In the early days of microcomputers, if you were serious about word processing, you generally had your choice of one program -- WordStar.
Developed to run on crude machines that used the old CP/M operating system, it was clunky and user-hostile but remarkably powerful, given the limitations of those early computers.
Unfortunately, WordStar was an early loser when the computing world switched to more sophisticated IBM-compatible machines. Its publisher, then known as MicroPro, never seemed to catch up as others brought out word processors that were much easier to use and took advantage of the PC's advanced features.
Still, WordStar retained a loyal corps of users, and they won't be disappointed by WordStar for Windows, the company's new entry into the high-tech word processing market.
WSWin, as it's known, is a state-of-the-art word processor with enough desktop publishing features for all but the most demanding professional designers.
A worthy competitor to Microsoft Word, Ami Professional and the soon-to-be-released WordPerfect for Windows, it takes full advantage of Windows graphical interface.
But WSWin is, in the words of John Updike, "progress with an escape hatch." If you loved the dozens of bizarre control key combinations you memorized to make WordStar run on the Osborne 1 you bought in 1983, you can use them on this version and ignore the graphical goodies of WordStar International.
Like most new graphics-based word processors, WordStar for Windows provides a realistic picture of your document, with fonts, formatting and graphics displayed pretty much as you'll see them on the printed page.
It also frames your document with two sets of "tool bars" that give you access to the program's major formatting features with the click of a mouse button. This eliminates the endless hunt through nested menus that made early graphical word processors a pain in the neck.
For example, if you're creating a double-spaced document and want to single space one paragraph, just click your mouse on the single-space icon at the top of the page and the spacing of the paragraph changes.
WSWin also uses the popular "style sheet" metaphor for text formatting. You create a series of "styles" controlling all the typographical elements of a paragraph -- the typeface, point size, word, line and letter spacing, alignment, tab settings, color, kerning, underlining, hyphenation and just about anything else you can think of.
For example, if you're creating a newsletter, you can set up separatestyles for headlines, subheads, body text, captions, and on. To make the text you're typing into a headline, just select the headline style from a menu that pulls down from the top of the screen. You can set up your own style sheets from scratch or use one of the style "templates" that come with the package.
These include predefined style sheets for letters, memos, newsletters, fliers, advertisements, business cards and other documents. You can modify any of these and save it for use with other projects.
WSWin is also no slouch when it comes to creating complex documents with multiple text and graphical elements. You'll need this capability for fliers, newsletters and the like. It's relatively easy to set up "frames" for each element, and to link frames so that a story that begins on Page 1 of your newsletter can be continued on Page 3.
A table editor makes it a snap to create tables of words and numbers, or you can set up a blank table and import data from a Lotus-compatible worksheet.
WSWin will import graphics in a variety of formats, including encapsulated Postcript files, or you can create your own by using a set of basic tools licensed from Micrografx Inc. You can edit imported graphics created by most vector-based programs. Bit-mapped graphics can be cropped or scaled but not edited.
The original WordStar was the first program to popularize the concept of "mail-merge" on the microcomputer. This is the dastardly little invention that allows you to merge a data file with a letter template and produce those wonderful, "personalized" form letters that overflow your mailbox. Not surprisingly, WSWin has robust mail-merge capability that can use text-based data files or those created by dBase compatible programs.
The program comes with a well-integrated spelling checker and thesaurus, as well as a copy of Correct Grammar for Windows, which can be invoked from WordStar. I didn't try out Correct Grammar with WordStar, but generally I don't have much faith in these types of programs. They tend to nitpick about stylistic quirks and miss major problems. But it can't hurt to give it a try.
A much more useful add-in packaged with WSWin is Bitstream Facelift, a program that provides a variety of scalable typefaces for all Windows applications and really makes the program come alive. Even if you're using a dot matrix printer, Facelift will give your documents a professional look.