A Sneak Peek at WordPro

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by John McDonald

The new Lotus word processor for OS/2 is the best there ever has been.

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The editors of WarpOnline recently got a chance to take a sneak peek at the new Lotus WordPro for OS/2, the first piece of the new SmartSuite for OS/2. We were floored. There never has been an application like this for OS/2.

For those of you not familiar with how this release of WordPro came about, WordPro for OS/2, as well as future releases of Freelance for OS/2 and 123 for OS/2, are the product of a program IBM calls DAPIE, for Developers API Extensions. An API is the set of commands and subroutines that a programmer uses to communicate directly with the operating system. A developer needs to call an API routine to create a window, for example. One of the key problems for OS/2 has been a lack of native OS/2 applications. Software companies have been unwilling to commit resources to develop for OS/2, on the theory that most Windows software works with it anyway, so there is no need to develop separate OS/2 applications.

DAPIE was designed to solve that problem. What DAPIE allows developers to do is to take the same source code, or original program statements, written to the Windows API, and recompile them once to make a native OS/2 application. In this way the developer doesn't need to maintain separate OS/2 and Windows versions of the source code (like Lotus had to do in the past), but can reuse 80-90% of the program to create either a Windows or an OS/2 application. The remaining portion of the code that must be converted manually or with automated tools represents programming statements that must be converted to work with the OS/2 Workplace Shell. For instance, creating a new icon in OS/2 is much different than creating one in Windows.

The implications are huge, and the first good example of this type of application is the new WordPro for OS/2, which is a direct DAPIE of the Windows 95 version. This means that 80-90% of the program is exactly the same as the Windows version - bringing new functionality and ease of use to the Lotus OS/2 products for the first time. Lotus was committed to the DAPIE project long before IBM purchased them, and in fact, helped to debug and improve it throughout the process of creating WordPro for OS/2. That's why the program has been delayed several months behind the Windows version. Freelance and 123 will also be DAPIE conversions of the Windows products. Our editors have also seen an early version of Freelance and of 123, and they are coming along very nicely.

When you launch WordPro, the first thing you notice is the striking resemblance to the Windows version. Toolbars, window design, even a close button appear on many of the dialog boxes. This brings some new and interesting design elements to the OS/2 interface, and may be a good indication of the look-and-feel of the changes coming with Merlin.

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The WordPro '96 for OS/2 Main Window

Lotus has done quite a bit to ease the new user into the program. An inviting welcome window pops up by default each time you start the program. In addition to being able to launch a tutorial from this window, you can also pick a "SmartMaster" template for your document. Each SmartMaster is shown in a window to the right of the selection list so you can get a visual clue as to what each template looks like. Of course, WordPro allows you to save any document as a template, so you can create your own stable of pre-made template letters.

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The Welcome Dialog Box

Once inside WordPro you will quickly realize that you are not in any just any word processor. One of the coolest new features is a one-click spell check utility. If you have misspelled a word, just click the cursor anywhere on the word, and click on the spell check icon at the bottom of the window. Instantly you are given several correct spelling options that you can click on and replace the word. To help save those spelling errors in the first place, WordPro includes a function called SmartCorrect, that can automatically correct common misspellings, like substituting "teh" for "the", as well as converting fractions like 1/2 and 1/4 into their single-character representations. All the corrections happen on-the-fly behind you as you keep typing.

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One Click Spell Check

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With a single right click on any object, including graphics and text, you can bring up the "properties" dialog box. Inside this box you can check off options such as font size, bulleted listing, colors and borders. The right click menu also gives you options to cut and paste your selection, spell check or grammar check your selection, and many other options depending on what kind of object you have clicked on.

WordPro now has a complete drawing utility built into it, so you can draw charts, diagrams, boxes and circles with ease. An equation editor makes its debut for the first time so scientific and educational users can quickly add complex multilevel formulas to their documents. With one click on the menu you can now print an envelope or label, as WordPro will intelligently guess the correct inside address and printer type and format the envelope correctly automatically.

You can now create a master document and attach sub-documents to that master. This is very useful for publishers of books or long manuals. You can create and edit each chapter as a separate file, and link them all together for the purposes of creating an index or table of contents, functions that are now included with WordPro. There is also a system for creating versions of your document, allowing you to make proposed changes while saving the last "good" version right inside the file itself. The mail merge helper has also been dramatically improved, with step-by-step tabs across the top of the dialog box to help guide you through the process.

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Mail Merge Helper

One of the neatest features is something Lotus calls Team Computing. Using the Team Computing functions of WordPro opens up a whole new realm of collaboration and teamwork when creating documents or proposals. At the simplest level is TeamMail, which allows you connect with a Lotus CC:Mail or Notes server and route a document to several individuals with an electronic "routing slip" attached. TeamReview lets you mark up a document with your own special "highlight". You can attach comments (called Click Here Blocks) at intervals throughout the document, as well as make proposed additions or deletions. Later, the owner of the document can use TeamConsolidate to merge the changes together into a final document, choosing and discarding which changes members of the team have made.

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Last, but not least, is an amazing level of integration with the Internet. From right inside WordPro, you can now open a document across the Internet! Just select File|Internet|Open, and you can select an FTP or WWW site to open and display inside of WordPro. You can also save documents back over the net, as well perform a host of other internet document commands right from WordPro itself.

WordPro is indeed a world-class word processor. OS/2 users finally will suffer nothing by using the OS/2 release - in fact, they are likely to gain performance and ease-of-use advantages that their windows counterparts do not. If this is any indication of the types of programs we can now expect as a result of DAPIE, the next year should prove be a very exciting time for OS/2 users.