Other articles in the series Your Favorite Apps
- Your Favorite Mac Markdown Editors (26 Jul 17)
- Vote for Your Favorite Mac Markdown Editor (20 Jul 17)
- Vote for Your Favorite Mac Word Processor (10 Jul 17)
- Your Favorite Mac Personal Finance Apps (29 Feb 16)
- Vote for Your Favorite Mac Personal Finance App (17 Feb 16)
- Your Favorite Mac Personal Information Managers (18 Jan 16)
- Vote for Your Favorite Mac Personal Information Manager (11 Jan 16)
If the rear cover has fallen off your first-generation Apple Watch, we have good news: Apple will now fix it for free. That’s simple, but trickier is the situation surrounding 1Password’s increasing reliance on cloud-based storage for your password vaults. Glenn Fleishman explores the controversy surrounding AgileBits’ push toward a subscription model. Finally, we asked you to rate your favorite word processors, and we now have the results of that survey. Microsoft Word is, of course, the most-used word processor, but which one do TidBITS readers most like using? And how does the new Pages 6.2 compare to the highly regarded Pages 4.3? Notable software releases this week include Aeon Timeline 2.2.5, KeyCue 8.5, PopChar X 8.1, and Fantastical 2.4.
by Josh Centers
If the back cover of your first-generation Apple Watch has come loose, Apple will repair it for free.Show full article
Many owners of the original Apple Watch, including TidBITS editor in chief Tonya Engst, have had trouble with the rear cover’s glue failing. In response, Apple has quietly launched an extended repair program for the first-generation Apple Watch, per internal Apple documents published by Ben Lovejoy at 9to5Mac. Apple will correct this problem for free within three years of the date of purchase.
This repair program covers all makes of the first-generation Apple Watch, including the Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch Hermès, and Apple Watch Edition. It’s uncertain whether Apple will repair your actual device or replace it entirely. Apple recommends that you back up your Apple Watch before bringing it in, so be prepared for anything.
There is no troubleshooting process to determine if your Apple Watch is affected, just a visual inspection. For that reason, your best bet to get service is to go directly to an Apple Store, if you have one within a reasonable driving distance. Otherwise, you can contact Apple Support in the United States at 1-800-275-2273 or via online chat. If Apple’s site directs you to a Best Buy, we recommend calling before visiting, since Tonya’s local store wasn’t yet aware of the extended repair program.
If you’ve paid Apple to repair this issue, the document recommends contacting AppleCare to see about a refund.
A news report referring to AgileBits’s aggressive shift to subscription-based licensing for 1Password overstates a requirement to store passwords at its 1Password.com site.Show full article
A Motherboard story on 10 July 2017 entitled “Why Security Experts Are Pissed That ‘1Password’ Is Pushing Users to the Cloud” gave the impression that 1Password’s maker, AgileBits, had stopped allowing users to purchase a license that would enable them to store passwords in local databases, which 1Password calls “vaults.” The article says, “several security researchers tweeted that 1Password was moving away from allowing people to pay for a one-time license and have local password vaults.”
Only near the end of the article does the reporter include a statement from AgileBits that local storage remains available now and for the foreseeable future. (AgileBits later confirmed that such local storage will continue into its next release, version 7.) The “moving away” claim in the article is related only to the one-time license fee. That’s right: the article’s headline and thesis are more or less contradicted about two-thirds of the way in.
The one part that’s correct, however, is that the current 1Password 6 for Windows can only read (not write) local storage vaults synced to the computer. Thus, upgrading from the previous version 4 effectively removes a feature. 1Password 4 for Windows remains available for download for subscribers, even though it isn’t compatible with the 1Password.com cloud service.
All other native 1Password apps can read and write local vaults, whether they’re synced via your own cloud-service account at Dropbox or iCloud, within a Wi-Fi network, or using a folder. You can also still use 1Password on a single device with a local-only vault.
