Early Adopter Blues

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Todd
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Early Adopter Blues

Post by Todd »

It remains a long and winding road. But for now, I am back to Mellel.

What happened? That’s what I’d like to know. For the first week of its release, NWX 2.1 was a model citizen, the most powerful writing tool I’d ever used. The next week, all of a sudden, I wasn’t able to write three sentences without a catastrophic crash.

New documents work just fine, but my long (200-page) document is bruised, bloody, and down for the count. It is never able to stay open for more than three minutes without ‘unexpectedly quit’-ing and losing the two or three sentences I’m able to compose in that brief time. Without exaggeration, it has a failure rate of 100%.

What I’ve done:

1. I’ve harvested a dozen crash reports and sent them off to Nisus. I haven’t sent all of them, because there are too many; the number of crashes equal the number of times I’ve opened the document. (Incidentally, all the reports look alike to my untrained eye, with the crash occurring in Thread zero. Should I keep sending more?)

2. Copied all the text and pasted it into a new document. No change, still crashes.

3. Tinkered with the preferences: it’s not autosave, spellcheck, or any other feature, as far as I can tell.

4. Trashed the Nisus preference file. No dice.

5. Raised the white flag. I surrender.

I welcome any suggestions, tricks, help, life-preservers, bright ideas, CPR, or expressions of commiseration.

dennisg
Posts: 73
Joined: 2004-05-16 07:51:28
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by dennisg »

Todd,

Those are strong words for a guy who drank the Kool-Aid. But they're not unreasonable words. The thing I'm resigned to believing about NWE is that it's going to take a huge amount of patience and faith to remain a user. And, considering what I've experienced with NWE, I'm not entirely sure why I possess either. Starting with 1.1.2, there's not a single version of NWE that's fixed the previous version's bugs without introducing some heinous new ones.

As a fellow writer (and a technological dimwit), I can only offer commiseration, and not solutions. I have also experienced a crashing problem, but only a few times. What you and I do differently as writers is the way we create our documents. You seem to put your entire manuscript in one giant file, while each chapter of mine is a separate file. That may be why 2.1 doesn't crash nearly as often for me. With every other word processor I've used, your method would be just fine. But NWE seems pissed off at having to deal with giant files.

In the past, I've thought about how nice it is to have a forum like this where we can vent and seek clarification. The fact that Nisus provides it, and doesn't seem inclined to delete our complaints, is what keeps me minimally loyal, despite the fact that I constantly feel a low-level dissatisfaction and frustration with the software. But I have to wonder how many people have downloaded a trial copy of NWE, found the bugs, then just trashed the program without giving Nisus any feedback. I won't begin to attempt a quantification, but I've got to believe it's a staggering number. I started with 1.1.2, found it buggy and anemic, but paid for it anyway on the promise that 2.0 would solve all my problems. Ironically.
that's when the real problems began.

I know the guys at Nisus must be reading this forum and tearing what's left of their hair out. But they've just got to fix this software already. I'll repeat something I mentioned in a blog entry that Nisus didn't respond to: Please, guys ... don't even think about adding any new features until you can release a version people can use that won't feel like passing a kidney stone. There are several smart people who post on this forum, and they frequently offer excellent feature suggestions. Please ignore them. Put making a stable application at the top of your list, with everything else a distant second.
- Dennis

"Is that your little friend in the wood chipper?"

Todd
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Post by Todd »

And what sweet-tasting Kool-Aid it has been. To this point, my patience and loyalty have been predicated on the outstanding potential of the product. NWX still feels like a glimpse into the future of word processing. That it remains mostly usable in the present has been like icing on the cake.


One fact of life has made me more than usually patient: only in software heaven do they release products that are perfectly stable and bug free. Business concerns make this lofty ideal impractical here on earth. After all, how long could Nisus survive, holding back their primary product, without the trickle of revenue provided by early adopters like ourselves?


I can remember when a simple VCR cost well over $1,000 and was far less functional than it was today. Who allowed the Panasonics and the JVCs of the world to keep perfecting their recording devices while bringing the price down to the point where everyone could afford them? Early adopters, of course. Early adopters who did it for the simple love of the technology, and the insatiable desire to get the first peek at something insanely great. Brave souls, we are. Brave, patient, and indispensible to the process of innovation.


But everything has its limit. I'm not sure when my early adopter's patience will expire, though I know that its lifespan is directly proportional to the coolness of the product. For now I will take your suggestion, and divide my behemoth of a project into several smaller documents. Either that, or it's back to Mellel/MSWord/TextEdit for me. None of these is my preferred way of working, but crashers can't be choosers.

dennisg
Posts: 73
Joined: 2004-05-16 07:51:28
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by dennisg »

I think your VCR analogy is interesting, but not entirely appropriate. Back in the dark ages of consumer electronics, if you wanted to be an early adopter of a VCR, you paid (as you rightly observed) over $1000 and got a clunky machine with switches you had to stand on in order to flip. There were very few choices. Where the analogy breaks down is here: we may be early adopters of NWE, but not of word processors. There's lots of choices. And there's really nothing significant that NWE does that can't be done by another word processor, although maybe not as elegantly. The question is, how much is that elegance worth? Is it worth having files crash and losing data? Is it worth having to comb through your document because you can't trust what the styles are doing to it? My point about loyalty is that, for many people, the answer is going to be no ... it's not going to be worth it to them. If Nisus wants to grow and prosper, it's going to have to deliver a product that the laggards (and not just the early adopters) are going to appreciate, and the only way for that to happen is to build a stable product -- not just a pretty one. And not just a full-featured one.

