Best Writing App?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by OldCorpse, Nov 27, 2015.

  1. OldCorpse macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #1
    I'm looking for recommendations for a writing app that is suited for writing a novel. It doesn't need a bunch of bells and whistles and doesn't have to have any features that are specifically aimed at facilitating research or aiding in any "creative" way (no story suggestions, no "Dramatica" etc.). I don't need any outlining features, or index card type thing, or 'brainstorming' or whatnot. It doesn't have to connect to the cloud or sync across devices. I'm not looking for tons of formatting or layout features. F.ex. I'm familiar with Scrivener, and it's way overkill for what I need and am looking for.

    A writing app that is good at taking a lot of pages - for example, in my experience MSFT Word, starts seriously slowing down and growing cranky once you pass about 30-40 pages and generally it gives me a very unpleasant sensation of getting gummed up. I need something that can take a huge number of pages and not be affected.

    Simple. Robust. Preferably free. Not online or other crazy stuff, just local on my iMac. What's the best?

    At the moment I'm on Mavericks, eventually I intend to move to El Cap. I'm on a late 2009 27" iMac. TIA!
     
  2. IHelpId10t5 macrumors 6502

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    #2
    http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/
     
  3. NonSoft macrumors member

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    #3
  4. chscag macrumors 68000

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    #4
    Not free. (Give us a break...) Scrivener for Mac made especially for writers and currently on Black Friday sale for $25.00.
     
  5. OldCorpse thread starter macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #5
    Thanks, guys. Scrivener seems, like I say, a bit too much - too busy, too many options, too fussy. Ulysses - a bit pricy for a writing app. I did find this, which looks very promising, and is more in the range of what I'm looking for as far as simplicity without too many bells and whistles: FocusWriter. I have no experience with it (I just found it a couple of hours ago). I'm hoping to see if there is anything else.
     
  6. jojoba macrumors 68000

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    #6
    I was also going to suggest Scrivener or Ulysses, but I see that's not quite what you're looking for. Personally, I need the sidebar options that allows you to divide your document into sections when I work with long documents, and I haven't found any simpler apps that accommodate that (apart from Simplenote, but that's a bit too simple for me. It's a great app, but for different purposes IMO).

    Edited to add: there's this one which in some ways can be seen as a simpler version of Ulysses. You could check it out http://writeapp.net/mac/
     
  7. marmiteturkey macrumors 6502

    marmiteturkey

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    #7
    Another vote for Ulysses; Byword and Typed are even more stripped down and cheaper if you can't stomach the price (but it's not expensive for the capability and polish - it's a very professional, well-supported and actively developed app).
     
  8. Starfia macrumors 6502

    Starfia

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    #8
    These writing apps are largely similar, so they tend to play in the area of offering one or two unique features and putting a spotlight on them. It's kind of weird. And, since it sounds like you're not looking for a particular feature and could probably get by with TextEdit if you had to, it's probably just down to your preference.

    I love Ulysses since buying it – checks on simple, robust, and handles lots of pages. For me, it's about being able to fine-tune that perfect simplistic full-screen writing environment, and I enjoy its Markdown-like version of formatting things while still remaining in plain text. It's not cheap or free.

    Pages I would suggest next. I've done documents well over a hundred pages with no performance hitches on the Mac. There's no dark mode, but for novels where you'd like to see the finished formatting and manage it easily, Pages is about as simple as it gets. To me, it seems like a daisy where Microsoft Word will never not seem like a tumbleweed. (And Pages has been free with modern Macs for a few years now. If not, it's cheap.)
     
  9. NonSoft macrumors member

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    #9

    Agreed. It may not be cheap, but if you're serious about writing I'd say it is well worth the investment.
     
  10. exegete77 macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    I have been using Macs for 25 years, with a variety of word processor apps: MS Word 5, WriteNow, Nisus Writer, Nisus Writer Pro, MS Word 2011, Mellel, Papyrus (published a book with it, but no English update in 8 years), OpenOffice/LibreOffice and then PageMaker, InDesign, and Scrivener. For general Work, Nisus Writer Pro is great. For one with multi-lingual work, Mellel is my choice.

    But for work like you describe Scrivener is by far the best. I have writing articles for publishing, an entire curriculum for seminary, blogging, etc. Excellent software.

    Just some rambling thoughts from an old codger. who has been around the block a few thousand times
     
  11. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #11
    OP, you've already given your opinion of Scrivener (which I've used for very large fiction projects).

    There's no reason to use all Scrivener's bells and whistles. I never use their templates. And it's easy to make the working window very simple.

    Here's mine. Often I use two text panes, but here's just one. Before giving up on Scrivener, you might consider stripping things down, getting rid of the opening splash screen and all those templates, and so on.
     

