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This is a review of SyncWriter written by Thomas Schmidt for the working group "Transcription and annotation of primary data" at the E-MELD workshop 2006.

syncWriter is a software for creating texts in interlinear notation. As far as I know, it is mainly used for transcribing sign language and for making musical score transcripts according to the HIAT conventions. syncWriter is a Macintosh program, designed for OS versions 7.x through 9.x. As long as the new Macintosh OS (MAC OS 10.x) comes with the so-called “classic” mode, it will run under OS X as well. With Macintosh's switch to Intel processors, there is, however, a real possibility that this will not be the case any more for future versions of that OS. There is no Windows or Linux version of the tool.

syncWriter's functionality is comparable to that of HIAT-DOS, but it is in many ways a more modern tool: it has a GUI, it allows for different fonts to be used, it has a (limited) functionality for media integration, etc. However, as with HIAT-DOS, there are good reasons not to use syncWriter any more. One is a purely practical one: the software used to be distributed commercially by a German software company (med-i-bit). Since 2003, this company has taken syncWriter off its catalog so that there is now no “official” way of obtaining the software.

But even if there were: using syncWriter for transcription today means producing data that is almost unusable for anything but syncWriter itself. syncWriter uses a binary format for which there is no documentation whatsoever. The source code of the tool is not available, and development came to a standstill over 10 years ago. Like the older MAC OS in general, syncWriter offers no Unicode support. Its only data export is a text-based format in which some of the most important information is lost. The EXMARaLDA framework offers a method for “rescuing” syncWriter data via an AppleScript routine and an XML conversion filter, but this method still requires a substantial amount of manual post-editing.

Thus, this, too, is “a great tool when it was released, but now left to rest in peace.”