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3 Chapter 1. Welcome to Nisus Writer

In this chapter, you’ll learn…

You’re about to read something you’ve probably never seen in a computer book before: history. I can’t stand history myself, so if you’re at all like me, take heart: it’s relatively short and it’s pretty interesting. I wanted to put this fascinating computer program in context before we get into the details of using it. As one of my linguistics professors used to say, “A text without a context is a pretext.” It’s one thing to tell you how to indent a paragraph in Nisus Writer, but it’s another to explain how the program got to be the way it is. To understand and appreciate this program, it will help to know a bit about the people behind it, to say nothing of the politics behind it.

4 Guy Kawasaki’s popular book, The Macintosh Way, is an insider’s description of the early days of the Macintosh at Apple Computer, and it helped me to understand and appreciate the Mac in a way that no instruction manual could. In the following few pages, I’d like to take you on a similar journey through the development of Nisus Writer and the company that created it, so that you’ll be able to share the sense of wonder, appreciation, and—sometimes—bewilderment that I feel about this unusual company and its amazing products. And, at the same time, I’ll tell you a bit about myself and how I got to be involved with Nisus Software.

History: The Evolution of Nisus Writer

Jerzy Lewak was born in Poland and raised, from age nine on, in England. It was there that he was educated, earning a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. After getting his degree, he came to the United States and taught higher mathematics at New York University for two years. He moved to California in 1966, joining the faculty of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of California, San Diego.

By the early ’80s, Jerzy felt he was in deep trouble. He was trying to help individual students in classes of 100 grasp complex mathematical principles. Even with three or four teaching assistants, there was no way to give all the students the help they needed, since their backgrounds were so varied. Personal computers were beginning to gain popularity, though, and he had the idea of using computers for help. He obtained about $10,000 in grant money and, using it to hire student programmers, began developing software on the Apple II to train and test students in mathematics.

7 Jerzy Lewak Starts Paragon Courseware

Inspired by his success with this project, and hoping to create similar programs with a broader appeal, Jerzy founded Paragon Courseware in 1983. He hired some of the same students who worked for him at the university, this time to develop an algebra tutor program on the IBM PC aimed at junior high and high school students. The Paragon gang, working out of Jerzy’s home (with his wife Jolanta as accountant), first developed small programming tools that they would later need to use for the tutor, and they sold these direct by mail order. The income they made was small, but it was enough to keep the little company going.

In 1984, when the Macintosh was released, Jerzy and his crew were well into the tutor project. Jerzy’s oldest son, Sta, was so impressed by the Mac that he immediately started his own company to produce hardware upgrades for it. (His first product provided the Mac with a 16 MHz 68020 processor and 4 MB of RAM.) Sta convinced his father to buy a Mac, and after using it a short while, Jerzy took Sta’s advice to become an Apple developer. He started out with an Apple Lisa and a 5-MB external hard drive. (The 10-MB model was back-ordered.) While he was impressed at the Mac’s ability to mix text and graphics in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) interface, there was one thing it couldn’t do—write scientific equations. That gave his company its first Macintosh project: TechFonts, a typeface with equation and schematic symbols.

Building a Better Text Editor

Programming on the Mac left a lot to be desired in the early days. One problem was the lack of a good text editor. (Apple included a free program called Edit with every Mac, 6 but its capabilities were limited.) Jerzy thought he could come up with something better, something that would surpass even the original Macintosh word processor, MacWrite. He hired Victor Romano, one of his students, to take on the project. Jerzy knew that it would take a lot of time and money to create a word processor, so his plan was to do it in stages, with each stage producing a product that would help finance the next.

The first stage was a text editor. Jerzy wanted to call it QED (for “Quality Editor for Developers”) but he found that there was already a UNIX program with that name. So he added a U, and changed the acronym slightly to QUED,QUality EDitor” (the pronunciation, accordingly, is “kwedd”). QUED 1.0 was released in early 1985, and Mac users loved it when they saw how much better it was than Edit. As the company’s Mac efforts grew, the algebra tutor program gradually got pushed aside. It was about 90% complete when it was finally abandoned late in 1985.

