Need a writing program/application
January 5, 2017 6:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm pretty sure this has been asked before, but I can't find anything within the last few years. I'm looking for a writing program that looks clean but has some basic editing features. TextEdit is too basic but Word is too fussy. Any new, good programs these days? Must be available for Mac. Fancier features are OK as long as it doesn't start looking or feeling like Word. Cost isn't so important.
posted by ancient star to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not sure you've given us enough to go on here.

I understand AM isn't about dialog, but perhaps you could answer these follow-ups:

1. Is file format important to you? Does it need to be plain text, or a single (probably proprietary) file, or could it be something that talks to a database?

2. What kind of writing are you trying to do? Is it notes, or longer structured documents, or something else?

3. What features are must-have beyond the obvious?

4. What in particular about Word vexes you? Is it Word itself, or the larger class of modern word processors?

5. What tools have you tried and rejected? What are you using now?
posted by uberchet at 6:31 AM on January 5, 2017


I use google docs for mostly everything now.
posted by greta simone at 6:38 AM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Since your tags are poetry and fiction, I'm going to go ahead and recommend Scrivener. It is...feature heavy.

On the simpler side, TextWrangler is TextEdit with some more features, and might be what you are looking for.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:40 AM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Pages is better than it used to be.

Given how you have tagged your question...I have to mention Scrivener. No other word processing software I've found can move around large sections of text even close to as easily. And its compose mode takes just about everything off the screen except for the work. You don't have to use all the stuff it comes with. Even though the Scrivener manual insists you should read the whole thing immediately, I just Google whatever feature I want to know more about, and it's been fine.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:42 AM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Have you tried the Mac word processor Pages? It's much simpler than Word, but more complicated than TextEdit.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:43 AM on January 5, 2017


Ulysses
posted by moiraine at 6:58 AM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Sorry for not providing a lot of details. I did it sort of on purpose to see what people would come up with, but I'll answer uberchet's questions:

1. Is file format important to you? Does it need to be plain text, or a single (probably proprietary) file, or could it be something that talks to a database?

No, not so much. I have Word and LaTex and can use either program to make documents for submitting final drafts of work.

2. What kind of writing are you trying to do? Is it notes, or longer structured documents, or something else?

It looks like I missed this in the question, but I'm mostly writing poetry. Word is annoying for this, as you can imagine.

3. What features are must-have beyond the obvious?

I don't want to be over-corrected while I'm writing. Spelling I could take or leave but I do not want my formatting corrected. I wouldn't mind some organizational features, and something with good version control would be excellent. In Word, I would copy the poem to a new page within the same document and work from that one. It's not great.

4. What in particular about Word vexes you? Is it Word itself, or the larger class of modern word processors?

It wants to correct everything you are doing and it has features that I don't need and lacks the features that I want.

5. What tools have you tried and rejected? What are you using now?

I've used Word and Google Docs, mostly. Sometimes TextEdit. Currently, most of my work is in Word format. I've also used Evernote and I like the idea of keeping things organized, but it's not quite right. Also, their recent shift to paying customers has turned me sour after losing some features.

Hope this helps!
posted by ancient star at 7:08 AM on January 5, 2017


For whatever it's worth, you can turn off Word's annoying features. That said, I avoid using it myself because of the visual clutter. I mostly use Pages these days (although it's got its own problems).

For my own writing, I put almost everything into NValt. This is a plain-text editor, but with support for Markdown, so you can produce formatted copy from it. It stores all your files as plain text in a single folder, and gives you a list of those files in the sidebar, with very fast searching of those files. I store my NValt directory in Dropbox, and therefore can access those notes through other apps on my phone.
posted by adamrice at 7:27 AM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Sounds like you'd like Byword. It's a very simple, plain text app, but nicer than TextEdit in many ways.
posted by SansPoint at 7:28 AM on January 5, 2017


I'll second Ulysses. I've tried most of the above recommendations, and Ulysses matches my creative writing flow more than any of the others. You can set it up to be full screen, and for the menu to disappear when you start typing, it has a typewriter mode that can dim everything but the line you're typing, it has a dark mode for nighttime work... you can try out the demo for 10 hours, and it's currently 25% off on the mac app store. There's also a iOS version if you want to be able to work on your documents on an iPad or phone, but it's $25, I haven't tried it.
posted by Huck500 at 8:03 AM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ulysses is... interesting.

Bear, which is new, might also be something to consider. It also syncs between Mac/iPad/iPhone, which may or may not matter to you.

I use nvAlt, which is just a fork of Notational Velocity, for my "bits of text" notekeeping. I'm not composing documents in it, but your desire to do some version tracking might make this a good option. it's also free, so no reason not to give it a whirl.

Schrivener might be too much for you; it's more geared towards novel writing, but it's very good at what it does.
posted by uberchet at 8:39 AM on January 5, 2017


I'm going to give both Scrivener and Ulysses a shot and see which I like best! Thanks!
posted by ancient star at 8:48 AM on January 6, 2017


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