I want to pick apart this story, not to criticize Motherboard or the reporter per se, but instead to explain in greater depth for most existing 1Password users why this licensing shift doesn’t force them to put their passwords in the cloud. And, additionally, how AgileBits’s approach to zero-knowledge encryption in the cloud, which is similar to that employed by Apple for iCloud Keychain and LastPass for its system, may be less risky and less exposed in some ways than using Dropbox to sync vaults.
The devil is in the details, though: despite having a robust design, the implementation of AgileBits’ cloud-based system isn’t as fully transparent and audited as many researchers would like.
Anything that deters people from using strong and safe password generation and storage is cause for concern. But, likewise, developers of password management apps must be careful not to change their apps’ behavior without clear and consistent communication, or else users could be led to make decisions that aren’t in their best interests.
Everyone Wants Recurring Revenue -- The rise of the iOS and Mac App Stores has led to problems for developers. Briefly, Apple’s approach to the stores broke three important parts of the software revenue model: easy distribution of demonstration software, fees for software upgrades, and reasonable price points for software. In-app purchases and certain kinds of software bundles help with just some of that.
As a result, some companies have tried to switch their revenue cycles from selling one-time unlimited-use licenses for a given software version to recurring subscription fees that include free updates for all new versions. The sum of these monthly or yearly fees often works out to be the same as or slightly cheaper than the one-time license fee if you were to pay for every upgrade that became available. Subscriptions usually include extra features, too, like cloud-based sync that doesn’t rely on iCloud or Dropbox storage.
After industry giants Adobe (with Creative Cloud) and Microsoft (with Office 365) showed that subscriptions could work, Smile took an early leap among smaller developers by switching to subscription usage for TextExpander 6 (see “TextExpander 6 Adds Teams and Subscription Billing,” 6 April 2016). The move led to an outcry from users, and the company retreated slightly, reducing pricing for individuals and keeping TextExpander 5 on the market as a standalone product (see “Smile Brings Back Standalone TextExpander, Reduces Subscription Price ,” 13 April 2016). Michael Cohen looked into Smile’s move a year later in April 2017 and found that the situation had mostly calmed down (see “TextExpander by Subscription One Year Later,” 5 April 2017).
AgileBits started offering a cloud-based option for its software just under a year ago and required a subscription to use it (see “1Password Introduces Individual Subscriptions,” 4 August 2016). This approach broadened to include business-style teams with shared vaults, and then family plans, also with sharing. The subscription included access to all 1Password native software, including the premium in-app upgrade features in 1Password for iOS, which was otherwise free to use.
A few months ago, the company shifted to offer only subscription-based access to 1Password. But you could still contact AgileBits to purchase a standalone license. The company maintains that most 1Password.com users get better features, prices, and security from the subscription version, and the founder reiterates that in the blog post noted earlier. It’s certainly a reasonable choice for the company because it eliminates the possibility of data loss experienced by users who don’t otherwise sync and lack backups, among other issues. But does it make sense for users?
Security researcher Kenn White raises a concern in a detailed article about his reaction to AgileBits’s shift. He worries that the way in which a user starts fresh with 1Password (the so-called “onboarding process”) pushes people into storing their data at 1Password.com, rather than explaining the difference between local-only, local-and-synced, and cloud-based vaults. His criticism is valid: AgileBits could improve upon its explanations, even if it still concludes that the cloud is best for most people, most of the time.
The key point for most current 1Password users, however, is that nothing has changed for macOS and iOS users. All the features you had remain, whether you continue to use a standalone license or subscribe. You aren’t required or pushed to use 1Password.com. The trouble is with the Windows version of 1Password.
Local Vaults Haven’t Gone Away -- I exchanged email with Jeffrey Goldberg, AgileBits’s “Chief Defender Against the Dark Arts” — its security head. He agreed that the company’s explanation of how this all works could be clearer. The confusion stems in part from different behavior toward local vaults on each platform the company supports:
The macOS and iOS versions of 1Password offer full support for local vaults, and you can use those releases and sync among them without ever touching 1Password.com. If you already own a standalone-licensed copy and start paying for a subscription, you don’t lose any features.
