Review: Page Four provides the tools writers need, without distractions

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder PageFour

I got a t-shirt for my birthday:"Writing is 5% talent and 95% not being distracted by the internet." It could just as easily say "distracted by your word processor." PageFour ($40, 45-day free trial) helps remove that distraction, while adding in tools and features specifically useful to writers—though it also makes a decent tree-style outliner, in a pinch.

PageFour v1.86 organizes work into notebooks, which can contain folders, nested as desired, and within each folder, pages , which are the actual text. A page can be of any length—not just a page in the old dead-tree sense, but more like a page in the web sense, an arbitrarily long document.

You can have multiple notebooks active at once, and multiple pages open in the tabbed central panel. This is handy, especially for working on multiple projects, but there is a minor annoyance: the sidebar with the notebook and pages doesn't sync with the active tab. If you change tabs to a different page, or a different notebook, this isn't reflected. This isn't a critical flaw, but given the power PageFour gives you in terms of how many documents and projects can be actively worked on, it would be a nice feature to have. Fortunately, the title bar of the window displays the full path to the currently active tab.

The actual editing window is basic WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), with a handful of formatting features: font size and style, paragraph alignment, and so on. PageFour focuses on the style functionality most needed for books and non-technical non-fiction. There's no tables, indexes, cross references, or page-layout tools. Headers and footers can be added in print templates, but are not visible on the screen. Some tools for writers offer plain text only, in a single font, replicating the ancient typewriter. PageFour tries to find the sweet spot between that style and a full-function word processor.

One of the more unique features of PageFour is a phrase scanner, known as the "Smart Editor," which counts the number of times a phrase appears in a document. It's very useful for discovering repetitive terms and descriptions. Oddly, the Smart Editor will bring you to the first occurrence of a repeated phrase, but won't easily lead you to the next, or highlight all occurrences of it—just the first. You can use the basic text find feature to locate them all and decide which must be excised.

This screenshot shows off PageFour's features, but they can be easily hidden for a more distraction-free environment.

Printing is a little different in PageFour. The default is straightforward: It prints what's there. However, users can create print templates, which can change fonts to a standard, add basic headers and footers, adjust margins, and so on. This can be useful for meeting submission guidelines, if any publisher still takes manuscripts on paper anymore. It also lets you use the styling you find comfortable on the screen, when a different layout might be better in print.

Overall, I found PageFour a very comfortable environment to work in. It encourages breaking down your work into manageable chunks, and lets you have pages with notes about characters, plot points, or random text without this being intermixed with the actual writing. A single command key hides or shows the various interface elements. The automatic archiving helps preserve entire notebooks from accidental deletion, while the "snapshot" features saves the current page so that you can easily go back to an older version. There's a number of small annoyances, such as the Export feature not allowing you to create a folder to export to, but nothing that's really game-breaking. At $39, this is a low-priced tool that offers a lot of functionality to its target audience of serious writers.

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At a Glance
  • This straightforward writing program is designed to enhance productivity.


    • Clean design
    • Just enough formatting to be useful
    • Phrase counter


    • Side panel doesn't sync
    • Occasional oddities
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