Innovations, even minor ones, are rare. So here’s to HamsterCoders and its Write! text processor for delivering not one, but two. The first is a riff on the simple, but underutilized idea of content persistence that’s common in Web browsers. The other idea is one that I’ve never seen before—infinite undo/redo over the life of a document. Just these two features deliver a startling productivity bonus.
No-save as save
Ever wondered why we must run a program, then load the recent file we want to work on? It’s an operational two-step that’s become habit. Just like a browser, Write! can automatically re-open all the files that were in use at the end of the previous session. Even better, it re-opens them in the exact state in which you left them—right down to the scroll and cursor positions, and selected text. This saves loads (pun intended) of time and energy.
Write! does all this automatically. Everything is retained by default. There’s no danger, outside of a disk failure, of losing your work.
When you choose to close a file, however, pay attention when Write! asks whether to save. If you say no, your changes are gone, as with any other program, though there’s a ‘trash bin’ in the Pro version that buys more time for recently deleted documents.
To Infinity and beyond
The icing on the Write! cake is its endless undo/redo. It's all there, from the original blank page to the very last word you wrote—no matter how many times you’ve saved or closed the document. It’s part of the file format. That’s some cool stuff right there.
Aside from Write!’s ground-breaking use of persistence, it’s also a pretty good text editor, despite some omissions. Text scrolling is smooth as butter, and Write! has the same smooth, sliding cursor and selection animation that makes the latest versions of Microsoft Word so pleasant to use.
Write!'s “no-distractions” design offers a full-screen mode with nothing but the text. Even as a window with the menu icon and tabs still visible, the tools are out of the way and the focus is on the words.
With nothing but white space alongside the text and razor-thin borders, however, I often found my eyes wandering. Especially if there were other windows with white backgrounds open. You can leave side panels open on the Pro version, but the developers should really consider a second color for the margins, as in Word.
Write! doesn’t use a predefined page size. Instead, like many of today’s text editors (including Windows’ own Notepad) it re-flows the text as you change the dimensions of the edit window. You can see a minimum of about 8 words per line with the document tabs arrayed to the left, and a maximum of around 20 with the document tabs at the top of the program window. There’s also a simplified word meter at the bottom of the page.
Write! has a good built-in, multi-lingual spell-checker and editing function. There’s a find function, but no replace—the latter is under development. The auto-complete function suffers from excessively tiny white text and off-kilter suggestions; I turned it off.
Context menu links let you look up text selections on the Web (Google, Google Translate, Wikipedia, and the Big Huge Thesaurus). It would be nice if the resulting information were displayed within the program instead of a separate browser, but I’ll admit to quibbling here.
Alas, you aren’t currently allowed to format text in Write! free-form. Instead (and in the Pro version only) HamsterCoders provides styles that it feels are suitable. I like wider line spacing than is available, and the ability to choose fonts myself.
Write! supports and exports in Wiki, Markdown, and Textile formats. However, Write! is currently limited to editing text. There’s no support for images, tables, or other useful elements, though the company says it’s in the works.
I did the majority of my testing with the free beta/legacy version. HamsterCoders recently released a subscription Pro version for $4.99 a month ($50 a year). It includes online storage and grouping of documents; whole-document styles; cloud-based persistent editing across multiple computers (another reason persistence is going to take off). As of this writing there’s a free early-access preview of the Pro version available. Just sign up for an account (no financial data is required) and you can test it until this November. It seemed stable in my limited hands-on.
Take a look
It’s rare to find a piece of software that brings anything really new to the table. Write! does. Its content persistence and unlimited redo/undo over multiple sessions are brilliant. Despite limitations in other areas, it's worth a try.
This story, "Write! review: The text processor that can remember and redo everything" was originally published by PCWorld.