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Computing with Bifocals - Mariner Write: Word Processing for the Rest of Us
by - October 11th, 2004

I have often said, and will say again, that the Mac version of Microsoft Word is far superior to the PC version of the same application.  It is also, in my opinion, superior to AppleWorks as a word processing application. However, that does not mean that I particularly like Microsoft Word.  It only takes me moments to make of a list of the  things that annoy me the most about it.

  1. It crashes on me for not apparent reason (unless you consider the worst possible moment a viable "reason.")
  2. It arbitrarily changes fonts without apparent rhyme or reason in the middle of documents.
  3. Tables are hard to work with, and no matter what you do, you can not instruct the application to prevent table cells from breaking across pages without going into the affected rows, one at a time, and setting the instructions.  This is not a big issue with everyone, but it drove me nuts when I was still working full time.  It had something to do with the 75 people I supervised and the corresponding 75 job descriptions that had to be set up in table format in compliance with our state agency.  Then there were the 75 performance reviews that had to be set up in table format in compliance.......  You get the idea.
  4. You can't designate where headers and footers start and stop.
I have found a way to have the advantages of Microsoft Word without having to put up with the disadvantages, and, for less money.  The beauty of this application is that it will save documents in the .doc format required for Word documents.  That means you can forward them to people using Word and they will be able to open and use them.  By the same token, you can receive .doc documents and open and work with them without using Microsoft Word.  So, what you may well ask is this wonderful product?  It is named Mariner Write.

Mariner Write 3.6.3

Manufacturer:  Mariner Software

Boxed and Download versions of the software available from Mariner Software on line store
Download Version is available for 69.95 (Shipping in US and Canada only)
Boxed Version is available for 79.95

The Web site also offers Mariner Pac which combines Mariner Write and Mariner Calc for a reduced price.

Mariner Write, and it's companion spreadsheet application Mariner Calc, are Mac only applications.

System Requirements:  Available for OS X and Classic Mac.  Requires 2 MB of Memory.

Ease of Use

Anyone who already uses Microsoft Word will immediately be comfortable with this application.  Anyone who has never used Word will go through a learning curve as they would with any new software application.  However, the tutorials are excellent and thorough. 

Highlights

When companies put out software they always want to showcase what they consider to be the top selling points, the teckie stuff, etc.  Case in point is the fact that while Microsoft Word requires 40 MB of RAM, Mariner Write only requires 2 MB.  I am sure that is very important; but as someone who uses word processing software every day, what I am interested in is how is it going to make my day easier, faster, better, or less stressful.  Following is what I consider important and why I am recommending this software.

Those Illusive Tables.  When your table crosses a page in Mariner Write, the application automatically inserts a "don't break across page" instruction so that the whole row moves to the top of the next page.  Not that didn't need a "don't break across page" instruction.  It was just automatic.

Built in Footer, Header, and Footnote Style.  If I type a word and then instruct the application to insert a footnote (Insert > Footnote) A new window opens that contains the next consecutive footnote number, a field to enter the footnote information, and the style menu on the far left changes to footnote style.  Should I later enter a new footnote between existing footnotes, the numbers will automatically change.  This same format works for footers and headers.


Footnote Window

Saving Files.  If you ever saved a file as a PDF documents in Word, you know that you had to pretend you were going to print the document.  In this application, the option to save as a PDF is listed as an option under "Save As."  As noted previously, you also can save a document in Word format.


Save As Options

Tool Bar.  The tool bar has the usual options that any word processing application must have.  My favorite include:





Close All Open Application
Windows
Page Setup
Underline Options
Print Preview
My Favorite Mariner Write Toolbar Options

How Can You Prove A Negative?  I have used this application for about 36 hours.  Not once has it crashed or switched fonts on me.  My average crashes with Word, other than being in direct proportion to the importance of what I am doing, is about once every 45 minutes.  Font changes occur about once every 10 - 15 minutes unless I give up and use Times.  I am so much in the habit of saving every few paragraphs that I am still doing it with Mariner Write even though I no longer need to do so.

Dictionaries.  This application comes with a built in medical dictionary, plus dictionaries in a number of languages other than English.

Keep Text on Same Page.  This option, found under the Format Menu, allows you to designate text (such as a paragraph) that you wish to keep together on a single page.  This option can be particularly helpful when producing letters.   If you don't want windows or orphans (A widow is the last line of a paragraph displayed by itself at the top of a page. An orphan is the first line of a paragraph displayed by itself at the bottom of a page) you can instruct an automatic adjustment for any document.  Choose:  Format Menu > Document Options then click the check box control.

Displaying Line Numbers.  Mariner allows you to display line numbers for each line containing a character, including non-printing characters such as Tab and Return.  To display lines numbers, choose: View Menu >  Show|Hide  > Show Line Numbers. Word, of course, features this too.


Example of Line Numbering

Split The Window.  This is an unusual option for a word processing application.  I use the split window option consistently in my mail application, but have never seen it applied to a word processing application.  It may be of interest to some users.  Mariner Write lets you view different parts of a document at the same time by splitting the document window into two sections. Once split, you can scroll each window part independently.

Headers and Footers.  Oh Happy Day!  The header and footer options in this application are logical and easy to use.  You can have a header that only appears on the first page of your document, such as a company logo.  You can have headers or footers that vary between left and right pages.  The image below demonstrates the available option.

I'll tell you how much I like this one attribute.   The Hints and Tips Book that I recently published was originally composed in Microsoft Word and the Footer aspect was a real pain.  If you add a Footer in Word it shows up on every page, period.  As I was putting the finishing touches on the book I was introduced to Mariner Write.  Before the final publication, I transferred the entire document to Mariner Write so that I could reformat the footers.  Then, as a bonus, I reformated the tables.  The wicked smile on my face as I did so was a bonus just for me.  Even though I had to cut and paste every single cell in every single table, it was still worth it to have all the tables fall in line, just as they were meant to do, without any effort on my part.


Header and Footer Settings

Criticism

I only have one criticism of Mariner Write, and it is a small one that seems a fair trade off considering the price difference between it and Microsoft Word.  The Help search is not quite as defined as I would wish.  Once you find your topic, the instructions are spot on, but you have to search more to find the topic in the first place.  For instance, when searching for "line numbering" one is sent to a general topic of "document," and you must then scroll down a list of options to find "line numbering."  You can even get around this small inconvenience by choosing the index where topics are listed alphabetically.   As I said, a small enough price to pay. 

Conclusion

Some of the features I have complained about Word may be either fixable, in the case of problems, present, in the case of features, or changeable, in the case of settings. The point, however, is that I've not been able to do those things, and it was easy for me to set up Mariner Write the way I wanted. People often complain about feature bloat in Word, and Mariner Write is the opposite. It has the features I need, makes it easy for me to find them, and easier to use them. That's what I like about it. That it's very affordable makes it all the better.

I highly recommend this application.


Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.


Post your comments below.

Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.


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