Once Paragon had a good text editor to use for programming, other, smaller projects began to appear. MacQWERTY was a tiny program that gave Mac users the option of typing with the Dvorak keyboard layout (which is considered easier to learn and more efficient than the standard QWERTY layout). Then came MacTAG (Teacher’s Assistant Grader), a grading and record-keeping program for teachers that relied on the text engine developed for QUED, and Laser TechFonts, a polished PostScript version of the original TechFonts. When the company incorporated in January of 1987, it also changed its name from Paragon Courseware to Paragon Concepts, reflecting the new direction of the product line.

After soliciting input from users on what features they’d like to see in QUED, a new version, QUED/M (for QUality EDitor with Macros) was released in the middle of 1987. Significantly, one of the main reasons for including macros in QUED/M was that many more features had been requested than could reasonably be included. The macros were conceived of as a way for users to add their own features to the program.

7 The Push for a New Word Processor

The company’s most significant move came in 1988, when they decided to make the big push toward a word processor. That year, they moved the operation out of the Lewaks’ house and into an office space, and they hired four new programmers and a marketing director. The original name of QUED/M’s successor was InAWord, and they had even printed disk labels and brochures with that name. But then Jerzy learned of a PC text editor called InWord, and he decided to change the name to avoid any confusion. The employees tossed around suggested names for a few weeks, and then a student intern stumbled across the word nisus (which rhymes with “crisis”) in an unabridged dictionary. Nisus means “a striving or an endeavor,” and taking this to be an apt description of both the process of creating the program and its intended use, Paragon changed the program’s name to Nisus just before its release.

During the development of Nisus, the company was courted by some major software publishers who were hoping to add a high-end word processor to their offerings. Lotus, Claris, and Borland all wanted Nisus at one time or another. Lotus gave the product only a casual look, but Claris was quite interested for a while. They passed on the idea for reasons they didn’t indicate after getting the report from a consultant they sent to look at the code. Negotiations with Borland went much further, and in fact got to the draft contract stage. Borland kept insisting that Mac and OS/2 versions be released at the same time (they said they’d also do a Windows version “along the way,” but didn’t see it as a substantial market). Paragon, on the other hand, was close to completing Nisus and wanted to release the Mac version as soon as it was ready, rather than waiting months for an OS/2 version. So Borland said no. Shortly thereafter, the Apple-Microsoft suit started, and for some reason this prompted Borland to come back for further negotiations. However, Borland and Paragon still could not agree on details of the contract, and the proposal was dropped for good. Soon thereafter, Borland abandoned all software development for the Macintosh.

8 Beta testers of Nisus were uniformly impressed with the product, but also raised concerns that it didn’t support important features like footnotes. The development team’s response was that they were building a better mousetrap—a program that would do things the right way from the start, take the user’s intuition into account, and change the way people thought about word processing. They reasoned that users wouldn’t care about mundane features like footnotes when they had a program full of spectacular features. “If we offer this great Find/Replace,” they thought, “no one is going to care that other things are missing.”

The “Amazing Word Processor” Appears

Paragon released Nisus 1.0 in January 1989, nearly five years after the initial work on QUED began. Nisus was perceived by much of the public as better than MacWrite, and it sold well in its first few months. It was unique in many respects. For one thing, you could now have graphics in the same window as everything else. You could right on top of your text if you wanted. (This is still fairly unique among word processors.) Other distinctive features that made—and still make—the program unique were unlimited Undos and 10 separate editable clipboards. (Noncontiguous selection did not make an appearance until version 3.0.) Nisus also had a thesaurus, which was unusual in a word processor, and QUED/M’s macro capability, which was unprecedented.

