Another way to reach the handiest functions
comes through the extensive toolbar setup. The screen shot shows
all the toolbars (except for the drawing bar) on the screen together,
but you can put any one or more on the screen individually as you
need them using the icons “switches” on the very bottom
row. The operation furnishes a slick way to quickly access common
Working the main screen
Normally, the editing screen would be clean and uncluttered. I
find editing with the zoom set at 75% gives the best balance between
quantity of information on the screen and readability of the text.
The bottom row of icons activate the menus, from left to right:
drawing tools, file-handling toolbar, font-formatting toolbar,
text measurements, font selection, zoom level, and page view/screen
wrap. The screen wrapping comes in handy to obviate scrolling left
and right all the time to view the document.
TextMaker supports all manner of text formatting including extended
character fonts (e.g., small caps, font color, hidden text, etc.).
Paragraph formats supported include bulleted lists, automatic numbering,
shading, borders, etc., as well as headers and footers. All these
may be stored in templates and style sheets. Hyperlinks may also
be created, modified, or followed within TM.
Images inhabit TextMaker’s repertoire,
looking the same on your PPC as on your desktop within the limits
of the smaller screen. Although BMP, 2BP, TIFF, PCX, GIF, JPEG,
TGA, PNG, PhotoCD, IFF, IMG, PBM, PPM, and PGM images may be
imported, this version of TM converts all images to Portable
Network Graphics internally. An upcoming version will use JPEGs
and other formats natively. That will save some space in each
document file. Drawings may be created in TM with autoshapes
or free-hand through a dedicated toolbar.
Table support includes layouts, sorting, and calculations. Outlines,
bookmarks, tables of contents, and indices may be easily created.
Sophisticated fields like checkboxes, calculations, and lists furnish
a professional feel to business documents.
All this may be grouped and/or placed precisely on the page using
frames--something previously limited only to high-end desktop word
processors and publishing programs.
All this great stuff comes at the end of the menu rainbow in powerful
option screens. The example illustrated shows a portion of the
paragraph formatting options. There’s no formatting missing
from TextMaker that you’d expect to find in a high-end desktop
program. The menus make it easy to find and set the options that
you desire. The limits of the small PDA screen requires scrolling
to get to the totality of every options screen. That’s not
a negative statement, but a comment on the extensive ability to
make your document appear exactly how you desire.
TextMaker sports extensive preference settings like a full-up
desktop program. Virtually everything is configurable. Even the
dialog styles may be set for all major Windows versions, Pocket
PC, and OS/2. Customization extends to the language, file locations,
what’s on the screen, et al. One may even create custom keyboard
Putting the Word into Word Processor
SoftMaker enhanced the user experience even more by including
a host of language-support tools. TextMaker can check your spelling
as you type, and even underline misspellings in red like desktop
applications. Dictionaries available include English US, English
UK, German, German (reformed), Swiss-German, Swiss-German (reformed),
French, French (Canadian), Italian, Spanish, Spanish (Latin American),
Portuguese, Portuguese (Brazilian), Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and
Norwegian. TM supports SmartText entries and also includes a thesaurus
for most of these languages so that you may find just the right
word. Words may be hyphenated automatically as you type.
Worried about mistakes? No problem there--TM supports virtually
unlimited Undo/Redo. The user may set the maximum number up to
Document Compatibility and Protection
TextMaker will open and save native formats for Microsoft Word
6.0, 95, 97, 2000, Word XP, Word 2003, Word for Macintosh , HTML,
Rich Text Format, Pocket Word, ASCII, and Unicode. It will also
exchange documents with all other platform versions of TextMaker.
Documents may even be encrypted and/or passworded for security.
Users may mail-merge using an integrated dBase-compatible database,
as well as use databases to look up addresses.
