Roger Taylor raises three objections to using Quicksoft's PC-WRITE in a is addendum that his first complaint--confusing page numbers in the manual--has been amended with the revised manual for PC-WRITE version 2.6. Remaining are his complaints about confusing key assignments and dot commands, which basically blend into the larger complaint of a program that is too complex for the composition class.
I agree with Taylor that PC-WRITE is a powerful and, hence, complex program; in fact, I emphasized the program's complexity in both my August 1985 review and my November 1985 article (1) on designing a word-processing tutorial for composition classes. I do not, however, agree with Taylor's conclusions about the program's appropriateness (or lack thereof) for use in the composition class.
Taylor's advice on this complex but free and powerful program is to abandon it (for what, I'm not sure). My advice is to master it yourself and then to simplify it for your students by
designing a tutorial that clearly describes the basic subset of commands they will need to do the work you require of them--something I think the tutorial Quicksoft provides fails to do. I also think students should have copies of the manual PC-WRITE User's Guide, as a reference for the more advanced features of the program, and at least the instructor should have a registered copy of the program for telephone support. Soft cover editions of the manual are available from Quicksoft for $20.00 each in quantities of one to four, with substantial discounts for bulk orders (e.g., $12.50 each in quantities of 50-499). Discounts are also available for multiple registrations.
PC-WRITE now ranks sixth among word-processing packages used by IBM-compatible users at home; and many users, both at home and at work, have been sufficiently impressed to register their programs. Eric Brown, writing in the December 1985 issue of PC World, reports that "This year Quicksoft surprised the industry by generating over $750,000 in sales using an innovative marketing approach called shareware." Brown goes on to say that Quicksoft registered 6000 new users in 1985, including AT&T, Exxon, Boeing, and even IBM. Not bad for a program you can legally copy for free.
So while I sympathize with Taylor's concerns, I stand by my original assessment: PC-WRITE is an appropriate word-processing program for a college composition class if the instructor has designed a user-friendly tutorial that describes a sufficient subset of commands for students to do the work that is required of
them and if students have the manual available as a reference.
Having recently revised my own tutorial for use with PC-WRITE version 2.6, I repeat the offer that appeared in the March 1986 edition of Computers and Composition: if you would like a copy of this 18-page tutorial, send a self-addressed, stamped (56-cents postage), 9.5" x 12" envelope and $1 to cover reproduction costs to the following address:
For more information about PC-WRITE, or for a copy of the program, write or call
One final note, if you feel you really must have a simple program for use in the composition class, Quicksoft does promise to design a simplified version of PC-WRITE in the not-too-distant future. Keep an eye out for it.
1. See Computers and Composition, 2(4) and 3(3).