The biggest complaint about Nisus 1.0 was its lack of footnotes, and this time it could not be ignored. Work began on an upgrade, and just six months later, in August 1989, Nisus 2.0 was released, offering footnotes and other more minor enhancements. However, many users still were not satisfied, mainly because the product lacked style sheets, that is, a way of storing sets of paragraph formatting settings. What Nisus called Styles were simply combinations of character attributes like font and size. Still, the program enjoyed considerable success, and began to attract what some might call a cult following, particularly among programmers and other technically inclined folks.

9 One advantage of the way Nisus was written was that it was easy to localize into other languages, and this opened the way to some terrific marketing possibilities. When Apple began selling Macs in Korea, it needed a word processor to ship with them, and Nisus was the logical choice. Apple’s Korean distributor, Elex, signed a two-year contract (later renewed for another two years) with Paragon to package a localized Korean version of Nisus with every Mac sold in Korea. Almost immediately, international sales overtook domestic sales, and by the end of the contract some 80,000 copies had been sold in Korea. Apple then switched to including a Korean ClarisWorks (not surprising since Claris is owned by Apple), but by that time sales of localized versions in other countries, such as Japan, Germany, and Israel, had increased so much that international sales still surpassed domestic sales.

Nisus Learns New Tricks

It was a full year before the next upgrade, Nisus 3.0, was released in August 1990 (see Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1. Nisus 3.0. The interface was largely unchanged from version 1.0, which borrowed its ruler-based paragraph formatting from MacWrite.

10 Apart from noncontiguous selection the major innovation in this upgrade was the macro programming dialect. Prior to this release, macros could only contain menu commands, mouse clicks, text entry, and Find/Replace commands. This new feature added the capabilities of a complete programming language to the macro facility, which pushed it far beyond any competitors at that time. The programming dialect allowed macros to include, for example, variables, looping, conditional branching, and mathematical functions. This meant that (in principle) nearly any text-manipulation activity could be automated with Nisus. Nisus 3.0 also included, for the first time, the ability to name rulers, which meant that paragraph-formatting information could be stored and applied to any part of a document quickly and easily. Meanwhile, character formatting was handled as before by way of defined styles. Realizing that users of Word expected paragraph styles to include character-formatting information, the designers cleverly provided a way for a ruler to be made part of a style, providing the functional equivalent of a style sheet. Unfortunately, this approach (which is still in use today) lacked the key ingredient of hierarchical styles with dynamic inheritance—that is, a system in which one style can be based on another such that when the “parent” style changes, all shared characteristics in the “child” style dynamically update to match.

This lack of what had become a very popular Word feature was just one of the criticisms of 3.0. A more serious one, ironically, was the inclusion of the programming dialect (which many users thought of as an esoteric frill) while heavily requested features like “proper” style sheets, WYSIWYG columns, and more-robust footnotes were neglected. Why was so much effort put into a feature most users didn’t know they needed, while others were ignored?

Partly, it was a matter of “engineering coolness.” The programmers at the time wanted the feature, thought it would be cool and useful (to them), and decided it would be a fun project. These programmers, though, did not use Nisus much (if at all) for writing, and had little or no experience with other word processors, so things like columns, footnotes, and style sheets didn’t seem very important. Macros, on the other hand, were something they could 11 actually use, since they were using Nisus as their text editor for code development. The conflict between engineering coolness and customer needs would become an issue more than once in the life of the company.

My own involvement with Nisus began at about this time. In early 1991, I was a graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington, in the last semester of work on my Master’s degree in Linguistics. My computer was an aging PC clone, and I was convinced that it was time to move up in the computing world. I was also thinking of leaving the world of DOS and Windows and switching to Macintosh. I often used Macs at school, my friends praised them loudly, and I generally found that I could accomplish anything I needed to do faster, and with less effort, on a Mac. In addition, my work in linguistics required me to use a variety of different alphabets, and while the Mac could handle them all easily, it was a great struggle to achieve the same effect on a PC. My decision nearly made, I approached my adviser, who was an avid Mac fan. I was going to impress him with my idea of buying Microsoft Word (which I assumed everyone had) and offering to turn in drafts of my thesis on disk. He wasn’t impressed. He said, rather disappointedly, “Well, if you really want to get Word, I guess it’s O.K., but if I were you I’d look seriously at Nisus first.” Of course, I had never heard of Nisus, but as he started explaining all the wonderful things it could do, my interest was piqued. After playing with a demonstration version of the program for about a half hour, I was irrevocably hooked, and (thanks to the substantial student discount) soon bought my own copy.

