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Friday, April 15, 2011

WhiteSmoke 2011 Review

I was pleased to receive recently the latest version of the WhiteSmoke writing software to evaluate. So here's my review of this popular tool for writers...

For those who don't know, WhiteSmoke is a program that aims to help users produce better-written documents. It does this by analyzing the spelling, punctuation, grammar and style in any document, and then suggesting corrections and possible improvements.

WhiteSmoke works with all versions of Microsoft Windows from Windows 2000 upwards. The publishers say it will work in almost any text-based application, including word processors, email programs, web-based forms, and so on.

I found WhiteSmoke straightforward to install. Once it's on your computer, you can launch it at any time by hitting a shortcut key. This is set by default to F2, though you can change this if you like.

WhiteSmoke integrates quite closely with Microsoft Word. To run the software on a document you have written in that program, hit the shortcut key, and a new box will open on the screen with the first paragraph pre-loaded (see screengrab below).

WhiteSmoke highlights possible spelling mistakes in red, grammar mistakes in green, and stylistic weaknesses in blue. Suggested corrections appear above the error concerned and you can incorporate any suggestion by clicking on it. If the software has several possible suggestions, you can see them all by clicking on 'More' (see below).

Again, to incorporate any correction from the suggestions list, all you have to do is click on it.

Once you have made all the corrections you want, clicking on 'Apply' will ensure that they are included in the main document. A pop-up box will also appear asking if you wish to check the next paragraph (see below).

If you click on Yes, the next paragraph will appear in the box with any suggested changes marked. If you click on No, WhiteSmoke will close and you will be returned to the main document (with any corrections you have made so far incorporated).

In other programs, such as email clients, WhiteSmoke works a bit differently. In these cases, you have to select all the text you want to check, then hit the shortcut key. The WhiteSmoke box will then launch with all the selected text in it. Again, spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes and stylistic weaknesses are highlighted, and you can incorporate any corrections by clicking on them. In fact, I rather preferred this to the process in Word, which makes you check the document one paragraph at a time.

One point to note is that WhiteSmoke refers constantly to a remote database when in use, so it won't work if you don't have an active Internet connection. This has both plusses and minuses for users. On the plus side, it means the program can be constantly updated and improved. On the minus side, if you don't have an 'always-on' Internet connection, you will be limited as to when you can use it.

Overall - and having looked at a lot of style/grammar-checking programs - I was impressed with WhiteSmoke 2011. It does make the odd mistake - as my first screengrab demonstrates - but you can choose which suggested changes to incorporate and which to ignore.

I was particularly impressed with the stylistic comments, which cover such matters as split infinitives, repeated words and phrases, over-used expressions (i.e. cliches!), and so on. As a professional writer, this is the aspect of WhiteSmoke I personally find most useful.

Any criticisms? Well, as indicated above, I found the software a bit slow to use when working in Word. I wish there was an option to check more than one paragraph at a time, and you didn't have to click to apply the changes made in each paragraph before moving to the next one. It would be nice - and much faster - if you could load the entire document at once. This seems possible in other applications but not in Word, for some reason.

In common with all other style/grammar-checking programs, WhiteSmoke does make the odd mistake. It can also appear a little pedantic at times, e.g. insisting that every introductory phrase is followed by a comma, and every use of the word 'which' is preceded by one. I've become used to this now, however, and regard it as just a suggestion to consider.

The program also has some other features I haven't mentioned so far, including an online dictionary and translation tool, and template letters. The latter would probably be of limited use to most people, unless perhaps English is not their first language. They cover a wide arange of topics, from a letter of appreciation to a co-worker to an apology for inappropriate behaviour!

WhiteSmoke is probably ideally suited for writers who have plenty of ideas but know that they have a few shortcomings in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and so on. Even if you're reasonably confident in these areas, however, WhiteSmoke can help you polish your style, as long as you view its suggestions selectively. From that point of view, I've been quite surprised how useful I've found it myself.

For more information about WhiteSmoke, and to download a free evaluation copy of the software, just click on the banner below.



Disclosure Statement: I was sent a free copy of WhiteSmoke 2011 to review. The banner includes my affiliate link, so if you click through and end up making a purchase, I will receive a referral fee for my trouble. This has not, of course, affected my review of the software in any way.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Twisties34 said...

Downloaded the trial version of it today and was quite impressed with it. It does have some limitations however, when working with Word it has a 300 character limit which I found annoying.
I did like how it gives you a rating of your writing style from poor to fair to excellent, including checks for sentence length and structure, voice, expressions and word choice.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Many thanks for your feedback. The 300-character limit only applies to the free trial version, of course.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Lorenzo said...

Anything else that compares to or that is better than WS?

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, there's a program that's a lot better than WhiteSmoke. WhiteSmoke does little that Word's built-in grammar checker doesn't do better. But if you want to write in a clear, concise and readable style, check out StyleWriter 4 at:

http://www.editorsoftware.com/

Nick

10:38 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

I should clarify that the "Nick" above is not me. Thank you for the recommendation, though :-)

I haven't tried StyleWriter 4, so can't comment on it. The other two programs I use regularly are PerfectIt, which is really an internal consistency checker, and MyWriterTools, which is a sort of Swiss Army Knife of writing and editing tools. Both have their uses, but I particularly recommend PerfectIt, which I now run on any writing project before signing it off to ensure that I haven't used any inconsistent spellings, punctuation, etc.

Reviews of both of these programs can be found at the URLs below...

PerfectIt - http://www.mywritingblog.com/2009/06/review-perfectit-proofreading-software.html

MyWriterTools - http://www.mywritingblog.com/writer/2009/05/review-mywritertools.html

Hope that helps,

Nick (Daws!)

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used the program (tried to use the program) for about a year (subscription). I had to reload several times and when I called for assistance got a very unenthusiastic tech. I finally stopped using it when I found that whole paragraphs were missing from my novel. For the price and aggravation, I found it not worth the money.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought a full lifetime copy of whitesmoke, with two additional writing styles, in 2009, it works very nice for me, I used it rarely, the whitesmoke support use to update it every year.
This year they send me a letter saying that I must pay annual subscription, (they asked it twice before, I told them check your files please)and they upgrade it.

Now they they stoped it, and stopped the 2 additional styles, and after a lot of messages with them, they send me a link for 2008 copy. with no additional styles.

I contacted the support section, they said their infra-structure now is build on annual subscriptions, and they can not offer me the service. I asked them to refund my money, and I insists on it.
and Now, I believe we have to go to the court...?

Please writers universe, be known and let all other people understand if they are buying a copy or subscribed into annual subscription service. it is an important fact..

for further information: Wasfi M. Abdo, wmabdo2001@yahoo.com

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Pedro said...

WhiteSmoke only works when connected to the Internet, since it connects to the company server each time you check a sentence. Often it gives errors because the servers are busy, slow Internet, etc.

Even though when I purchased the software there was no indication that this was a time-limited product, they canceled my license and, since WhiteSmoke only works after checking with its servers, it stopped working and now they want more money to activate it again.

So this is really a scam!

12:42 AM  
Blogger Glen L. said...

I agree with your assessment of WS. Probably more appropriately called ‘Smoke & Mirrors’. Since last fall I have repeatedly asked for status of MS Word 2013 add-in and continually have received ‘check is in the mail’ answer with specific dates that are never delivered. Always an excuse. Look for other options as the software is OK but the support and product development are terrible.

9:59 PM  

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