The Atlantis Word Processor (AWP) is a long lost piece of software, discovered at the bottom of the ocean on an ancient computer which was probably fashioned by aliens; possibly the extra-terrestrials who originally populated Earth with human beings as part of a galactic reality TV experiment. It’s either that or an alternative to Microsoft Word which comes with a month’s free and fully functional trial.
The program, of which we reviewed version 188.8.131.52, is designed to be lightweight and quick loading, yet it isn’t stripped down in terms of features. And AWP certainly fires itself up quickly, but more to the point it will load a large document like lightning. A megabyte-plus file that took around two seconds to load up under OpenOffice was literally instantly available upon clicking open in Atlantis. Most impressive.
As with many word processors, the presentation sticks very much to cloning Word; albeit an aged version of it in this case. The general interface layout and toolbar icons are familiar if dated, featuring three bars packed with icons including some slightly more obscure features such as an ‘Insert current time’ (in minutes, seconds and AM or PM) button.
Attention to detail is considerable here. For example, in the Open Document window a readable preview of the text is available in an adjacent window, and this can be changed to other functions such as a page layout preview. And the word count is constantly displayed and updated at the foot of your document.
For the full stats of lines, paragraphs and so forth, ALT-T then W can be pressed. Again, the same shortcuts as Word are employed (namely Tools, Word count). There’s even a gauge of how fast you’re typing in characters per minute tucked away at the bottom of the screen.
However, the most immediately striking element about Atlantis Word Processor is that when you start typing, various noises are emitted from the computer’s speakers. A rat-tat-tat typewriter sound accompanies every key-stroke, with the typewriter ‘ding’ at the end of each line, and a carriage return noise when you hit Enter. Very retro, and we couldn’t decide whether this was off-putting or not, initially.
What’s more off-putting are the other sound effects on offer. When a word is underlined in red, due to a spelling mistake or AWP not recognising it as valid, the program makes a noise like a cat having its tail stood upon. Or perhaps a parrot choking on a cracker. At any rate, it sounds like some sort of animal in pain.
Auto-correction suggestions also come with a sound effect, as do auto-saves, selecting bold type and so on. At times when you’re typing away, three or four noises happen almost simultaneously. Before you know it, the program sounds like a cross between a typewriter, a rave and a barnyard.
That’s because the majority of noises – and there are 70 of them in total – are turned on by default. Fortunately it’s possible to disable the lot in the program’s options menu, or just choose a few you’d like. The mistake warning, for example, some might find useful so they can immediately realise they’ve committed a typo. And if you don’t like the cat/parrot noise, you can change it to something else. Personally, we liked the Insert/Overwrite warning, as accidentally turning this on is an error we often commit, usually obliterating half a sentence before we realise what we’ve done.
Not only can the sound effects be customised, but also the menus, hotkeys, and indeed the word processor’s colour scheme. There’s also a veritable raft of interesting and innovative features here, such as the overused words display. This analyses a document to locate repeated words in close proximity, and will also hunt out overly lengthy sentences. We found this particular little nugget very handy. There are lots of other convenient and clever elements here, like an expandable control panel which grants swift access to various formatting options and templates such as greetings card messages.
So, is anything amiss? The program’s supported file types are limited, with only Word, RTF and text files workable off the bat. AWP also lacks support for tables, and it wasn’t perfect when importing Word documents. While it carried through some of the more complex formatting such as headers and page numbers from Word just fine, it dropped the paragraphs in one of our test files, which was slightly disappointing.