True confessions time. I use Microsoft Word and I have for many years. Why? It’s a combination of history (since forever) and business (everyone else uses it) and not because it’s the best tool out there.
As they say, ‘different strokes for different folks’ and that’s adage can be applied to the tools we use to form the written word. Here’s a tale of two word processors; both for writers, one packed with an incredible array of useful functions and features, and one that goes the other direction, to a land where small is beautiful, less is more, and you don’t get what you pay for.
The Meaning Of Words
It’s not difficult to figure out why the Mac has dozens of word processors, those, like Word, have every feature known to seasoned programmers and writers, and others, like TextEdit or Notes on the Mac, offer a minimalist approach. Simply put, we’re humans; we don’t write the same way, and we don’t use the same tools.
Mellel: It’s arguable, of course, but few word processors pack the writing capabilities of Mellel, and that includes Microsoft Word. Melee is for writers; scholarly writers, technical writers, multilingual writing.
More than anything else Mellel is a robust tool for writers; those who write, format, document, organize, research, and perhaps have a fetish for collecting tools they may not use but might, one day, someday.
Mellel has too many features to even list let alone describe, but it’s probably safe to say that if you need it to do this or that, it probably does, and it’s likely to have done it for many years already.
Interestingly, Mellel is as much about organization and structure as it is about tools and features. The toolbar is uncluttered but floating palettes give you access to to every writing feature. Melee is not a page layout app, but excels at organizing and composing style (except for tables, which seem to be rooted in 1999).
It’s at once a familiar tool for writers who require their tools fully laden, bristling with functionality, yet the learning curve is modest and that makes Mellel useful without being a burden. My favorite feature, one not easily obtained in lesser apps, is the simple heading design function which lets you apply different characters, fonts, colors, sizes, or whatever to titles, ToC, outline, references and everything else– with a few clicks.
Speaking of a few clicks, let me move to the other end of the scale.
NoteC: A recent trend among writing tools for Mac users is minimalism or distraction free, both euphemisms for fewer features but still a price tag. One of the better apps to define this category is NoteC for the Mac.
First of all, NoteC is inexpensive, but not devoid of features. It’s distraction free and minimalist, but only on the surface. Underneath there are the standard array of typical writer’s tools; tabs, fonts, fullscreen, markup, attachments, import-export, and document organization.
NoteC is as much about notes as it is writing, but usage is similar to any Mac writing app. Write, save, organize.
There is no easy way to compare NoteC with Mellel because they are so different, even though, at a basic level, they do much the same thing. Use both to write and organize what you wrote. That’s about it. NoteC does Markup, including Markdown, Textile, BBCode, HTML, and all the standard shortcuts for easier publishing online. While Mellel works in documents, NoteC works in strands (think of them as smaller, easier to manage documents) which can be combined or organized into notebooks.
NoteC is modern, works in fullscreen mode, has both light and dark modes to match the latest versions of OS X, but unlike Mellel, is easily mastered (with perhaps the exception of Markup).
Both apps have their place on the Mac, both have many adherents, but both also have different capabilities. Mellel caters to the Mac user who prefers access to every imaginable writing feature, regardless of complexity or usage, while NoteC is about capturing and organizing snippets of information that need formatting beyond TextEdit.
My personal writing preferences have always fallen within or between the extremes; the minimalist distraction free writing tools on the NoteC side, and the full-featured document management apps similar to Word or Mellel. I cut my writing teeth on WriteNow for the Mac, added Bean while it was in development, but continue the search, as do many Mac users, for the perfect Mac writing tool.