August 17, 2007

iWork and other WP's for biblical scholarship work

I continue to get mixed reports on some issues regarding Word Processors. For instance, Chris Heard tells me Right to Left Unicode Hebrew is working for him in iWork just as well as it does in TextEdit.

But I read other reports, such as a note from tom140 on a TidBits forum (Comment #13) reporting:

Another shortcoming is that iWork is full of bugs when working with RTL scripts like Hebrew/Arabic which were fixed in TextEdit years ago. But since Office can't do these scripts at all, this isn't such a problem.
I think I will soon put together a table of features for those of us interesting in writing on biblical studies and then have folks who use each package extensively to rate how the software holds up. I had planned on doing this after January when Word '08 comes out. I may not wait.

It'd be nice if Redlex updated their WP comparison table. But what I'm interested is information on comparing broad features, any one or two that could be deal breakers for a particular scholar's work. For instance, in how I work, scriptability is a must. Here's my list so far of features that are potential deal breakers for biblical scholars, ranked ever so generally in the order of how potentially important the feature may be to biblical scholars. Let me know your additions and suggestions for the list.

  • Intel version
  • Bibliographic software integration
  • Unicode RTL Handling
  • Scripting/Macro Integration
  • Cocoa application
  • Open/Save .doc
  • Open/Save Open XML doc format
  • Unicode Glyph Insertion Dialog
  • CPU usage in background
  • Customizeable keyboard shortcuts
  • Customizeable toolbars
  • Copy/Paste Style
  • Style Management
  • Find/Replace Style
  • Tracking Changes Feature
  • Find/Replace Ignore Diacritics
  • Outline View
  • TOC Generation
  • Cross Referencing Feature
  • Index Generation
  • Hideable Field Codes
  • Check Spelling by Language
  • Secondary Font Substitution Choice
  • Noncontiguous selection
  • Full screen mode
  • Split view
  • Text Flow Around Images/Objects


Tim said...

At the risk of restarting the religious wars ;-0 can I just point out that some operating systems have little problem with RTL scripts, and haven't for years ;-)

On my laptop just about any text editor or WP will handle Unicode RTL with no problem or difficulty. Most even recognise when I have changed direction by the characters I am using...

Joe Weaks said...

Tim, you'll find no wars on here. It's not a really a "Mac Evangelist" site. (We fall into that mainline ethos of, any one truly seeking will eventually find us. :)

The difficulties with Unicode RTL of OS X are really a conundrum with the main WP's. The lack of support with Word really was the killer. However, there are WP's to use.

Cb said...

Hi Joe, I already mentioned Nisus Writer Pro and I saw your comment as well. In this post you mentioned scripting, I don't do much with it myself but NWP has (I am told) the same and even more powerful scripting that they have always had. (See this link

Furthermore, I can tell you all that Dave Larson, one of the Main Men, has regularly replied to my emails asking for information, help, etc. immediately. Even at 4 am his time! So they are very responsive and I am sure would appreciate any additional constructive criticism folks have to offer.

Cb said...

BTW, I recently discovered why RTL isn't working as expected in Pages. Pages uses WebKit as its text engine.

Anonymous said...

I'm a regular Pages user (I haven't used Word for a couple of years now). I don't have a problem typing Unicode Hebrew and RTL works fine. The trick is to change the input manager rather than just change the text direction within the app. With a shortcut activated to change input method its perfectly possible to type English and Hebrew normally with only one keystroke to change between. Changing the default Unicode font from Lucida to something like New Peninim MT also makes it look nice :-)
iWork does run into problems with scripting though...

Terje said...

I am glad to learn that it works for some.... Neither Pages nor OpenOffice works with Unicode and RTL on my system (MacBook Pro and OSX 10.5.6. Norwegian, Ezra SIL or SBL Hebrew fonts). Moreover, the problems seem to be quite similar in these two applications (basically: a very confused word wrap and alignment function). Nisus works perfectly, when letting the application handle the writing direction itself (i.e. NOT using changed input method, as suggested by Dan). All this brings me to believe it might in fact be the Input Method (in some national versions of the OS?) that is the problem.