Nisus XS Announced

In the fall of that year, two major announcements were made. Apple Computer rolled out the PowerBook, which almost immediately became the most popular portable computer. And Paragon Concepts announced the next big thing in word processing, Nisus XS. Full-color ads began appearing in national Macintosh magazines touting this revolution in technology. XS was to be a $75 add-on module to Nisus 3.0 12 that would give it two big (and unique) capabilities: XTND file translation and Sound, along with support for Apple events and a few other features. XTND was a system recently developed by Claris, which allowed for a single set of filters to provide file-translation capabilities to any application that supported the technology. Sound was also something you couldn’t find in a word processor at the time. The newest Macs all had audio recording capabilities, but there was no way to integrate sounds into documents. XS promised the ability not just to add sound memos to documents, but to attach sounds to individual characters, words, and sentences—which would then highlight automatically as the sounds played back.

Everyone at Paragon believed that development of this module would only take a few months, and they began taking orders for XS. Soon, however, problems began to appear. The sound features turned out to be much more difficult to implement than was originally thought. Sound had never been a big request from customers, but one of the programmers was very interested in exploring this new technology. He believed that it could be added easily, and convinced the company that it would be a great marketing tool as well. Months after the announcement of Nisus XS, the sound features still could not be made to work, but the company had committed itself. To abandon the project would mean alienating many customers who had already paid for the module. So the project continued, even after it was apparent that it would require at least several more months to complete.

Nisus Compact Arrives

At the same time, though, Paragon kept quite busy developing additional foreign versions, and these, in turn, provided much-needed income. But since XS was still far from completion, the company began looking for other marketing avenues. Apple’s popular PowerBooks suggested both a need and an opportunity. For one thing, PowerBook users needed a small, fast word processor that would still function well in their limited RAM and hard-drive environments, and for 13 another, they needed a program that would limit its disk access to preserve precious battery life. Paragon’s answer was to trim some of the bulkier, more esoteric features off of Nisus, add a couple of PowerBook-specific features, and sell it as Nisus Compact, released at the beginning of 1992 (see Figure 1.2). The project only required a month or two of work, and it opened up a substantial market for the company. At the same time, though, it pushed back the release of XS even further.

Figure 1.2. Nisus Compact. Although the interface is nearly identical to Nisus 3.0, a lot of behind-the-scenes features, like macros, drawing tools, and glossaries, are missing.

Nisus Compact was received well—PowerBook users loved it, and it received good reviews. At the same time, those waiting for XS were puzzled: having promised this module for so long, why did Nisus come out with a completely new product? While XS continued its vaporware existence, Word had received a major upgrade to 5.0 (and shortly thereafter, to 5.1), and was starting to look mighty attractive to a lot of Nisus users, including me.

A New Direction for Nisus

Meanwhile, I was still using Nisus for my personal work, 14 hoping that one day the fabled XS upgrade would appear. Sure enough, one day in the spring of 1993 I got a nice newsletter from Paragon, which had just changed its name to Nisus Software. But to my surprise, the newsletter announced the release of Nisus 3.4 rather than XS. I called the company and asked them about this, and they said that 3.4 supported the “X” part of XS—XTND—and included support for Apple’s new WorldScript technology, plus some other neat features like drag-and-drop. (As it turns out, Nisus had supported the capabilities of WorldScript all along, but the fact that Apple had released it as an official part of their software was what motivated the new version of Nisus.) The other features of XS, they said, would be rolled into the next major release of Nisus, due that fall—Nisus Writer 4.0 (renamed, appropriately, to reflect what the program does!). Nisus Writer would also sport a completely redesigned interface, support for sound (finally), QuickTime, Publish & Subscribe, and text-to-speech, plus autonumbering, color graphics and tools for creating tables and equations. I figured that was a reasonable plan, and since the 3.4 upgrade was cheap, I ordered it.

