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December 2023 Redesign

Previous update was on February 3rd in 2014. Behind the scenes I've been working on different designs in different publishing solutions. Also, I didn't transfer much old content, so if you're looking for older content, please check the links (button) to the Wayback Machine from the Redesign section of my About Page.

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This Blog Has Two Main Parts:

  1. Articles about technologies, software and hardware, that I use, care about or research and learn about are all sorted in this Nerd Category.

  2. Articles about the Bible, different Bible translations, Christian books, Bible Study Software and so on, are all sorted in this Hallelujah Category.

(Just click to filter by category. Or scroll down to search my blog.)

nerd Blog Post(s):

wordprocessorsblue-720p

Best Word Processor for the Mac?

Aren't Microsoft Word the gold standard, and Apple Pages pretty good? Why does some people, like me, bother looking for alternatives? My initial response would be: Doesn't ALL word processor apps suck? I didn't use to like any of them, as they always seemed to be counter intuitive and doing stuff backwards.

Some History

This will probably reveal my age, but back in the late eighties and early nineties, the dominating word processor program was no longer WordStar, it had been Word Perfect for a long time. Word Perfect for DOS wasn't all that bad, I was comfortable enough using it. But as the people moved to Windows, especially after Windows version 3.11, the people started moving to Microsoft Word instead of Word Perfect. As I remember it, the Windows version of Word Perfect wasn't really any good, so it makes sense that it faded in the competition. If I remember correctly, quite a few people used Microsoft Works, which after a while shipped a Word compatible word processor (or was it even the full version of Word?) …

In these years I don't remember exactly what was the main Word Processors on the Apple Macintosh, but I remember I did like either MacWrite or WriteNow. I can't remember which. And Claris Works was also early on quite popular. I think they even released a Windows version at some point. Then Apple absorbed Claris and released it as AppleWorks. After the shift to Mac OS X, AppleWorks were sunset, and iWorks was released (Pages, Numbers and Keynote).

Why Not Microsoft Word?

So, why won't I recommend Microsoft Word? Well, I can recommend it, if you actually like the writing experience. I don't. I didn't back in the nineties, and I don't like it in 2023. I can manage a lot it in, achieve complex tasks, like merging address stickers from address lists and what not. But I find the writing experience to be disruptive, and the menus and options have me digging around and focusing on the wrong things. And I also think it fails in teaching people how to write structured text. (Like the Adobe Frame Maker would force you to. Disclaimer: I haven't used Frame Maker since they offered a UNIX and Linux version, early 2000'ish, if I remember correctly.)

To be fair newer versions of Word, is not as bad as the 2000-2010 versions, as I remember them.

Then, why not Apple Pages?

My answer would be the same. If you like the Writing experience, go ahead. I use it for some collaborative writing with other Apple users, as they can comment, edit and collaborate easily using their iPads, iPhones and Macs. And I don't think Apple Pages is bad.

But I still have the same kind of issue. I feel like the writing process is some sort of a struggle, where the word processor app tries it's best to distract me from the actual writing. And when I need to style or change something, I have to dig and use too much energy to achieve what I think should be possible, or even easy.

So, What DO You Recommend, then?

I did mention this in another post, Why Apple macOS, or Why Not?

I was about to write a school paper back in 2009, and as I started out, I was really frustrated with Microsoft Word (which was also much worse for Mac than Windows back then). And OpenOffice and NeoOffice felt just as bad or worse. So I started out looking for and trying out some alternatives, like Mariner Write and Bean and a few more. And Apple's TextEdit didn't really offer what I needed. And I tried Pages, but I didn't really like writing in it. In fact, I realized that I didn't like any Word Processors, at all!

Nisus Writer Pro Logo

Then I found Nisus. I downloaded the Nisus Writer Express demo version and started writing. And quite to my surprise. I ended up finishing writing this school paper that very evening, very quickly and effective. I forgot the app and was able to focus on my writing. And changing and applying styles was incredibly intuitive. I actually enjoyed the process of writing. For the first time as I can recall, I realized: I actually like this program, like a Word Processor program. (It's almost like how I disliked every email client/MUA until I discovered Mutt. But even more. Mutt is OK, but Nisus Writer is nice and fun.)

So that very same evening I finishd writing my school paper, I went ahead and purchased Nisus Writer Pro! (You might not need the Pro version, so I can fully also recommend the cheaper Express version.) These are both great!

And in the years since 2009, Nisus Writer is the best argument for running macOS. Their support is awesome. The app is powerful, quick and simply amazing, for most regular writing needs. (Letters, school papers, contracts, lists and even some brochures etc.)

So, only Nisus Forever?

Actually, no. I do recommend other programs for writing as well. First off, if you're making brochures and flyers, you're better off using a DTP (Desktop Publishing Program), like Affinity Publisher), or even something like Canva (a popular subscription based app for phones, tablets, PC's and Macs).

