SINCE ITS DEBUT about 10 months ago, Microsoft Windows 3.0 has been one of the phenomenal best sellers in software history.
The graphical operating environment gives IBM-compatible computers much of the friendliness of the Apple Macintosh, using standardized windows, pull-down menus and icons that make programs much easier to use.
With sales of Windows nearing the 3 million mark, software developers are falling all over each other to bring Windows programs to market.
Professional Write Plus, from Software Publishing Corp., shows just how eager software houses are to get Windows programs on the shelf.
For years, Software Publishing has had a loyal following in the word processing market. Its PFS Professional Write has been a favorite among people who want an easy-to-use word processor with just enough horsepower for standard business correspondence.
Although the Windows version of Professional Write bears the same name as the version that runs in text mode under the standard DOS operating system, there's no comparison between the two.
In fact, Professional Write Plus is a virtual clone of Samna Corporation's successful Ami word processor. This is not surprising, considering that Software Publishing licensed Samna's code instead of writing its own.
To its credit, Software Publishing has added useful features, such as full network and electronic mail support for linked computer systems. The publisher also threw in Grammatik for Windows, an excellent grammar and style checker that works much more smoothly than its DOS counterpart.
Professional Write Plus is billed as an "executive" word processor. This means it's cheaper and less complicated than the most sophisticated programs, but rich enough in features to satisfy most business and home users.
In fact, Professional Write Plus is a powerful and graceful package that will handle basic desktop publishing chores as well as long, complex documents and business applications.
The program has two particularly strong suits. The first is its superb ability to format text and control every nuance of its appearance.
Like other topnotch word processors, Professional Write Plus uses a series of "style templates." These consist of a series of "styles" that apply typeface characteristics, alignment, indentation, line spacing, justification and other formatting specifications to a particular paragraph.
For example, I can set up a "headline" style that will set a block of text flush against the left margin in 30-point Helvetica boldface, with an underline that stretches across the whole page.
To create a headline, I just type the text, put my cursor anywhere in the block, and use my mouse to select the "headline" style from a list at the top of my screen. It saves an incredible amount of time if I'm creating a newsletter that may have 15 or 20 headlines.
Professional Write Plus comes with 20 predefined style templates for standard business letters, reports, fliers, fax covers, newsletters, technical documents, legal briefs, proposals and other applications.
You can modify any of these or create your own from menus available with a mouse click. While it takes a while to learn just how much you can do with style sheets, Professional Write Plus helps you by displaying an example showing the effect of every change you make.
While the program does not have an outliner, you can create outline-style documents by using its capability to produce numbered lists in a variety of formats.
The program's second strong point is its user interface, also borrowed from Ami. Many Windows applications force you to go through a tedious series of pull-down menus or memorize obscure function key combinations to handle standard operations, But Professional Write Plus puts a column of icons representing the most common functions on the left side of the screen.
To save a work in progress, I can just click on a little picture of a disk in the icon column instead of calling up the file menu and choosing the "save" function. To bring up the spelling checker, I just click on a picture of a dictionary.
The icon column itself is customizable. The program has more than 40 different functions available through icons, and you can display any 12.
Like most good word processors today, Professional Write Plus comes with a spelling checker and a thesaurus. It also has the standard ability to access a database of names and addresses to produce "personalized" form letters.
The program's document formatting features bring it close to the desktop publishing category. For example, you can set up multiple columns for newsletters and features and create frames for text or graphics. Existing text will automatically wrap around any frame placed inside it.
Although it has no graphics capacity of its own, Professional Write Plus will import graphics stored in 11 popular formats. You can crop any graphic or scale it to fit the size of your frame.