I was an early adopter of Mariner Write, and I never had these problems with it. To be perfectly honest, I often ask myself, why did I ever switch? Mariner Write was doing everything I asked it to do -- and doing it completely reliably. Maybe I was bored. Maybe I allowed myself to be seduced by this forum or the promise of what might be. But I have to say that I've learned a lesson: never invest in a product using promises as collateral. Wait until it's a real product before plunking down the dough.
- Dennis

"Is that your little friend in the wood chipper?"

Todd
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Post by Todd »

Maybe it does come down to that elusive thing called ‘elegance’. I spend so much time processing words, so many hours burning my eyes in front of this LCD, that I want more than just a tool – I want an enjoyable tool. I want a tool that thinks like I do. Elegance is no small thing to me– it is the main reason I’m still using a Mac after all these years, and not Windows.

But the tool still has to work.

Grabbing and manipulating margins, font sizes, and page zooms in real-time. Widgets and buttons that maximize my text-viewing space by residing in a drawer attached on the *side*. A willingness to re-think some very stodgy concepts in software design. I’d pay a high price for a word processor like that.

And I have.

So yes, I’m looking at other word processors again, but only as a a band-aid, a temporary fix. Sure they can do the job. But I have suffered through MS Word, AppleWorks, TextEdit, and Mellel; in their own ways they have also missed the mark. I will take another look at Mariner, as you have suggested.

In the long run, Nisus remains the only company that’s dedicated to building something more than a glorified typewriter. The competition has always felt crippled and backwards to me... kind of like, well, Microsoft Windows.

shades
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Joined: 2002-11-12 18:51:49

Post by shades »

I had been leaning strongly to Mellel over the past four months (I had purchased it two years ago). I found many features I liked, particularly its unique approach to styles. And yet, it wasn't quite what I was satisfied with. Not sure if it was page setup, tables, style changes affected every document set up that way, or what, it just never was a good fit. I also had paid for NWE when it came out, and have upgraded each time. With 2.1, yes, I find faults, but now I can truly participate in my writing like I had in Nisus Classic and Word 5.1.

I keep Mellel and Word 2004 handy for special projects (cross-platform for Word), but NWE 2.1 has become my workhorse. I just like it.
MBP 2.4 GHz, OS X 10.5.6
NWP 1.2, Mellel 2.6, iWork 08

dshan
Posts: 334
Joined: 2003-11-21 19:25:28
Location: Sydney, Australia

Early Adopter Blues

Post by dshan »

Todd,

Is it only your large document(s) that seem to crash NWX? Have you tried any smaller documents to see if they have the problem or not? Has your large document grown significantly since it was working OK under NWX 2.1 for that week?

It may well be a problem with big documents in general or maybe something else in NWX has become corrupted, the only way to find out is to try some smaller docs and see if they crash it as well. Do ANY other docs trigger the crash or is it just this one doc?

I've virtually never had NWX crash on me and I've been using it since 1.0. Several other bugs turned up in early versions, performance issues with large documents and misc irritations, but almost never a program crash. 2.1 has been rock solid for me so far, no crashes, much improved large doc perfomance.

charles
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Post by charles »

Todd:

We have found a crasher related to background spell checking that no doubt the source of the problem you are having. It will especially happen if you open and close large documents quickly. We are working on a fix and we will release it as soon as it is available.

-Charles
Charles Jolley
Nisus Software, Inc.

Todd
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Post by Todd »

Look at all you good people coming to my rescue in a time of word-crunching crisis. In the twenty-four hours since I posted my problem, I got support and commiseration from Seattle, Washington to Sydney, Australia. Now that I’m tearing out my hair over this thing, I should ask you guys for some Rogaine™. (For Aussies: Vegemite™ is not an acceptable substitute).

I found a solution to my crashing document, although I’m on pins and needles wondering how long it will last. I copied all the text into TextEdit, saved it (minus page numbering and formatting, of course), and worked on it from there. A day later, I re-converted the document back into NWX, and added the formatting. So far, all’s well... for a day. I worry about the slightest hiccup, though, and I thoroughly expect the crashes to return.

To answer dshan’s question, yes, I think it is specific to large documents. NWX works well for anything smaller. The 210-pager is the only thing that crashes. This came as a surprise to me too, because for the first week I used 2.1 very heavily, and it was rock-solid. I was overjoyed. But like a Miami rainstorm, the crashes came out of the blue and in a flash.

Charles, you sound confident about the spelling checker bug, and I hope you are right. Does it make a difference that I never use ‘Check Spelling as you Type’? I hope the five zillion crash reports I sent in were of some value.

dennisg
Posts: 73
Joined: 2004-05-16 07:51:28
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by dennisg »

Todd,

I'm not sure how much of your formatting TextEdit strips out, but that solution seems kludgier than is necessary. If you're unwilling to break your manuscript down into individual chapter files for use in NWE 2.1, open your one large file in NWE 1.1.2. It will keep all your existing formatting (including that which was applied by a style). The only downside is the awful line-spacing bug, where NWE arbitrarily changes line spacing every time you open your file.
- Dennis

"Is that your little friend in the wood chipper?"

charles
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Post by charles »

Todd:

We will find out when we seed you the beta. Let's hope it is! Looking at your crash reports you sent, it is very possibly the same bug.

-Charles
Charles Jolley
Nisus Software, Inc.

Todd
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Post by Todd »

At this point, the merely kludgy is a great relief. TextEdit got the job done, and I can't complain for fear of waking the crash demons once again.

Even if I hadn't trashed it, NWX 1 would be more trouble than it's worth, precisely because of the paragraph formatting problem you mentioned, as well as the unbearable slowness of writing. Version one was acceptable up to 100 pages; at 150 it was slothful; at 200 pages it stood there like a statue. Version 2 came along at just the right moment... or so it seemed.

If my current solution doesn't last, I will break it down to chapters like you suggested. I think that's the most reasonable compromise I've heard thus far.

And thank you, by the way.

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