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WordSmith 2.1.1 Mini-review
By Ed Hardy
12/13/2001


Introduction
WordSmith 2.1.1 is the latest version of Blue Nomad's word processor. The new version makes some small user interface changes but the most import improvements are VFS support, the new spell checker, and a thesaurus.

I'm not going to do a full review of Wordsmith. I did one when 2.0 came out and I don't see a lot of point in going over it all again. I'm going to concentrate on the new features and if you aren't familiar with WordSmith at all, read the old one first.

VFS Support
Since expansion memory cards began to enter the mainstream earlier this year, almost everyone has been demanding that their favorite application support them. This is the first version of WordSmith with VFS support and I have to say they did a darn good job.

You access the card through the category dropdown box in the upper part of the screen. This has been divided into two groups, one called Handheld and the other the name of your memory card. Within these two groups you can have categories. If you are upgrading, all your old categories will still be there under the Handheld group. When you are looking at a category that's on a memory card, there is a small icon next to the category name to remind you.

Best of all, a file that is on a memory card can be opened and edited straight from the card. As I understand it, this works pretty much like computers do the same job; the file is copied to RAM, edited there, then saved back when you are done with it. This process goes fairly quickly for small documents but if we're talking about a big eBook, it can be very slow..

This is just further evidence that the days when you can walk around with the RAM on your handheld totally stuffed with apps and files are coming to an end. Use your memory card like it is meant to be used: store everything on it that you don't use every day. Admittedly, this isn't as easy as it should be. All too many apps, like WordSmith itself, can't be run from a memory card. Hopefully this will change in the future.

One thing to be careful about is that files saved on expansion cards are not backed up during a HotSync. If the great American novel you are writing is saved only on your MMC card and you lose the card, it is gone. You might consider investing in a hardware card reader and there are a few software solutions out there, too.

If you aren't quite clear what VFS is, it's the method that files are organized on SD, MMC, and Memory Sticks. If you don't have a handheld with a VFS slot, you can save some RAM by installing a version that lacks VFS support. This will save you about 50 K.

Spell Checker
Even more than VFS support, a spell checker was the function that I was most excited about when I read about this new version of WordSmith. I write a lot on my Palm and I was hoping to be able to spell check my work right there on the handheld. I can sum up the new spell checker with this phrase: it's better than nothing.

There are a lot of tradeoffs to be made. The dictionaries can't be run from an expansion card without an additional app like MSMount. That means they take up a lot of internal memory. The small dictionary is 420K and the large one over a Meg.

As discussed before this was released, the spell checker is a bit slow, especially when the large dictionary is being used. The small dictionary performs a check faster, which makes sense. Still, even with the small dictionary it isn't speedy.

I ran a test trying to give you some idea of how quickly a spell check actually takes. I was able to check a 100-word document from which I had removed all the words it thought were misspelled in about 22 seconds. This is acceptable but coming up with a list of suggested correct words for each incorrect one can take 20 seconds or more. Fortunately, you can interrupt this process if you know the word is correct.

Another handy feature that can help speed up the spell checking is you are given the option of checking just the word the cursor is currently in, that paragraph, all the modified paragraphs in a document, from the cursor to the end of the document, or the whole thing from the beginning. If you highlight some text and launch the spell checker, just that text will be checked.

I'm not trying to beat up the developers on the speed issue. I understand from talking to my contact at Blue Nomad that this function is mostly limited by the speed of the processor. There isn't much they can do to make it any faster until Palm OS handhelds start appearing next year with the much faster ARM-based chips.

I wish I could give you some good guidance on whether to use the large or small dictionary. I'm using the small one but every document I check with it finds a few words that I think are common but it lacks. On the other hand, if you need to be able to spell "thiabendazoles", the large dictionary may be the way to go for you, if you are willing to put up with the drawbacks.

For all the large version's obscure entries, both large and small have a curious omission: neither one has any idea what to do with contractions. For example, the words "I've", "can't", and any word with an apostrophe s always get flagged as misspelled.

WordSmith can edit documents and memos and I wanted it to be clear that the spell checker and the thesaurus work on both.

If you don't want or need the spell checker, you can leave it out, which will save you a huge chunk of space from the dictionaries.

Thesaurus
In stark contrast, the thesaurus is amazingly quick. I can drop in a word and have 35 synonyms in less than five seconds. These can be broken up into their parts of speech and pushing a button automatically replaces the word you were originally looking up with your new choice.

