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Word Count

To check word count in OO-Writer, go to Tools, Word Count. This provides very basic statistics, such as word count and number of paragraphs. It provides no statistics associated with readability. In TextMaker, go to File, Properties and click the Info tab. The Info tab also contains readability statistics based on word and sentence length. This is not terribly helpful because it doesn't tie these statistics to one of the scales (Gunning's Fog Index, Flesch-Kincaid Reading Grade Level, etc.) that express readability as the amount of education reasonably expected of a person reading the document. If readability statistics are provided, an easy way to translate these numbers into a meaningful readout (for example, 10th grade level) should also be provided to make them useful.

For comparison purposes, in MS Word 97, you get word count information by going to Tools, Word Count. Readability statistics are accessed by doing a spelling and grammar check of the entire document. This is time-consuming, at best.

Word count should be an option button on a toolbar to both TextMaker and OpenOffice, although I find it acceptable to make it something that can be added to a toolbar. The people who need this need immediate access to it.


TextMaker picked up the default font locations immediately. It also did strange things with the appearance of symbol fonts (Dingbats) in menus: When a font is clicked on, the upper part of the drop-down menu shows a human-readable font name. This is because TextMaker shows font appearances by showing the name of the font in characters from that font. A fix is in progress.

With OO-Writer, I had to put my TrueType fonts where OO could find them; it took some digging around in the docs to find out where. TextMaker uses the same locations. The Font pull-down menu shows how this is supposed to look.

Figures 4 and 5 show the Font menus in TextMaker and OO-Writer.

Figure 4Figure 4 TextMaker Font menu.

Figure 5Figure 5 OpenOffice Writer Font menu.

Bulleted and Numbered Lists

TextMaker and OO-Writer had some pretty significant differences in their handling of bulleted and numbered lists.

When converting from Word to TextMaker, bullets looked strange but numeric lists were converted fine. In OO-Writer, both bullets and numeric lists looked normal when converted from Word.

When creating lists, OO-Writer had no problem either pasting from the Clipboard or typing individually.

TextMaker sees lists of individual lines pasted into a document as single paragraphs and tries to make list entries out of each list instead of displaying lines within a list. This works correctly when the lines are typed in individually. It's a problem with the way the program handles importing from the Clipboard. The vendor has promised to fix it immediately.

Look and Feel Differences

The main difference between the look and feel of OO-Writer and the look and feel of MS Word and TextMaker is that the toolbar icons are larger and slightly different in OO-Writer. The toolbar layout also is different. OO-Writer has a vertical toolbar to the left of the screen and horizontal toolbars on top. Also, OO-Writer toolbars are nonrelocatable. That's not a problem, unless you don't like the OO-Writer toolbar locations, which I don't, or if you prefer floating/dockable toolbars, as supported by TextMaker and Word.

In TextMaker, text is rendered onscreen far better than on either MS Word 97 or OO-Writer. TextMaker is also a lot easier to look at, especially with the one-click Widen to Screen Width option, particularly if you spend several hours a day with a word processor. The display of TextMaker looks a lot like a typeset/printed document. For me, the UI is Word done right.

The only annoyance is that setting the background color doesn't work—at least, for my usual preferred word processor color combination of black text on a green background. I use this to reduce viewing fatigue. The text color wound up a strange shade of purple. No word on when the fix will happen as of when this article was submitted. But I like the rest of the UI and functionality enough that I'll put up with black text on white for now.

Unique Toolbar Features

Figure 6 shows part of the TextMaker toolbar. Left to right, its toolbar buttons are Original Size, Fit Doc to Window Width, Zoom, Set Zoom Level, Spell Check, Thesaurus, Display Nonprinting Characters, and Display Field Codes. I like the Fit to Width command because relatively small fonts are far easier to read when zoomed.

Figure 6Figure 6 TextMaker toolbar section.

Zoom isn't new to the toolbar, but I haven't seen the other features on a word-processor toolbar.

Figure 7 shows features unique to the OO toolbar. The Paragraph Styles button allows you to apply formatting styles to selected paragraphs with one click. The Navigator button opens a window that shows an outline view of the document and enables you to go directly to sections of the document and even rearrange them. The Gallery button opens a large window below the toolbar that enables you to select objects (graphic/multimedia) and directly insert them into a document.

Figure 7Figure 7 OO-Writer toolbar section.

In OO-Writer, I like the document-comparison feature Edit, Compare Document. This is reason enough to keep OO-Writer on my desktop. Other than that, some of the Gallery button and Form functions might be more useful to some people than the TextMaker features I find most useful.

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