The Android version can read and write vaults that have been synced via Dropbox, but it can’t create vaults compatible with that method.
The Windows version treats as read-only local vaults of any kind, including those synced via Dropbox. It can only create and modify entries at 1Password.com.
Mac and iOS users were likely unaware of this Windows limitation, but it was the fundamental fact that prompted the Motherboard story.
I was told that AgileBits had intended to provide full local and synced vault support in Windows, but its Windows engineering team apparently found itself unable to do so. As a result, the company is neither promising it will provide that feature nor ruling out future support. On 13 July 2017, however, the company’s founder confirmed that clients that currently handle local vaults will continue to do so in version 7, at whatever future date it appears.
Security experts have also asked questions about what might happen if you stopped paying your 1Password.com subscription fee, or if AgileBits went out of business. Would you still be able to access your local vaults?
Goldberg wrote, “The answer to that question is that yes, they will continue to have access (if they have been using a native client), but it isn’t an unqualified ‘yes.’”
The reason is that some people may use 1Password.com exclusively online, in which case passwords stored there wouldn’t be synced to any local end point. Goldberg said that AgileBits is working to make that “yes” fully unqualified so there would be no case in which someone could lose access to their data.
Dropbox Sync Has Its Own Downsides -- I also need to call out a difference between Dropbox sync (and iCloud sync for Apple users) and 1Password.com sync.
Whenever data leaves your computer and is stored on servers outside your control, you’re introducing some risk that undesirable parties could gain access. For that reason, some people sync data only between servers and devices they own. 1Password in macOS and iOS (and Android) can sync locally over Wi-Fi, and the macOS version can sync via a shared folder.
Once you introduce Dropbox or iCloud into the syncing equation, however, your secure vault is being stored somewhere where data is only encrypted in transit and at rest, and only using encryption keys held by the cloud service. In other words, the cloud service has to be able to decrypt your data to send it back and forth to you, even when it uses an encrypted transit mechanism (typically TLS, the same used on the Web for secure connections).
To protect your passwords whenever the vault file is outside your control, 1Password encrypts that file using a set of “expensive” encryption choices, which means that a brute-force attacker can’t cycle through billions of passwords per second to test which might work. Stealing data from Dropbox or iCloud, sniffing the data in transit, or even compromising a Dropbox or Apple employee won’t be enough to discover your passwords. The attacker must know your password, guess it, or find a way to get you to reveal it through social engineering.
1Password.com employs a different method, treating each username/password entry as a separate item that can be synced back and forth. Not included are a long code unique to your account and your master password. That’s important: AgileBits can’t decrypt your information stored at 1Password.com because it doesn’t have access to any of your passwords, your account code, or encryption keys. In other words, 1Password.com is effectively just a dumb conduit that connects end points. That’s true even when you log into 1Password on the Web, where the encryption is handled entirely in the browser, including receiving encrypted entries and then decrypting them locally.
AgileBits also uses TLS to transmit that strongly encrypted data and wraps another layer of transit encryption around it using a session key that both sides of the connection derive separately rather than transmitting, so it can’t be intercepted.
All these 1Password.com protections together provide a significant level of defense against attack, though they are of course only as good as AgileBits’ implementation of the security model. Some security researchers want more disclosure of how AgileBits has built its system along with outside, independent audits.
There’s one significant way in which syncing via Dropbox or iCloud has an advantage over 1Password.com syncing: in the latter case, you have to trust AgileBits to do what it says it will. When 1Password native apps use local vaults and sync via Dropbox or iCloud, your password never touches AgileBits’ login Web page. Because 1Password itself is freestanding, security researchers can test (and have tested) it in ways that aren’t possible with 1Password.com.
AgileBits says that your password never leaves your browser, and while trusting the company is reasonable, Thomas H. Ptáček noted to me via Twitter that the point is to not have to trust them. “I’m 100% behind 1Password on monthly subscriptions, so long as users I help never have to enter passwords on 1Password.com,” he tweeted. But because using 1Password.com requires entering the master password for your cloud-sync vault on a Web page, even if AgileBits says it’s never transmitted, Ptáček finds the entire system problematic. However, he notes, “I am very confident they will figure this out, by the way, and that I’ll be able to recommend 1Password in the near future.”
