When searching for and testing Mac writing tools it’s easy to come across those that match what we view as standard.
Occasionally, I meet up with a word processor that defies convention, tries to be different, finds a niche and a following, yet remains foreign to my standard for such apps. Enter the tale of two Mac writer’s tools. One is a de facto standard bearer that epitomizes what you expect in a word processor.
The other thinks different.
The Familiar Standard Of Yesteryear
For those of us who labor over the written word, slave over a hot keyboard, we’re well in tune with the basics. Writing tools are not a dime a dozen, but there are certain features we expect to see.
Nisus Writer Pro is one of the nicest such tools ever on the Mac.
What’s not to like? It’s a word processor for those who process words by the bucket. Features? Compatibility? Ease-of-use? Sophisticated refinement? All built in and ready for you to tackle, absorb, try, learn, and master.
Nisus Writer Pro (NWP) is something of a complex beast with a price tag that matches expectations. Whatever you think a processor of words should have, NWP probably has it packed in there somewhere.
Let me start with the basic interface.
At the top, the Toolbar meets the basic expectations, including Table, Indents, Lists, Highlights, and the ever popular Undo. The ruler is easy to use.
The sidebar pane adds many dozens of additional settings and features for handling Margins, Columns, Notes, Styles, and Text attributes. Nisus Writer Pro is for the creatively minded Mac user who loves palettes, floating palettes, lots of palettes.
The complexities of drawers, panes and palettes aside, NWP is simply loaded with what you’d expect a full-featued writing tool to have.
The Document Manager lets you manage documents from within NWP, rather than using the Finder. For the most part, Nisus Writer Pro handles file compatibility a number of ways, including the standard RTF and Microsoft Word.
It also comes with an advanced Find and Replace function, Footnotes and Endnotes, and full Table of Contents generation. You can even index your document, set up Bookmarks for navigating quickly through a document.
Nisus Writer Pro even does some page layout—for example, wrapping text around images. Also built in is Mail Merge, line numbers and word count, and for the geekier productivity type of writer, advanced Macros to speed up common tasks.
There’s much more going on behind the scenes with Nisus Writer Pro. The app has a cult-like following of Mac users, and a lighter, less expensive version call Nisus Writer Express.
There’s much in the package, but not much to not like.
The Think Different Writing Tool
At the other end of the scale is Pagehand. It looks like a standard word processor, it has more than basic tools, bells, and writing whistles.
What’s different? Pagehand uses PDF as the standard file format.
Not Word. Not RTF. Not text. PDF.
Most of what you expect in a moderately priced word processor still shows up in Pagehand. Columns, Margins, Tables, Document Styles, Headers and Footers, Styles, Find and Replace.
There’s also support for Smart Quotes, magnification, scaling page width, split view, layout guides, page and column breaks, autosave, word count, tabs, bullets, numbering and much more.
Not bad, huh? And at about half the price of Nisus Writer Pro. What’s the difference? Pagehand’s interface. The tools are located off the document.
Admittedly, the editing tools are handy, but decided old school without floating palettes or inspectors of the more traditional genre.
The Toolbar itself appears barren, and unfinished (which is a distraction by itself). That said, each of the functions in the vertical tool column are easy to reach. Click each section name and more functions and features appear below.
Otherwise, clicking on some Toolbar functions make others appear in the tool column, yet, oddly, other clicks make the entire Toolbar disappear with some interesting transition effects.
One window is all you get in Pagehand. Tabs rule, so additional open documents show up as tabs below the Toolbar. Tabs are great in browser windows, but not in a word processor. Thinking different isn’t always a good thing, so it’s a good thing that such a different word processor, one loaded with standard features, isn’t priced out of reach.
Pagehand’s learning curve isn’t much, considering all the features built in. It will import TextEdit RTF and Word documents but saving is limited to PDF or XML.
If you’re looking for a complete writing tool, an aircraft carrier of features, Nisus Writer Pro carries the flag. If you require many of those same tools, but don’t mind the Think Different interface and the limit of a PDF file format, Pagehand is worth a look.