Software Review – WordGraph SSuite Office

This is the next in my series of reviews on free Microsoft Word replacement programs. This week, I’m reviewing WordGraph SSuite Office.

According to the WordGraph website:

SSuite WordGraph is a free and very useful alternative to Microsoft’s Word, OpenOffice’s Writer, or anything else out there claiming to be the latest and greatest. You don’t even have a need for .NET or even JAVA to be installed. This will save you a lot of hard drive space and precious computer resources.

Use WordGraph for anything from writing a quick letter to producing an entire book with embedded illustrations, tables of contents, indexes, and bibliographies. WordGraph is a complete and powerful software solution for creating, editing and viewing various types of documents. You can create simple or highly structured documents include graphics, tables, charts, and insert spreadsheets you created with Accel.

Indie Plot Twist Software Review SSWordGraph

A Few Basics

WordGraph SSuite is what is known as a standalone word processor. That means that unlike MS Word, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice, it does not include presentation/slide applications, a database, or some of the other applications that make up full office suites.

What it does come with is a very nice word processing application and a basic spread sheet application.

Consequently it’s very small. About 8mg of space. It took less than a minute to download and less than two minutes to install on my laptop, which runs on Windows 8.

Minimum System Requirements

1024 x 600 Display Size
Microsoft Internet Explorer
Windows NT / 2000 / XP / Vista / 7 / 8 / 10 – 32 Bit and 64 Bit – Mac and Linux

Four Basic Questions

Can You Create Microsoft Compatible Documents? Yes. The program default is a rich text file (rft), which can be opened by almost any word processing software.

Can You Open Documents Created in Microsoft Word? I tried opening one of my ongoing files, my writing journal, which is formatted as a .doc file. The document opened, but there was only a few characters of gibberish in it. The file isn’t that large—just over 24,000 words. I tried a couple of other things and it appears that the only way to use a .doc file in this program is to copy the content into a new SSuite window.

Can You Open Documents Created in SSuite with Microsoft Word? Yes. The default format is Rich Text Format (rft), so it can be opened in Microsoft Word, as well as most other office suites, Notepad, WordPad, and other text editors.

How Easy is it is to Learn and Use SSuite? SSuite is fairly easy to use, but figuring out some of the features does take time. I’d give it 2 stars of 5 in ease of learning.

What I Like About SSuite

The neatest thing I found the first time I used this program was the digital clock on the lower right column. Yes. I know. A simple thing. But I like clocks with displays that are easy to read and this clock is easy to read.

The display is easy to read and the toolbars are well organized. If it matters, the design is also quite visually appealing (at least to this artist.)

I especially like the stats in the bottom toolbar.

What I Don’t Like About SSuite

The default document type for SSuite is rich text format (rft). While that’s a good, basic format that can be read by most types of word processing software, it’s not as convenient as defaulting to a .doc file.

I also had a program failure within the first twenty minutes of using the program and again the last time I used it. I don’t know what caused the failures, but the program restarted again without difficulty. I lost a little bit of work because there is no data recovery with SSuite.

I also found no easy way to change styles throughout a document other than highlighting the entire document and manually making whatever changes I wanted. Maybe I’m getting soft, but I’ve found the style sheets on Word, OpenOffice, and LibreOffice to be so convenient and useful that this is the next thing to a deal breaker for me.

The working window is not WYSIWIG. It’s a thumbnail similar to what happens with Notepad or Wordpad. In other words, if I made the window wider, the lines stretched out. That may be why some of the formatting does not show up. It may also be why the page appears to have less than one-inch margins.

Finally, the default paper setting is A4. That’s a European setting. Measurements are also in metric. That’s not a big deal if you’re comfortable with metric settings, but it was an annoyance to me.

My Recommendation

WordGraph SSuite is a handy little program, but isn’t something that will stay on my computer beyond the test period. It isn’t set up to do enough of the “high-detail” formatting that I do for eBooks, art lessons, and other writing.

