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Old Feb 18, 2013, 03:01 AM   #1
tayloristhebest
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Writing a 50 page thesis on a Mac?

Hi guys,

I need to write a 50 page thesis for my course, and this also includes images, graphs, tables etc. There won't be too much math in the course, so I won't be needing any formulae features. I just need to know a good app to write this thesis, maybe one with good formatting and referencing tools. I have to include a table of contents and keep everything nice and neat looking. I have word for mac, but I absolutely despise the thing, so any suggestions other than that would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 03:15 AM   #2
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Apparently indesign cs2 is free.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 03:47 AM   #3
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Pages
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 03:48 AM   #4
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LaTeX is still one of the best typesetting system in the world, but its something one has to learn. I use TextMate 2 in combination with the MacTeX distribution, and LuaTeX to typeset the documents.

What I can recommend you is to use Pandoc's multimarkdown (it is a very nice and easy to use text markup language) which can be automatically converted to LaTeX for high-quality PDF production.

Last edited by leman; Feb 18, 2013 at 04:01 AM.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 04:19 AM   #5
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LaTeX.

I use LaTeX for everything. I used it for my 65 page Honours thesis, two and a half years of typed assignments (many of which were well over 50 pages) a couple of seminar presentations (it effectively replaces Powerpoint as well) and more. I will use it for my PhD thesis.

Yes, it has some learning curve, but it basically comes down to finding a TeX document, and reverse-engineering it. Once you're over the shock of it being basically a programming language for word processing, it is very easy to use.

As far as I am concerned, it is the most professional word processing software available, and it is free. I use MacTex, and TexShop to do the typesetting, ie. compiling.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 04:34 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erasmus View Post
LaTeX.

I use LaTeX for everything. I used it for my 65 page Honours thesis, two and a half years of typed assignments (many of which were well over 50 pages) a couple of seminar presentations (it effectively replaces Powerpoint as well) and more. I will use it for my PhD thesis.

Yes, it has some learning curve, but it basically comes down to finding a TeX document, and reverse-engineering it. Once you're over the shock of it being basically a programming language for word processing, it is very easy to use.

As far as I am concerned, it is the most professional word processing software available, and it is free. I use MacTex, and TexShop to do the typesetting, ie. compiling.
Quote:
Originally Posted by leman View Post
LaTeX is still one of the best typesetting system in the world, but its something one has to learn. I use TextMate 2 in combination with the MacTeX distribution, and LuaTeX to typeset the documents.

What I can recommend you is to use Pandoc's multimarkdown (it is a very nice and easy to use text markup language) which can be automatically converted to LaTeX for high-quality PDF production.
I see! Well the good thing is I have 2 weeks before I officially start any sort of writing, so I can use that time to learn the program. I'll give it a shot! Thank you so much
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 04:45 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Erasmus View Post
As far as I am concerned, it is the most professional word processing software available, and it is free.
LaTeX is not word processing software: it is for typesetting. Also, it is very much geared towards scientific texts, and it is a nightmare to use it for page design. So, I would be reluctant to call it the most professional software available, without further clarification.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 05:37 AM   #8
leman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eezacque View Post
LaTeX is not word processing software: it is for typesetting. Also, it is very much geared towards scientific texts, and it is a nightmare to use it for page design. So, I would be reluctant to call it the most professional software available, without further clarification.
I don't think OP asked about page design? I also would't choose LaTeX to design a flyer (I do make huge conference posters with it and its great for that purpose). However, if it is about writing texts of any kind (scientific or otherwise), LaTeX (once you get used to it) is far superior to any office suite due to the way it seamlessly works with references/footnotes/bibliographic entries.

P.S. It is also great for writing letters
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 07:12 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by eljimberino View Post
Apparently indesign cs2 is free.
It's not "free". You're only supposed to download/use the serial-key if you already purchased a CS2.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 07:20 AM   #10
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I'm surprised LibreOffice (formerly OpenOffice) hasn't been mentioned at this point. While I like Latex, there's no substitute for WYSIWYG editing when you're in a hurry. Here is my ranking of word processors for Mac:

1) Pages
2) LibreOffice Writer
3) Latex (if you have time)
.
.
.
.
666) MS Word

It's a bit of a shame. MS Word was actually developed for Mac first and the Mac version is always a little bit nicer than the Windows version. But MS has become Bloat, Inc and while I have to deal with their dogvomit at the office, nobody can force me to deal with it at home.

