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-- by Jim Forbes
Given that word processing is the single most common application around, it's surprising how few choices exist. There's Microsoft Word way out in front, then Corel WordPerfect and Lotus Word Pro. And that's pretty much it.
Now, however, the marketplace seems poised to become more diverse, and perhaps more competitive. Several small startups are ready to enter the arena with their own offerings.
While all the new vendors-Trellix, Digital Harbor and Word Place-are basing their products on the growing use of the Web as the prime means for distributing data, Trellix appears to have the broadest sweep.
The product, also called Trellix, incorporates elements previously found not only in word processing packages, but also in presentation graphics, spreadsheet and Web apps. It uses templates to speed the creation of complex documents designed to be viewed electronically. It also displays a content map, so viewers know where they are in the overall scheme of things, and can jump to other parts of the document or drill down for more detail when desired. Trellix will ship this fall; the company says the cost will be below $100.
Utah-based Digital Harbor meanwhile, is taking an alternative programming route; it's written in native Java code. Analysts say such products may find a niche in markets where word processing is a secondary task.
Finally, Word Place is aiming its product, called Yeah Write, at the low end of the market. Designed for basic word processing, it requires only 1MB of memory. It includes features that let users transform sections of a document from one predefined style to another-for example, highlighting and copying part of a letter and then pasting it into a presentation or memo. A trial copy of the program can be downloaded from http://www.wordplace.com. The final release will probably cost about $15.