PROS / Writer's Workbench provides detailed analytical reports and lets you decide what to change.
CONS / The interface looks dated, and the application has a bit of a learning curve.
VERDICT / Writer's Workbench is a great tool for the classroom. It has long-lasting effects on the quality of your writing.
Of all the writing enhancement software products we reviewed, Writer's Workbench has one of the most comprehensive features for analyzing and improving your work. It contains all the grammar, spelling and diction tools we've come to expect from writing enhancement software, but it also has writing exercises and statistical reports. The application helps make you a better writer. For these reasons, Writer's Workbench earns our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award.
Writer's Workbench works only in conjunction with Microsoft Word. While it performs extremely well with this word processor, this integration limits Writer's Workbench to only that application. We would like to see it broaden its horizons to include other word-processing and text-editing applications. That aside, we have few problems with the tools or performance of this writing enhancement software. It doesn't catch everything, but no product we reviewed does. The compelling factor with Writer's Workbench is the depth and completeness of the features and tools it possesses.
With a single exception, Writer's Workbench has every editing tool we look for when we evaluated the best grammar checking applications available. While it is not alone in this, the scope of this software's tools is almost unmatched by any grammar and spell check software we reviewed. Writer's Workbench offers detailed explanations and learning assistance for every linguistic tool it offers. The result is that it trains you to be a better-informed writer.
Another thing that sets this grammar check software apart from the competition is the fact that it does not make the changes to your writing automatically. Instead, it generates a report for more than 20 categories including Content Organization, Content Diversity, Style, Verbs, Diction, Punctuation and more. These reports make suggestions on what changes to make but leave the choices of what to change up to the writer. This approach allows writers to think critically about how they construct sentences and paragraphs.
The test paragraph we designed to test grammar checking software for its thoroughness was torn to pieces by Writer's Workbench. You can spend hours performing the 25 different analyses that this writing enhancement software provides. If you are a teacher, you can even use some or all of its analysis to teach specific concepts or provide one-on-one teaching assistance.
Because this software is designed for academic instruction, it is more intrusive and demanding than the other products we reviewed. Once you have incorporated the edits this grammar software suggests, it encourages you to rerun the analysis until the software deems your writing acceptable. Such a setup may be helpful for students or those learning English, but not for individuals in a business setting who don't have time for such in-depth, time-consuming analysis when they complete day-to-day writing tasks. You can use Writer's Workbench to analyze your writing, but for quick grammar corrections you'll still want to use Microsoft Word's built-in spelling and grammar checker.
Writer's Workbench is constructed so that every feature has at least some part of it that is a reference tool. When you run an analysis on your text, you're given a detailed data sheet about your writing. These references point out both the strengths and weaknesses of your transcript. The reports lay out in detail why the software flagged the words it did and give precise reasoning for the suggested changes. These reports alone are a brilliant reference tool. There are also more conventional reference tools that you can access at any time. These tools include all the standard fare, such as a dictionary and thesaurus.
Perhaps the most useful reference tool for beginning writers and students is Writer's Workbench's tutorials. These lessons walk students through various aspects of grammar, syntax and diction. And while nothing can replace classroom time and practice, these lessons augment and reinforce concepts that students study in those settings.
Help & Support
Writer's Workbench's help and support options are flawless. The manufacturer's website is filled with helpful tips, tricks and tutorials about how the software works and how you can get the most out of your purchase. The company also provides an in-depth user manual that lays out how each feature works.
During the course of our evaluation, it was necessary for us to contact the creators of Writer's Workbench to solve a minor technical issue. When we called, we weren't greeted by a listless call center employee, but by a high-level company official who guided us through our glitch in the friendliest manner possible.
At the end of the day, Writer's Workbench is a fantastic tool for beginning writers and professionals alike. It's built on the premise of showing writers how to improve their abilities rather than simply correcting perceived mistakes. The result is not just better prose but stronger, more-competent writers.