Most writers don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a word processing program, and they don’t need to. There are many free or very inexpensive programs that do everything a writer needs, without all the bells and whistles of Word or WordPerfect. I used WordPerfect for years, and I still consider it vastly superior to Word, and I wish I could use it. But they sell it for about $250. So I started to look around for a good word processor that was free or very inexpensive. The one I found is Atlantis. It costs about $35, and it’s worth every penny.
It has the Word-like menu interface that is the standard, nothing new there, so I’ll just get to what I like about it.
Spell Check and Auto Correct. It’s easy to add a new word to the dictionary or to auto correct. I type very fast and tend to make the same mistakes all the time, jumbling up certain letters in certain words. If a word is flagged as misspelled, you right-click, and a menu comes up giving you suggestions for the word, and the option with one more click to add it to the dictionary, change it to the suggested word, or add the suggested word to auto correct, so that when you type the wrong word again, it will correct it. Most other programs lack this feature.
Typing sounds.This may sound silly to some of you, but I grew up with a typewriter, so I like the feedback of the sound of the letter hitting the paper. It’s important enough for me that that’s how I found Atlantis. I did a search for a program with the typewriter sound.
Atlantis has a very flexible and easy to use way to have a sound made when you type. You can use a suite of sounds they provide, or add your own. And it clicks at the speed I type.
There are other ways to do this, particularly on a Mac, but with a Windows-based system, there isn’t. You can do it, but if you type quickly, it lags and loses the effect.
Auto space deletion.This is very important. As you edit, you delete words and sentences, move things around, insert stuff, etc. Most word processors will leave any resultant extra spaces. Atlantis deletes these automatically. This is a big time saver and typo saver.
Status Bar. As a writer, I like to keep track of the total word count in the document as I work on it, and to know where the cursor is so I can consistently line things up in the manuscript. Most free or reasonably-priced programs don’t display that information. For example, Open Office. As good as it is, I found no way to tell where on the page the cursor was.
The status bar in Atlantis, which can be displayed at the bottom of the screen, tells you the usual stuff, but it also tells you the line and column the cursor is in, and the word count. It also displays how long you have worked on a document, and how fast you are typing. The only thing I wish it contained was the time of day.
Word Count.This is hugely important for writers. The word count needs to be accurate. One of the big issues for writers with Open Office is that they count any character with a space on either end as a word. So, “. . .” is three words in Open Office. Atlantis correctly ignores them. For the purpose of calculating space, I can almost see it, but for authors, we want to know how many words are in a document, not how many dots.
Full Screen Editing.You can easily display only the page, without any menus or other distractions.
Customer Support.They have a customer support forum where you can find answers to most of your questions. If you can’t find a related post, you can post your own. They are very responsive, and try to help. Be polite, though, they sass back.
Here’s what it doesn’t do that I wish it did:
File to pdf. Atlantis does not convert to pdf. They refer you to a program that acts like a printer to output a pdf file. Although I’d rather have it do it for me, as Open Office does, I find that on the rare occasions I need a pdf, it works for me.
Document Compare. There comes a time when it would be good to compare two documents to see what changes were made. Writing a novel, however, that is not that big of a deal. If it becomes necessary, stick it in Open Office.
Versions. Atlantis does not have a way to save versions of a document. I have overcome this problem with a couple of software packages that are free. I will blog about that shortly.
Font Display. Atlantis displays a list of fonts, of course, but not what the font looks like. Open Office does this, and it’s very helpful.
Headers and Footers more intuitive. Atlantis has a flexible header and footer display, but you have to look around for all the features. For any novel-length manuscript, you need to be able to suppress the header on the first page, and if you are preparing a book for publication on CreateSpace, for example, you need to have different headers on the left side of the book as on the right. This can be done, but there is a learning curve. Honestly, though, the only word processor I ever saw that did it right was WordPerfect.
No plugins or extensions. One thing Open Office has going for it is a selection of extensions that add features. Atlantis doesn’t. There is a separate thesaurus that integrates with it, but as far as I know, that’s it.
Long Delay when Returning. For some reason, and maybe it’s my system (though I don’t have the problem with other programs) there is a delay of fifteen or twenty seconds before I can do anything in Atlantis if I return to it from another program.
Conclusion: Even with its flaws, Atlantis is the best low-priced word processor for writers.* If you can’t come up with the 35 clams, then use Open Office, but if you can, this is a good one. It would be perfect if they added document compare and version tracking. It’d even be worth a bit more cash.
*What about novel-writing software? you might ask. I use Scrivener, which is quite good for planning and organizing. But I find that a lot of my writing is done on a word processor, then copied into Scrivener. And once you reach a point that you have a decent draft, I like to do the fine tuning on a word processor.