The newsletter also gave a phone number for anyone interested in becoming an authorized trainer. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, so I called the number. Within a few months, I had traveled to San Diego to go through the training program and started doing presentations, training, and sales from Philadelphia to Detroit as an independent representative of Nisus Software. I spent about a year as a Nisus trainer (while working as a computer graphic artist at a large corporation in Pittsburgh), and then decided to go back to school for my Ph.D. I chose the University of California, San Diego—coincidentally, just minutes away from Nisus Software in Solana Beach. When I arrived in town at the end of July 1994, I needed a part-time job to help pay for school, and Nisus Software needed a Nisus expert to help out with final testing and documentation editing for Nisus Writer 4.0, which had a release date just “weeks away.” I came to help out for a couple of weeks, and I never left.

15 Nisus Writer 4.0 Finally Emerges

Nisus Writer 4.0 was finally released, with a great sigh of relief, in October 1994. The employees (who at this point numbered about 25) celebrated with champagne and took pictures of themselves with the UPS guy loading the first boxes into the truck. However, the excitement didn’t last long. The first release of Nisus Writer was, unfortunately, plagued with problems that were not uncovered during beta testing. Thus, the first several months after the release of Nisus Writer were spent fixing bugs, and maintenance upgrades were released until the product finally stabilized in the middle of 1995.

Nisus Software was criticized for releasing a buggy product after rushing the testing cycle. I myself am a bit more sympathetic, because I was working at Nisus in the last few months of development. There was tremendous tension at the company then. Because they had gone so long without a new product, income was falling dangerously low. The feeling was that we had to start selling this product, even if it had some bugs, so that we could have enough income to keep the company alive.

Even with the initial bugs, Nisus Writer 4.0 received largely glowing reviews, and thousands of upgrade orders plus a healthy number of new sales quickly dispersed any feelings of financial gloom. Nisus Software’s next priority was to finish the Power Macintosh-native version of Nisus Writer, which had also been promised for years. The native version was released as Nisus Writer 4.1, which also included, for the first time, XTND translators for the Macintosh versions of Word 6 and WordPerfect, plus a suite of HTML tools. At the same time, the company released its popular MailKeeper application, which provides a fast, easy way to keep track of notes, mail, and electronic addresses. Nisus then turned its attention to the long list of new features users had requested, such as full support for System 7.5 and improved handling of footnotes and styles.

The enclosed CD-ROM includes a copy of both Nisus Writer 4.1 and MailKeeper for you to try. You can purchase a serial number from Nisus Software to unlock either program for permanent, unlimited use. See the Read Me file on the CD-ROM for complete details.

16 The Journey Continues

And that, dear friends, is where we stand today. I have seen the list of requested (and sometimes demanded) features, and it is quite long. Everyone wants something different, and everyone can make a good case for what is most important. I am sure that sooner or later, we will reach word processing nirvana with Nisus Thinker Pro 28.0. In the meantime, for its odd and sometimes frustrating history, we do have an incredibly powerful tool in our hands. Let’s take a look at the current incarnation of Nisus, and see just where this evolution has brought us so far. In the process, you’ll get a basic overview of the program that will help you to understand the topics we explore in the next two chapters.

Versions 5.0 and 5.1 added many new features, only a few of which will be mentioned in notes like this one throughout the text. However, I think it’s safe to say that both the program and the company have been through many more ups and downs since this book was first published. Maybe one day I’ll write that story, too.

A Quick Tour of Nisus Writer

This section is intended to serve as a basic introduction to Nisus Writer’s windows, controls, and display options. In chapters 2 and 3, we’ll be discussing some of the issues governing the design of the program, and I want to make sure you have at least a basic orientation to Nisus Writer’s work environment and terminology first. I will not go into great detail here, but will refer you to later chapters in the book where each feature presented here is discussed more thoroughly.