No Changes for Existing Users, but Confusion for New Users -- AgileBits doesn’t make it easy for new users to choose between local and cloud-based vaults. The company has effectively picked a route that it thinks is best and is directing new users down that path. Kenn White’s discussion goes into some depth about whether or not those choices are correct.
From my experience, the more people are encouraged to use robust security the better, and AgileBits’ cloud approach, assuming it’s well implemented, is an entirely reasonable way to preserve user security and privacy while maintaining ease of access and the option to sync data locally.
If you use 1Password on any platform except Windows now, you won’t notice a change if you switch to a subscription, because your current ability to use 1Password entirely locally remains in place. That’s good, and this fact is one of the reasons that security researchers have long recommended 1Password.
And although it requires some effort, new users can sign up and configure any version of 1Password other than the Windows app to sync via Wi-Fi or a folder, sync via Dropbox or iCloud, or sync and access via 1Password.com. Or, if you don’t need to move data between devices, you can avoid syncing entirely. AgileBits should do a better job of communicating this fact to new users during the onboarding process.
The Motherboard article’s criticisms may have been overly broad and overstated, but they weren’t entirely inaccurate, given the limitations of 1Password 6 for Windows. Nonetheless, by conflating the Windows version with 1Password for macOS, iOS, and Android, the article generated confusion and feelings of betrayal. That’s bad journalism that may attract eyeballs, but unnecessarily undermines trust in a popular and useful piece of security software.
With votes from over 800 TidBITS readers in the past week, we have recommendations for the top word processors on the Mac, including some strong alternatives to Microsoft Word.Show full article
In “Vote for Your Favorite Mac Word Processor” (10 July 2017), we asked you to rate the Mac word processors that you’ve used. Over 800 TidBITS readers responded to our survey of 21 apps, submitting close to 4000 votes. We found that Microsoft Word still dominates the landscape for word processors, but our readers wholeheartedly recommend several alternatives.
(And yes, we’re planning to do another survey to collect opinions about Markdown-based text editors like Ulysses and Bear. Such apps are not full-fledged word processors, but they’ve acquired a loyal following among those who don’t need to style text using arbitrary fonts, sizes, and styles, or insert graphics into text.)
To evaluate the results, we calculated the weighted average for each app, assigning a weight of 1 (Avoid it) through 5 (Can’t live without it) for each of the five choices — the best weighted average possible is thus 5. Apps that received only a handful of votes may have skewed weighted averages, of course, so we also counted the raw number of votes each app received.
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft Word received the most votes by far, and equally as unsurprising was that Apple’s Pages tallied the second most votes. However, less anticipated was the fact that the current Pages 6.2 garnered far more votes than the much-missed Pages 4.3, and hit the same weighted ranking. So lamentations that Pages 6.2 pales in comparison to Pages 4.3, while not unfounded, aren’t as widespread as might have been believed.
Although they received far fewer votes than Microsoft Word and Pages, Nisus Writer Pro and Scrivener earned the top ratings from TidBITS readers, likely due to their focus on niche audiences with serious word processing needs. Nevertheless, even though Microsoft Word, the 800-pound gorilla of the word processing world, is often reviled, it didn’t fare too badly in user ratings, outpacing alternatives such as Nisus Writer Express, LibreOffice Writer, and Apache OpenOffice Writer.
Here then is a list of the Mac word processors most liked by TidBITS readers, sorted by rating. We offer a rating graph and commentary for the apps that earned a weighted average greater than Word’s 2.96; for the rest, the research is up to you, since only you know what features are important. Focus on those apps that have free trial versions and strong import capabilities, since you’ll want to get some experience with the app before you commit to it. Plus, because you’re likely to want to use a word processor for years, stick with apps that are receiving regular updates.