When I have to compose a document, I first consider if I have to collaborate with anybody on Windows. If so, I tend to open LibreOffice. I have LibreOffice set to open all MS Office format files by default. If I don't have to worry about sharing with people on other platforms, I prefer Pages, Numbers and Keynote.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 08:02 AM   #11
trustever
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Quote:
Originally Posted by r0k View Post
I'm surprised LibreOffice (formerly OpenOffice) hasn't been mentioned at this point. While I like Latex, there's no substitute for WYSIWYG editing when you're in a hurry. Here is my ranking of word processors for Mac:

1) Pages
2) LibreOffice Writer
3) Latex (if you have time)
.
.
.
.
666) MS Word

It's a bit of a shame. MS Word was actually developed for Mac first and the Mac version is always a little bit nicer than the Windows version. But MS has become Bloat, Inc and while I have to deal with their dogvomit at the office, nobody can force me to deal with it at home.

When I have to compose a document, I first consider if I have to collaborate with anybody on Windows. If so, I tend to open LibreOffice. I have LibreOffice set to open all MS Office format files by default. If I don't have to worry about sharing with people on other platforms, I prefer Pages, Numbers and Keynote.
I have briefly seen MS word for mac 2011 on a friend's mac and it is very close to the version for Window, can't really comment on the reliability as the prieviuos version was very prone to crashing that I have moved to pages but if I were in you I would give it a try and if you are happy puchase it...
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 08:21 AM   #12
dma550
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I've found the newest version of Word very reliable, but my documents rarely go over 20 pages (mostly tech writing). What types of crashes do people see here?

I admit though, I write very defensively. I remember writing back when you saved everything on floppy disks, and I would save every 15 minutes onto three or so of them, and always keep one or two offsite!
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Old Feb 19, 2013, 07:07 AM   #13
r0k
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trustever View Post
I have briefly seen MS word for mac 2011 on a friend's mac and it is very close to the version for Window, can't really comment on the reliability as the prieviuos version was very prone to crashing that I have moved to pages but if I were in you I would give it a try and if you are happy puchase it...
I already purchased Office 2011 for $10 through my company's home use program. It was the worst $10 I ever spent in my life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by T'hain Esh Kelch View Post
I've used Pages for my masters thesis (200 pages) and it was a joy. For my Phd I plan to try out Scrivener, as it will be easier for creating sub sections.


I had to help/read my sisters bachelors thesis two days ago, and she send me an ODT file. So I installed LibreOffice to read it, and everything went good for ~30 minutes time. Then LibreOffice choked on its own auto-save function, which just kept looping and made the application unuseable. Force quit it, restarted. LibreOffice asked me if I wanted to recreate my file - Yes of course I would, since I had made changes - This resulted in LibreOffice crashing. Tried several times more, crashed every single time. I then started it up and said no, I didn't want it to restore my file. This resulted in a pop up window stating that I had closed windows last time I exited the application, and if I wanted to open that again - Yes and no buttons both didn't work, so now I had the splash screen, along with a dialog that couldn't go away, making LibreOffice unuseable.

I then went into Application Support to find the file, which I assumed would be auto saved in there, and behold, 60 versions of the same file, where 58 of them were 0kb. Got the first file, which unfortunately made me loose 40% of what I had written, but I got some of it out at least (That's what I found out from sending the file to my sister, since I couldn't open it with LibreOffice had exploded).

Oh, and on top of that, the LibreOffice installation, being java, apparently installed something into the system so java didn't work properly anymore, so I had to reinstall Java to get my homebanking working again.

Its going to be a loooong time before I try that suite again, that's for sure.
Sorry to hear you had so much trouble. I've never lost work in LibreOffice. I only rarely lose work in MS Office. I could understand the risk of losing work to be part of the decision in choosing an Office app 20 years ago but not today. I will approach LibreOffice with a bit more caution going forward (save early, save often), especially when opening a doc from somebody else.

I'm still not willing to litter up my perfectly good Mac with MS Office as I don't need any of its features and I don't want to deal with its bloat.
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Old Feb 19, 2013, 03:44 AM   #14
T'hain Esh Kelch
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I've used Pages for my masters thesis (200 pages) and it was a joy. For my Phd I plan to try out Scrivener, as it will be easier for creating sub sections.

