SoftMaker TextMaker: the Ultimate Handheld PC Word Processor

As a dedicated user of my Jornada 720, I am constantly in meetings or conferences in which I am taking notes using Pocket Word. And why Pocket Word has served me well in this mode, its limitations have always brought me back to my desktop version of Word to do serious editing. That was until discovering TextMaker. This application has features that, until now, were only available on the desktop.

TextMaker is a product of SoftMaker Software GmH, a German-based company that is currently producing desktop suite known as SoftMaker Office Anywhere. TextMaker for Handheld PC (and Pocket PC) is the CE-version of the Word Processor for the desktop by the same name. It is offered in both German and English and currently is Release Candidate 1 (which is the version this review is based upon).

The application has a dizzying amount of features, rivaling any desktop word processor. Virtually any aspect of a document is editable, including the ability to insert images into a document, font and paragraph editing as well as table insertion. Files can be saved in a variety of formats and can be password protected (in TextMaker's native format). No other word processing application I have found for HPCs come anywhere close to the features of TextMaker.

To being with, TextMaker's installation process is simple yet customizable. Users can install the application either on a Storage Card or in Internal RAM. If you have a Compact Flash card that is always in your HPC, this is a great way to save precious internal storage. Additionally, you do not take a performance "hit" by installing it on a CF card. I found no difference in operational speed when I installed in on my 256MB Compact Flash Card. The application itself is approximately 4MB in size, which appears to be huge by CE standards. Yet, on the whole, if you look at the features versus the install size, it is easy to see that this is reasonable.

TextMaker can be installed either in internal RAM or a Compact Flash card


Installation modules

TextMaker itself, after installing and running it, is very similar to Pocket Word in appearance, with a noticeably larger selection in menu options. Like Microsoft Word, TextMaker allows user to customize their view to suit their needs. One way of doing this is by adding or removing Control Strips (known as Tool Bars in Microsoft Word). This can be done from the View - Control Strips… menu. The Control Strips allow for the most common feature that a particular user uses to be only a tap away. These can be things such as Forms, Objects (such as pictures), and Mail Merge. With a particular Control Strip activated, those functions appear as a tool bar on the interface of the application. Further, the Control strips can be customized with particular functions or left in their default states. Users are also able to place the Control Strips at the top, bottom or floating of the interface.

TextMaker's user interface. Notice that I have moved the Format Control Strip to the bottom of my display

Understanding that the area of view is smaller on a HPC, you may not want to have all of these Control Strips activated as you will be left with only a small area in which to see what you are typing.

To see how to add a Control Panel, click here for a video of me adding the Forms Control Strip on my Jornada 720.

File Management is made easy in TextMaker with the File Manager function located off of the File menu. The File Manger allows user to open files, search for files and preview a file before opening it all from the same screen.

TextMaker's File Manager makes file opening and searching easier

The ability to open multiple file formats is a strong plus for TextMaker. While the application has a proprietary format that allows users to password a file, a multitude of other formats can be opened. To open a file, click on File - Open… or click the open folder icon on the Control Strip. The dialog box features a file list in the left-hand pane with a directory tree in the right-hand pane. Double-tap the directory tree to navigate to where you files are stored on your HPC. To view the different file formats, click on the file format form at the bottom of the dialog box. As you will see, you can open files in Pocket Word format (.pwd), Microsoft Word (.doc), Rich Text (.rtf) and Text (.txt) to name a few.

TextMaker allows user to open a multitude of different file formats

Likewise, files can be saved in different formats, although the list is a bit smaller. Keep in mind that if you save in formats other TextMaker's format (.tmd); you will loose much of the formatting in a document. Remember that the limitations of Pocket Word are still there and even if you create a document in TextMaker and save it in Pocket Word format, you won't see the advanced editing that was done to the document. How do you get around this if you want to move the document to your desktop PC? Simply save the file as an HTML document.

TextMaker can save files in a variety of formats including HTML 4.0

Like desktop-based Word Processors, TextMaker has a long list of editing functions. Beyond the normal Cut, Paste and Delete functions, TextMaker allows for more advanced functions such replacing text, headers and footers, as well as footnotes. Additionally, Date/Time can be inserted into a document as well as page numbers, breaks (page breaks, column breaks, chapter and section breaks) and symbols.

Along with these, paragraph and font editing is flexible and easy-to-use in TextMaker. Users can change fonts in traditional ways such as size and color but can also change the font itself (with a typeface view), underline, capitalize, small capitalize, and blink among others. Hyperlinks can also be added to text.

Text font editing is easy and straightforward

A disadvantage to Pocket Word is the inability to insert graphics or pictures into a document. TextMaker allows for pictures and drawing to be inserted into a document. This is very helpful when creating documents that require drawings or images to relay information to the reader. To add a picture to a document, tap the Object - New Picture… menu. From here, users can use a File Manager-like interface to find the photo or image that is needed. TextMaker will allow many different formats to be used including .jpg, .bmp and .gif. Once the file is found, simply tap Ok" and the file will be inserted into the document. Further editing can be done by tapping on the picture and selecting Properties off of the Objects menu. From here users can resize the image to a proper size for the document.

Single-handedly, this feature is worth the cost of TextMaker. As a Data Network Engineer, I am constantly creating documents with network diagrams included in them. Now, while I am in a meeting or on the go, I can create these documents, including the diagrams, without having to effectively double edit on my 720 and my desktop.

Click here to see a video of me creating a document with a photograph in it that I resize.

When inserting a photograph in a document, you can preview it before you insert it to make sure it is the correct picture

Finally, TextMaker includes an excellent Spell Checker and Thesaurus. The Spell Checker is configurable to allow for on-the-fly checking which interrupts the user as they type. It can also be setup to be Microsoft Word-like in that it places a red line under the misspelled word, visually indicating to the user that the word is either misspelled or not in the dictionary. Further, users have the benefit of a built in comprehensive thesaurus. Both of these features are well developed and reliable.

The thesaurus feature is functional and comprehensive

The list of features included in TextMaker is far greater than those covered in this review. Quite simply, there are too many to list. That, plus the ease-of-use of TextMaker makes it a Pocket Word replacement, not just an alternative.

With an anticipated release date of August 30, 2002, TextMaker should be on every HPC user's short list of software to buy. The price is $69.95 with the Release Candidate available now for trial (and for free) and a demonstration version of the product to come with the full release. While the price may cause some to hesitate, it is my opinion that it could be the best piece of software one has ever purchased for their HPC.

You can check out information on TextMaker at the SoftMaker Website.

System Requirements:

Windows CE 2.11 and above
SH3, SH4, StrongARM, MIPS, XScale

Cost: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Usability: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional
Built-In helps: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional
Customer Service: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional
Overall: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional

TextMaker can be found at the following URL.

Clinton Fitch
Chief Reviews Editor