Inexpensive Software - PolyEdit
by John P. Reid for the Maine Antique Digest magazine
October 2005The new user of computers is often faced with buying expensive software to do simple jobs. Inexpensive software is often available that will do those jobs until the new user's needs are better known.
Almost any word processor will do for writing letters, memos, reports, and other documents to be printed on paper. They all let the user choose fonts and font sizes, center titles, format paragraphs, create tables, make lists, and choose backgrounds and borders.
But there is a problem when documents are exchanged on computer disks or over the Internet. Every brand of word processor uses its own format codes that other word processors may not understand, but the great majority of the world's documents are written using Microsoft Word. If your word processor cannot read and write MS Word format, you are stuck in a paper world.
Depending on which one of many software suites is purchased, the latest version of MS Word can cost several hundred dollars. In addition, there are people who stubbornly refuse to join the Microsoft flock. Still others want to try word processing before spending a lot of money. Fortunately, there are alternatives.
The word processor PolyEdit may be downloaded free from www.polyedit.com in about ten minutes on a dial-up connection. It will work with Windows 95 and higher and can be used indefinitely. To get rid of the "please register" nag screen and to get prompt, free e-mail technical support, you may register on line for $27.95. While downloading, also download Converter Pack 2.1, which tells PolyEdit how to handle MS Word files, and the spell check dictionary for your language.
PolyEdit is a good little word processor. It will create almost any kind of document for printing or Internet exchange. Elaborate formatting, page headers and footers, lists, outlines, indentation, and full justification are possible. It can use all the fonts and special symbols installed on your computer. Tables and lists can be created, and Microsoft Excel files can be imported as tables. Pictures can be inserted in pages, but their size and position will be fixed.
With the Converter Pack installed, PolyEdit can write files readable by MS Word when told to do so. It can read MS Word files, though some formatting may be lost. For instance, complex picture layouts or text boxes will be simplified without loss of information.
PolyEdit is purely a word processor. There are many MS Word capabilities it does not have. It does not create Web pages. Merge files to create mass mailings or mailing labels from an address database are not available. A stock of document templates is not provided. Foreign language support is limited to spell checking. On the other hand, it has small conveniences not available in MS Word. There is a help file but no user manual; however, it works like most other word processors. Get it as a first word processor or as standby software when MS Word compatibility is needed.