We were pleased to see Nisus Writer Pro take the rating title because we’ve long appreciated its capabilities when writing and editing Take Control books. Users generally agreed that it offers the power and functionality of Microsoft Word without the complexity.
Jeff Hecht said, “A workhorse, and as a full-time writer my choice for all writing that doesn’t specifically require Microsoft Word details such as equations or certain formatting.”
“I’ve tried all the major word processors, and this is the one for me. It has a nice balance of features and doesn’t use any proprietary file formats,” Mark Solocinski said.
Bob Stern agreed: “Nisus Writer Pro has the power of Microsoft Word with an interface that I find much easier to learn and use. Nisus has a much more powerful and versatile Find-and-Replace than Microsoft Word or any other word processor. You may not think you need this extra power, but you’ll find more and more uses for it.”
Although Tommy Weir concurred about Nisus Writer Pro’s power and interface, he did have some caveats. “Nisus Writer Pro is my favourite word processor. Love the interface, the configurability, styles, find and replace, doc comparison, macros etc. It goes minimal, it goes maximal, it’s great. It is, however, not as good as Pages when it comes to page layout features, embedding images etc. For anything long, I use Nisus Writer Pro; anything short or graphics-heavy, I use Pages.”
But Nisus Writer Pro isn’t for everyone. Karen Hughes wrote, “I find Nisus Writer Pro very capable, but in the end, I tend to fall back to Word or Pages for most things. I find the style system in Nisus Writer Pro a bit more clunky than the alternatives — but I’m keen to support Nisus as an independent company.”
We debated whether to include Scrivener, since it’s not your typical word processor. Although it has many standard word processing features, Scrivener focuses on helping writers organize notes, characters, and sources. Regardless, many love it for their work. We heard from academics, screenplay writers, and authors.
“I couldn’t write long-form fiction without it. I know, because I’ve tried,” said our own Michael Cohen.
Steve Fassmann particularly appreciates Scrivener’s flexibility. “I love Scrivener because I can use it in so many different ways. I journal, outline and prototype in it. When creating a new major document at work, I usually start in Scrivener before moving to the official system, once I have figured out how the document needs to work.”
Speaking for screenwriters, Tommy Weir said, “I use Scrivener for the first draft of screenplays. The approach it uses is perfect for this. It features flawless export to Final Draft, which is where I do subsequent drafts.”
And Colin Owen spoke up for book authors. “I use Scrivener to write my books. There’s nothing better out there. It has way more stuff than I’ll ever use, but just using it simply is perfect for me,” he said.
Ian summed up opinions surrounding Scrivener well: “Scrivener is the best writers app on any operating system. I’m an academic, and Scrivener works amazingly for us, allowing structured writing and working from reference material in a way no other mix of programs can match. If your layout requirements are not too great, you can use Scrivener stand-alone. But for complex output documents, most Scrivener users will compile their work then top-copy it using layout software. Because it also supports MultiMarkdown, powerful publishing tools like Pandoc become available directly from Scrivener.”
Given all the complaints we hear about post-4.3 versions of Pages, we were stunned by the popularity and praise surrounding the latest version. Readers praised its power and ease of use, despite it having fewer features than Word and still lacking a few from Pages 4.3.
Tommy Weir, who has used most Mac word processors, summed up many of the comments:
Pages is my everyday word processing tool. Mainly because my daily work involves tasks Pages is really good at.
A quick letter, or a packing label, or an invoice. I don’t type anything long on it, that typically I do in Nisus Writer Pro.
Word documents. I find that Pages has the best Word importer so it’s become my default tool for dealing with my colleagues who use PCs.
Pages is also a dandy page layout tool and its handling of graphics and embedded media is the best on the market. I do a lot of this kind of image heavy documents. Pages makes this easy.
So while it is not my favourite word processor, it is my daily one. I don’t have the ‘oh, I’m immersing myself in words and writing now’ feeling I get with Nisus but I do find myself being very productive with Pages.