There is only one thesaurus dictionary and it is 288 K. It also can't be used from a memory card and has to be in RAM. If you don't want to use this, you can leave it off completely. Are you sensing a trend about this?

As a kind of side note, don't misuse the thesaurus. My sister is a teacher and she has gotten some pretty funny reports written by kids who tried to sound really intelligent by using a thesaurus to find impressive-sounding synonyms for all the words they could. Trouble was, they didn't know what the new words meant and the results were the English equivalent of a twenty-car pileup. Everything a thesaurus suggests isn't an exact synonym.

FineType Manager
WordSmith now comes with an application that lets you manage your FineType fonts on the handheld. One window shows you your FineType fonts and an example of what the font looks like.

Another window lists the regular fonts in RAM, what they look like, and gives you the option to convert them to FineType right there on the handheld. I have some fonts on the handheld I'm testing WordSmith on because I also run Font Hack 123. All these fonts showed up and I was able to convert one of them to a FineType font as a test.

And the Gang
What would a version change be with a bunch of small improvements scattered around? I'll try to get the most important of these but this isn't a complete list.

WordSmith 2.1.1 tries to make it easier for you to tell what format documents are. In the screen where docs get listed, each has a small icon next to it. Ones in standard Palm DOC format have a P, there is a W next to WordSmith rich text documents, and a padlock for protected documents. Uncompressed documents have a dotted line around their size.

In many ways, WordSmith acts more like a PC app than a Palm one. This isn't always a good thing. For example, if you have a document open for editing and you suddenly have to reset your handheld, your changes are gone. The new version has an auto-save feature that can save your work at a specified time.

For you Macintosh users, the Mac OS WordSmith desktop application has been carbonized and now will run natively under OS X. Of course, Blue Nomad is a bit ahead of Palm in this, as Palm hasn't released an OS X version of the Palm Desktop app. Kudos to Blue Nomad for offering the best Mac support of any Palm word processor

Conclusion
These are welcome improvements to WordSmith, especially for those who use their handheld as a laptop replacement. However, both the spell checker and thesaurus take up lots of RAM as does the WordSmith app itself. If you have the RAM to spare, your handheld word processor can almost stand toe to toe with your PC word processor. The best part of about it is it's a free upgrade for anyone who has ever registered WordSmith.

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WOOHOO! Its out!

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 8:40:03 AM #
When was the last time so many people are so excited about a software update?

never! Now let's open up the champange

RE: WOOHOO! Its out!
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 8:57:08 AM #
Yes, cheers to you all. Another outstanding job by Blue Nomad.

On Time!

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 9:48:50 AM #
It sure does seem very rare to have a software company deliver on promise. Great job Blue Nomad!

Custom Disctionary Crashes Palm

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 10:10:52 AM #
Can Anyone else reproduce this error? Open a Doc up on the Pilot and goto Options - User Dictionary.

RE: Custom Disctionary Crashes Palm
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 10:17:04 AM #
Yes,

I have a Clie' 610. Go to Options - User Dictionary and get a fatal exception.

RE: Custom Disctionary Crashes Palm
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 10:25:02 AM #
Same thing happens on my m505. I've reported this to BlueNomad.

RE: Custom Disctionary Crashes Palm/ And my $.02
Quik_Fix @ 12/13/2001 10:38:44 AM #
I've reported it too. Crashes my 330. I'm sure they'll patch it shortly. Oops, they just wrote me back.


"Hello Quik_Fix,

Thanks for your message, we are looking into a fix for this issue and apologize for any inconvenience. We hope to release a fix for this very soon...Make sure you have version 2.1.1. For now, if you use the
spellchecker or thesaurus, it can access the dictionary without error. You will only have a problem if you try to access the dictionary
directly from the options menu"


I also asked them why my documents with slashes "/" in the title couldn't be transferred, and I felt a little dumb when they pointed out the somewhat obvious answer:

"filenames with "/" in them are not allowed with VFS. You may be able to keep the dictionary on the card if you can figure out how to run it from there.."

The last part was in response to my question of whether the dictionary could be kept on my 330's card; it works fine so far.

Now, about the thesaurus dictionary... Ed, I thought it used the same dictionary as Spellsmith? I don't remember seeing it in the files I put on. Are you sure it's seperate?

All things considered, this programs very will implemented. Kudos to the Nomads!


...In accordance with the prophecy...