Problems with sudden program failures were also a consistent problem.

However, if all you want is a straight-forward word processing program that doesn’t cost anything and will let you write, this may be just the software you’re looking for.

Just proceed with caution.

Indie Plot Twist Software Review – Word Free

2015-04-01 Laptop2 (640x427)Many of us are looking for alternative ways to produce our books. Ways that don’t cost us very much—or anything at all—but that are just as productive as the Big Money software options.

If you’re at all like me, what you really mean by low-cost is no-cost. Something for free that’s capable of improving productivity. We don’t care if it’s got all the bells and whistles, so long as it allows us to do our jobs.

When it comes to finding a suitable free alternative to Microsoft Word, a lot of us know about Open Office (or Neo Office for those Mac users among us). We’ve tried it. We’ve found it useful, but less than ideal. At least that describes my experience with it. Some days, I’d rather use a pen and paper than Open Office.

But what else is there? I’m delighted you asked!

Let’s Talk About Word Free

Indie Plot Twist Software Review Word FreeWord Free is a word processing software designed by a community of programmers from around the world who share one basic philosophy: Word processing software should be free. Word Free is completely free. It’s also unlicensed. That means you can download it and install it on as many computers as you own. You can install it on the computers of your family members and friends. Or your neighbors. Or your tribe.

Yes. I’m serious. Here’s what the developers say in their own words.

Word Free is a powerful and free word processor. Because Word Free is free, it is freely distributable and available for use by anyone, without restrictions. With Word Free, there is no need to worry about piracy. We encourage you to make as many copies as you like and to give them to your friends and colleagues.

See? How totally cool is that?

Four Basic Questions

Can You Create Microsoft Compatible Documents? Yes, but you have to make sure to save them as a .doc document rather than the WordFree default.

Can You Open Documents Created in Microsoft Word? Yes.

Can You Open Documents Created in Word Free with Microsoft Word? Yes, but if you save Word Free documents with the default extension (which is .abi), the document will open with every bit of internal software coding showing. In order to avoid this, save Word Free documents as .doc documents.

How Easy is it is to Learn and Use Word Free? Word Free is fairly easy to use. I’d give it 3 stars of 5 in ease of learning.

What I Like About Word Free

While there are differences in the details (the buttons on the menu bars are different), the overall look and feel of Word Free is very close to Microsoft Word. The basic icons are arranged in the same locations and pretty much the same order. If all you’re interested in is basic writing functions, the menu bar defaults are going to provide everything you need at your fingertips.

The default settings include Smart Quotes.

The default font is that old familiar standby, Times New Roman 12 point, but there are plenty of options, including some I’ve never seen before.

Word Free features a revisions markup that’s similar to Track Changes in Microsoft Word. Look for “Revisions” in the dropdown Tools Menu.

One could-be-cool-or-could-be-a-distraction feature is the ability to highlight a word in your document and conduct a Google search for that word. I found that by accident while I happened to have the word “menu” in the paragraph above highlighted. Up popped Google search results! So beware.

This blog post is the first thing I wrote on Word Free. Yes, it took a few minutes to find some of the features I wanted to try out (see below for my thoughts on some of those), but it was by and large just like drafting an article on my trusty version of Word 2000. By the time I finished the first draft, I was sold.

But it wasn’t all a bowl of cherries. There were a few pits.

What I Don’t Like About Word Free

Of course, the first disadvantage to any new software is the time it takes to learn how to use it to best advantage.

One thing I love about Microsoft Word is the ease of changing styles and creating new styles. I especially like that feature in the old version on my favorite PC (a Gateway I purchased around the turn of the century: It runs Word 2000). But the newer PC runs Word 2007 and it’s pretty cool, too.

Word Free isn’t so simple.

First, you don’t change styles, you change the stylist. Not a big deal, but when your eye is trained to see “style,” even three extra letters can throw you off.