The Menu Bar

When you launch Nisus Writer, you will see the Nisus Writer menu bar and a window for entering and editing text. Let’s go over the important parts of this display (see Figure 1.3).

Figure 1.3. The Nisus Writer display.

At the very top of your screen you will see the Nisus Writer menu bar (see Figure 1.4). These menus and the commands they contain will be discussed in detail in Section II; here’s a quick rundown.


Figure 1.4. The Nisus Writer menu bar.

Menus are grouped by the kinds of activities you perform in your document. The Apple menu () gives you access to the Chooser, desk accessories, and other frequently used applications, documents, and tools. The File menu contains commands that apply to a document as a whole—things like opening, closing, saving, and printing. The Edit menu contains commands like Cut, Copy, and Paste, as well as more complex editing commands for editing the text in your document. The Tools menu gives you access to tools you can use to shape your document like your spelling checker, thesaurus, glossary, and macros, as well as commands for changing your display environment. The Insert menu contains commands for all kinds of things (beside text) you might want to insert in your document: footnotes, tables, equations, movies, page numbers, the date, and so on. The Font menu lists all the fonts you have installed in your system. The Size menu lets you adjust the size of your fonts. And the Style menu gives you access to character-formatting 18 options like bold, italic and text color, and lists any character styles you have created yourself. The Guide menu () allows you to turn balloon help on and off and access Nisus Writer’s on-line help feature. And the Application menu () allows you to switch from Nisus Writer to any other application you have running.

Document View

Below the menu bar is a large window named “Untitled-1.” This window is called the Document Window (or Document View). Most of your work in Nisus Writer will take place in a window that looks like this. This window, like any standard Macintosh window, has a title bar with close and zoom boxes, horizontal and vertical scroll bars, and a resize box. I will assume that you are already familiar with these basic controls.

At the top of the window, just below the Title Bar, is a narrow area called the Info Bar (see Figure 1.5).

Figure 1.5. The Info Bar.

The Info Bar gives you several pieces of information about the status of your document, such as whether it’s been saved since changes were made and what the current page number is. It will also display the current time, available memory, and (if you have a PowerBook) your battery level.

Just below the Info Bar and above the text area is the Text Bar (see Figure 1.6). It consists of a horizontal ruler with some indicators below it and some icons above it. This area is where you set options that apply to an entire paragraph, like tab stops, indents, justification, and line and paragraph spacing. (You can flip ahead to Chapter 4 to find out what each of the icons on the Text Bar is for.)

Figure 1.6. The Text Bar.

19 Below the Text Bar is the main part of the window, the text-editing area. This area is (in principle, at least) a WYSIWYG display, so fonts, sizes, and styles of text you type here, as well as paragraph formatting, should appear on screen exactly as they will print. (The only things that are not truly WYSIWYG in this display are the margins and multiple columns.) Unlike some word processors, Nisus Writer does not make a distinction between modes like “Draft,” “Normal,” and “Page,” nor does it have a window that shows “formatting codes.” (In the strictest sense, there aren’t any—more on this later.) Your text is always entered in the Document View, and it is always WYSIWYG. Repagination is dynamic and nearly instantaneous, so while scrolling you don’t have to pause at the bottom of each page for the display to update.

Along the right edge of the window, above the vertical scroll bar, you will notice several additional icons. These icons together constitute the Vertical Button Bar (see Figure 1.7).

Figure 1.7. The Vertical Button Bar.

The top button (with the italic i) toggles the Info Bar on and off. The next button, containing a picture of a ruler, toggles the Text Bar. The third, with the colored shapes, turns the Graphics Bar (see Figure 1.8) on and off. If you click it, the Text Bar will be replaced with a set of graphics tools. The icon with the speaker toggles—you guessed it—the Sound Bar (Figure 1.9).

Figure 1.8. The Graphics Bar.

Figure 1.9. The Sound Bar.

