Archive for May 18, 2004

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Adam Engst describes his fantasy word processor, and it’s pretty close to mine. Of course, I would add some pet features like conditional text (a distinct concept from an “invisible” style attribute), scriptability, good automatic image placement, beautiful equations, and powerful auto-numbering (which is what Engst’s searching example really motivates, to my mind).

In short, WriteRight must essentially clone almost every feature of Word that matters (and I haven’t even mentioned things like tables and hyperlinks) to be able to read a Word file without losing data, and more to the point, to be able to write the file back out with all data equally intact. It’s a tall order, and one that may not be feasible.

Aside from the engineering work this would entail, full Word compatibility would impose a lot of constraints on the word processor’s design. I’m not sure that it’s possible to be significantly better than Word, and yet fully compatible with it. But we can dream, right?

And now for my tall order: WriteRight should be easy to use and WYSIWYG, like a traditional Mac word processor. But it should also be possible to customize it programmatically. I don’t mean just automating its existing features via AppleScript, but rather the ability to add new features (such as trees, glosses, and parser-directed formatting), à la LaTeX.