Second, it took a while to figure out how to change an existing style or create a new one. Once I did, it was easy to change the existing format for the basic default style or create a brand new style. Once I found the right location for creating new styles (Format>Create and Modify Styles.) The dialogue box that opens up looks just like the dialogue box you’d see in MS Word, though the default settings for hyphenation and line breaks are different. So even this negative turned into a positive as soon as I found it.

One problem I encountered was that neither Open Office nor MS Word would open the draft written in Word Free without showing every bit of coding appearing within the text. I was able to remove it by hand, but it was a nuisance.

But by far the biggest problem was that the software crashed on two of the three machines I usually test software on. One of the machines was my laptop, which runs Windows 8. The other was the Dell desktop, which runs Windows XP. I didn’t have problems with the Gateway (Windows 98), but I didn’t load Word Free on that computer. I only opened a document. The developers’ notes say it works on all versions of Windows up to Windows 10. I have my doubts.

I am not saying that Word Free caused the crashes. I don’t know that for sure.

But the circumstantial evidence is that there was some conflict that caused the software to crash.

Is Word Free Right For You?

I can’t in good conscience say that it is. When it works, it’s a nifty little, light-weight word processor. But is it worth repeated crashes and lost work? Not for me.

My browser (Firefox) also refuses to even connect with some of the websites offering downloads of Word Free, so I’m keeping my distance and recommend you do likewise. That’s why there’s no link to the program in this post.

Looking for other freeware tools to improve writing productivity? Check out our previous review of LibreOffice.

Software Review – LibreOffice

Indie Plot Twist Software Review LibreOfficeWhen Danielle and I sent out our year-end survey back in December, we asked you to tell us what you’d like to see this year. One of the things that was requested was reviews of word processing software with a special request to do software other than OpenOffice.

I like trying these kinds of things and I’m always interested in free stuff, so I thought I’d tackle this project.

The plan is to post a review the last Saturday of every month for which I have a review. It takes a couple of weeks at least to form a solid opinion of most software packages (though I did try one that took all of three days).

Today is the first of those posts.

I hope you’ll find it helpful.

Software Review LibreOffice

 

Software Review – LibreOffice

LibreOffice is a free word processing suite that’s based on the same core coding as the original Open Office. How LibreOffice and other “fork” software came into being is a complicated story of its own, but it can be summed up very easily.

When the company that first developed Open Office was sold, many people weren’t happy with the new owner. So they made use of the same basic code and developed software packages to meet their own needs and fit their own purposes. LibreOffice is one of the results. There are others and I hope to review those sometime in the future.

 

Why I Chose LibreOffice

I’ve been a user of Open Office for several years. While it’s in no way as versatile or feature-laden as Microsoft Word, it was more than adequate to my uses. I installed it on an older PC that didn’t have Word on it because I didn’t have the funds to buy Word at the time and because I really needed a computer I could use for writing. Open Office was the best choice at the time.

Open Office is still at the top of most lists of free alternatives to Microsoft Word.

LibreOffice is second on many of those lists. I already knew about Open Office, so when I started researching this series of articles, LibreOffice was the logical first choice.

A Few Basics

LibreOffice is a totally free word processing suite. It was designed and is continually being upgraded by developers and others around the world. Once you download the installation package, it’s yours to do with whatever you please. Even copy it and distribute it to others. If you’re of a more technical bent, you can even tinker with the code.

Like Open Office, LibreOffice is available for a number of platforms including Windows (XP to 10), Apple/Mac OSX, and Linux, to name just three. I tried it with Windows XP and Windows 8.

It contains all the components of Open Office and Word (writing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing, math, and a basic database.) The focus of this review is on writing, since that’s what most of us are interested in, but if you’d like to read more, you can read more technical reviews here and here.