Quik_Fix
quikfix@hotmail.com

Thesaurus dictionary
Ed @ 12/13/2001 11:16:19 AM #
> Now, about the thesaurus dictionary... Ed, I thought it used the same dictionary as
> Spellsmith? I don't remember seeing it in the files I put on. Are you sure it's seperate?

Yep. Look for a file called ThesData.

---
News Editor

RE: Custom Disctionary Crashes Palm
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 2:34:33 PM #
Do you have enough RAM available to open the dictionary up?

RE: Custom Disctionary Crashes Palm
jeremyf @ 12/13/2001 6:56:23 PM #
I just dl'ed the new Wordsmith and it's 2.1.2 !

Looks like it's been fixed.

Version 2.1.2 Features (Dec. 13, 2001)
Minor Bug fix to user dictionary


One thing I am not clear about

Ronin @ 12/13/2001 10:33:25 AM #
Your review specifically mentions that the documents saved on the card are not backed up to the PC which is true for all files saved on the card.

However, I am not clear as to whether this also means that documents that are edited from the card will not have the changes synchronized to the desktop thru the WordSmith conduit.

Could you please clear up this confusion for me?

Also one other question comes to mind. Is it possible to set a document stored on the card as read only? It seems to me that this would help address the speed issue involved in transferring large documents to the Palm's RAM at least for documents like e-books that the user is unlikely to edit. A document marked read only could be handled similar to the way that PalmReader handles e-books stored on the card which does not require the full book to be transferred to Palm RAM.

RE: One thing I am not clear about
Quik_Fix @ 12/13/2001 10:45:30 AM #
In response to your question, no. The files on the card are not synced to the desktop when you cradle-up. I think it might mention that in the manual, but I forget. I read it somewhere. The docs only sync if they're in RAM.

I don't think Wordsmith handles docs the same way as the Palmreader. WS treats them the same whether they are read-only or not; it's slow either way. You could say that when it comes to speed, Palm's got us by the Dragonballs!

...In accordance with the prophecy...

Quik_Fix
quikfix@hotmail.com

RE: One thing I am not clear about
Ronin @ 12/13/2001 11:58:44 AM #
Quik_Fix wrote:
"The files on the card are not synced to the desktop when you cradle-up. I think it might mention that in the manual, but I forget. I read it somewhere. The docs only sync if they're in RAM."

If this is in fact the case, then I consider it a significant drawback to VFS support in WordSmith. I use my Palm as a supplement not a replacement for my desktop computer, the notion that a document created on or saved to my Palm could exist completely independent of my desktop does not appeal to me at all. The steps necessary to simply print the document would be daunting, forget about changes made to a document that is accessed on both the desktop and the Palm.

Wordsmith and your laptop

Coyote67 @ 12/13/2001 11:04:48 AM #
I'm probably wasting my time saying Wordsmith is the best palm prog I have ever used. I'm sure many feel this way aswell :). Amazingly well done programs like wordsmith are necessary for poeple who have totally replaced their laptop. As a business user, whats the point of having a laptop if all the functions are there in your handheld? Infact, I prefer using wordsmith to actually word, I feel it is so much better at what it does. Its amazing what you can do with your handheld these days. I remember when I had to lug my laptop to make presentations, now I use margi's module and it works just aswell. With modem,networking addons, you really don't need laptops. Can't wait for bluenomad to release their excel alternative.

Question, programs like documents to go are either included or are free with rebates from palm,handspring,and handera. Why don't they give us wordsmith instead?

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When you have a Clie shoved up your mouth, you can only talk in vowels.

RE: Wordsmith and your laptop
Coyote67 @ 12/13/2001 11:13:15 AM #
Woops, just noticed handera bundles quickoffice and sony bundles documents to go aswell. Sorry about that sony and handera people.

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When you have a Clie shoved up your mouth, you can only talk in vowels.
RE: Wordsmith and your laptop
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 12:34:45 PM #
Also, you cannot place a bookmark in a file that is on the card. This is a very important item when trying to read ebooks or large docs from the card.

Handstory can do this, and it is only 160KB! (although it has no spelling, thesaurus, etc.)

If i have merely overlooked the bookmark function on card-loaded docs, please reply to this.

thanks

RE: Wordsmith and your laptop
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 4:20:14 PM #
The Palm keyboard comes with a demo version of Wordsmith...

RE: Wordsmith and your laptop
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 6:57:46 PM #
Question, programs like documents to go are either included or are free with rebates from palm,handspring,and handera. Why don't they give us wordsmith instead?