20 These top four buttons ensure that whatever editing tools you’re using, the others are just a single click away. Next is a button showing a miniature page. Clicking here takes you to the Layout Page (see Figure 1.10).

Figure 1.10. The Layout Page.

The Layout Page is a special view of your document where you can see the entire page, including margins, just as it will be printed. In this view, you can adjust the margins, change the number of columns in your document, or add a frame. You can also view two pages side-by-side or set your document up as a booklet here. However, you cannot edit your text in this window. The last item on the Vertical Button Bar is a small black area called the Split Screen Bar. Clicking and dragging this handle allows you to split your window vertically into two separate “panes.” 21 At the bottom of the window, to the left of the horizontal scroll bar, is another row of buttons, the Horizontal Button Bar, shown in Figure 1.11. (You’re really catching on to the names by now, right?)

Figure 1.11. The Horizontal Button Bar.

The Vertical Ruler button turns on and off a vertical ruler along the left side of your document. The Header/Footer Icon button toggles display of Header and Footer icons. (These show you where a header or footer has been inserted into your document.) The Paragraph Ruler button toggles display of paragraph rulers, which will be described shortly. The Display Attributes button turns on and off display of invisible space, tab, and return characters. If you click and hold here, it will display a pop-up menu of other display options. The Clipboard Menu button shows which of your ten clipboards is currently active and whether it contains anything; it is also a pop-up menu that allows you to switch among clipboards.

Next is a set of three buttons that work together. If you click the Edit Headers/Footers button (not to be confused with the Header/Footer Icon button), the window for entering headers and footers will open; likewise, clicking the Edit Footnotes button will take you to the footnote editing window. In either of those windows, clicking the Edit Document button will take you back to the Document Window. Finally, at the very right of the Horizontal Button Bar is another Split Screen Bar; this one allows you to split your window horizontally rather than (or in addition to) vertically.

22 Display Options

All right, so much for the nickel tour. Now we need to add a few more pieces to this picture. Let’s look at the same Document Window again, this time with some text in it and some display options turned on (see Figure 1.12).

Figure 1.12. Document View with display options visible.

There are a few things you should notice here. Spaces are indicated by tiny dots between the words, and there are characters in the text indicating tabs () and returns (). Space, tab, and return characters are not normally visible in printed documents, but their effects certainly are! Since a return, for example, is not just a command to the computer but an actual character in your text, it can often be handy to see just where it is. Display of these characters can be turned off easily if you prefer to see just your text. Just click the Display Attributes button on your Horizontal Button Bar.

Next, notice in the Document Window a little icon that looks like a ruler to the left of each paragraph in the text. This icon is called, appropriately enough, a paragraph ruler. It, too, 23 is a kind of invisible (non-printing) character that can be cut, copied, pasted, or moved. But unlike text characters, the ruler stores all formatting information for a given paragraph—that is, all the information you can set using the Text Bar. (Historical note: the Text Bar used to be called the Master Ruler, but was renamed for consistency with the Graphics Bar, Sound Bar, and Info Bar.) Some of the paragraph rulers have horizontal lines in them. These are called named rulers. Anytime you have set paragraph formatting options just the way you want them and think you might want to apply exactly that same formatting to other paragraphs in your document, you can name the ruler. Then, to apply that same formatting to another part of your document, you simply choose the ruler name from a pop-down menu on the left side of the Text Bar. Display of these paragraph rulers alongside your text is toggled by the Paragraph Ruler button on the Horizontal Button Bar.

Important Terms

In addition to the on-screen controls, there are some other terms you should understand when talking about Nisus Writer. We’ve already mentioned some of these, but they’re worth repeating.

Margins and Line Wraps

While both of these constrain the boundaries of text in your document, they are not the same thing. A margin (see Figure 1.13) is the area around the edge of the paper that is normally completely empty. (Objects on the graphics layer can, under some circumstances, be placed in the margin; see Chapter 5.) The points at the left and right edge of the page where text wraps onto the next line are the line wraps. Line wraps can change from paragraph to paragraph, so it is possible to have text or graphics in the area between the line-wrap point and the margin. The line wrap can be identical to the margin, or distinct, as in Figure 1.13. Line wraps are set using the Text Bar in your Document Window. Margins can only be adjusted on the Layout Page.

