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Buzzing on Buzzword 6 February, 2008

Posted by Jay Ball in Uncategorized.

As a writer by trade I have a habit of trying every word-processor I can get my hands on. For day to day work, I still use Word – although a heavily customised stripped back version. But I have this perpetual feeling that there’s a better option out there. Of course, today, there are more options than ever before (even for a Mac user).

So to date I’ve tried a variety of desktop options:

  • Word – good but bloated
  • OpenOffice and its Mac variant NeoOffice – pretty much as good as Word if not quite as pretty (and still pretty bloated)
  • Apple’s Pages – OK but feels more like a DTP wannabe than a writer’s tool of choice
  • Bean – nicely stripped back but lacking some of the features I need
  • Scrivener – a different take on a writing application, particularly good if you’re writing a book
  • ThinkFree Office – very nice (and probably the one I’d spend my own money on)
  • Writeroom – super-stripped back option that reminds me of the very early days of the likes of Wordstar

Of course, today there are also the web-based AJAX apps (Google Docs (formally Writely), Zoho, ThinkFree’s own online suite and 37 Signal’s collaborative Writeboard). The trouble I’ve generally found with these was they are so s l o w. Plus, there is the ongoing issue that you need a web connection to use them – fine when I’m in the office or at home but a little more tricky when out and about.

Enter: Buzzword


So today, I’ve been playing with my latest option, Buzzword. And on a first pass, it’s really very good. Developed by Virtual Ubiquity and subsequently bought by Adobe, Buzzword is built with Flex to run in the Flash player of most mainstream browsers (although not Opera – grrr).

The first thing that struck me was how much more responsive it felt than other web-based options. There wasn’t any noticeable lag. Text looked great on screen (although they need to work on print quality).

The menus don’t simply ape Word. They slide in and out in that nice Flash kind of way, just offering what you need at the time. The document organiser lets you see your files in a variety of ways – neatly, if you choose ‘size’ it divides them by how many pages they’ve go, not by bytes. Likewise the scroll bar shows where you need to go to for each page in your document.

I haven’t played with the collaboration part yet, but as soon as I find a willing colleague with some time, I’ll get on to it.

Buzzword is by it’s nature stripped back, but offers most of the features most people would need. It is also in its early stages so I’d expect to see more bells and whistles added soon (although hopefully stopping short of becoming bloatware).

Then of course, there’s still the issue of needing to be online. That’s where Buzzword holds out the intriguing possibility of offering an offline version using Adobe AIR – an Adobe technology that allows Flash, Flex and AJAX applications to run on the desktop.

This could get very interesting.

Source: Adaptive Path



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