by WhiteSmoke Inc is a pretty program that lets you press F2 to analyze documents.
I found several reviews and WhiteSmoke was in everyone's top 3 list. The price was good and they had a nice website with a demo. It looked OK, however I was still unclear, even after seeing the demo, how it really worked. I decided to try it for the reasonable price and see for myself. Sometimes you just have to try it for yourself to see.
Purchase and Installation were easy enough. They send you an activation key that you can use to activate the software.
They do insist on your email address before giving you access to the download version however I have not noticed any spam as a result. The only email I received was a followup a couple of days later and none since.
When you go to purchase, they give you several options such as add on's for Business, Legal, Medical etc. They are 99 cents unless you buy more than one then the price jumps to $99 dollars. Ouch. I did not understand why they price it this way. If they had been a few dollars each, I might have bought all of them. At 99 cents and 99 dollars, I just bought the 99 cent Business to go with the General dictionary which was included.
WhiteSmoke offers two basic methods of analysis. F2 which is a macro that hilights and copies text to the WS screen, and copy/paste which is basically the same but you do the copy/paste yourself.
If you press F2 in an application like Dreamweaver or MS Word, WS extracts the text and analyzes it. But, you cannot fix any of the problems identified. The text is copied to the WS screen, it is analyzed, then when you try to return to the original document to make changes, Windows beeps at you because the WS application has locked the original program to prevent you from accessing it.
They show you all the problems but will not let you correct anything. They want you to correct in their window then send the changes to your document using WS. This never works. When you send their corrections to your document, it wipes out all of your formatting and you have one long paragraph, no hilighting, no text colors, no images. All of the work you put into a webpage or document is wiped out.
If you copy and paste the text into the WhiteSmoke window, it looks correct, then click Recheck to analyze the document it shows a window which says it is being analyzed. Then after several seconds it says it cannot access the internet. It has no reason to access the internet to do a simple spelling/grammar check. It does not access the Internet when you press F2 so why does it need to when you copy/paste? It is the same information but when copying pasting you can correct the original document while looking at the WhiteSmoke window(at least you could if it would analyze the document).
The only way I could find to use the software was to copy/paste my text from MS Word into Notepad, let WS analyze that using F2, then make corrections in my original document in MS Word. It seemed a bit much to go through to me.
Frequently when using MS Word, I would press F2 to analyze the document, WhiteSmoke would open but only analyze the current paragraph, not the entire document. That was not helpful. I then had to close Whitesmoke, select all, then F2 again. I suggest that you know what F2 does in every program before pressing it, otherwise you may get a nasty suprise if it means Undo-All or erase and save in your word processor.
I also noticed that there were no grammar recommendations in the software. For example, I have a bad tendency to do things like start off sentences with For Example Comma. That is passive and it should be tagged as something to be corrected. If you start a sentence with a passive phrase, it is also a sign of weak grammar. You should use direct subject-verb active sentences. It is a sign of weak grammar to start a sentence with a passive phrase. Whitesmoke never caught any of these common writing errors.
When I reboot my computer, WhiteSmoke automatically loads(as I selected during setup). The WS window shows a loading screen that never goes away. I have to minimize it. I always receive a popup from Zone Alarm warning me that WSENRICHMENT.EXE is trying to monitor my keystrokes and mouse movement and that it is trying to access a trusted zone. This is how WS monitors the keyboard to detect when you press F2 and it also watches everything you type(can be turned off) to alert you to grammar errors while typing.
I can see this being useful to someone who uses a computer mostly for writing letters and reports, but I also make shorthand notes, technical lists, edit worksheets, and other things which caused the software to constantly warn me about my grammar when I was not even typing in a document. This feature can be turned off and I did turn it off. Now I use only F2 to open documents.
Pressing F2 also causes problems in many programs that already use F2 for a feature.
Pressing F2 in MS Word, activates a Move Text or Graphics feature. Fortunately this never altered my document but I could see MS Word trying to do something. Whitesmoke makes it impossible to use MS Excel because when you press F2 to edit a cell, the Whitesmoke window opens and you are never able to edit the cell contents. I am sure there are many other programs that this will also affect.
When I tried using the copy/past ability instead of F2 I could not make the program work at all. I suspect this has something to do with a firewall but even when I turned my firewall off, it still would not work. I would select and copy the text in my MS Word document, open WS, paste into the screen and click the ReCheck button. WS would then show a loading screen for an extended period of time and eventually time out without analyzing anything with a message saying it could not access the Internet and to check my firewall settings. It had no reason to access the internet and if I analyzed the same text by pressing F2 it would work without trying to analyze. I changed my Zone Alarm settings to allow it to access the Internet but it still said it could not reach where ever it was trying to reach and refused to analyze any text I copied/pasted. I was never able to actually analyze text using copy/paste. It is true I could have tried on another computer but this is the computer I use, it is pretty standard, XP, Zone Alarm, MS Office, so if WS does not work on this computer, which is where I need it, then I can't use it anyway.
WhiteSmoke is a nice looking program and using F2 will analyze a document. I suspect my copy/paste problem is just my problem too and you may not see it. I would have liked to see a more robust grammar analysis with more suggestions. I certainly wanted to make corrections to my document after using F2 and I found the inability to manually edit while comparing to the analyzed text a serious problem. This is why WhiteSmoke was not the first choice. It is inexpensive and for casual use, it would be handy.
RightWriter was the first choice in this review because it was simple, it let me copy/paste, and the analysis was very thorough, it did everything I needed without locking me out of the program I was using to edit. Check out the review of RightWriter instead.
I felt compelled to update this review. After this review was completed, maybe two months later, I updated my copy of Zone Alarm. I had never uninstalled WhiteSmoke even though I use RightWriter. Everytime I rebooted, I saw the WhiteSmoke screen come up and it was blank. I kept it installed because I kept telling myself that sometime I would use it as a basis for comparision again but never did. Suddenly Whitesmoke had an image in the screen on startup. Ah, ha, the connectivity problem was finally resolved. It was a setting with my firewall. I then saw a popup offering a new version of WhiteSmoke. I did not use the program so I clicked close and did not think much about it. I did not expect to see it again and considered it a simple 'new version' notification that appeared when the program started. Not a big deal right? I went about my work then a few hours later the same popup appeared again. What is this? Why is WhiteSmoke showing ads on my computer? Why are they stopping me from working? I closed it and a few hours later right in the middle of typing, it popped up again interfering with my work. That was IT! I had enough of WhiteSmoke. This is unacceptable. I paid full price for the program and now they are using my computer as their own ad server, trying to make me pay more to them to make their annoying ad go away. No, I already have another equivalent program that does not serve ads so I uninstalled WhiteSmoke right then. I dislike any company that resorts to such dishonest tactics to generate sales. Popping up ad banners in commercial software is the kind of thing you expect from well, spammers. I will not be using WhiteSmoke again.