Mariner Write 3.5 and Mariner Calc 5.2
The word processor Mariner Write 3.5 and the spreadsheet program Mariner Calc 5.2 are designed to fill a niche somewhere between their counterparts in AppleWorks and the full-featured standards, Microsoft Word and Excel. Mariner Write is a great program that easily handles most Word documents and meets a wide variety of everyday text-editing needs. Mariner Calc works equally well as a stand-alone application. But both programs don't quite succeed when it comes to Office compatibility. (Mariner Write and Mariner Calc are available individually, or collectively in the MarinerPak bundle.)
Mariner Write 3.5
According to Mariner Software, Mariner Write contains -- in a streamlined program -- the 75 to 80 percent of Microsoft Word features that are most important to the average user. As such, Write is a fine application. It has almost everything that most people need to create a variety of word-processing documents -- from simple tools such as text formatting, an in-line spelling checker, and an 80,000-word dictionary and thesaurus, to advanced features such as paragraph styles, user-definable toolbars, footnotes, and integration with OS X's Services menu and AppleScript. Write can also save documents in several formats, including PDF, TXT, and Word and Mariner versions of RTF.
Write neatly handled nearly every Word document we threw at it, at least in terms of formatted text. The program easily interpreted a variety of Word's paragraph styles and footnotes with no problem whatsoever -- a capability that the similarly priced and focused Nisus Writer Express ( ; January 2004) doesn't have. Write did have one peculiarity: its Style menu didn't recognize paragraph styles in imported documents. As a result, the menu always displayed No Style as the paragraph style. By contrast, AppleWorks can both interpret and recognize styles.
Write's performance when dealing with graphics embedded in documents left much to be desired. Write couldn't display images placed in-line with text in files saved in Word. And if the image had text wrapped around it, Write displayed a file I/O error message and then required a force-quit. Similarly, images saved in Write documents were missing when we opened those documents in Word. AppleWorks handles these issues, too, without a hitch.
Mariner Calc 5.2
For people who need spreadsheet capabilities but not true integration with Microsoft Excel, Mariner Calc is an excellent alternative. With more than 140 built-in formulas, tabbed worksheets that can contain 32,000 by 32,000 cells, customizable toolbars, multiple undos, and graphing capabilities, Calc makes perfect sense for many basic spreadsheets.
Calc uses the same formula conventions as Excel; if you type =SUM(E3:E40)*0.1 in a cell, for example, Calc will display 10 percent of the sum of cells E3 through E40. But because Calc doesn't ship with the templates or assistants you'll find in Excel and AppleWorks, you'll need to have a pretty firm grip on Calc's formulas if you want to manipulate data in a complex manner.
Graphing in Calc works well, but it's a bit counterintuitive. In most spreadsheet programs, you select the range of rows and columns that you want in your graph and then create the graph. In Calc, you can select only one column of data, from which Calc then attempts to determine the legend information. This worked perfectly in spreadsheets that had graph information in neighboring cells. But if the information is a few cells away, Calc uses its own naming conventions, which you must edit after the fact. Also, if you attempt to select two columns of data, Calc gets confused and creates a blank graph.
Calc was particularly weak when opening Excel files. The program maintained many basic text formats, such as bold and italic type, but it dropped number formats completely; we had to reinsert currency and decimal formatting after opening the Excel document. Also, if your spreadsheet includes any formulas Calc doesn't support, that information is lost completely. AppleWorks again had no problems converting any of the documents we tested.
Macworld's Buying Advice
As stand-alone programs that provide the features most users actually need, without the powerful (and expensive) features in Microsoft Word and Excel, both Mariner Write 3.5 and Mariner Calc 5.2 perform perfectly. They can ably handle most day-to-day word processing and spreadsheet tasks. But when viewed from the perspective of interoperability with Word and Excel, Write and Calc are overshadowed by the more feature-rich and considerably less expensive AppleWorks.