ChiWriter and user applications

Horstmann/ChiWriter logo

What is ChiWriter?

ChiWriter is a scientific multifont word processor. It was developed and, until 1995, commercially distributed by Horstmann Software Development Corporation, USA. It was designed to work in an MS-DOS environment, though it can also be launched from an icon under Windows 3.xx or Windows 95. It creates its own graphic screen, and some of the resolutions offer mouse support. However, the lack of true Windows support probably led to the downfall of ChiWriter. Since 1995 Horstmann is out of business, and all support for ChiWriter has stopped.

ChiWriter is easy to use, through menus and keystroke shortcuts. It is to a high extent WYSIWYG, so practically everything that can appear on a print-out, also shows on the screen. This property distinguishes it from typesetting programs like LaTeX, where you just have to wait and see how the output is formatted. The disadvantage is of course that no styles are supported that can be defined and modified globally, except in the very last version 4.20 there is a primitive support for styles.

Especially ChiWriter version 4 is well suited for scientific papers, because formulas and other spatial elements can be structured very neatly with the use of so-called boxes, which are horizontally and vertically aligned matrices. This is an example of a box structure. The power of boxes is that they can be nested.

Another important feature is the convenient use of tables, which are comparable to boxes, only tables can cross page boundaries, at the expense of having fixed-width columns. Both boxes and tables may be provided with several types of borderlines. This is an example of the use of a table.

For a scientific word processor, the availability of many textual and symbolic fonts is of course indispensable. ChiWriter came supplied with 14 fonts in the standard version, and more can be installed (if you can find them, that is). Installing and switching between fonts is very easy. Here you will find a sample of a screen with the most important fonts.

Finally, the user-friendliness of ChiWriter expresses itself most clearly through its customizability and adaptability by its users. Many features lend themselves to alteration, in order to suit the user's personal needs: new characters (or entire fonts), directory structure, parameter files, printer drivers, key sequences files, dictionaries for the spellchecker, you name it...

Personal user contributions

Mostly in my spare time I have developed several sets of fonts for ChiWriter, because I was not satisfied with all font properties, and I needed a lot of extra characters. I also designed my own printer drivers for a few types of printers, in order to use the fonts efficiently, and finally I wrote documents, parameter files and some text files with explanation. Most of these files are available as freeware from this web site.

Because the format of documents, font files, parameter files and printer drivers has changed in the course of time, to such a degree that they are not mutually compatible, there are descriptions available for packages concerning Chiwriter Version 3 as well as Version 4.

My relation to ChiWriter

In spite of the impression the foregoing enthusiastic story most probably leaves behind, I am neither officially nor informally linked to Horstmann. Hence I am not in a position to distribute copies of original ChiWriter material, since they may still be copyright protected. I agree this is a sad situation, because Horstmann himself has stopped supporting ChiWriter. On the other hand, I have written a lot of extensions for ChiWriter myself, and these can of course be distributed by me.

Questions: FAQ

There appear to be not many web sites about ChiWriter like this one. Hence, until a few years ago, I got many questions by e-mail about ChiWriter, after the support from Horstmann had stopped. I have always tried my best to answer the questions, even if they had nothing to do with my contributions to ChiWriter. However, I have never been too thrilled about oneliner e-mails requesting me to deliver something asap or answer questions, for no apparent reason whatsoever. Therefore, I organized a list of frequently asked questions, with answers: a FAQ-list.

Consequently, instead of answering the same questions over and over again, I urge you to read very carefully all of the information on these pages first, including the questions and answers in the FAQ-list. Only if your problem or question is not adressed anywhere, you are invited to drop me an e-mail. in the list. But please, be specific in describing the problem: which version of ChiWriter are you referring to, which computer and printer, what exactly is the problem, why do you think I could or should help you, etcetera. Still, I can give no guarantees that I will help or even answer.

Links to related sites

Other ChiWriter links:

  • Jacques-Philippe Dupré's site, in French. Jacques-Philippe, whom I have met once, is a fascinating person. He still seems to be active for ChiWriter and has some nice extras to offer on his web site. Be prepared for some pop-up windows, though.
  • Nomdo Jansonius' site, in English. Also Dutch, but strangely enough I never met him. I did exchange e-mails with him in 1999, though. He appears to have found a nice way to print to pdf from ChiWriter.
  • Cay Horstmann's ChiWriter FAQ, in English. Horstmann was the inventor of ChiWriter, who commercially distributed the application until 1995. His FAQ on ChiWriter does not offer all the answers, I'm afraid. It is interesting to read the why, though.

Last updated January 20th, 2011

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