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  12. Osty, Nov 28, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2015

    Osty macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    TL;DR Just use Scrivener

    Honestly, I concur with the recommendations for Scrivener. I've been writing long form fiction for nearly twenty years; I've also worked as a technical writer professionally for ten years. In that time, Ive used just about every word processor and text editor out there. Scrivener has everything you want and you can hide or ignore the features you don't need or want. Take it from me though as someone with several novels under my belt, there will come a point when you will needs its structural tools. Even if you are a complete pantser, at somepoint you will have to fix/revise/rewrite your draft and that's where you'll quickly appreciate what Scrivener can give you.

    If you are looking for an alternative, think about workflows rather than apps because as others have said all the simple apps target at the fullscreen purist are basically the same. Consider chunking your files up into markdown documents and choose the best editor on the platform you are using. Then assemble your files with whatever method you prefer. It's much easier to fix and restructure your novel when it's broken into scenes or beats rather than chapters or *shudder* writen in a single document.
     
  13. OldCorpse thread starter macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #13
    Thank you everybody, lots of food for thought. I truly appreciate the wisdom that many of you share, born of years, sometimes decades of experience. It's a treat to read and a strong reason to carefully consider - as I do appreciate advice given from lived experience.

    I guess - much as I hate it - I should give Scrivener another look. The price is somewhat off-putting, if for no other reason than the fact that it often takes me time to make up my mind about an app (or gear for that matter!), and it may well transpire that I don't like it after all... in which case, it's money wasted. So to me, it's not about the strict expense, as the sense of wasted expense.

    My experience of Scrivener is a few years old now. I've used it - or tried to use it - some years ago, and just never cottoned on to it. I had a powerful dislike of it, everything rubbed me the wrong way. I realize a lot of it is purely subjective, but you know how it is with everything - software including, where some people swear by something and for others it's all just wrong, wrong, wrong - it's not simply about features and capabilities. There is software that you use and it just fits you like a glove, and there is software that while on paper seems just fine, simply grates on you endlessly. That was my experience of Scrivener - raw hate. Absolutely everything I found irritating and worse - for example, even the corkboard fills me with rage. I HATE IT. I find it very difficult to imagine that I can comfortably work in an environment that I find disagreeable - and writing for hours and hours and weeks and months... unimaginable. I guess the best way to put it, is I'm not a Scriveners man :)... I would think people on this board would completely understand it - after all, there frequently is a powerful divide between mac and windows people, where sometimes a person can't stand a mac environment or a windows environment. Naturally, there are those who don't care, but I happen to be one who does :).
     
  14. Traverse macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #14
    Scrivener is the ultimate writing too and can be as simple or complex as you want, but it can be overwhelming. Ulysses has a slick UI and a simpler UX, but only allows you to write in markdown and (unless you use the import feature which costs you some features) it stores EVERYTHING in a single library. I see that becoming unwieldily over time.
     
  15. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #15
    Sure, I understand completely. I know that feeling.

    The only thing I don't understand is why you don't shut off the things that make you nuts, and let Scrivener be a straightforward writing environment, with minimal bells and whistles.

    But going back to your original post. If Word is getting cranky at 30-40 pages, then something is wrong somewhere, perhaps even on the hardware side. I'm on a retina iMac now, with SSD, so what I see isn't meaningful for your case (although I have a 252 page Word document up now, and can move through it with ease). But my old 2010 MBP with 8 GB and a spinner never choked on Word documents at 30-40 pages, never.

    So, if you're content with Word, maybe your best strategy is to figure out why Word isn't happy (or your Mac isn't happy).
     
  16. NonSoft macrumors member

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    #16
    This seems to be a common sentiment regarding Scrivener, but I'm not sure that I understand it.

    To me, it would be a bit like buying a minivan when you don't have any kids or current uses for a large vehicle, but rather just incase you eventually do. Sure, now you're covered, but you're also stuck with a big cumbersome vehicle that you hate. Worse yet, you aren't even taking advantage of the vehicle's strength. In other words, you have all the downside, with none of the benefit.

    Without a doubt, Scrivener can do just about any writing relating task that you will ever need, but if you aren't utilizing all (or at least a good portion) of what it has to offer there are better designed apps out there that focus on doing a subset of that functionality in a modern, less cluttered way.
     
  17. monokakata macrumors 68000

    monokakata

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    #17
    Well, remember that OldCorpse is either working on or about to start work on a novel. What working with Scrivener would give him, if he could get past his dislike of it, would be the ability to work on small pieces of his novel, not necessarily even as big as a chapter, each in its own Scrivener container, and then, from time to time rearrange them, combine them, split them apart, look at two of them side by side, copying and pasting from one to the other, writing out sections of them into Word documents to distribute to others, and so on. Those capabilities are very useful in long-form writing. The icons and displays required to do that work don't have to be evident if he doesn't want to see them.

    Traverse and I had a long series of discussions about this some time ago.

    If OldCorpse feels as though he can begin at the beginning and go on through pretty much to the end, then he doesn't need Scrivener's tools (hidden and otherwise). I don't know any novelists who write that way, but I'm sure some do, and if OldCorpse can do it, he doesn't need Scrivener.

