Carolina Road Software – Jarte 4.1 review

slick freeware word processor built on WordPad
Photo of Carolina Road Software – Jarte 4.1

Depending on your beliefs, in the beginning the word was God. But since the initial creation of the universe, things have expanded considerably beyond those three letters. We now need keyboards with more than four giant keys (G, O, D and Return), and we require things like word processors in order to be able to concoct our twenty-six-letter-stuffed contemporary opuses. How else could “Annoyed of Basingstoke” possibly write a properly spell-checked missive to the editor of The Times, complaining about the woeful lack of letterboxes at the east end of the High Street?

Jarte (pronounced Jar-tay) is a word processor constructed on the WordPad engine which has a couple of big draws. Firstly, it’s a slim and sleek affair that steers deliberately away from having a zillion features, many of which you’d probably never use. It focuses on a core set of menus and keeps matters simple. It’s also free, and doesn’t come with any nag boxes, ads, or other undesirable little facets hiding away. The company also produces Jarte Plus, which it hopes some users will pay to upgrade to, but that’s entirely optional.

Jarte is definitely a minimalist word processor. You go to save your document, and it deletes it because there’s no point in writing anything. Wait a second – our mistake – that would be a nihilist word processor. Jarte does no such thing. Jarte’s minimalism means it has clean lines, a pleasant marbled toolbar background and just a small scattering of icons, each of which produces a menu when hovered over. There’s no need to click when switching between tabbed documents, either, as merely pausing on a tab for more than a second will prompt a switch. Jarte has a fuller system of click-less operation, so you can turn on click-less menu item selection and other similar time-saving options.

It is a little strange not having information displayed that you’re used to seeing at a glance, such as font type or size. But you soon get acclimatised to the fact that you merely need to hover over the Font icon to see these details. And there are quite a few interesting features ensconced in these icon-based pop-up menus. Jarte might be built on WordPad, but it goes far beyond the Windows word processor’s very basic level of functionality.

Under the Font menu, for example, there are the usual bold and italics toggles, but also options for superscript or crossed-out text. There’s a format brush which can take effects and apply them, so if you want to enlarge, bold and underline a whole load of chapter headings, you can do one, load that into the brush and change the others to exactly the same format simply by waving the brush over them.

A spell-checker is included (with multiple languages) and word count, plus dictionary and thesaurus functions are provided, although not within the program itself. Rather, these are linked to on the WordWeb site, which works well enough but means you have to be online to use them. It’s possible to insert basic tables into documents, plus objects such as images or PDF files, and third-party support is provided for equations via the MathType equation editor, which can be downloaded for free.

Perhaps most impressive, though, is the thought that has gone into some elements of Jarte’s design. The user can change the default font with a single tick in the the top layer of a menu; even options like these aren’t buried away. The word processor loads up all the tabbed documents you were last working with upon start-up. Little touches also go a long way to making Jarte pleasurable to use, such as a red disk icon appearing bottom right, to indicate you haven’t saved changes in the current document. Or the fact that not just recent files are remembered by the program, but recent folders you’ve been in, so you can quickly access related documents to those you’ve been working with lately.

We were very impressed with this freebie, although the basic version of Jarte can only open RTF, Word document and plain text files. It can handle Word 97-2003 documents and DOCX files, but only if Microsoft’s Office 2007 Compatibility Pack is installed on the PC (a free download, so that’s no big problem). Upgrading to Jarte Plus gives you extras such as auto-correct, background spell-checking (underlining errors in red), a more customisable interface, a split-view mode (two documents side by side) and a number of other bits and pieces.

Company: Carolina Road Software

A neatly laid out and thoughtfully implemented, streamlined word processor, which does a lot more than the WordPad ashes it rose out of. Considering this is free, Jarte is an impressive effort. We'd recommend that those who find they don't use the more complex features of big suite word processors, and could do without all the bulk and bloat, hop on over to the Jarte site and give it a whirl.