Writing is about clear communication. Getting there takes time, patience, experience, proper tools, and an effective method. For Mac users, writing tools abound.
Whatever word processor you choose, you can improve your communication with some of these add-on tools. These are the apps that check grammar and spelling, manage bibliographies, organize research, and provide deeper word definitions.
Tools Not To Build, But To Polish, Refine
Once you’ve settled on a major tool of choice, consider those add-on tools which don’t usually come with typical Mac word processors. Sure, your Mac has spell checking built-in, but there are limits.
So, add the add-on tools which extend the basic limits.
That means dictionaries, extensive spell checkers, multi-language tools, bibliography management, and tools to push your words to new levels of clarity.
These are the Top 6 Mac Add-On Writing Tools for the discriminating writer.
#6 – Synapsen: Serious writing can get complicated. That means bibliographies. Synapsen brings a unique approach to bibliographies with a hypertextual card index and reference organizer—perfect for students, academia, and science fields. Output is BibTeX compliant (and PDF and RTF). This isn’t your high school English teacher’s bibliography app. It’s a Java-based, SQL-database reference management app, not for the masses.
#5 – Sente: Close to the earth where most of us write is another popular bibliographic tool. Sente is a pure academic reference manager, good for students, better for research documents.
Sente is not just bibliographies, providing functions to search online reference databases for specific information, including download and import, editing and highlighting of existing PDFs. Multiple bibliographic libraries? No problem.
#4 – BibDesk: If you’re on a budget and require less complexity but require a bibliography, BibDesk is a good choice.
You get a Publication Editor with all the details you need for your publication—annotations, abstracts, keywords, and much more. The bibliography element is the most Mac-like of all the add-on tools.
Toolbar on top, Groups and External sources on the left, details in multiple panes in the right column. All this lets you search locally and online, and create Smart searches which can be used again. Searches show up in a browser-like window within BibDesk. Not bad for free.
#3 – Ultralingua: The suite of Ultralingua apps is more complicated to use than a built-in thesaurus or spell checker, but it provides a wealth of uses. First, Ultralingua Dictionary does more than check spelling and offer a definition.
When was the last time you saw an app that could help you conjugate verbs? Or translate? Or, give you help in a writing reference guide? The Grammatica grammar and spell checker gives you advanced punctuation, non-standard vocabulary dictionary, and checks for odd phrases or strange constructions.
Who wouldn’t be impressed with a Conversational Klingon Audio Learning recording, and the Klingon-English Phrasebook.
#2 – Nisus Thesaurus: If there’s one additional tool you need to totally complement your Mac word processor, it’s a built-in thesaurus. Yes, your Mac has a dictionary, which gets you a limited thesaurus and links to Wikipedia and Google, but a real 120,000 word thesaurus like Nisus Thesaurus does wonders to your communication style.
For Mac writing tools that use OS X’s built-in Services menu, Nisus Thesaurus is handier than ever. Select the word in your text, select Thesaurus from the Services menu, and get a list of synonyms. You can browse through definitions, use the built-in glossary, and click to change one word to another.
#1 – Spell Catcher: Mac OS X’s built-in spell checker is good, runs in most (but not all) Mac apps, but has certain limitations. Spell Catcher extends spell checking to another level.
Spell Catcher is really the wrong name.
It checks spelling, yes. It works in all Mac writing apps. Check.
It catches things, too. There’s a built-in shorthand which expands abbreviations into words, or phrases, or sentences, or even paragraphs. Also built in is a single, user-trained dictionary that auto corrects what you type, while you type, or after you type.
It also flags frequently used words or phrases, adds a built-in thesaurus, and a thing called Ghostwriter. If your writing app of choice doesn’t have an auto-save feature, Spell Catcher does. Highly useful app, wrong name. Very functional.
It’s one thing to choose a specific writing tool to capture your thoughts and research, but Mac add-on tools can enhance your writing, improve your skills, sharpen your communication. What specific add-on tools (besides your word processor of choice) do you use on your Mac?