Probably the most important application of an OS is the Word Processor (and now, arguably the web browser). Long before GNOME & KDE was GNaming everythinK with odd letters, GEOS was naming their productivity apps with geo-Something.
geoWrite takes up a dangerously large 35 KB. You are also provided with 7 fonts of decent variety, but Berkeley Softworks also made available an add-on font disk with 53 extra fonts. When you start the app you are presented with a simple dialog. You can also double click on geoWrite documents in the disk note pad and geoWrite will automatically load them.
The geoWrite interface is extremely simple. There are no scrollbars, you simply jam your mouse against the top or bottom of the screen and the page scrolls.
At the end of the menu strip is a page with a black rectangle representing the current visible portion of the page on the screen. By clicking the rectangle you can move it to another part of the small page and the view in the main window will jump to the relevant location.
1 MHz is barely enough to redraw an entire screen in under a second, so scrolling is naturally, very slow. Scrolling up the page is far slower than scrolling down. However selecting text is very responsive.
Once some text is selected you can either click the small squares below the ruler to set justification or line spacing, or explore the menus.
Not all the fonts come in any size. Each font has a select list of sizes depending on the font and some have only one size. Whilst this may seem a problem it is really down to the very pixellated and low resolution screen. All the fonts are very carefully designed for maximum readability on the screen and on a printed page. If any size were allowed, the pixels would mash together at certain sizes making most letters illegible.
Considering the low resolution of the screen, the provided fonts are of superb quality, providing a perfect mix of serif and non-serif fonts with lots of variations on letter widths, curve styles and clarity. For a word processor, this is probably the best set of provided fonts given the hardware, for any word processor. There are enough sans-serif professional fonts that look great at all sizes, as well as a couple of fun fonts for those wanting to experiment. A great lot of care has gone into providing for both the business user who wishes to impress their clients with professional typesetting and the home user who wants to make a fun looking flyer.
The style menu lets you select between Plain Text, Bold, Italic, Outline, Underline, Superscript and Subscript styles. The interesting Outline option even works on the most complex of fonts. This feature is not seen in any version of Microsoft Word, or any word processor that I'm aware of, outside of the classic Mac and GEOS. (Likely because the transition from Bitmap fonts to True Type and Postscript fonts)
5.2 A Cautionary Tale
GEOS, like other alternative OSes, is dependent on certain hardware. GEOS might not compare with BeOS, RISC OS, or even Amiga OS for features and power, but it is easy to run today on any PC/Mac, and free.
There are also great disadvantages to this as well. Running GEOS on a TFT doesn't compare to running it on a TV or old monitor. The chroma blurring on the C64's rather weak RF unit caused the dithered background to look like yellow and white bands going down the screen.
This very problem was used to an advantage in some advanced C64 games, where certain colours could be dithered to create seemingly new colours. Nearly 52 colours could be faked using this method. This of course is not actually ideal in an OS where clarity is what's needed, but it does help to explain the dreary greyness of GEOS, which would look significantly different and softer on a TV.
"Nothing compares to the real deal" is an important adage in any review of an alternative OS. Whilst those that have not used GEOS first hand, or extensively played the C64 will look at GEOS's monochrome, low resolution graphics and laugh at how it doesn't even compare to Windows 3.1; I personally see wonderment in how a 1 MHz computer with such little RAM can do so much.
After-all, most games on the C64 could not afford to use the bit-mapped graphics mode as it was too slow. Thus the great variety and flexibility of geoWrite's display is completely unseen outside of the most hardcore demo-scene disks.
Putting a disk in to a real C64 and hearing that loud clunking and whirring as 250 bytes per second come down the serial bus is not the same as a little blinking light showing disk activity in an emulator.