Constructing => Software / Technical => Topic started by: cheapcookies on March 13, 2014, 10:38:08 AM

Title: Comparison of CW Construction Software
Post by: cheapcookies on March 13, 2014, 10:38:08 AM
Hi, rather new here. Long-time puzzle solver, new to construction. Done a couple of specialized ones (Fraternal, etc) and have dabbled with some demos to do them. I have searched through the old threads on the forums here and haven't quite found the answer to my question: If you were going to buy one product to build puzzles, what would it be?

So far, I see ~6 or so different software packages out there, let me list what I know about them (so far):

Crossfire: Rather nice Youtube piece on it by a pro building an Angels and Demons themed 15x15 with it ... free lifetime upgrades once you buy it ($50), but has seen only 3 upgrade/fixes (1.0, 1.1 and the current 1.2) since ...? And I'm seeing some people ask if it is still being supported (silence from the author is never good, in fact he didn't bother to reply to my inquisitive email) ... But still, this looks like a decent product.

CCW: Crossword Compiler, the author seems to break it into purchase modules, not well received. You can buy the basic or you can buy the bells and whistles. Gets good reviews by those that use it, but then again I tried the demo and after a few usages it told me buy or goodbye, so it's goodbye for now. Maybe later, but not now. Severely crippling your demos is never a good idea.

Crossword Studio: Tried it, not bad. Looks like a newer entry into the market and if the author keeps improving it, it has real possibilities. Current version 1.2 tells me (like Crossfire) it has not been worked up to its potential. Priced better than the others @ $30, maybe.

Crossdown, Crossword Forge and Crossword Weaver: Didn't try them, no idea whatsoever other than they are still for sale with prices all over the board.

Across Lite, looked and it seemed like it was not capable of what I want to do (could be wrong) ... but it's free and only a malcontent would poke holes in free software. Also, I hear theres a 'Crossword  Maestro' out there and Hot Potato Software is a product of an .edu site that may or not be free depending on if you're in education or not (Does  my wifes job at the school count?) ...

Comments? I see very little response to some of these question-threads but many seem to have read them (usually 300-400 reads) so I know somebody out there is reading them.

Again, I want to buy 1 product and 1 product only. What would you buy if you were at the threshold and hadn't purchased anything yet?


Title: Re: Comparison of CW Construction Software
Post by: ahimsa on March 15, 2014, 02:12:11 PM
You'll probably get more answers if you post your question on the mailing list. More folks respond to mailing list items than to forum posts.

Click on the CRUCIVERB-L link on the left side of the screen, listed under Navigate, for more information. I think anyone who can post messages to this forum also has rights to the mailing list (posting new messages and viewing the archives) but I'm not sure. Maybe there are different membership levels.
Title: Re: Comparison of CW Construction Software
Post by: cheapcookies on April 01, 2014, 01:13:17 PM
You'll probably get more answers if you post your question on the mailing list. More folks respond to mailing list items than to forum posts

Thank you for replying; 2 weeks later/100+ views and you're the only one.

Just my opinion, but I don't like flooding peoples inbox with mail from persons unknown. I had hoped to get at least one constructive review of some of the software packages I mentioned.

I'm beginning to think breaking into the secret society of crossword puzzle makers is harder than getting into the magicians circle. And worse, some of the software sellers don't even answer inquisitive emails, and I don't want to lay out money for silence.

I'm trying to be honorable here and purchase software. Alot of this stuff has been hacked or keys are floating around in newsgroups, etc. I don't want to go that route.

But I would like some objective criticism before I buy. This is supposedly the secret meeting site of the enabled.


Title: Re: Comparison of CW Construction Software
Post by: duncanMKZ on April 22, 2014, 07:21:40 PM
I came looking for the answer to the same question. I created crosswords by hand many years ago for a puzzle book, and now I'm working on a new book. Creating the grids used to be hard work - I can't believe how much easier it's all become! I purchased Crossword Compiler - it is generally considered the king of the hill, and it deserves its reputation. It does a good job on a variety of puzzles. I was impressed by how well it handles Word Search puzzles - it will check for accidental duplicate words, and for accidental obscenities. Very professional! Its crossword engine is powerful, but you really have to get the Professional Bundle, which automatically fills the grid, or gives various options to do the job semi-automatically, choosing words as you go. You can create and enter your own specialized word lists for themed puzzles. It will offer clues, too, although not all words have clues. Its export options are so-so - to get a good printed version, I find it's best to export to EPS (which is scalable and look good) and lay it out in Adobe InDesign. But all in all, a very nice program.

I have played around with Crossfire, too. It has fewer options than Crossword Compiler, but is also more straightforward to use, and, if you use a Mac, it seems to be the only option. It will autofill grids, although (based on a fairly brief test) I don't think its word lists are as extensive as CC Pro. However, working interactively with the program was easy. I also liked the way that it would warn me if I tried to put black squares in the wrong positions - producing two-letter words, or squares that are part of only one word.

The CrosswordMan offerings also look excellent, and seem to be a particularly good option if you intend to create UK style cryptic crosswords. Its Wordplay Wizard option (which offers cryptic tips) is also available separately.
Title: Re: Comparison of CW Construction Software
Post by: duncanMKZ on April 29, 2014, 12:28:52 PM
A followup to my previous post - I purchased the full version of Crossfire and have been using it for a week or so now. It is top-notch.

In my first tests, Crossfire had a harder time filling a grid than Crossword Compiler (plus its dictionaries), but after adding the Cruciverb word lists to the built-in dictionary, it works very nicely. Crossfire is highly interactive - it constantly checks for possible solutions, and, when you select a word from the list of options, if it can see a solution, it will instantly complete the grid, with unplaced possible letters in shades of grey - darker shades indicate words you're probably stuck with, and lighter shades represent words that are one possibility among many. I like having the ability to scroll through a list of possible words, and seeing the kinds of words that might be placed. Possible words are show in a Fill tab - every word in boldface has at least one way of producing a completed grid. After designing the grid, I usually start by trying a Quick Fill, which fills the grid automatically if it can. If this works, and is fast, I know that the grid itself doesn't pose any problems, and I erase it, and start over, doing choosing words more selectively.
Title: Re: Comparison of CW Construction Software
Post by: acpracht on October 09, 2014, 10:46:54 AM
Dollar for dollar, I'm in the Crossword Compiler camp, and I've tried pretty much all of these. For what it's worth....
Title: Re: Comparison of CW Construction Software
Post by: RichP on January 08, 2016, 11:44:09 PM
Thanks to all who contributed to this discussion!