Quote:
Originally Posted by r0k View Post
I'm surprised LibreOffice (formerly OpenOffice) hasn't been mentioned at this point.
I had to help/read my sisters bachelors thesis two days ago, and she send me an ODT file. So I installed LibreOffice to read it, and everything went good for ~30 minutes time. Then LibreOffice choked on its own auto-save function, which just kept looping and made the application unuseable. Force quit it, restarted. LibreOffice asked me if I wanted to recreate my file - Yes of course I would, since I had made changes - This resulted in LibreOffice crashing. Tried several times more, crashed every single time. I then started it up and said no, I didn't want it to restore my file. This resulted in a pop up window stating that I had closed windows last time I exited the application, and if I wanted to open that again - Yes and no buttons both didn't work, so now I had the splash screen, along with a dialog that couldn't go away, making LibreOffice unuseable.

I then went into Application Support to find the file, which I assumed would be auto saved in there, and behold, 60 versions of the same file, where 58 of them were 0kb. Got the first file, which unfortunately made me loose 40% of what I had written, but I got some of it out at least (That's what I found out from sending the file to my sister, since I couldn't open it with LibreOffice had exploded).

Oh, and on top of that, the LibreOffice installation, being java, apparently installed something into the system so java didn't work properly anymore, so I had to reinstall Java to get my homebanking working again.

Its going to be a loooong time before I try that suite again, that's for sure.
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Last edited by T'hain Esh Kelch; Feb 19, 2013 at 03:45 AM. Reason: splellingz
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Old Feb 19, 2013, 03:59 AM   #15
RSL
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For any document with sections, chapters etc., I can only recommend LaTeX.

Word is a nightmare for those. Though it might be better for graphs and the like.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 09:20 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eljimberino View Post
Apparently indesign cs2 is free.
Not legally free, as pointed out, and it wouldn't run on any Mac running OS X >10.7.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 10:00 AM   #17
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I would use Mellel, since your requirements do not include math equations. I have been using it for about 8 years. Never failed. The style sheets are the best of any word processing program, Autotitles are great, and easy navigation window between sections/chapters. Easily works with Bookends and Sente for bibliographic needs.

(Although it an English version of Papyrus Autor were available I would use it—they expect to release it in the next 2-3 months. I used the prior version in 2006 to write and typeset a book (230+ pages). Superb handling, never failed, easy to move chapters, auto numbering for tables, photos, etc.)
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 04:50 AM   #18
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Try Mellel.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 10:49 AM   #19
Suraj R.
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Pages without a doubt. I've used it to type up everything for the past 4-5 years, and I will continue to use it in the future. Its very easy to add images, charts and graphs (all of which look stunning with 3D effects), and the ease of page layout on Pages is second to none. I use Pages even when I want to make a thumbnail or card for something, its that easy.

Oh, and no matter what, don't use MS Word for Mac. Use TextEdit instead of it aha. But seriously, I hate that thing...all of the MS Office suite for Mac is trash. iWork on the other hand, now that's the way to go.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 12:07 PM   #20
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I'm with the Scrivener crowd (although I use Word all the time).

Here's one thing that Scrivener gives you that can be really handy during the drafting stage (Spectrum mentioned it) -- you can compose in small chunks (smaller than chapters or named sections) and then rearrange them with great ease -- color code them, even, or use the corkboard-metaphor display.

You can even look at two chunks simultaneously (and work on them as well).

The chunks can be as fine-grained as you like. I had a piece of short fiction written in Word, a few years ago, and it wasn't working. I broke it into chunks, imported them into Scrivener and moved them around (click and drag, nothing more complicated than that) until I found the right solution. After each trial, I told Scrivener to show me the entire thing in that order (and even write it out as a Word document) and I'd read it, decide what still wasn't working, go back and re-order . . . in the end I won a national prize with it.

If your thesis looks to be pretty much straight-ahead in its organization, then what Scrivener offers might not help you very much. But if at this point you're uncertain about how you're going to organize it, you might do well with Scrivener.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 01:05 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by monokakata View Post
I'm with the Scrivener crowd (although I use Word all the time).

Here's one thing that Scrivener gives you that can be really handy during the drafting stage (Spectrum mentioned it) -- you can compose in small chunks (smaller than chapters or named sections) and then rearrange them with great ease -- color code them, even, or use the corkboard-metaphor display.

You can even look at two chunks simultaneously (and work on them as well).