I like Docs to Go. I use WordSmith too but as much as I like it doesn't integrate seamlessly with Word on the MacOS. WordSmith won't sync files saved in MS Word format. DocsToGo does. Therefore it's much handier. At least for me.

RE: Wordsmith and your laptop
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/14/2001 11:15:10 AM #
If you purchase a PPK (Palm Keyboard) from ThinkOutside (the manufacturer), for $5 more you can get a license for WordSmith and Bachmann Software's PrintBoy. Total $104.00 + shipping. ($110 in the USA)

Not a bad bundle at all, I just ordered!

RE: Wordsmith and your laptop
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/14/2001 7:06:10 PM #
>>Question, programs like documents to go are either included or are free with rebates from palm,handspring,and handera. Why don't they give us wordsmith instead?
<<

The HandEra 330 comes with WordSmith on CD.

RE: Wordsmith and ToGo
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/16/2001 1:28:30 AM #
Documents on WSmith are smaller by 50% than documents on ToGo. Also ToGo takes longer to hotsync, even if no changes are made to the docs.


"If there's a doubt, then there's no doubt."

Backups?

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 11:43:42 AM #
You said you can't backup the files on the Expansion Card...

Doesn't bluenomad also make BackupBuddy that will allow you to backup the files on the Card at each HotSync?

RE: Backups?
Coyote67 @ 12/13/2001 12:17:52 PM #
Backupbuddy can't, but backupbuddy vfs can. Which is also free, so you win anyway :)

---------------------------------------
When you have a Clie shoved up your mouth, you can only talk in vowels.
RE: Backups?
Quik_Fix @ 12/13/2001 12:25:06 PM #
When you say "back-up on the card," do you mean back-up TO the card or FROM the card? From what I understand, Backup Buddy VFS backs up info in RAM ONTO the card. I don't think it backs up stuff ON the card to your desktop. I've only heard one program claim to sync the card with the desktop, and I think it was Docs To Go. If Backup Buddy VFS did back up files on your card to the desktop, it unfortunately would not convert them to documents, so they would just be .pdb files on your computer.

I wonder if WS's inability to sync the card is based on some sort of OS limitation, or if its just remarkably hard to implement such a thing. I bet its a bear to integrate both card-syncing AND doc conversion. If only there was a program that read genuine doc and rtf files (are you listening developers??)


...In accordance with the prophecy...

Quik_Fix
quikfix@hotmail.com

RE: Backups?
Ronin @ 12/13/2001 1:08:00 PM #
Documents To Go definite does sync changes to documents back to the desktop and creates a desktop version of any document created on the Palm whether it is stored in RAM or on the card at the time of hotsync, in fact, DTGs implementation of VFS even permits the reader (Word to Go, Sheet to Go, WordView, SheetView and SlideShow to Go) programs to launch from the card as needed. The only part of the program necessary to stay in RAM is the manager which is approximately 115k. The only significant deficit to the way that DTG has implemented VFS functionality is that it does not allow for categories when the document is stored on a card.

As far as I know there is no program that can perform an automatic backup of the data on the card to the desktop thru a hotsync except possibly the new program BlueSync. BackupBuddyVFS does not do this, it simply a utility to allow the Palm RAM data to be backed up to a card, nothing more, nothing less. BackupBuddy does not do this either nor does the backup performed by the standard Palm hotsync conduit include any part of the expension card.

RE: Backups?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 2:46:20 PM #
But...as I said in the original post...

BackupBuddy DOES allow you to backup the contents of the card to the Desktop...

BackupBuddyVFS is just for backing up RAM to a Card.

RE: Backups?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 2:51:30 PM #
Here's an excerpt from the BackupBuddy manual:

"Backup applications and data on expansion cards - checking this option allows users of Handspring Visors to backup data on Springboard modules (this does not backup TRG’s CF card). Currently, this has been tested only with the Handspring 8 Megabyte Flash Card, though it may work with other Springboard modules as well. Leaving this option enabled will not slow down HotSync's, once the initial files have been backed up. Please note that currently HotSync is not able to automatically restore data to flash cards should they or your organizer suffer a failure. For more information, please see the Restoring Data section of this manual."

If SyncWizard allows access to the SD card via a "HotSync" function, then why can't bluenomad make this happen in BackupBuddy!!!

Looks like a feature request to me...

How about it bluenomad!!!