To help you find and manage your documents,
TextMaker even includes an integrated file manager. Using it, you
can search for files and preview those you find, email them, and
delete them. Amazingly, the previewed documents
appear fully formatted in the preview window. This includes character
and paragraph formats as you can see in the screen shot. Very nice
We received the PPC/Windows combination
package for review. This segment will be very short, because
I’ve basically already
described the Windows version. That’s right--the PPC and
Windows versions are virtually identical. The only appreciable
difference between them comes down to the difference in the toolbars,
these being rooted in the screen size difference.
SoftMaker obviously intends TextMaker
for Windows as a direct competitor to Microsoft Word. They have
largely succeeded both in feature set and compatibility. Some
of the usability enhancements that appear in Word, though, haven’t
found their way into TM yet. Examples of missing niceties include
a grammar checker, the familiar function key shortcut to change
the case of text, and drag-and-drop of images into the text.
In the wild...
After reading this survey of TextMaker’s capabilities,
you’re probably thinking that it would take forever to learn
it all. While TM carries a bit of a learning curve, it turns out
to be relatively easy to master if you use either Microsoft Word
or TextMaker on the desktop. The latter is a no-brainer because
the menus are identical. However, the menu system is close enough
to Word and logical enough in organization so as to be easily mastered.
With all these features, you’d probably expect TextMaker
to be quite large, and you won’t be disappointed. The executable
alone weighs in at 5.3MB, and the entire installation takes up
an impressive 7.7MB including templates and both US and UK English
dictionaries. Unless you have a lot of RAM you’re itching
to burn, Tanker Bob recommends installing TM either in your Built-in
Storage/File Store or on a card. The latter will provide faster
Although TM loads in stages or overlays,
initial loading still takes a full 35-40 seconds from Built-in
Storage--the slowest storage type in a PPC. TM also has a serious
sensitivity to memory fragmentation in Windows. It will fail
to load if memory is significantly fragmented, even though it
only takes 2.4MB on initial execution. I’ve
actually seen it fail to load with Windows Mobile 2003SE claiming
13.5MB free Program Memory. SoftMaker says that the coming TextMaker
2005 PPC will address this issue. It would certainly be nice if
Microsoft would manage Windows memory better, though.
Now the great news: I’ve been using TextMaker 2002 PPC
to write reviews on the road for several months. It handles tables,
hyperlinks, and images effortlessly. Although I often write reviews
partially on the desktop and partially on my Axim X50v, I have
written several completely in TextMaker on my Axim, something I’ve
never been able to do before with any other program on the PPC
or Palm platform. The finished reviews required no cleanup or modification
when transferred to the desktop for publication. I’ve rarely
been as impressed with a PDA program as I have been with TextMaker,
For the record, I wrote this review entirely
in TextMaker, using both the PPC and desktop versions. Although
I’ve been using
MS Word for decades, I found the TextMaker family a simple transition.
I was easily able to perform all needed functions. For the amateur
and professional Microsoft bashers out there, SoftMaker furnishes
a very high quality alternative.
TextMaker 2002 PPC represents the best of the best for PDA
word processors. In fact, it isn’t appropriate to think
of TextMaker as just a PDA application because it stands as an
equal to its desktop siblings. I never carry a laptop anymore,
and TextMaker is the major enabler of that freedom for me. Although
$39.95 retail doesn’t sound like a bargain, I find it a
steal considering all it does. It has no peer on the PDA, and
precious few on the desktop. For the cash-strapped, you can usually
find SoftMaker products available at a considerable discount
on eBay directly from SoftMaker. If you want to create serious
documents on your PPC without limitation, TextMaker stands alone
as king of the mountain.
Full-featured desktop word processor packed into a PPC
Full range of text, paragraph, document formatting
Full image, table, bookmark, hyperlink, table of contents,
index, etc., support
Highly configurable screen and operation
Included file manager with document preview
Relatively easy to use due to well thought-out design
Requires 7.7MB of space on the handheld (hey, no free lunch!)
Slow to load from Built-in Storage
Oversensitive to Windows memory fragmentation
Web Site: www.softmaker.com
Price: $49.95 US