The chunks can be as fine-grained as you like. I had a piece of short fiction written in Word, a few years ago, and it wasn't working. I broke it into chunks, imported them into Scrivener and moved them around (click and drag, nothing more complicated than that) until I found the right solution. After each trial, I told Scrivener to show me the entire thing in that order (and even write it out as a Word document) and I'd read it, decide what still wasn't working, go back and re-order . . . in the end I won a national prize with it.

If your thesis looks to be pretty much straight-ahead in its organization, then what Scrivener offers might not help you very much. But if at this point you're uncertain about how you're going to organize it, you might do well with Scrivener.
I agree with this, I'm writing my masters thesis in Scrivener - it makes it a lot easier editing chapters.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 01:51 PM   #22
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I see lots of people recommending Pages or LaTeX. But I find neither of them to be appropriate for your needs.

Pages is a word processor with desktop publishing features. It is good for designing beautiful pages in a simple way. But it does not have advanced word processing features, such as cross-references and indexing. These features, which most people don't even know that exist, make your job of writing a thesis a lot simpler and more straightforward. And, as Apple has not updated it in years, these features will hardly be added anytime soon.

LaTeX, on the other hand, has several advanced features, but it is good for people involved in hard sciences, who must use a lot of math equations. It requires a lot of effort to learn. For researches involved in human sciences, and who know nothing about programming, learning LaTeX may be more difficult than writing the thesis itself. May be too complicated. You may test it, but, if you have never heard of it, then it probably won't be for you.

Then there are other options. Two of the most cited ones are Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice. These are popular word processors which are widely used under Windows, and are available for Mac. But I don't think they are the best options.

Word is, of course, the world's most popular and widely used word processor. It should be a no brainer. But it is not. Word for Mac is crap. Heavy, slow, buggy, bloated. Crap piece of hardware. It has all the features you may need, though. And it is fully compatible with, well, Microsoft Word. If third parties have to open your files (such as your supervisor), it would be the most compatible choice.

OpenOffice.org / LibreOffice Writer is an open source word processor which has a lot of features, and would satisfy your needs. However, the interface is clunky. The biggest advantage is that it is free and has good compatibility with Microsoft Word. It would fit your needs.

There are other alternatives which were developed for Mac, and which are pretty good.

First, there is Mellel, a word processor with a focus on complex documents. It is very good for styles, cross-referencing, citing sources, and so on. You should at least try it. It is meant for thesis writing, and similar tasks. However, compatibility with Word is poor.

Nisus Writer Pro is another great alternative, although significantly more expensive than Mellel. It has good compatibility with Microsoft Word files.

Scrivener has a different approach, as it does not focus on page layout. However, it is a great piece of software and you should try it for large projects such as a thesis.

You may also play safe and install Microsoft Windows on BootCamp or Parallels and run Microsoft Word for Windows. The 2013 version is simply great. I wrote my 250-page thesis on Word 2010 and I don't regret it.

In addition to this, you may also want some reference management software. Endnote is the standard, but expensive. Zotero is a good free open source alternative, and it has a Microsoft Word plug-in. Works well on Windows, but I have not tested it on the Mac.

Plus, there are some Mac-specific software that does this job. The best of them are probably Sente and Bookends. You should take a look. There is also Papers, but I don't know how it manages references in documents.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 02:35 PM   #23
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LaTeX, LibreOffice and MS Word are the most known. That's very useful because they use a fileformat that will be recognised by many other apps. If you need to open it in the future you are not just stuck with the pdf version but you also have the originals you can still edit. This can be a dealbreaker for some. If having a pdf is enough for you than pick any that matches your needs, has the lowest learning curve and outputs a pdf. The learning curve part is very important since you want to spend time on your thesis and not on learning some kind of language and/or piece of software.

When I had to write my thesis I went for OpenOffice.org (LibreOffice didn't exist back then) because it was what I already knew, it did what it had to do, it was stable and it was the only software that could output pdf files with a clickable table of contents (which also showed up as a ToC in any pdf reader) and clickable urls.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 03:18 PM   #24
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Scrivener

For any long form writing--novels, theses, dissertations, journal articles--Scrivener is simply the best. The final stage may well include "compiling" to send to Word (or whatever word processor your thesis advisor requires) for final formatting.
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Old Feb 18, 2013, 12:42 PM   #25
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I know you said that you despise Word, but I wouldn't rule it out. I'm an analyst, and I write reports in Word. They typically have several infographics and sometimes run 50 pages or longer.

The only time I have problems with Word is crashing when there are a lot of tracked changes and comments, and that's even with docs as short as two pages.
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