Four Basic Questions

Can you create Microsoft Word compatible documents? Yes. All you need to do is select “Save As” when you save a document created in LibreOffice. Click on the box highlighted in blue at the bottom of the dialogue box (circled in red) and select the version of Word you want to use, then click save.

If you prefer not having to make that choice every time, you can change the default setting to .doc by changing the preferences.

Can you open documents created in Microsoft Word? Yes and quite easily.

Can you use Microsoft Word to open documents created in this software? I opened LibreOffice documents in Microsoft Word and in Open Office without difficulty as long as the documents were saved with the .doc extension (see the first question and answer).

How easy is this software to learn and use? If you’ve used OpenOffice in the past, you’ll take to LibreOffice like a duck to water. Drop down menus, toolbars, and other options are pretty much the same, which isn’t surprising since both processors use the same base code.

If you’ve used any version of Microsoft Word, you’ll also find LibreOffice pretty easy to learn and use.

And if you have no experience with either OpenOffice or Microsoft Word, it’s my opinion that you’ll still be able to learn LibreOffice quickly because of the very sensible way in which everything is arranged and labeled.

What I Like

Overall Appearance

I don’t usually pay much attention to how software looks. What matters to me is that  it works.

But LibreOffice appeals to my artistic side. I just plain enjoy the way it looks!

The buttons are designed more like website icons than word processing icons and they’re not only arranged in a logical fashion, some of them are downright pretty.

Paragraph Styles Shown As Well as Told

LibreOffice has all of the same standard paragraph styles as Open Office and they are presented in the same location, at the left end of the second toolbar from the top. But when you click on the drop down Style menu, what you see is startlingly different. The styles are not only listed, but shown as examples. The last time I looked, Open Office presented the style options as a plain text list. This is much nicer and gives you a much better idea of what each style looks like.

Dictionary

Adding words to the LibreOffice dictionary is a single-click process instead of the usual double-click I’ve been doing with Open Office.

Word Count

One thing I always wished for with Open Office was a word count in the footer tool bar. Guess what? There is one with LibreOffice!

What I Don’t Like

For no longer than I’ve been using LibreOffice (about two months), I haven’t found much to dislike.

I suppose I’ll eventually find something I don’t like, but LibreOffice is now my default word processor on both of the PCs I use and I’ve yet to encounter problems.

Conclusion

Learning my way around LibreOffice was fast, easy, and fun. It’s easy to use and the arrangement of icons, menus, and features made sense to me immediately. Part of that may have been due to the fact that I’ve been using Open Office for a few years, but I don’t think it would be difficult to use even if you’ve never used a word processing suite before.

If you’re looking for a full service option to Microsoft Word and don’t want to use Open Office, you may have to look no further than LibreOffice.

Even if you like Open Office but want to try something better, give LibreOffice a look. You may never go back to either MS Word or Open Office.

 

Are You Backed Up?

What if….

You get up on Tuesday morning, ready to write. You can barely wait to brew a cup of joe, grab a bagel, fire up the computer and start. The last words you wrote the night before are still fresh in your mind. What’s more, you know exactly what the next words are and they’re fabulous!

But when you launch your word processor, there’s no sign of last night’s work. It. Simply. Does. Not. Exist.

Horror of horrors, you can’t even find the document from last week.

Or Let’s Say…

You’ve spent the morning hammering out the solution to a difficult scene that’s thwarted your creative efforts for most of the week. The solution may or may not be great, but at least it’s on electronic paper and you can move on.

You get up to take a break and stretch your mind and muscles and when you sit back down a few minutes later….

…the desktop is showing and there’s one of those nasty little dialogue boxes that says, “Your application has crashed unexpectedly.” (I ask you, can software ever crash expectedly?)

“What if” may be your favorite question, but it can also be your worst nightmare.

Are You Backed Up

With the proliferation of digital devices that allow us to gather, assemble, and create information, it’s easy to forget the most important part of the process.

Saving your work.