To place page numbers “in the margin,” you can make the top or bottom margin smaller than the others and put the page number in a header or footer.

24 Rulers and Styles

Figure 1.13. Margins versus Line Wrap. The gray box represents the margins. Notice that the line wrap is indented from the margins, and the page number appears within the margins.

These are the most misunderstood terms in Nisus Writer. In Nisus Writer, a ruler is a collection of paragraph attributes like justification, line wrap, line spacing, and tab stops. It may be named to provide a convenient way of reusing it. A style is a user-defined collection of character attributes like font, size, color, and face (bold, italic, etc.). A style can optionally apply to an entire paragraph, and if so, may also include a named ruler as one of its attributes. Thus, choosing a style can apply character formatting alone or character and paragraph formatting; choosing a ruler applies only paragraph formatting. What many programs call styles are paragraph-formatting settings that include character styles; these are analogous in Nisus Writer to styles with attached rulers.

Layout Page and Document View

These are two ways of looking at your document in Nisus Writer. The Layout Page is a view of your document in which you can see the entire page as it will be printed, including margins. It will be shown at a reduced size unless you have a full-page or larger monitor. You cannot edit text on the Layout 25 Page, but you can adjust things like margins and the number of columns. The Document View is a mostly WYSIWYG display in which text entry and editing takes place. You can set left and right line wrap in Document View and add headers and footers, but you cannot adjust margins or columns.

Macros and Glossaries

A macro is a series of instructions that Nisus Writer carries out automatically. These instructions can be menu commands, Find/Replace functions, math calculations, or any number of other activities. Macros are normally activated by choosing them from a menu or by using a keyboard shortcut. The commands for recording and editing macros are found on the Macros submenu of the Tools menu. A glossary is a file that contains pieces of text, graphics, and/or other document elements. Each glossary entry has an abbreviation associated with it. When you type the abbreviation into your document, you can press a key combination (or choose a menu command) that will “expand” it—that is, replace it with the complete entry corresponding to that abbreviation in your glossary file. Tools for maintaining your glossary are found on the Glossary submenu of the Tools menu. Some programs use the term macro to refer to something like what we call a glossary. In Nisus Writer, a macro is a command to perform one or more activities, while a glossary represents static information.


You’ll hear a lot about Nisus Writer’s unusual Find/Replace feature in the coming chapters, and I want to point out just what makes it so unique. In most word processors, you can search for any single, static text item and replace it with any other. Some word processors also allow you to search for “wild cards”—for example, any numeric digit or any alphabetic character. Nisus Writer’s Find/Replace goes far beyond this with PowerFind, an easy way of building complex search and replace expressions. With PowerFind, you can search for one item or another at the same time. You can specify where in the document, paragraph, or line it must be located, how 26 many consecutive occurrences to look for, and much more (see Figure 1.14).

Figure 1.14. The Find/Replace dialog box with PowerFind selected. In this example, Nisus Writer will find any occurrence of “in” or “un” or “dis” at the beginning of a word and replace it with what’s on the clipboard.

Fonts, sizes, and styles can be applied to any part of a Find or Replace expression simply by choosing the relevant menu commands. And you can group items together and refer to specific parts of the Find expression in the Replace expression. PowerFind Pro goes even further, allowing you to build more complex and specific Find expressions, or to indicate, for example, “Look for anything not in the following set….” PowerFind and PowerFind Pro are discussed in detail in Chapter 11.


We’ve spent this chapter looking at the evolution of Nisus Writer and the fundamental parts of the current version. By now you should have a good idea what the program is capable of doing and how it came to be the way it is. But there is another story to tell. Chapter 2 discusses the philosophy of Nisus Writer—all the assumptions that are made behind the scenes, as well as those that you, the user, should make.

Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1999 by Joe Kissell

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