I've been using the Mariner Write 3 beta on Mac OS X for a couple of weeks now. Until yesterday, I couldn't put my finger on why it was so easy and comfortable to use, why it was so familiar...and then it hit me.
I've long thought that Microsoft Word 5.1 for the Mac was the quintessential word processor. Previous versions of Word were lacking; later versions are the very reason the term "bloatware" was coined. But Word 5.1 was special. It put the essential tools, or at least the vast majority of them, right where you needed them. It was visually compact, uncluttered, and unintrusive. I used Word 5.1 until my Mac OS version (upgrade after upgrade) no longer supported it.
And there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth, because no other word processor came close to that balance of simplicity versus complexity. MacWrite, in its various incarnations, had too much hidden -- somehow it was not as straightforward as Word 5.1. ClarisWorks followed suit. WordPerfect: I can't put my finger on it, but somehow I never felt right with WordPerfect. Nisus Writer: I owned it, I used it; best find/replace system EVER ANYWHERE, but yeesh, what a clunky interface. I despaired.
So here comes Mariner Write in a public beta for OS X, announced on MacIntouch. Okay, I try it.
Instantly I liked it. It's like a reunion with an old friend! It's Word 5.1, subtly enhanced and polished up for OS X! (Works in OS 9 too, nicely.)
Best OS X feature, for me: Text smoothing. It uses OS X's built-in font anti-aliasing, which is simply beautiful. Beats the pants off Office v.X.
I've finally taken Word v.X out of my Dock! Hurrah!
Notes on ratings...
Features: Has everything I need, as far as I can tell. Would be nice to have an equivalent of Nisus Writer's PowerFind, but perhaps that's too much to ask.
Ease of Use: Stellar.
Value: I'm a shareware fan and a cheapskate, so I'd prefer $25 or $30, but $50 is still a good price for this level of quality.
Stability: Sometimes shows a little lag on my system. Might be the program, might be me. No crashes, though.