What’s the more personal application on our Macs? Browser, Email, or Word Processor? The latter, right?
Microsoft Word is the crescent wrench of writing, the one-size-fits-all screwdriver of words. Throw it out and find a better tool. Here’s my favorites.
Don’t misunderstand my view. Word is fine, as word processing crescent wrenches go. Like it or don’t, it’s one size for all, take it or leave it.
If it were not for file compatibility with the rest of the business world, many of us would leave Word where it belongs… shoved deeply up Bill Gates’… uh, closet.
Why is Microsoft Word so popular? Illegal monopolistic tactics not withstanding, Word is the common ground for document files that need to be shared.
Word is also a beast of burden fomenting features faster than Freddie freaks first time teenage girls. In fact, the feature list is so long that’s it’s been estimated that most Word owners use less than 10-percent. Ever.
Maybe that’s why Apple’s TextEdit has only about 10-percent of Words basic features. If all you need is a tool that does basic text, and you don’t want Word, who wouldn’t recommend TextEdit?
It’s not a one-size-fits-all crescent wrench. It’s a teeny tiny wrench with only one size. Perfect for a basic need of tightening or loosening one bolt. Nothing else.
If the Mac is the Ultimate Writer’s Tool Box how is it thus, and what makes it so? Importantly, what tools should go inside?
First, Mac OS X does what the Mac has always done and what DOS, Windows ‘95, Windows ‘98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Vista have yet to accomplish.
Get out of my freakin’ way and let me do what I need to do. I’m a writer. Let me freakin’ write. Right?
Mac OS X is probably more of the tool box, rather than the actual tool. So, the title is a bit misleading. Sosumi. You understood, right?
Or, keep reading, and find out what I consider to be the “tools” you need in that tool box, including the ultimate writer’s tool.
See, the whole idea of the ultimate tool box for writers is knowing what your writing job will be, then selecting the right tool or tools for the job.
Microsoft Word is not a bad choice if your writing is straightforward, and file compatibility with the rest of the known universe is a major requirement.
Second, if your writing is for multimedia, scripts, commercials, plays, screenwriting, page layout, publishing, or coding the next great member of iLife, Word doesn’t cut it.
Bambi is on record as having finally ditched Word for her specific needs with Final Draft AV (though I’m sure she keeps it around for, uh, you know—compatibility—the only reason Office exists these days).
This may be the briefest review of Apple’s iWork ‘06’s Pages. Ever. If you haven’t tried Pages, do so. It’s a pleasant application which generates attractive and competent pages of words.
Does that make it a word processor? Not in the same sense as Microsoft Word, no, but for most of us, Pages is a good solution.
Start with a bunch of classy templates, add your own text, drag and drop images, photos, merge with address book, edit images, and so on. Pages is just easy, and it’s what we wish Word was.
Again, both Pages and Word are general purpose tools; handy in the Ultimate Writers Tool Box, perhaps. But not the tools of choice for actually writing writing where writing brings you pleasure and money.
As a guest writer, long-time Mac360 reader Tom Coppinger extolled the virtues of Avenir, Jer’s Novel Writer, and other tools for the writing professional. Even Mariner’s great Montage is leaps and bounds over Word.
Let me introduce you to another writing tool for your toolbox (your Mac—The Ultimate Writer’s Tool Box, remember). This writing tool is called Scrivener, it takes a unique approach to writing, and may well be the ultimate writer’s tool.
Scrivener recognizes that you’re not just throwing a bunch of words together to create your literary masterpiece. There’s more to writing than thinking, hitting the keyboard, spell checking, and formatting. What else is there, you ask?
For writers there’s a bucket of components we keep here and there; in our head, on Post-It Notes, in notebooks, on lists, on index cards, and so on. These are the results of research, the pieces of ideas, the quotes, the outlines of our writing project.
Doesn’t it make sense that a writer’s word processor would help with such elements of writing, rather than confine itself simply to format and spell checking duties?
Exactomundo, Mon Capitan. Prepare to be impressed with Scrivener.
Somehow or another a Mac developer figured out how to write, or, in the alternative, a real honest-to-goodness professional writer figured out how to develop an application on the Mac.
Whichever it is, Scrivener may become the writer’s writing tool in a way that Final Draft AV works for media professionals.
Scrivener lets you write, yes. It gets out of your way, yes. But it does much, much more to help you write better, faster. It also brings together all those finely honed little tools that clutter our writing minds and desks and organizes them—they’re all right there in front of you when you write.
For example, there’s Scrivener’s Corkboard, which looks like, well, a corkboard where you stick index cards. There’s even index cards and pins to drag and drop and move around.
Storyboarding with a corkboard, index cards, and pins. How cool is that? That’s how I write.
In that sense, Scrivener is a project management tool for writers, but that’s not a good description of what it does. It outlines, which is always handy—but the outline tool is built-in, making it easier to use the outline to write.
There’s a unique keyword system which lets you track specific ideas, themes, characters, and details that usually clutter up your mind and desk.
The term “distraction free writing” has come in vogue these days. Mac360 described and reviewed one of the more popular distraction free tools, WriteRoom.
Guess what? Scrivener gives you a distraction free writing environment as well. Forget the notes, the outline, the research, the index cards and corkboard. Sometimes you just need to write without being distracted.
So far, so good, right? Scrivener does something else that true writers will appreciate, and only a programmer fully understands. Versions. Scrivener calls it Snapshots. It’s a backup of an earlier version or versions.
Then, when the writing isn’t going as well as you want, and you need to back up to an older version, it’s just a click a way. That’s good for reference, and good peace of mind.
One thing that caught my eye
right away was Scrivener’s ability to manage research. Not just ideas on an index card, but images, PDF documents, web pages, movies, and the like.
Organize the pieces, organize the index cards on the Corkboard, pop the pieces into columns near your writing area and get busy writing. Everything you need is nearby.
I don’t remember the last time I opened up a new Mac application and found that it fit so well so quickly with what I do more than anything else on my Mac.
Exporting your creation is another strong point and a major requirement for compatibilty these days. So, Scrivener exports to Microsoft Word, Nisus Writer, Mellel, even HTML and XML.
Succinctness has never been my strong point, and I struggled for a paragraph that would accurately describe what you get when using Scrivener.
Gawd, I love cut and paste.
Scrivener is neither expensive nor a replacement for Microsoft Word. If you write, you know that Word doesn’t cut it. If you write, you will like Scrivener. Give it a try yourself. Perhaps a day. Then report back with your impressions.