The 48K version of The Writer is at last available after a considerable delay.
How does it match up to Tasword Three and Last Word?
Certainly The Writer is the fastest and most compact Spectrum word processor around and the 48K version can hold a respectable ten pages of A4 text in memory.
Options are easily set up from pop-up menus using a smooth sprite arrow controlled by cursor, joystick, or even Kempston mouse. I'm rather a Luddite when it come to Macintosh-like pointers - numbered menu system would be as friendly, and faster to use but it's progress and it does all look very flash.
Like Tasword the screen displays 64 columns (although it can scroll to 127 characters wide) but you need a good TV or good eyes to read the text. If you don't have the former you won't keep the latter. I prefer the way The Last Word works - you write in 40-column mode and use 80-column to preview the page prior to printing.
Strong points of The Writer are a printer spooler that lets you continue to type as you print a document, the ability to return to Basic (eg to get a tape directory) and the ability to customise the program to work with any printer and interface.
Text editing features contain everything you would want, fast cursor movement, Block Move or Copy, line, word or block deletion, foreign characters and a superb Find and Replace that can handle phrases, wild-card letters, and can match the upper/lower case letters of the replaced word with the original, thereby coping with the beginning of sentences etc.
Pagination is very easy and much better than on the Last Word and you can set all the margins for different page sizes, have alternate headers and footers for opposite pages.
You can convert files from or to Tasword, Quill ascii, or Wordstar format (and thereby a huge number of compatible CP/M programs such as dBase). The resulting text can be sent down the Interface 1/RS232 using a supplied comms facility.
Full integration is promised with The Spreadsheet, The Database Softechnic's (dBase-style database) and The Filer (simple database) programs when they arrive.
Some points of The Writer definitely didn't impress me though. Notable omission are a word count facility or any indication of how much memory room there is left.
Line spacing can only be changed globally, all or nothing, and once you have set it to say double, any further text entry reverts to a single spacing and all the previous text has to be first re-set to single before setting everything back to double - very awkward.
The Microdrive version of the 48K program allows on-screen help messages. Block Write/Include (blocks as small as a common phrase or your address can be written to cartridge or the printer or merged at the cursor position) as well as powerful mail-merge features (full floating-point calculation on the data, conditional block include based on If... Then... Else tests of the data - perfect for invoicing work). Last Word has something similar, even in its tape version, though it is more complicated to use. I can live without mail-merge on tape (if you have serious work to do buy an Opus disc drive) but leaving out the Block Write/Include is a significant, and surely unnecessary flaw. Without it there seems to be no way of merging two files.
Your own requirements will dictate whether you find The Writer is the very best program available. It struck me as possibly too concerned with technical wizardry at the expense of some more useful features that would have really left the competition floundering.
A powerful and excellent value microdrive utility. The tape version is still good but slightly flawed.