writing on a mac


One of my naive hopes with my switch to a mac is increased productivity.  (This review alone suggests that I won’t be waiting nearly as long on data processing).  So, I am hoping to also switch my writing software, I am hoping to be done with MS Word. 

There appear to be some beautiful writing options out there.  The reviews for “Scrivener” are particularly glowing.  Boy, if the Times’ Virginia Heffernan is even half right, my life might just change.

Our redeemer is Scrivener, the independently produced word-processing program of the aspiring novelist Keith Blount, a Londoner who taught himself code and graphic design and marketing, just to create a software that jibes with the way writers think.  As its name makes plain, Scrivener takes our side; it roots for the writer and not for the final product — the stubborn Word.  The happy, broad-minded, process-friendly Scrivener software encourages note-taking and outlining and restructuring and promises all the exhilaration of a productive desk: “a ring-binder, a scrapbook, a corkboard, an outliner and text editor all rolled into one.”

That’s only a start, read the full review here, seems to over-promise.  (Here’s the Scrivener site, and wiki with additional glowing reviews.)

Other options appear to be WriteRoom, Ulysses, or Mellel.  I’m not writing screenplays or novels (those are two areas of writing that frequently get mentioned by supporters of these software), rather, academic articles; but, it seems that many of these options might be far superior to MS Word.  Let me know if you’ve made the switch and haven’t looked back. 

Written by teppo

March 15, 2008 at 7:59 am

13 Responses

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  1. I write most everything single-authored in Scrivener, including books. It’s fantastic. I have one Scrivener-file for all my articles and book-chapters, another for each book I’m writing. It is a beautiful application, where I can store tons of versions, calls for papers, research material such as PDFs, all in the same file. One folder in the file for notes, one for background, one for reference materials and so on… It is by far the best writing program I’ve ever come across, and I’ve used them all (Word, Mellel, Pages, Nisus, Ulysses and about a dozen others you’ve never heard of).


    Alf Rehn

    March 15, 2008 at 8:38 am

  2. You may also want to take the following programs for a spin:

    1. Neooffice, which replaces Microsoft Office:Mac (or Windows, for that matter). It has word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and database modules. Freeware (donations requested).

    2. iWork ’08: Pages (word processing + page layout), Numbers (spreadsheet) and Keynote (presentation). Price varies according to country (US$79 for all three products).

    Note that these are not being touted as straight replacements for Microsoft Word (or other components in Microsoft Office), although they provide nearly all the functionality you need in much nimbler and elegant (in iWork’s case) or utilitarian (in Neooffice’s case) products; I use Neooffice when compatibility with Microsoft Office documents (e.g., docx format) is required, and Journler (which uses the TextEdit engine) and Pages for other documents. In addition to the fine products you mentioned in your posting, take a look at TextEdit, which is free with Mac OS X.

    The best thing to do is use them, ideally one or two at a time so that you become comfortable with their features and can reasonably compare them, then commit to your favorite. However, make sure to look around regularly, as you become more familiar with your choice’s good and comparatively poorer features.

    I would also suggest you take a look at Take Control Books, where you will find several titles (e-books) that can help you ease your transition to a much better and more productive environment.


    Mauro Mello Jr.

    March 15, 2008 at 9:17 am

  3. Scrivener is not just a word processor, it’s a complete toolkit for serious writers. I think you’ll love it.

    The (free, open-source) NeoOffice is a great choice for when you need Microsoft Office document compatibility.


    Barry Campbell

    March 15, 2008 at 3:43 pm

  4. Thanks for all the suggestions, I’ll be doing some trial runs here soon.

    The compatibility with Word is critical, so, may have to stick with options that are compatible (though, presumably Scrivener has an easy ‘save as’-type function, right).



    March 15, 2008 at 4:01 pm

  5. I’ve been using Scrivener for a few months and like it. I also like Papers ( It has finally shoved the 1k or so articles floating in various folders into 1 place and with uniform file naming.

    I’m going back and forth for a citation/ref manager. I’ve been using Sente on a trial and I’m not sure I’m a believer yet.



    March 15, 2008 at 7:29 pm

  6. TextMate and BibDesk work very well together if you can work in a TeX-friendly environment.

    To maintain compatibility and handle small projects, the 2008 version of MS Word is less disgusting than the previous ones IMHO.



    March 15, 2008 at 8:18 pm

  7. I just took the big plunge – back to Mac after deserting them in 1982 … and all because everyone speaks so well of Scrivener. But does anyone out there also use EndNote? I’m hoping to find some way of combining the CWYW functionality of EndNote with the pleasure of Leopard.


    JC Spender

    March 16, 2008 at 3:26 am

  8. Just took a quick look at the Sente site – can it import an EndNote file?


    JC Spender

    March 16, 2008 at 3:31 am

  9. JC – Just started using Scrivener and now have the same questions. I have some pretty robust EndNote libraries by now and would like to avoid exporting to Word, then… ah, why go on?

    If you find the answer, would you be kind enough to post it here? I’ll do the same if I figure it out.



    March 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm

  10. I just used Scrivener to write my entire dissertation, and it made my life 10 times easier. I’m not a linear thinker so the ability to have multiple ways to organize my memos and writings was really helpful. I’d guess that it saved me about 2 months based on how long it took me to write this as opposed to other big projects I’ve worked on.



    March 18, 2008 at 2:15 am

  11. Just getting my new Mac broken in. Will explore both Sente and EndNote Mac, and report back.



    March 18, 2008 at 6:30 pm

  12. […] : C’était une suggestion de Teppo, sur Cette entrée est classée dans la catégorie « apprendre, Techno » […]


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