Z-Write General FAQ

Created: Thu, Jun 08, 2000
Modified: Mon, May 31, 2004



This document is designed for users new to Z-Write, or those who have already downloaded it and have questions that weren't answered in the manual.

Question: I don't get Z-Write. Why is it better than any other word processor?

If you don't "get" it, it's possible Z-Write isn't for you. Most writers immediately understand the power of storing multiple, semi-related text documents inside a single file. Some writers work fine with traditional, linear word processors and Z-Write isn't something they need.

Z-Write is essentially a cross between a word processor and a database. It allows you to organize your writing project in whatever method is comfortable for you (whether that be putting separate Chapters into each Section, or using Sections for tiny snippets of text and arranging them in various orders, a la Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.).

The real beauty of Z-Write comes from being able to specify exactly which Sections are combined for printing and exporting. You can print out just your research notes, or all your chapters. This ability to exclude non-writing from "real" writing is unique and essential for organizing huge amounts of diverse material.

In the future, Z-Write will make this process even more flexible and powerful, as it is the heart of what Z-Write is all about.

Question: I love Z-Write, but I've got many Sections in my documents and it's getting difficult to keep things organized. Are you going to add the ability to use folders in the Section List?

The short answer is YES! The longer answer is that we are evaluating the best way to add this feature, but in one way or another, future versions of Z-Write will definitely support the ability to organize your Sections better. This is a complicated feature to add, so we can't tell you when it will be available, but it's definitely coming. Stay tuned.

Question: I hate the way new documents always open in such a small window. Isn't there a way to make it so new documents open to the full size of my screen?

This is simple. Z-Write includes a document called "Default Template" in its Templates folder. By modifying that file, any settings you change are reflected with all new documents. Simply open "Default Template" and make the window the size you prefer. You can also add default Sections and styles. Whatever you set will be copied and used for all new untitled documents.

Question: I like the default font and size settings within Preferences, but why can't I make other settings default, like text color?

You can! Just set up a Default Template document (described in the previous question) and set some text to the color you want. (You need at least one character of text in order for Z-Write to remember your color setting.)

Question: Why do you capitalize the word "Section" in all your documentation?

We do this simply to make it clear we are talking about a Z-Write Section, not an ordinary section of text.

Question: How is Z-Write different from IdeaKeeper or Nisus MailKeeper?

IdeaKeeper and MailKeeper are interesting applications, but they are databases, not word processors. They're also complicated to learn, though very powerful. Some Z-Write users like using one of those in conjunction with Z-Write (each for a different purpose). IdeaKeeper/MailKeeper serve as great places to store thousands of unrelated pieces of text, URLs, etc., while Z-Write is ideal for a single writing project, where the Sections are all related to the same subject.

Even more significant, Z-Write lets you recombine your Sections into a long document when you print or export. Programs like IdeaKeeper don't let you do that. In fact, because of their hyper-linked nature, IdeaKeeper documents aren't really convertible into any other format: they're stuck in database form. Z-Write supports flexible text exporting, including formats like RTF and HTML.

Question: Why can't I just use the outlining feature in Microsoft Word or the "book" feature of other word processors to duplicate Z-Write's functionality?

The short answer is you can, to an extent, if you're comfortable with the "outlining" mode of thinking (most people hate outlines). But Z-Write offers much more than just helping you plan or visualize your document structure.

First, Z-Write stores everything in a single file. This makes backups and working on multiple computers easy. Most word processors' "book" features rely on creating a "chain" of linked documents. Changing the order is a pain, and moving your project from your desktop to your laptop for a travel weekend can cause problems.

Second, Z-Write is designed with the concept that not every Section is part of your project. You're free to mix notes, research material, ideas, and other bits of text with your chapters and revisions. Mixing notes and other semi-related material with actual writing in a program like Word isn't fun. Just look at how difficult it is to control page numbers on just the valid chapters -- if you have three versions of chapter fourteen, how can you tell Word to ignore the first and third but number the second one correctly?

Finally, Z-Write is designed to work with other word processors -- that's why it's priced as a tool and not as a full-fledged word processor (which would cost $100-$200). So why not use both? For some users, Z-Write's all they'd ever need. For others, Z-Write is great for brainstorming, writing, and revising, but they'll export the text to Word or another linear word processor for finalizing.

Question: How is Z-Write different from an outliner like MORE or Acta?

The primary difference is that Z-Write is designed as a word processor, not an outliner. Thus Z-Write is simpler to use and learn, but still offers most of the functionality of an outliner. (In the future, when Z-Write adds support for hierarchal folders within the Section List, it will become just as powerful.)

Outliners, while they give you the flexibility of hiding portions of your document and rearranging chapters, are still fundamentally linear -- that is, they progress from the start of the outline to the end. Z-Write's power comes from being non-linear: you can organize your document when you print or export, not while you're writing. For example, let's say you have two versions of Chapter 6 of your novel, 6a and 6b. With an outliner, both versions would still be within your long document -- you'd have no way to tell 6b not to print. With Z-Write, you could print a version of your novel with 6a and another version with 6b.

Most important of all, Z-Write lets you mix notes, research material, and other bits of text within the same document. Even with an outliner it's difficult to mix comments and notes with "real" writing.

Also, Z-Write lets you view multiple Sections at the same time. Yes, some word processors like Microsoft Word support split windows, allowing you to edit two sections of a document at the same time, but with a single long document it's difficult to find the two areas you want to edit, and of course Z-Write effectively gives you unlimited split windows -- you can open every Section in a separate window if you want!

Finally, MORE and Acta, are dead. They still work on the traditional Mac OS, but it is highly unlikely they will ever be ported to Mac OS X. That said, there's nothing wrong with using them if they meet your needs. Many Z-Write users (and many writers in general) use multiple programs for different purposes. Our view isn't seeing outliners as competition for Z-Write, but simply that Z-Write is another tool in the writer's toolkit. Try it: if it works for you, use it.

Question: Does Z-Write work with Mac OS X?

Yes! Z-Write 1.5 has been rewritten to better support Mac OS X. We still support Mac Classic as well, but our main focus is making sure it works with Mac OS X.

Question: I hate to ask, but when are you coming out with Z-Write for Windows?

We know that many writers use both Macs and PCs and would love a Z-Write that runs on both platforms with cross-platform compatible documents. One of the goals of Z-Write 2.0, which is a complete rewrite of the application, is to create it to be cross-platform from the beginning. For years we investigated the possibility of porting the existing Z-Write, but it was written too dependent on Macintosh features. For instance, the file format of Z-Write 1.3 and earlier used the resource fork portion of the file, which are not compatible with Windows. The file format of Z-Write 1.5 and future versions is designed to be cross-platform ready. Z-Write 2.0 will be written for Macintosh and Windows simultaneously and alpha testing for both platforms is scheduled to begin in late 2004.

Question: The font for the Section List is too small: how can I change it?

Z-Write 1.5 includes a preference setting that lets you change this. For previous versions of Z-Write, read the "Power User Preferences" document in your Z-Write Documentation folder. It will explain how to change font and text size of the Section List.

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