Alan Ralph concurred: “Compared to Word, working in Pages is a much more pleasant experience! I regularly use it for producing invoices to send to customers, business letters and other work-related stuff. Best of all, it can quickly spit out a Word doc or PDF for me when I need to.”
Despite its simplicity, Pages is useful for professional work. David said, “I’ve used Pages to write two books, largely because it has the combination of power and simplicity that I like. Word always seems like you have to push through a thick layer of complexity to get to writing. Pages just seems like you can start typing and get into it.”
And Michael Cohen, author of “Take Control of Pages,” said, “Having spent weeks exploring its nooks and crannies, I can truthfully say that Pages is a very capable, surprisingly powerful, and visually attractive app. Most of the features lost in the transition from Pages 4.3 to 5 have now returned. If you gave up on it back then, it’s definitely worth another look.” Of course, Michael is a bit biased, but he is unquestionably the leading expert on Pages outside of Cupertino.
Nonetheless, other readers supported Michael’s claim that Pages has mostly returned to its former glory. Jolin Warren added, “Now that linked text boxes are (finally!) back, we’re almost there. But the way Pages 6.2 deals with styles is still inferior to 4.3, and importantly it can’t import styles from another document. Once importing styles arrives in the ‘new’ Pages, I will banish 4.3 forever, but until then there are medium-length documents where I need to use it, even though the recipient then imports it into 6.2.”
Pages 4.3 (348 votes, 3.40, No Longer for Sale, 10.9+) -- Read comments from the previous article.
The venerable Pages 4.3 still has its fans, but it wasn’t as popular as we had expected.
Peter White said “This app is my daily workhorse and has been for what seems to be a very long time. I strongly dislike the way new versions of Pages have turned Inspector into an included sidebar that wastes screen space. It looks like I will be using Pages 4.3 for some time unless an OS upgrade breaks it, and then I will consult the result of this survey for better options.”
Once he’s done writing in Scrivener, Colin Owens drops back to Pages 4.3 as well. He said, “I use Pages 4.3 for all my book layouts. It does facing pages which is essential for me. I don’t use the newer versions at all.”
Coming as it does from a small Israeli company called RedleX, Mellel isn’t as well known in the United States as some of the other word processors in the Mac world, but it’s a mature app that has been gaining features for years. Readers noted that Mellel is particularly good for long and complex documents.
Lisa Spangenberg said, “I use Mellel for a lot of scholarly writing because it supports complex footnotes and multiple languages and writing systems. It handles footnotes more flexibly than Microsoft Word and is better about mixing languages and writing systems than Pages. It also works well with the Bookends bibliographic/reference management app.”
Jolin Warren agreed, saying “Mellel is excellent. I don’t know what I would have done without it when writing long reports. Its support for structured documents and styles makes working with long documents easy and enjoyable. It always puts a smile on my face. Sadly I haven’t had the need to use it lately (no big documents to write), but I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s fast, reliable, well thought-through, and predictable. Loads of great features, too.”
And Miles said, “Mellel makes long documents easy to organize and navigate, and the outline feature is incredibly useful. The whole program is rock solid and a joy to use.”
All that power does require a bit of a learning curve, though, as Michael Lever noted:
I use Mellel regularly when writing reports and when I want a letter to my clients to be particularly accessible, for example using line numbers.
Mellel has two features that I wouldn’t be without. Line numbering to the right-hand side which is best when binding pages on the left-hand margin and printing to duplex. And its outliner is excellent.
I am looking forward to Mellel 4 which is promising some great new features, such as indexing.
Mellel takes a lot of getting used to but I find it more reliable than Nisus Writer Pro where, for example, the language in document setup tends to slip. Where I find Mellel not good is for simple letter writing: it has no vertical ruler so it is not easy to see where to start spacing for typing the recipient’s name and address etc.
TextEdit (475 votes, 3.15, Free, 10.12+) -- Read comments from the previous article.
We weren’t surprised to see that users overwhelmingly rated Apple’s bundled TextEdit as a solid performer. Nevertheless, users wished that TextEdit had more features.