And I don’t mean the standard procedure of saving electronic documents every few minutes, whenever you take a break, or when you conclude work for the day.

Even if you’re not particularly computer savvy, creating a backup to your hard drive isn’t difficult.

Here are a few options:

  • External hard drive (a personal favorite)
  • Thumb/flash drives (another favorite)
  • Second computer
  • CDs (excellent for monthly backups)

CD DisksBut you also need to be backing up your computer on a regular basis. Changes in software and other documents need to be saved somewhere other than your computer. After all, if you’re treating your writing like a business—and all of us at Indie Plot Twist hope you are—then there are tax documents, research files, and who knows what else lurking among the bits of your hard drive. If you’re anything like me, you’ve looked up things and written things that aren’t pertinent to the current work in progress, but that might  be useful sometime in the near (or not so near) future. Losing those things wouldn’t impact you immediately, but it will impact you.

So what do you do to safeguard all that material?

For most people these days, the answer is a cloud-based storage system like Carbonite or Mozy. When you store data “on the cloud”, it’s saved away from your computer, away from your house, away up in the air somewhere, you need not know where.

What is the Cloud?

Cloud storage is a model of data storage in which the digital data is stored in logical pools, the physical storage spans multiple servers (and often locations,) and the physical environment is typically owned and managed by a hosting company. These cloud storage providers are responsible for keeping the data available and accessible, and the physical environment protected and running. People and organizations buy or lease storage capacity from the providers to store user, organization, or application data. Wikipedia

In short, “the cloud” is a vast collection of computers all over the world. Computers that are used for nothing but storage—also known as servers.

Servers are dedicated to storage.

All of this data is said to be encrypted and password protected. Only the account holder has access to it. Sort of like credit card information or medical records….

A lot of these programs also run in the background. That means they’re constantly updating your work. If you type three words, then leave your computer for twenty minutes, those three words will be stored somewhere in the cloud without your having to do a thing.

If you lose your hard drive or if your computer is stolen, damaged, or held for ransom (it does happen, trust me,) all you have to do is download all of your information to a new computer.

Convenient, isn’t it?

If You Don’t Trust the Cloud

If you don’t trust the cloud or just don’t like having all your information out there somewhere in cyber space, there are other ways to back up your computer.

I have a handy little gadget called an external hard drive. Mine is manufactured by Free Agent. It’s a 75 gigabyte external hard drive that connects to my desktop. I can put anything I want on it. I can back up the entire computer to it if I want to. Documents. Pictures. Software.

The external hard drive can be attached to any of the computers I have that have the appropriate ports. I can also remove it and keep it somewhere else. Like a safe deposit box at the bank.

USB Flash DriveFlash drives (also known as thumb drives) are also a wonderful way to backup almost everything on your computer. The beautiful thing about flash drives is that you can now get them large enough to back up software and documents.

You can also backup files, photos, and most other things to CDs. You probably won’t be able to backup software, but everything else is good.

Stack of DiskettesIf you have a really old computer—as one of mine is—3-1/2 diskettess are also good for backing up documents. Even the high density diskettes are very limited in capacity so if you have many documents, be prepared to store a stack of diskettes somewhere.

And if you’re just one of those computer geek types—or are married to one—you can always use a spare computer as a storage device.

All of these storage methods are as utilitarian as the cloud and just as secure for the most part. But they come with a major draw back.

You.

Have.

To.

Remember.

To.

Make.

Your.

Own.

Backups.

There’s nothing automatic about it.

You also have to have at least one backup that’s somewhere other than your writing desk. In a different room is good. Out of the house is better.

The Choice is Yours

You can back up or not.

You can use the cloud or not.

But you should back up your files on a regular basis.

At the very least, keep a printed copy of the current work in progress so you can scan it to text or retype it should the unthinkable happen.

And it will happen.

Sooner or later.

Have you ever lost work because of a computer failure or software crash? Did you have back ups?