Word v. Pages v. Write-In Candidate

April 28, 2008  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

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

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.

Apple Pages

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.


  1. Pages is a fine program for doing simple letters, pleadings, etc. but Word’s extra features and ability to create forms make it a better choice for lawyers. When working with counsel–who almost always use PC’s–Word gives a common, seamless platform to exchange documents. The student edition is only $139. It’s worth the few extra bucks.

    Stan Winikoff

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