“TextEdit is OK for bare-bones text entry, but its typographic controls are shamefully inadequate. There’s no good reason for TextEdit to be such a primitive writing tool after all these years,” said Alan Sanders.
Tommy Weir would prefer to see TextEdit focus on plain text instead of rich text: “I wish TextEdit was more of a plain text editor. Given that Pages is now free perhaps Apple would revisit the functionality they’ve built into it. There’s always a need for a bare bones text editor cough and it should ship with the system and load anything.”
TextEdit can be used just for plain text (choose Format > Make Plain Text), but it offer little in terms of tools suited to working with plain-text documents. Weir makes a solid argument: TextEdit is barely functional as a word processor, Pages is now free, and the Mac doesn’t ship with a plain-text editor.
(Josh Centers here. I’ve long had a soft spot for TextEdit, since I used it for multiple essays and articles in college. It was fast, simple, and free! In competitive journalism classes where speed was a factor, I could often have articles written in TextEdit before my classmates were able to load Word!)
The 800-pound gorilla of Mac word processors, Microsoft Word easily earned the most votes, but it is far from the most loved word processor. Reader comments showed grudging respect, but most people seemed to consider Word a necessary evil.
Karen Hughes said, “I’m always a bit conflicted about Word. It often seems that the Mac version has some annoying bugs and limitations compared to the PC version. You can’t deny it is feature packed — but even with recent improvements things can be tricky to find. I have to use Word in Windows in my day job, so I find the similarities welcome, but I can understand how a purely Mac user may find them slightly less welcome.”
Dennis Fazio finds Word’s interface frustrating. “The most aggravating when it comes to mysterious formatting; can be very complex. Figuring out how to do something can be difficult even for veterans and near power users. Various controls are all over the place (in preferences, different places on the ribbon bar, etc.),” he said.
Jeff Hecht offered similar criticisms, saying, “Bluntly, a mess. Too many features duplicated in too many places, making it unwieldy and maddening to use. I have lost track of how many fonts it has accumulated, and how many styles build up on the selection menu. Features are poorly documented at best.”
But Word is highly capable. Dr. Z said, “I have used this product since Word 4. It has successfully produced many complex documents over the years, including my dissertation in 1998. In short, I can depend on it to accomplish demanding tasks, knowing that there is significant overhead in learning how to control some of the arcane/hidden commands. However, it would be nice if Microsoft would allow some Apple user interface gurus to retool all of the menus, ribbons, etc. to be more like the intuitive GUIs that are the norm for Apple-produced apps (excluding iTunes — which acts like Microsoft products).”
Harmon Abrahamson falls into the same category, saying, “I use Word daily, but almost never push it to the breaking (or stalling) point. Part of this is inertia; I have been a Word user since v1.0 in the mid-80s. I also work in a cross-platform department, and seamless exchange of documents with Windows users is essential.”
The Rest of the Word Processors -- For the remaining 14 apps, we’ve listed the number of votes, rating, and price, and included a link to the app’s Web site, along with a link to any available comments about it.
Growly Write (45 votes, 1.76, Free, 10.8+)
iText Express (46 votes, 1.76, Free, 10.6.6+)
iText Pro (46 votes, 1.52, $11.99, 10.6.6+)
TinyWord (16 votes, 1.31, $7.99, 10.8+)
Write 2 (42 votes, 1.50, $9.00, 10.4+)
Notable software releases this week include Aeon Timeline 2.2.5, KeyCue 8.5, PopChar X 8.1, and Fantastical 2.4.Show full article
Aeon Timeline 2.2.5 -- Aeon Timeline has released version 2.2.5 of its eponymous visual timeline app, a Mac-only release that addresses a crash that occurred with Move Items to Trash when syncing with Ulysses. (Version 2.2.5 for macOS also includes the improvements and bug fixes found in version 2.2.4 for Windows.) The update adds an option in Display Settings to show event duration as part of the title, fixes a bug with Ulysses syncing where notes could be duplicated, resolves a problem with reordering columns in Relationship View, fixes a bug that omitted time when exporting to CSV, and disables menu items in the project selection window. ($50 new with a 25 percent discount for TidBITS members, free update, 49.8 MB, release notes, 10.11+)
Read/post comments about Aeon Timeline 2.2.5.