RE: Backups?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 2:56:46 PM #
UPDATED INFO:

From the BackupBuddy FAQ
http://www.bluenomad.com/support/supp_backupbuddy_win.html

I have selected to backup data in expansion cards. Why doesn't BackupBuddy backup my SD/MM card or MemoryStick?
BackupBuddy isn't able to backup the SD/MM cards at this time. We are planning on adding this support and hope to release a new version with this feature. The "backup expansion cards" feature was there for use with Visor expansion modules before SD cards came out.

RE: Backups?
Coyote67 @ 12/13/2001 2:58:02 PM #
Yep, its true, backupbuddy does back from expansion cards. Just noticed the option. Sorry for the confusion guys.

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When you have a Clie shoved up your mouth, you can only talk in vowels.
RE: Backups?
Coyote67 @ 12/13/2001 2:58:51 PM #
Oh crap, I am such an idiot. I'm so sorry. Backupbuddy can backup the rom and flashrom expansion cards, but not sd/mmc/ms/sm/cf memory. Once again, so sorry.

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When you have a Clie shoved up your mouth, you can only talk in vowels.
Same discussion going on in another thread was RE: Backups?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 3:42:49 PM #
Looks here:

http://www.palminfocenter.com/view_Story.asp?ID=2739

Looks like we're not the only ones that want this feature...C'mon bluenomad...not time to sleep after WordSmith...get back to BackupBuddy ;-)

I especially like the one comment "bluenomad ensures me there working on this. especially since bluesync beat them to it" I wonder if this is facct or speculation?

bluemonad...you listening?!

Syncing problems with Mac OS X

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 4:14:28 PM #
Curious if anyone else has experienced problems with trying to sync documents using the Wordsmith apps (Classic or Carbon). I have tested that the Classic app works fine running in only OS 9.2.2 to sync, but neither version will sync docs running in either OS X or in Classic within OS X.

Thanks.

Where is the dictionary?

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 6:53:40 PM #
I downloaded the latest for the MacOS (version 2.1.2) from the bluenomad website and installed it according the instructions. However there is no spell checker, thesaurus or finetype manager in the version that I downloaded. Does anyone know where I can get the version with the spellchecker/thesaurus?

RE: Where is the dictionary?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 10:04:36 PM #
The MACINTOSH version carries the thesaurus, spellchecker e.g. in a "Extras" folder found after decompressing the sit.
Boris v Luhovoy
Palmtop-pro magazine
www.palmtop.at


RE: Where is the dictionary?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/14/2001 2:21:43 PM #
Thanks. The version on PalmGear does have the "Extras" folder. The version I downloaded from the bluenomad website yesterday does not.

RE: Where is the dictionary?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/14/2001 2:47:44 PM #
Okay I just figured out what went wrong...if you do the custom install I doesn't give you the option to install the dictionary and hence doesn't install it. If you do the easy install it WILL install the dictionary but not the VFS aware application. Wierd.

Another Version out already?

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 8:07:52 PM #
Another new version seems to be out. Version 2.1.2 is found on palm gear.

RE: Another Version out already?
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/14/2001 3:52:21 AM #
Yes, that is to fix the Fatal Error when accessing User Dictionary from the Option menu.

Running Wordsmith from a memory card

I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 8:31:09 PM #
I have great luck running all of Wordsmith from my Smartmedia card on my Prism. Here is how I have it configured:
1. Wordsmith is located in the "Launcher" directory using the latest "Launcher III" - You must have PiVFS on your Visor for this to work.
2. Make a "Shortcut" to Wordsmith in Launcher III. This allows the hotsync conduit to see wordsmith & sync the files with word.
3. Put the dictionary in your \palm\pidirect directory. It runs fine from there. If you don't have a visor with a memplug, Pi sells Pidirect for all other devices. It is fantastic!

With this setup, my syncs work great, and Wordsmith and the large dictionary take up about 6K or 7K of space on my RAM, the rest being on my Smartmedia card. There is a 7 second delay in launching Wordsmith from my memory card (probably less if I had a CF or Memplug), but this is well worth the 500+K savings. The dictionary runs a little slower (how could it be slower???) but it is not that noticable.
Doug

RE: Running Wordsmith from a memory card
I.M. Anonymous @ 12/13/2001 11:23:35 PM #
That is a great idea! But if you had a PPC, you wouldn't have to worry about that. But, for the people who do have Palms (which I assume most of you have ;), then that is a great setup. Thanks for sharing it, and you may want to check in the reading times of CF, SM, and SD, so you can get the fastest (if money is not that big a deal).

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