PageFour Revisited

15 04 2007

A few months back I wrote a piece about a word processor–PageFour–the trial version of which I was exploring. I mentioned at the time that I liked the design, but that I wasn’t sure whether or not I could depend on the developer enough to turn loose of the thirty bucks he wanted for the full version. Well, shortly after I wrote that article, I got a wild hair and coughed up the dough.

I used PageFour off and on for about a month after I unlocked it, and at first I have to admit that I was a little reluctant to commit myself to it. I have been living in the MS Word mindset for so long that, as much as I despise working with that word processor, I am a little distrustful of anything else. But the longer I worked with PageFour and explored it, the more comfortable I became. Now I use it exclusively, with the exception that I still move my rough drafts over to Word and edit them into final copy there.

PageFour is designed for writers, plain and simple. It strips away all of the business-related junk that you have to work around in Word, and it organizes writing projects in a way that is more accessible and easier to navigate. At the top of PageFour’s organizational structure is the “Notebook.” A notebook can consist of anything from a single document to a mega-file containing every novel that you have ever written, all neatly tucked into their own folders. The documents that you write and store in your notebooks are called “Pages.” The term is slightly misleading in that it doesn’t refer to the length of the document. A page can be anything from a grocery list to the entire text of a novel. I prefer to create a notebook called “My Novels.” Within this notebook I create separate files for each of my novels. Within those folders I place the various chapters of the novel, usually with several pages for notes on pre-production, characters, setting, outline, and a project scrapbook which I like to have up when I am working on the story itself so that I can quickly jot notes as I go along. Different notebooks can be organized in a way that suits the purpose of the notebook. My “Misc.” notebook, for example, contains no folders or sub-folders, only pages. Everything is fully customizable and easy to access via the two panels on the left side of the screen which display all the notebooks on top, and the contents of the currently open notebook below.

Some of the features take a bit of getting used to. PageFour automatically saves your work ever few minutes, and when you close a page. This is handy, although there is one minor bug in that if you are not working in the notebook that you intend to keep the page in when you begin a new page, it will automatically save to whatever notebook that you happen to have open. It is easy enough to move it to the proper notebook, and subsequent saves will go to the proper location. The “Archive” feature looks useful, but I haven’t the faintest idea how it works. I skirt the issue by creating a “pagefour backup” file in My Documents and simply remembering to use the “save as files” option to copy an .rtf version of my documents. PageFour’s “print template” feature confused me at first, but became my favorite feature once I understood it. Basically, you create a template that defines all the specifications you desire when you print your document (margins, line space, font, etc.) and save it. Having done so, you are free to work in whatever on-screen environment that you choose. Single spaced, Verdana, 18, red will print as double spaced, Courier New, 12, black, if that is what you specified in the template. As an added feature, when you print, the program asks you if you want to use the template (or some other template), or simply print “as is.”

I’m certainly not going to write a technical manual for the thing. PageFour has all of the major features that you would expect from a word processor. It has a nice spell-checker that you can set to check while you work, or turn off and check the entire document when you are finished. You can run word-count on an entire document, or some highlighted portion thereof.

If there is anything that I truly dislike about PageFour, then it would have to be the convoluted header/footer/page numbering system. There is no “page break” function in PageFour, so in order to format, say, a novel for final copy printing, you will have to have all your chapters each in their own page. That done, I had to actually email the developer to ask how in the hell you get the program to number pages consecutively across the multiple “pages” without having to manually go in and change the “starting page number” for each document. He emailed me back, apparently there is a way to do it. but I don’t have the patience to try and figure it out. It is easier for me to use PageFour as a “rough draft” environment, and simply export the document to Word for final editing, formatting, and printing. I hesitate to say that this is a flaw in the program. It could be that I am just too computer-stupid and lazy to figure it out. But I think that this part of the program could use a little work. It is far from “intuitive.”

Bottom line: PageFour is worth the $30. I enjoy writing on this word processor, and whatever minor shortcomings that it may (or may not) have are far outweighed by the sheer joy of spending my writing time actually writing, rather than fighting with the damn word processor.

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