Word 2004, by Microsoft
Posted: 4-Jan-2004

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Microsoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Scott Bender Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Overview
Microsoft calls Word the, "gold standard" of word processing applications. And unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last 20-odd years, you already know that Microsoft Word is the number 1 selling word processing application on the market. Word provides the user with tools to create professional-looking documents, communicate ideas, and share information. Word allows the user to share documents as webpages, electronic documents, or in print.

Requirements

  • Microsoft specifies a G3 Mac or better
  • OS 10.2.8 or later
  • 256MB RAM


This review was performed on a 533Mhz G4 with 384MB of RAM.

Installation
Word 2004 Mac, V 11.0, installed as a simple drag-and-drop from the CD image. Very simple.

In Use
Upon startup, Word presents the "Project Gallery", a window which gives you the choice of opening a new Word document, webpage, or notebook page. Also on the Gallery is a list of templates on the window's left hand side. The template list is a typical hierarchical menu.

Playing around with some of the startup features of Word, I randomly selected the "Agenda" document from the template list. Immediately, Word opened up a colorful document, dated with the current date. Word had also automatically imported my personal information from my Address Book, so my company's information (name, address, etc.) was inserted into the document. All text on the page could be changed using normal click & drag selections. Toolbars across the top of the screen also gave me full control of fonts, text sizes, styles, etc..

My primary use of Word on my Mac at home is to share documents that I work with on my PC at the office (I regularly use Word 2003 at the office). Since compatibility has always been an issue when using Word on different platforms, I set out to test compatibility with documents created with standard layout tools.

I was able to share several files of varied complexity between three different computers (my own Mac and two Wintel PC's). I had no cross-platform compatibility issues at all. Word's inclusion of the compatibility checker made verification of compatibility extremely easy. It operates with a one-click "Check Document".

While I was impressed with several of the features (see below), I have to say that Word seemed almost "sluggish". I type only 30-45 words per minute, but on more than one occasion I found myself watching the cursor work to catch up with my typing. Relatively simple tasks, such as changing font sizes and scrolling, seem to take longer than they should have.

Some of the more impressive features included:

The Notebook Layout:
Word 2004 added the "Notebook" layout in the view menu. The notebook layout looks just like a piece of loose-leaf notebook paper, complete with margins and blue lines. The notebook can be used to rearrange entire paragraphs. At the beginning of a section is a small circle, and you simply grab it and drag it to the location desired.

I used the notebook layout extensively while piecing my notes together for this review. As I expected, there was a short learning curve involved, but I quickly got the hang of rearranging my notes by dragging and dropping the major bullet instead of selecting entire paragraphs.


Word 2004 - Notebook Layout


Navigation:
The new "Navigation Pane" icon (about midway across the standard toolbar) opens a side thumbnail pane. The thumbnails make moving through large documents much easier than scrolling through the entire document. The Navigation pane also features a "document map". The document map creates a quick, easy list of keywords from the document. Navigating to one of those sections is a click away.


Word 2004 - the Document View, the Navigation Pane, the Compatibility Report, and the Formatting Palette.


Auto-correction:
In the technical world, I often type words that are not in standard libraries. Word will auto-correct my words as they're typed, but a blue symbol (a line with a triangle) briefly appears under the word. Clicking on the symbol opens a menu that gives options for returning to the original typing, toggling autocorrect on and off, or opening the Autocorrect dialog box. While the symbol disappears quite quickly, clicking on the word in question opens up the menu.

Summary
Microsoft Word is feature rich word processing tool that has become the standard on the majority of desktop Macs and PCs. While I found the speed of Word to be somewhat cumbersome, the powerful features outweighed the sluggishness. I found it relatively easy to start new documents (there was a template for almost any document I would normally start from scratch). Floating toolbars and palettes allowed me to make good use of my screen's real estate. Another plus is that I had no compatibility issues at all sharing files between Word 2003 for PC, or on my Mac. While I highly recommend Word, I also recommend picking up a how-to book to fully appreciate all of its features.

Pros

  • Ease of organizing thoughts using the Notebook Layout
  • The Autocorrect symbol quickly became an asset
  • Cross-platform compatibility and compatibility checking
  • Ease of use with Templates

Cons

  • The sluggish "feel" to the application.
  • High price


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice