< Previous Chapter | Next Chapter >

231 Chapter 9. Customizing Nisus Writer

In this chapter, you’ll learn…

Nisus Writer is among the most customizable applications for the Macintosh. It has more preferences than you can shake a stick at, many of which may have never occurred to you as options. In addition, it has a very flexible system of keyboard shortcuts that can make nearly any activity much faster to perform. In this chapter, we’ll look at the ways you can customize Nisus Writer’s behavior, including editing the floating tool bars and optimizing RAM usage.

232 Preferences

Most of the customization you can do in Nisus Writer takes place in the Preferences dialog boxes, which are accessed using the Preferences submenu of the File menu. Choosing a command from this submenu displays the corresponding preferences dialog box. Normally, preferences are not saved until you quit Nisus Writer; to save them immediately, choose Save Preferences from the Preferences submenu If at any time you want to return to the original default preferences, choose Revert to Original from the Preferences submenu. (Your new preferences file will not be overwritten until you click Save Preferences from the Preferences submenu or quit, so you can temporarily revert your preferences without losing your new settings.) We’ll discuss each set of preferences in turn.

Instead of ten separate preference dialog boxes, Nisus Writer now has a single, more civilized Preferences dialog box that allows you choose all of your settings in one place. However, the individual preferences for each category are still largely the same.

If you have WorldScript installed, additional preferences will appear in some of these dialog boxes. These will be covered in Chapter 13 when we discuss WorldScript in detail.

Start Up

The Start Up Preferences (Figure 9.1) determine what happens when you launch Nisus Writer or open a new file and 233 govern the behavior of the File Access menu. Under At Start Up, check Show Catalog, Open New File, and/or Show Clipboard to perform that activity as soon as Nisus Writer is launched. If you check Name New Files “Untitled” then new files will be untitled until you save them and give them a name. If this is unchecked, then a dialog box will prompt you to name each new file as you create it.

Figure 9.1.Start Up Preferences.

Under File Access Options, Check List Last XX Files Used (and enter a number from 1 to 24) to list the most recently opened files under Last Files Used… on the File Access submenu of the File menu (see Chapter 8 for more information). If you check Allow "Essential Files" in “Last Used” List, then an Essential File may be duplicated in the Last Used list if it was also a file that you opened recently.

Saving Files

Nisus Writer’s autosave feature is configured in the Saving Files Preferences dialog box (Figure 9.2). Check one or both of the boxes under Automatic Save and enter numbers in the text boxes to have Nisus Writer automatically perform a save after a given number of keystrokes and/or a given number of minutes (regardless of how many changes have been made). Click Save Original (as File Name*) to save an extra copy of your document in the same location every time the file is saved. This additional copy is not really a backup copy. What happens when this option is checked is the following. First, the last version of the document you saved is renamed with an asterisk at the end. Then your file in its current state is saved to disk with its original name. In other words, the main copy of the file and the * copy are not identical—they represent two different versions of the same file. If you want to save an exact copy of your file in its current state every time the file is saved, check Save Duplicate Copy (in another location); click Set Location to determine where the duplicate copy will be stored (it can be in another folder or even on another drive, but not on your desktop).


Figure 9.2.Saving Files Preferences.


The Editing Preferences panel (Figure 9.3) contains some of the most important preferences—though not all of them have to do with editing exactly.

Figure 9.3. Editing Preferences.

If you have WorldScript installed, two additional Editing preferences will appear that govern the behavior of scripts and fonts. See Chapter 13 for a complete explanation.


The Finding Preferences (Figure 9.4) allow you to control how the Find/Replace options will be set when you launch Nisus Writer. These options perform the same function as their equivalents in the Find/Replace dialog box (or on the Find/Replace menu), so I won’t go into further detail here. Be aware, though, that these options don’t take effect until the next time you launch Nisus Writer; they must be set manually for use in the current session.

Figure 9.4.Finding Preferences.

237 Scrolling

To adjust the way your windows scroll, choose Scrolling… to display the Scrolling Preferences dialog box (Figure 9.5). Under Automatic Scrolling, normally both Horizontal and Vertical should be checked so that the window scrolls when you reach the right or bottom edge; otherwise you will not be able to see what you type. However, if you want the display to stay put even if you type slightly beyond the visible area, you can uncheck one or both of these boxes. If Keep 36 Pixels On Screen is checked, then the window will scroll when you come within 36 pixels of the right or bottom edge of the window. (This gives you a little “breathing room” and lets you see what comes just below your current line.) If you uncheck this box, scrolling won’t take place until you get to the very edge. You can adjust the rate at which Nisus Writer scrolls when you click and hold one of the vertical scroll arrows by entering a number in the Maximum Scroll Speed box. Larger numbers mean faster scrolling. To turn off the horizontal scroll bar, uncheck Show Horizontal Scroll Bar. This will give you slightly more vertical space in your window, but it also turns off the Horizontal Button Bar display, which will make some controls harder to access.

Figure 9.5. Scrolling Preferences.

238 Measurement

The Measurement Preferences dialog box (Figure 9.6) lets you set the unit of measurement used throughout Nisus Writer, the appearance of rulers, and behavior of the Insertion Point Indicator on the Info Bar. Click Inches, Centimeters, Picas, or Points to set the unit of measurement used on rulers, the Layout Page, and in dialog boxes asking for measurements. To make the horizontal ruler on the Text Bar, Graphics Bar, and Sound Bar measure from the left edge of the paper, click Left Edge of Paper or to have it measure from the current margin, click Left Margin. The little ruler display to the right of these radio buttons will change to show what the current settings will look like. The Insertion Point Indicator on your Info Bar consists of two numbers separated by a slash (/). The first three options under Insertion Point Position Display let you choose what values those numbers will have. To turn off the Insertion Point Indicator, click None.

Figure 9.6. Measuring Preferences.


The Printing Preferences (Figure 9.7) determine how Nisus Writer behaves when you print a document. If Skip All 239 Warnings before Printing is unchecked, an alert will appear at print time if you have any graphics that go beyond the printable page area. Check this box to turn off that warning. If you click Print Display Attributes as Shown on Screen, then any display attributes that are visible on-screen will also be visible on your printout. These attributes include Text Marks (boxes around variables, marked text, and text styled Keep on Same Page or Keep on Same Line); space, tab, ¶, linefeed, and page-break characters; and Graphic Anchors. If you have a StyleWriter or another printer that feeds the paper out face up,then you can check Print Pages Last to First so that your pages will be in the correct order without rearranging them. At the bottom of the Printing preferences area, choose ImageWriter, StyleWriter, or LaserWriter to indicate what printable area on the paper should be assumed if no print driver is present.

Figure 9.7. Printing Preferences.


Nisus Writer can keep track of parentheses, brackets, quotes, and so on as you type, so you can always be sure to finish what you start. If you click Display Unmatched Pairs in Info Bar in the Parentheses Preferences dialog box (Figure 9.8), every open parenthesis or quote will appear on the right side of the Info Bar as you type it and will disappear when you type its mate. Normally, parentheses, brackets, braces, and double quotes (both curly and straight) are kept track 240 of; to add additional pairs, type them in the text boxes here. Expressions are pairs of symbols that can be nested to any depth; Strings are pairs of symbols, such as quotes, that should not be nested.

Figure 9.8. Parentheses Preferences.


The Dictionary Preferences (Figure 9.9) allow you to set which dictionaries are loaded at start up. To add or change a dictionary, click the corresponding button and locate the dictionary you want to use in the standard file dialog box that appears. The Definition Dictionary is not included with Nisus Writer but is available separately at an additional cost. It adds the capability of looking up a word’s definition from within the spelling checker. You can only have one main dictionary, user dictionary, thesaurus, hyphenation file, and definition dictionary loaded at a time. However, you can switch dictionaries freely while you work simply by opening a new dictionary from the Open dialog box or the Catalog as you would any other file.

Figure 9.9. Dictionary Preferences.

241 Keyboard Shortcuts

The final preferences dialog box is also perhaps the most powerful—Keyboard Shortcuts (Figure 9.10). This dialog box allows you to assign keyboard shortcuts to virtually any activity in Nisus Writer. To set a keyboard shortcut, first choose a command from a menu. The command will appear after Menu Item. Then choose Command, Function Key #, or # Key Pad Key (Command is selected by default)—all keyboard shortcuts have to include either the Command key, a function key, or a key on the numeric keypad. Then type either a function key, a key on the numeric keypad, or one to three letters to make the shortcut (for example, the shortcut for Show Catalog could be Command-C-A-T). If you wish, check Shift, Option, and/or Control to add those keys to the combination needed to activate the command. Click Set to store the shortcut you’ve selected or Remove to delete an existing shortcut.

Figure 9.10. Keyboard Shortcuts Preferences.

You can even assign shortcuts to items on your Apple menu (like the Chooser). However, you cannot assign a shortcut to an item on a submenu of the Apple menu.

If you choose a font, macro, or any other command on a menu having a content subject to change, another choice appears in the dialog box—Key Stays with:. Choose Menu Item Name to have the shortcut apply to the selected command, no 242 matter where it may move on the menu. Or choose Location on Menu to activate whatever item happens to be in that position, even though it might change from time to time. For example, you may want Command-1 through Command-0 to activate the first 10 macros on your Macros menu, regardless of what they may be.

Since multikey shortcuts (like Command-C-A-T) are pretty unique, there are a few things you’ll want to know about them. To activate a multikey shortcut, hold down Command (and any other modifier keys you’ve selected) and type the shortcut keys in sequence. The maximum delay between pressing the keys is the same as the double-click delay you set in your Mouse control panel. If you have a shortcut defined that is a subset of another shortcut (e.g., Command-C or Command-C-A), Nisus Writer will pause briefly after you press the shortcut key(s) to see whether you’re going to type more. If you want a command to execute immediately, then release the Command key as soon as you type the required letter(s).

A given command can have several different keyboard shortcuts, but only the one that was most recently assigned will appear next to the command on the menu.

Not all menu commands are visible in their normal locations when the Keyboard Shortcuts Preferences dialog box is displayed. For example, the Graphics, Layout, Sound, and Notes menus are only available in particular contexts. To assign a shortcut to a command on a menu that isn’t currently visible, locate the command on one of the submenus of 243 the Misc. Menus menu (Figure 9.11). Using this menu, you can assign a shortcut to a command on any menu—even named rulers, line thicknesses, and the menus inside the Find/Replace dialog box. You can also assign shortcuts to some things that aren’t on any menu at all—like Sound controls, line and paragraph spacing, and justification.

Figure 9.11. The Misc. Menus menu.

To create a list of all the shortcuts you’ve defined, click Create. The list will be sorted according to the assigned shortcut key(s), the command name, or the menu name, depending on which radio button is selected. The list is created as a separate document, which can be edited and printed in the usual way.

There are a lot of things you can assign shortcuts to that may not be obvious but can be real time-savers. Examples are Stationery files (on the Essential Files submenu of the File menu), Bookmarks (on the Jump To submenu of the Tools menu), and user-defined macros (on the Macros submenu of the Tools menu). Occasionally, though, there may be something that you can’t create a shortcut for (like zooming or scrolling a window). No problem—record a quick macro to do the activity, then assign a keyboard shortcut to the macro.

244 Stationery Files

Stationery files were introduced with System 7 as an easy way to reuse document data. When you open a stationery file, the original file is left unchanged and a copy is opened as a new untitled document. Stationery files are great for form letters, fax cover sheets, and other kinds of documents that require only minor changes with each use. To make a Nisus Writer document a stationery file, click the stationery icon in the Save As… dialog box when you save it. To convert an existing document to a stationery file, select the document in the Finder, choose Get Info from the File menu, and check the Stationery pad box at the bottom of the window.

Magic Stationery Files

The cool thing about stationery files is that like all Nisus Writer documents, they store not only text and graphics but many other settings—window size and position, insertion point position, text selection(s), user-defined rulers and styles, and all display attributes. Nisus Writer makes use of stationery files to store what you might think of as default document settings. If you want to specify (for example) what font and size will be used by default in all new documents, create a new file, choose the attributes you want, and save it as a stationery file titled Nisus New File. Save the file either in the same folder as your Nisus Writer application or in the Nisus Writer Tools folder. This stationery file will then be used every time you choose New.

There are other special stationery files that Nisus Writer uses automatically. To use one of these files, prepare it as above, but give it one of the following names.

Floating Tool Bars

As we saw in Chapter 4, Nisus Writer includes nine built-in floating tool bars that give you single-click access to a variety of menu commands. The only drawback is that you’re stuck with the ones you’ve got; they’re not customizable—until now, that is. Perhaps a future version of Nisus Writer will include a tool bar editor. But in the meantime, it is possible to customize tool bars, with a bit of effort (and a separate application).

For starters, you’re going to need a program called Resorcerer. Resorcerer is a commercial resource-editing program, sort of a very fancy and flexible variant of ResEdit. If you are not a programmer and this is the only thing you’ll be using Resorcerer for, it’s probably not worth the expense. However, if you can use a friend’s copy for an hour or two in exchange for a pizza, you’ll probably find the investment worth it.

You may be wondering why you can’t use ResEdit (especially since it can be had for free). The answer is that ResEdit lacks certain constructs needed to use the Floating Tool Bars Tool’s FPAL template. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to edit the icons in ResEdit using the cicn template—for example, if you want to add color to them. But you can’t add, delete, rearrange, or edit the commands associated with the buttons.

When playing with a resource editor, always work on a copy of your file, not the original. It is very easy to do irreversible damage without realizing it!

To edit your floating tool bars, first find the file named Nisus Floating Tool Bars Tool, which is located in the Nisus Writer Tools folder (inside your Nisus Writer folder). Make a copy of this file, and open it in Resorcerer. You’ll see something like Figure 9.12. For our purposes, there are only two resources we need to worry about—the cicn resource (containing the graphics) and the FPAL resource (which creates the buttons and associates them with commands).


Figure 9.12.Viewing the cicn list for the Nisus Floating Tool Bars Tool in Resorcerer.

Editing Tool Bar Button Icons

If you click cicn in the box on the left side of the window, you’ll see a scrolling list of all the button icons available (see Figure 9.12). To edit an icon, double-click it; to create an entirely new icon, click New. A “fat bits” editor (Figure 9.13) will appear, allowing you to make any changes you’d like. Since this editor is roughly the same as the one in ResEdit and many other applications, I will not go into detail about the use of the graphics tools. If you get stuck, consult the Resorcerer documentation. Keep in mind, though, that while the icons shipped with Nisus Writer are all grayscale, there’s nothing preventing you from adding color to your own icons. When you’re done, click the close box and then click Save to save your changes.

Figure 9.13.Editing a cicn in Resorcerer.

Editing Tool Bar Buttons

The other part of tool bar editing concerns the FPAL resources. Each tool bar has its own FPAL resource; when you click FPAL in the left side of the window, a list of tool bars appears on the right (Figure 9.14). To edit an existing tool bar, double-click it; to create a new tool bar, click New. The tool bar editing window (Figure 9.15) will appear.


Figure 9.14. Viewing the FPAL list for the Floating Tool Bars Tool in Resorcerer.

Figure 9.15. Editing an FPAL resource in Resorcerer.

The FPAL resource has many fields, but only a few are significant here. The first set applies to the tool bar as a whole. To edit the contents of any field, double-click it and a dialog box will appear allowing you to set the relevant parameters. The Graphic Resource Type specifies what kind of resource is used for the button icons. For tool bar palettes, the correct type is cicn. The Creator can be any four-character string—I use the code JoeK on the palettes I create. The next two fields specify the tool bar’s shape. In Initial # columns, enter the number of columns you want it to have when it is first 248 displayed, and in Resize # columns, enter the number of columns when the zoom box is clicked. For best results (to avoid any blank squares), make sure the total number of buttons in your tool bar is evenly divisible by both of these numbers. In the Button.h Button.v field, enter the horizontal and vertical size of the buttons in pixels. A value of (x,y)=(24,22) means a button 24 pixels wide by 22 high—which is the size of a cicn icon. Entering smaller or larger numbers will shrink or stretch the buttons. Finally, be certain to fill in the Palette Name field. This is the name that will be displayed on the Floating Tool Bars submenu of the Tools menu in Nisus Writer; if it is blank, your tool bars won’t work.

Each button in a tool bar also has its own set of fields (see Figure 9.16); again, only a few are important. In the graphic (cicn) ID field, enter the ID number of the cicn icon to be used for the current button (this can be an existing icon or a new one that you’ve created). The only other critical field is near the bottom—in [MenuNameOr#:]ItemNameOr# field, enter the name of a menu command exactly as it appears on a Nisus Writer menu (for example, Show Clipboard). If there is any ambiguity (for example, a word 249 that is the name of a macro and the name of a menu command), you can enter the menu name first, followed by a colon (for example, Tools:Hyphenate [note no space after the colon] or Macros:Smart Quotes). If you want to use a command that only appears on a menu when a modifier key is pressed, then double-click option pressed, shift pressed, and/or command pressed and click the Yes button. For example, to assign the command Append Copy to a button, the shift pressed field would be set to Yes, and the [MenuNameOr#:]ItemNameOr# field would contain just the command Copy.

Figure 9.16. The button fields for an FPAL resource in Resorcerer.

If the [MenuNameOr#:]ItemNameOr# field does not match a menu command exactly, the icon will have an X through it on the tool bar. If you get an X and you’re positive you spelled the command correctly, try closing and redisplaying the tool bar in Nisus Writer.

The new Floating Tool Bars on the enclosed CD-ROM have buttons which activate some of the macros I’ve included. This means that they essentially add new functions to Nisus Writer!

While it’s easy to edit existing buttons, if you aren’t familiar with Resorcerer’s conventions, you may find it difficult to add new ones (the New button may be dimmed). The key is to position the insertion line (Figure 9.17) just above the location where you want the new button to appear. This line is moved by clicking and dragging one of the triangular handles on the sides of the window. To delete a button, highlight the very first line of the button’s field area (the one labeled Total Buttons # followed by the button’s number) and press Delete.


Figure 9.17.Positioning the insertion line to add a new button in an FPAL resource.

Optimizing Memory

The final step of customization is fine-tuning Nisus Writer’s RAM usage. There are two reasons you might want to do this. First, even if you have plenty of RAM in your Mac, you may occasionally encounter an Out of Memory message as you experiment with some of the advanced features in the following chapters, like running a long macro or performing a complex Find/Replace. The problem is not that your computer has run out of RAM but that Nisus Writer has. Second, if you have only a small amount of RAM (say, 4 to 6 MB), even seemingly basic tasks such as inserting an equation may produce an Out of Memory message. In this case, Nisus Writer might have plenty of RAM, but there may not be enough left for other applications to use. Following are some suggestions for fine-tuning your system to get the most from the memory you have. While these are mostly geared toward people who are short on RAM, they’ll also help the power user who wants to squeeze every last drop of performance from Nisus Writer.

251 Adjust the Memory Partition

If you have a reasonable amount of RAM available, the easiest solution to most memory problems is to increase Nisus Writer’s preferred memory setting. To do this, select the Nisus Writer icon in the Finder (Nisus Writer must not be running at the time) and choose Get Info from the File menu (see Figure 9.18). Type the new amount in the Preferred Size box and close the window. What number should you enter? Well, that depends. Remember that when you open a document, it loads completely into RAM. The larger the documents you need to open (and the more you open at once), the higher this number should be. A good rule of thumb is this: the preferred memory size should be at least 1500K plus twice the size of the largest document you need to open. In other words, if you want to edit a 900K file, the preferred size should be at least 3300K—that is, 1500 + (900 2). However, keep in mind that your actual RAM usage depends on many variables, so you may need to experiment a bit to find the best value.

Figure 9.18. Nisus Writer’s Get Info window in the Finder.

252 On the other hand, if you don’t have much RAM in your computer, you might want to decrease the preferred memory setting. For example, if you are using Nisus Writer on a 4 MB Mac Classic, you probably don’t have 3 MB free for Nisus Writer to use. In this case, try reducing the preferred size to 1800K or 2000K. You can also reduce the preferred memory settings for the Table Tool and Equation Tool, because these are actually separate applications that come with Nisus Writer. You can find these modules in your Nisus Writer Tools folder, which is inside your Nisus Writer Folder. Decreasing Nisus Writer’s memory partition can allow it to run in low-memory situations, but it will limit the size of the files you can open.

Trim Down Your System

For anyone with a small amount of RAM, the next step is to reduce the amount of RAM used by your system. Start by disabling any extensions, control panels, or fonts that you do not use on a regular basis or that you can live without. You can do this either manually by moving the files out of their respective folders in your System folder or by using a utility like Apple’s Extensions Manager. Next, open your Memory Control Panel (see Figure 9.19) and make sure the disk cache is set to the lowest possible amount (32K). Likewise, if you’re using Adobe Type Manager (ATM), make sure its font cache is set to a low number. Another part of your system that uses a significant amount of memory is AppleTalk. AppleTalk is essential if you are connected to a network, but if you’re not, you can disable it by checking the Inactive button in the Chooser. After making any of these changes, you’ll need to restart your computer to see the savings in memory.

Figure 9.19. The Memory Control Panel.

Tune up Nisus Writer’s RAM Usage

A number of Nisus Writer’s preferences directly affect RAM usage. To make Nisus Writer as lean as possible, open the Editing Preferences dialog box. First, uncheck Keep Application 253 in Memory. While this option, when activated, allows Nisus Writer to run a bit faster, it also greatly increases the amount of memory it requires. When unchecked, individual pieces of the application’s code will automatically load themselves from your hard disk into RAM when needed and will unload when you need to make room for something else.

Reducing Undos

Next, consider setting your Maximum Number of Undos to a fairly low number, like 20 or 30 (or even lower). Each action you perform (including running a macro or performing a Find/Replace) is “remembered” by the Undo list, and the higher your maximum number of undos (remember, it can be up to 32,767), the more RAM required to keep track of them. As you work on your document, you might also want to clear your undo list manually from time to time. This is done by holding down the Option key and choosing Clear Undos… from the Edit menu. In the same way, you can erase anything that may be on any of Nisus Writer’s 10 clipboards by holding down the Option key and choosing Clear Clipboards… from the Edit menu. Be careful when you 254 clear undos or clipboards, because these actions cannot be undone!

The Memory Indicator

This might be a good time to say a word or two about the memory indicator on your Info Bar. You may notice that the number doesn’t decrease when you clear undos or clipboards, and you may assume that it is broken. It is, in fact, very accurate—it’s just not telling you what you expect it to. Think of it this way. Create a big file and drag it to your Trash can. Does the amount of free space on your hard drive increase? No. But when you empty the Trash, the file is deleted, and more space becomes available. Nisus Writer treats RAM the same way. When you clear Undos or Clipboards, it marks the portion of your RAM they were occupying as “purgeable.” The next time you need that memory for something, it automatically does “garbage collection,” freeing the memory for another use. The memory indicator doesn’t tell you how much will be available after that happens, but rather how much is actually free currently.

Memory Hogs

You should also be aware of which parts of Nisus Writer consume the most memory and avoid these parts if you are experiencing memory problems. The biggest culprit by far is text-to-speech. This module consumes so much memory that if you have Keep Application in Memory checked and you have not increased Nisus Writer’s memory partition, it may not function at all. Other memory-intensive features are the graphics tools, the spelling checker and thesaurus, and the Layout Page. Also keep in mind that your default macro and glossary files (see Chapter 12) load automatically at startup; if these files are very large, it can greatly decrease the amount of RAM you have to work with.

Other Strategies

Some other quick memory optimization tips:

Figure 9.20. The Nisus Writer Tools folder. The files that are highlighted are the ones you might want to consider removing from this folder.


We’ve just seen a number of ways to fine-tune Nisus Writer to your own needs. Preferences, keyboard shortcuts, stationery, floating tool bars, and RAM-tweaking are all part of the process. Later, in Chapter 12, we’ll look at the other side of customization—using glossaries and macros. First, in Chapter 10, we’ll look at some of Nisus Writer’s advanced editing features, then move on in Chapter 11 to a thorough discussion of the legendary PowerFind and PowerFind Pro.

Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1999 by Joe Kissell

< Section III | Next Chapter >