Thursday, August 31, 2006

Writely just a few rocks short of a full load

Yeah, I get that Writely can do basic HTML, like bold, italic and such, and there's even provision to bring in photos.

But to make this useful for writers who are submitting material for publication, it's vital that Writerly kick out both text files and Word-formatted documents with "smart quotes." So far, the quotes don't look all that smart.

And I can't seem to get an indented first line on a paragraph. That's HTML-y but not very writerly -- sorry Writely.

I appreciate such HTML hacks as writing in different colors. But what about turning all this mush into a traditional Mac or PC file that can be e-mailed to an editor?


Click on the File menu and you can Save As a Word, RTF, Open Office (yeah!), or PDF (double fuckin' yeah!) document. Do it, and a dialog box pops up with a file name ready to be saved on your own PC. Yeah! Now we're talking.

All they've got to do is keep building this thing, and when the Internet flows like air and water, we'll never "buy" applications again. While Writely, Blogger, Gmail and the like are free at present, I'm not opposed to paying if they help me get stuff done.

At present, as an aid to writing on Blogger, Writely is pretty much a toy -- it uploads instantly, but the title of my Writely document doesn't make the leap -- I'm left with title-less blog posts, for which I have to insert said title via the Blogger Dashboard.

And you can only configure Writely to post to a single blog. That wouldn't work for me, since I've got four Blogger blogs. And while the HTML formatting is great, why wouldn't I just work in Blogger's Dashboard in the first place? Well, one reason is that Blogger chokes on browsers that aren't IE 6 and above or Firefox. Writely, like Blogger, doesn't work on Safari, but if Writely functions as promised -- and continues to do so -- on such oldies as IE 5 and Netscape 4, it'll be a boon to my Powerbook 1400 and the whole world of This Old Mac.

If for some reason I didn't have instant Web access (and this happens a lot more than you'd think), Blogger already allows posts to be e-mailed in. I can blog offline with a mail program on This Old Mac, for instance. That means Netscape 4.7. Writing blog posts, if you don't factor in HTML links and photos, is pretty simple and well-suited to e-mail composition.

So is Writely more than a toy at this point? Well, it's better than Pote, which I actually have used to compose documents. But any competing text-editing product, in my view, must confront the basic formatting of Microsoft Word, and by that I mean indents, smart quotes and adjustable column widths.

Give me that, and I'll be pig-in-shit happy. That's what makes Open Office such a marvel of free-software success. You can play in the Microsoft Office world without paying $300 plus whatever it takes to upgrade periodically for the privilege. Even the Daily News is on board with this one -- we all have Open Office, not Microsoft Office.

For now, just give me my Writely paragraph indent. And soon.

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