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Adobe's new word processor: Gorgeous but underpowered

Adobe has acquired BuzzWord, a beautiful Flash-based word processor. But we recommend against using it until the company can add in necessary features.

Adobe has acquired Virtual Ubiquity's BuzzWord, a Web-based Flash word processor (news story). There are a lot of online productivity suites and apps right now--see Google, Zoho, ThinkFree, for example. What does BuzzWord offer?

BuzzWord is a stunning achievement in design. Of all the PC-compatible word processors in the fray--including the offline juggernaut Microsoft Office--BuzzWord is the easiest on the eyes and has the most elegant user interface. It displays beautiful type. It's interface elements, from the cursor to menu items, make excellent use of color, and they slide and fade instead of popping and blinking.

BuzzWord is lovely to look at, easy to use, and a great foundation for the future. But it's not quite ready to duke it out with other online word processors yet.

It has some very nice features. The product handles lists better than most other word processors, allowing you to join or split items. It does a great job with pagination--something many online-only products have a problem with. Text flows in real-time around images. BuzzWord allows full formatting in comments, including images and tables, which could make the commenting function very useful for groups. There's also a full revision history for each document, and authors can revert to previous edits.

At the moment, the product also has very limited font support (there are seven fonts in the product). It also has extremely limited output support: You can save a document in the BuzzWord system, export it to Word or RTF, or print it. But you can't save to HTML nor, ironically, to Adobe's own PDF format.

Treitman showed me an AIR-based version of BuzzWord that can run outside the browser, but it requires a live Internet connection to work. A version of the product that can work offline is coming.

BuzzWord is a great framework around which Adobe can build its online productivity suite. I was told a number-handling product (the reps wouldn't use the word, "spreadsheet") and a presentation app are in the works. But as slick as it is, in its current form BuzzWord is not a word processor I'd recommend to users.

The service is free.

See also: Microsoft, Adobe launch document sharing services.