I saw an ad on the web for yet another Mac word processor. How many ways do you need to write something on your Mac?
A few dozen, apparently. I made a list of all the Mac word processors I knew, then did a search online and came up with a dozen more.
Word processing is alive and well on the Mac. Here’s a list of 10 of the best, some free. Is your favorite on the list?
Of all the applications we use on our Macs, word processors may be the category with the broadest definition, and the most personal of anything we do on the Mac.
What is a word processor? Is the popular text editor BBEdit a word processor? Is Apple’s TextEdit, included in OS X, a word processor? Let me say no to each.
Arguably, BBEdit is a text editor, not a word processor. There is a difference. Generally speaking, a text editor is used for creating code, whether it be HTML, CSS, PHP, or some other programming language.
Text editors, at least traditionally, don’t fall into the category of word processors because of different objectives and functionality. One writes code, the other writes words.
What about TextEdit? I won’t include that on the list, though it is popular and used by many Mac users as a poor man’s substitute for Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages.
Why isn’t it a word processor? It’s very short on features and ease of use, and is put to shame on both counts by even free word processors. For this list I’ll also avoid including Word and Pages. Both are popular, both are used as word processors, and adequately so.
What else is out there? Even I’m surprised at what I dug up, both from the standpoint of flexibility and features, as well as the breadth of usage.
#10 – Bean
Full screen, uncluttered word processors are all the rage today. Among them is the simplistic but effective Bean.
It’s more than TextEdit and far less than Word or Pages, not even giving you footnotes or pre-defined style sheets. It’s only partially compatible with Word’s file format. Did I mention it’s free?
#9 – Schreiben
If you like free, fast, and simple, you’ll like Schreiben. It opens and saves in RTF and Word files, including Open Office documents and Word 2007. More features than TextEdit, nice full screen mode, no learning curve.
#8 – Scrivener
If you write for a living and Word or Pages doesn’t cut it for you, and research is important, then Scrivener needs consideration.
It’s an outliner, a project cork board, exports in most popular formats, has a full screen mode and great at managing multiple writing projects.
#7 – CopyWrite
Needless to say, writers who get paid to write are picky about their tools. Like Scrivener, CopyWrite is as much project manager as word processor.
It comes with a full screen editor, notes drawer, project export, and a somewhat simple but efficient writing mode (the word processor).
#6 – Jer’s Novel Writer
Very popular among the novel hopeful is Jer’s Novel Writer. Far more than a basic word processor, Jer’s Novel Writer is loaded with writing features for writers.
There’s an automatic outliner, a full screen mode, margin notes, word count, page count estimates, chapter organization, and a database which makes searches a breeze.
#5 – Story Mill
Writing for a living often means writing stories. Enter the new Story Mill from Mariner Software.
Story Mill is elegant, highly Mac-like, and features something writers truly love—a timeline view. Track scenes, characters, locations, and the whole creative process.
#4 – AbiWord
If free is your game, but you want more features than most, AbiWord is an excellent open source choice.
This is an elegant, though somewhat antiquated word processor full of multi-platform goodness. It’ll run on Macs, Windows, Linux, and more esoteric operating systems such as QNX, Solaris, or FreeBSD.
AbiWord handles many file formats from Word to HTML, Word Perfect to RTF, and more. The feature set and price make it a good choice for the casual non-pro writer.
#3 – MarinerWrite
Few word processors really feel like a Mac app that’s designed with the user in mind. MarinerWrite, like NisusWriter’s versions, has that good old Mac feel.
Feel is one thing, functionality is another. Mariner Write should feel cramped with all the features, but isn’t. Mariner seems to specialize in writing tools, including dictionaries, screen writing software, journaling software, and novel writing (StoryMill).
Both are popular, both have been around awhile. Express is more limited in features but still does basics like bullets and numbering, tables, floating graphics, widow and orphan control, glossaries, hyphenation and much more, including the ever present full screen mode.
NisusWriter Pro does all that and more, including full infringement on Microsoft Word’s feature territory. Comments, mail merge, table of contents, indexing, bookmarks, line numberng and much more.
If you write for a living, NisusWriter’s twin offerings are a good example of elegance and feature set.
#1 – Mellel
Billed as the word processor for Mac, Mellel is for writers what Excel is to accountants. Fast, elegant, loaded with features that writers, researchers, document makers, creative and technical writers truly love.
Mellel is highly dependable, compatible with many document formats, can handle documents of over 1,000 pages, comes with automatic back up, style sets, templates, keyboard shortcuts, an outliner and multiple views.
All the basics are included in my favorite word processor, too, from pages and section capability, to auto titles, hyphenation, even right to left writing capability for Hebrew, Arabic, Persian and other languages.
Word processors may be the most personal of all Mac applications. We like what we like, what we’re comfortable using, and what gets the job done. Changing word processors is like leaving town in the dark. On foot. In the rain. It’s not a comfortable experience.
What did I miss? What’s your favorite Mac word processor? Share your experience with other readers in the Comment section below.