The advent of the digital office and the demands of Web 2.0 have made copywriters of us all, regardless of occupation or grasp of grammar. WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive is software that aims to improve and edit your writing.
WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive checks your grammar and punctuation and uses what it calls 'text enrichment' to enhance your writing - although that enhancement is a matter of taste. WhiteSmoke comes in several flavours, from the basic $79 General Writing, to the Executive flavour we tested. WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive helps you check letters and emails in styles ranging from general, business and medical, to legal and creative writing.
Document templates are included in WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive, along with a dictionary and thesaurus, as well as an idiom checker and translation tool that includes 18 languages.
Once installed, using WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive is a cinch. You can use the program as a word processor, and when using any kind of text input, hitting F2 brings up a WhiteSmoke editing pane. The program checks the copy on the fly, so within a second or two you have WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive's suggested edits.
WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive highlights words it thinks you need to change. Each edit is colour coded: red for spelling, green for grammar and blue for enrichment. It really is a simple process.
It's not always a useful or even a reliable process, however. We liked the fact that despite being a download from a US website, WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive knows its favor from its favour (unlike your office suite, we'd wager). It's also pretty slick at verb/noun license/licence type conundrums, and we can vouch for its spellchecker capabilities. In terms of picking out definitive errors, WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive will serve you better than your word processor - although it criminally failed to spot when we incorrectly used 'less' instead of 'fewer'.
WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive then is not a panacea, so 'AutoCorrect' should be avoided. Proper nouns will fox it, for example. And WhiteSmoke has something of a mania for commas.
It's also unforgiving of any deviation from absolute best practice. This makes sense when writing legalise, for instance, but even when checking 'Creative writing' WhiteSmoke will pull out any instances of sentences starting with 'but' or 'and'. Indeed, when we test edited a 350-word review with WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive, the results were the same when checked for 'General', 'Business' and 'Creative writing'.
Which leads us to the 'text enrichment'. At any point you can ask WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive to enhance any given part of your text. It's a nice concept, but computers aren't writers, and 'enriching' copy piecemeal is an odd process. Suffice to say that relying on software to add style to your copy is never a great idea.
As a comfort blanket for checking documents before you send them on, WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive offers more than MS Word. It's full-featured and easy to use and picks up basic mistakes. But WhiteSmoke suffers from problems intrinsic to all automatic editors; without a human to make judgments, it will never be infallible. At $249 WhiteSmoke 2008+ Executive seems a little expensive to us, but the $79 General Writing version may suite your needs just as well.