    So I would argue against your minivan analogy by saying that a writer might not need all Scrivener's strengths at the beginning of a project, but midway and on to the end, they are very, very useful. And if you plan how you're going to write the novel, at the beginning, and then make use of some very simple Scrivener abilities, then later in the project invoking those tools will be really, really easy.
     
  18. Starfia macrumors 6502

    Starfia

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    #18
    Hey, OldCorpse,

    I know what you mean about the feeling of apps – some just feel right and others don't.

    I should have mentioned, I think Ulysses and others offer free trials, too – so there's that; it might at least give you some room to explore without feeling like you're taking a risk with your money.
     
  19. coachingguy macrumors 6502a

    coachingguy

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    #19
    I bought Scrivener years ago and have written a few things with it. It's amazingly powerful and great at organizing your ideas. I haven't figured it all out yet. Scrivener is NOT my ever day word processor, and it's not supposed to be. I teach and create most of my own assignments in either Pages or Google Docs... But for research process and writing and/or short stories - It's Scrivener. AND their Customer Service is amazing! Just get it. I'm sure it'll be in a Software bundle soon too, I think it was last month...

    Coachingguy
     
  20. Osty macrumors 6502a

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    #20
    I agree. Unless you plan to the Nth degree upfront using something like the Snowflake method, it's very hard not to run off the rails. When that happens you want something with sufficient organisation tools to dig yourself out of the hole you find yourself in.

    Novels hang together with structure; even if you have the most compelling characters, plot and themes you cannot engage a reader if your 100K word novel is structurally broken. Very few writers, myself included can juggle all the elements a novel needs while trying to write good prose. Scrivener can help you do this out-of-the-box but word processors and text editors will not unless you use them as part of a workflow that does.

    It doesn't have to be Scrivener; there are alternatives out there as others have noted. But Scrivener is very well known, supported and has a great community around it. Even though I don't use it much any more (I prefer chunked Markdown files and working on mobile devices) I still recommend it to beginners.
     
  21. ignatius345 macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    Another Ulysses fan over here. It's really a nice environment to work in. Since you mention "feel", I'll say that Ulysses has a very nice, minimal design that as NonSoft says "stays out of the way", but also has a lot of very powerful features for organizing. I would note that you have to be OK with working in markdown and having some visible formatting. The big benefit of this is that your work is not even remotely locked into any proprietary format. It's all just .txt (technically .md) files underneath, and you can open those in pretty much anything.

    I tend to use it full-screen and make it my home base for most all my writing projects.

    Now if it only supported Fountain...
     
  22. ignatius345, Nov 30, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2015

    ignatius345 macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    I like to do the big structural stuff on a bigger canvas than my computer screen. My writing partner and I just filled up a whole wall with index cards before we even thought about opening our computers. I guess portability is good, but for my money I'd just as soon replace that corny corkboard in Scrivener (Final Draft has a similar thing) with a big physical one I can pace around in front of, and get away from my screen for a while.
     
  23. exegete77 macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    If you want help, Joseph Michael conducts a webinar training session on Scrivener. Best training I received (I had used for 2-3 years before that). Made a world of difference.
     
  24. Osty macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    I do something similar with a roll of Ikea butcher's paper; not spouse friendly but she copes if I keep it to my man cave. Once I get around to using the computer, my first step is translating that canvas into an outline written in Markdown. If you want to talk about portability, nothing beats plain text.

    I guess like you, I like having my structured worked out in analogue long before I start writing. Even though I recommend Scrivener to new writers (who use OS X) I don't actually use Scrivener any more because I do most of my writing on Linux and iOS.
     
  25. Traverse, Dec 29, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015

    Traverse macrumors 603

    Traverse

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    #25
    I've played with Ulysses many times. Scrivener has a special place in my heart and I believe it is the ultimate writing application, but for more traditional desktop based writing. I think I will reserve Scrivener for novels, academic writing, and more complex tasks.

    I've been using it for a general journal, but I think I will jump to Ulysses for this. Scrivener uses the traditional "file in Finder" approach whereas Ulysses is more iOS-like in that you open the app and there's your work. I love that for personal things, but hate that for academic or work things. Ulysses is on OS X and iPad. Though Scrivener should come to iPad in 2016, Ulysses is already ahead of it by coming to the iPhone. Again, I wouldn't do work related serious stuff on my iPhone, but for a general journal and thought bin, having an iPhone app is a serious plus.

    Scrivener, as an app, just seems more heavy-duty. Again, I love it, but I think I prefer Ulysses' more nimble work for personal stuff. I don't care for markdown, but can live with it. Ulysses is NOT open markdown. You'd have to export your writings individually. It's not like other editors that store .txt files in a folder, but that's a tradeoff to getting some of the Ulysses flexibility like Footnotes.

    Just some opinions.
     

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