of you might not have seen it yet either.
I have posted about Bento in the past (here and here). I have been meaning to give Bento a more complete review treatment because I know that many of you have been looking for information about Bento. Right now I am in the middle of a series of GTD reviews (that got off to a great start and should be reaching stage two soon). In the meantime, head on over to MacNN to see a pretty good introductory review of Bento (part one and part two).
I recently bought a copy of Mac OS X Leopard Server. I bought it without a specific purpose in mind, but I do have a few ideas on how we can use it. I am interested to see how many lawyers (and other small businesses) are using Leopard Server. What are you running it on? Mine is installed on a Mac Mini. What are you using it for, and how well is it working out for you? I have included a poll to collect general feedback. Please feel free to leave comments also. Don’t be shy!
My method for storing passwords and other private information has been something of a moving target. I have recently been using Data Guardian from Koingo Software to store my private data. I have heard rave reviews of another program for storing private data, 1Password (a fact I have blogged about before). I have purchased a few licenses to 1Password and have seriously looked into switching over. The switching costs are high, though, and I haven’t made the move yet. Events from the past week have put that move on a definite timetable: as soon as possible.
A couple of weeks ago I downloaded the new release of Data Guardian (version 1.3.7). This new version came with a new feature: Smart Crash Reports. Judging from the recent announcements on their website, it looks like Koingo is adding Smart Crash Reports to all their applications. Starting up Data Guardian presents this straightforward dialog.
The Don’t Ask Me Again check box is supposed to prevent this dialog from appearing again even if I select the Don’t Install option. The problem is, it doesn’t work. Strangely, it works for a while. But if I let a few hours go by after I close Data Guardian, I get asked again.
Naturally, I contact Koingo about this problem. I opened a support ticket explaining the problem. The next day my ticket was closed with the message:
Please contact Unsanity at Unsanity.org
I tried sending an email to the main email contact for Koingo but got no response. Since the support ticket was responded to quickly, I decided to submit another bug report. This time I explained that Smart Crash Reports was part of their software (it even shows up in the revision log) and I expected Koingo to fix the problem. I received the following response within minutes of submitting the report:
Yes, we added the functionality, but the bug is in the Smart Crash Reports engine, not our software. It is separate.
Smart Crash Reports is a product of Unsanity, a fact easily confirmed by visiting the website identified on the installation dialog. I could easily contact Unsanity. But that’s not the point. The bottom line is that Koingo added a feature to their product – a feature that benefits no one except Koingo. And this new feature doesn’t work right. Koingo should fix what it broke. That is true whether it is a show-stopper bug or something that is closer to the annoyance level (like this one).
The Koingo slogan (from their website) is “Dedicated to Perfection.” It appears that Koingo’s dedication only goes so far. Perfection isn’t necessary so long as the problem can be blamed on someone else. So I have decided not to use Koingo software anymore. I shouldn’t trust an application with my data if I don’t trust the developer. Hopefully 1Password will do everything I want it to do because I am diving head first into a change.
Update: Data Guardian 1.3.8 adds the following feature: “New Feature: Ability to disable smart crash reports.” I’m happy to see Koingo listen to their customers and take ownership of the problem.