How about academic writing? Any of these word processors might work well enough, but it's also interesting to see how they interact with other apps you might like to use. Like I used Bookends to keep track of my footnotes and references when I was working on my Bachelor's degree paper. I tried various alternatives, but found Bookends to be my favorite. And that brought me to check out the bundle of Mellel and Bookends. While Bookends integrates nicely with Nisus Writer, Mellel has some unique features that's very interesting for longer writing. It's more structured, and has a nice system for auto-titles, a nice outline while working, it has a better support for different languages. And Mellel's style system forces a structured approach to styles and sub styles. As I wrote Greek and Norwegian and really needed a good structure and found that outline to be helpful, I stuck with Mellel for my Academic writing.

How About Books and Lectures?

If you produce lengthy manuscripts for books or other stuff, there's also alternatives you should consider. And if you, like me, keep a structured and tagged and searchable library of lectures, course material, articles, blog posts, sermons or other speeches, there's still other software and factors to consider.

When I started working more as a teacher, teaching variations of the same classes/lectures, I started seeing the need to organize all my RTF files (Nisus used RTF by default). So I found Scrivener. Scrivener is very nice for organizing many documents and resources (PDF, images and more), creating styles and organizing thought and such. So I was able to move my documents and papers and organize it all in Scrivener. I even bought a Windows version at some point, as I had a Windows tablet at some point. (There's other players in this field, like Manuskript and Highland. I ended up using Scrivener, but I'd try out even more alternatives today, if I were looking for alternatives.)

What Else is Missing?

One should think I had then found my tools, but the world of tech is never static, and I hope I myself will never stop evolving and be open for better workflows and new tools. (The temptation for a geek like me, is to get too focused on the tool, so much so that I forget the actual work/tasks I want to solve.)

So, at some point, I realized that I wasn't too comfortable with storing a lot of formatted documents, RTF documents, as they would not automatically all be updated to my new and updated styles: My new styles would have to be applied to the documents. And I figured: For the most part, I'd like to keep the text, the info, the content in a plainer format, in a format that could be easily compiled into different styles and documents and web pages and what not.

iA Writer

I wasn't really wanting to go into a format like TeX, I wanted something simpler, so I considered ReStructured Text (.rst) and Markdown. After trying out some apps, I stumbled upon Ulysses, and I was hooked. I moved lots of text and stuff over to my Ulysses library, and I wrote my own templates and lots of content. I used Ulyssen happily until suddenly they one day changed their pricing into a pure subscription model. With this model I wouldn't be able to write my stuff if I couldn't pay at some point. (And lots/most of my writing does not cause much profit, as it's for non-profits and other non-commercial purposes.) So then I went out searching for alternatives to Ulysses. And I (re)discovered iA Writer. It had grown into an amazing app. And it has evolved quite a bit since then. I loved how it did support some standard Markdown formatting which Ulysses didn't, and I love how it keeps the articles in plain files. I can tag the files, they're indexed. But they're also readable and indexable by other apps. Today I use iA Writer for all content that I want to index, organize and keep as tagged, searchable and easily reusable. (I can export the articles to RTF or other formats for processing in Nisus and other apps.) For this I also use Marked 2. iA Writer's templates as nice, and I use my own custom templates quite a lot, but Marked lets me export in a variety of formats. Very useful!

That's it, Then?

Oh, no … There "One more thing" (to quote the late Steve Jobs) … Related to my writing, I'm also using and checking out various tools for writing, organizing and keeping notes. (For this I now use a combination of Joplin and Simplenote, and EagleFiler for archiving notes, web pages, PDFs/documents and emails. When I had an iPhone, I used Drafts for notes, it was quite nice, but as I moved to Android, and Drafts started moving to a subscription model, I haven't used it since version 4. I might write a post on notes and organization later on. (No promises.) 😅

But as I was on the lookout for tools to organize notes and such, I heard of the opensource tool Obsidian. A great product with many possible use cases. And one such use is actually sorting, tagging and linking texts. So now I use both iA Writer and Obsidian, while working with the same files. I use iA Writer more for the actual writing, while Obsidian helps organize and more.

I also use Obsidian (and sometimes Joplin) for checklists. (Obsidian is a versatile tool with lots of available plugins.)

Wait a Minute: What About Cloud Alternatives?

You thought maybe I had forgotten about cloud alternatives, like Google Docs, Zoho Docs and so on? I haven't forgotten about them. Most of these are actually quite decent word processors these days. But most of them has much of the same issues as Word and Pages, in my opinion. And native applications are still better.

That said, the cloud apps often shine when it comes to collaboration. So I actually use Google Docs quite a bit. I often write stuff in Nisus, and then upload it as .docx to Google Docs before inviting others to collaborate. And Google Docs has one very nice feature: An auto-updating outline! (Maybe they learned it from Mellel?) 🤓

Summary

To summarize my own views and conclusions:

  • If you don't enjoy the writing process in Word and Pages, and if you're using a Mac, you should check out Nisus and Mellel.
  • If you write longer form documents, you should consider using Markdown and a tool like iA Writer and/or Obsidian. If you prefer writing formatted docs, Scrivener is a nice alternative.
  • For collaboration, use Google Docs, Apple Pages through iCloud, Microsoft Word online or whatever works for you.
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