The Office Suite Smackdown

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Word 2008 vs. Pages ‘08

Alternatives: Word Processing

Word may have most of the market share, with iWork a distant second, but there are still some other alternatives for Mac word processing.

If all you need is basic text editing, TextEdit offers everything you need to create a good, basic document. It’ll let you create bulleted or numbered lists, adjust line spacing, change text alignment, or fiddle with your font formatting; it can open Word .doc files; and it’s free with any Mac.

Some of my favorite text editors—BareBones Software’s TextWrangler (free) and Peter Borg’s excellent Smultron (free)—are good choices if you need a bit more than TextEdit. They have no formatting tools, but they’re great for quickly typing and manipulating basic text, particularly if said text is bound for the Web. For editing HTML or CSS files, they both provide colored text-formatting options to help you see keywords in your code.

Among true word processors, one of my personal favorites—enough so that I used it to write most of this article—is Hog Bay Software’s WriteRoom ($25). It’s a great text editor, with autocapitalization and spelling and grammar checking. It’ll do basic text formatting in Rich Text Format documents. Best of all, it creates a distraction-free, full-screen writing environment that I find to be nearly perfect for just cranking out words.

If you need a little more heft, either Mariner Software’s Mariner Write ( ) or Nisus’s Nisus Writer Pro ($79) is worth a try. Both can open Word documents and save in formats that Word can read. And they have some powerful searching tools. They also have many of the text-formatting features found in Word and Pages; both allow you to use paragraph styles to quickly change your document’s look.

Finally, if you find yourself composing documents from many different Macs, you should consider either Google Docs (free) or ThinkFree Online (free). Both are Web-based applications that you can use via any browser, and they include high-end word processing features and support for Microsoft document formats. Google Docs is the faster of the two, but ThinkFree’s interface is very Word-like and offers more document-formatting options than Google.

[Jeffery Battersby is a regular contributor to Macworld. You can read his blog at jeffbattersby.com.]

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