KeyCue 8.5 -- Ergonis has released version 8.5 of its keyboard cheat sheet utility KeyCue, speeding up background activities and reducing memory usage thanks to internal optimization. The update also improves compatibility with preview versions of macOS 10.13 High Sierra, works around an issue that resulted in missing menu shortcuts for FileMaker Pro 16, and sets things straight with a confusing version alert that appeared when there was a problem with the network connection. (€19.99 new with a 25 percent discount for TidBITS members, free update, 5.3 MB, release notes, 10.6+)
Read/post comments about KeyCue 8.5.
PopChar X 8.1 -- Ergonis Software has issued PopChar X 8.1, refining the new features introduced in the recently released version 8.0 (see “PopChar X 8.0,” 16 June 2017) and adding support for the new Unicode 10.0 standard. The character discovery utility adds more search keywords for emoji characters to aid searching, improves the speed of collecting ligatures, resolves a crash when running in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard related to ligature extraction, fixes a couple of bugs related to searching for characters, and reduces the overall memory footprint. (€29.99 new with a 25 percent discount for TidBITS members, free update from version 8.0, 5.0 MB, release notes, 10.6+)
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Fantastical 2.4 -- Flexibits has issued Fantastical 2.4, a big update that adds a number of frequently requested features to the calendar app. You can now view, create, and edit attachments on iCloud and Exchange accounts (attachments can only be viewed on Google accounts), plus set and view travel time for events (which also enables time-to-leave notifications). The update can also combine identical events on multiple calendars, improves invitation support for Google Calendar and Exchange, adds full Undo and Redo support, adds an option to respond to Exchange invitations without sending a reply, and enables you to customize the number of weeks shown in month view (see more details in this Flexibits blog post). It also displays Facebook events from secret groups and shows new and updated Facebook events more quickly thanks to push updates. ($49.99 new from Flexibits and the Mac App Store, free update, 14.3 MB, release notes, 10.11+)
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In ExtraBITS this week, Andy Ihnatko ponders a world overly reliant on technology, the Apple Store introduces interactive HomeKit demos, and a report claims that Siri usage is declining.Show full article
In ExtraBITS this week, Andy Ihnatko ponders a world overly reliant on technology, the Apple Store introduces interactive HomeKit demos, and a report claims that Siri usage is declining.
Connected Condiments: When Will It Have Gone Too Far? -- Andy Ihnatko is letting off steam as only he can, with an extended analogy about how he was just trying to make a ham-and-cheese sandwich but got distracted by an Internet-related error with the mustard. It’s silly, of course, but his larger point is that we’ve created a world built on so many dependencies that it’s amazing that anything works at all. We’ve all been there; the question is how we get back.
Apple Stores Introduce Interactive HomeKit Demos -- It’s difficult to convey the benefits of home automation to someone who has never experienced it. To address this challenge, Apple has begun rolling out an interactive HomeKit experience in 46 of its retail stores around the world. You’ll be able to use an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch to control virtual HomeKit accessories displayed on a screen. While not as impressive as the real thing, it should at least give you an idea of how HomeKit works and how you might integrate it into your house. Other Apple stores will feature a non-interactive HomeKit demo.
Siri Usage and Engagement Declining -- A somewhat odd Verto Analytics report on virtual assistant use on mobile devices claims that while Siri remains the most popular virtual assistant in the United States, both usage and engagement are dropping. Siri’s user base reportedly declined by 15 percent to 41.4 million over the past year, and engagement (a metric that compares daily users to monthly users) has dropped by half during that period. Suggested reasons include Google rolling out voice support across all its apps and people starting to use mobile apps associated with home-based voice assistant devices, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Apple undoubtedly hopes that its HomePod smart speaker with Siri support will reverse this trend.