Finding a good word-processor

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by macstatic, May 17, 2008.

  1. macstatic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I'm looking for a word-processor application which is good enough for academic papers.
    I've been using the word-processor part of NeoOffice for several years now, but find it a pain to use with its ugly user interface and slow response. And I really don't need a whole office suite for this.

    Having searched the web it seems that Mellel or Nisus writer Express/Pro are good apps I should look into, but I really can't find any recent comparison reviews. What do you guys suggest I get?
  2. exegete77 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 12, 2008
    To me there are really two excellent word processors that fill this need: Nisus Writer Pro and Mellel. NWP has a very good feel as a tool that does not get in your way, includes cross references and TOC. NWP allows you to get right in start writing. NWP does not have an outlining capability. NWP normally saves in .rtf format, but can open and save in .doc format.

    Check out the NWP forums.

    Mellel has better style sheets, which is different than any other, but once grasped is very powerful and gives better control. It works better with other languages and font variations, has multiple notestream capabilities, and auto-titling that is excellent. You will probably need to work through the manual on Mellel because some things work very differently. Once you do, you will see the power. Mellel also includes a outlining capability that proved more than sufficient for my early stages of writing a book. Mellel saves in .mell (xml variant), but can export to .doc or .rtf.

    Check out the Mellel forums

    For every day writing I am using NWP, but for academic writings/articles I consistently use Mellel (English is main language, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and German are secondary languages in my work).

    Both have trial periods in which you can explore the capabilities. Keep in mind that Mellel will have the steeper learning curve, but the benefits outweigh the time/effort.

  3. Platonist macrumors member


    Nov 3, 2006
    Something to keep in mind when doing academic work is the need to collaborate, share, and (possibly) submit your work electronically. I used Mellel for a while (2 years or so) and found it to be a good app. I also used Pages 3.0 for a few articles and it worked surprisingly well. The problems came when I had to import styles from journal editors and send drafts of my work to other colleagues for comments. Not everyone uses these programs (Mellel, NWP, etc.) so there were issues when the files were converted to different formats. I ended up switching back to Word, and with Office 08 I have been fairly pleased with the switch back. Many people don't like the idea of having to use M$ products (believe me, I am one of them) but I feel that there is a compelling case to be made for Word here. I has a better interface now, it is a common application (colleagues and journals are less apt to have issues with your files), and it will do what you need.

    My two cents...
  4. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    I was agreeing with you up to this point. Then you ran off into the weeds. In my not so humble opinion, there is nothing better about Word 2008's UI over that of Word 2004.

    As for compatibility, well you are just plain wrong. If you must send documents to colleagues, then you must ensure that you do not send .docx or .docm documents unless you know for certain that they have Word 2007 or Word 2008. This is not a concern for Word 2004 users. If you receive a macro-enabled document, even if it is from a Word 2004 or earlier user, then you will not be able to run the macros because Office 2008 does not include VBA.
  5. Platonist macrumors member


    Nov 3, 2006
    Opinions may vary about the interface -- take those comments as you will. On the compatibility side, I am well aware of the .docx and .doc issues, but those are not my concern (and it is so easy to change the default to .doc that I don't see this as an issue). The issues I have had is when custom styles are used (such as those that some journals specify). I have had better luck with such styles in Word 08 than Word 04, and that was the root of the compatibility comments. I do not use macros, so I am unable to speak to that. I have heard others complain about the lack of macros, and if such a thing is important to you then you may want to skip Office 08.

    -Platonist (from the weeds)
  6. exegete77 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 12, 2008
    In that regard, NWP is better for swapping files with Word users, since it has comments features, as well as ability to save and work with .doc formats.

    However, also check out some of the comments on the Mellel forum because some of the people swap files with Word users and have never had issues. It takes a little time to set up, but then results in a useable product.

    When I submit my writing it is always in PDFs, so swapping files isn't a problem.

    I recently downloaded OpenOffice 3.0 Beta and am trying that. So far (with limited testing) it seems to do a good job of opening and suing styles, etc.
  7. Platonist macrumors member


    Nov 3, 2006
    It could very well be that the issues I had with Mellel were due more to my ignorance than any flaw in the program. I have been working with the beta of Mellel 2.5 and I like what I see so far. I may have to invest some time into experimenting with it over the summer.

    I am a bit curious about NWP. Is it as stable as Mellel (a very stable app)?

    One feature that I really like in Word (and Pages) is the ability to view two pages of text at once (two-up). I talked with Redlex about it and they have been working on getting that option into Mellel, though it has yet to appear. Is this something one can do in NWP?
  8. exegete77 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 12, 2008
    As for stability, I have been using both NWP (18 months and NWE before that) and Mellel (5 years) and have never had either one crash in any version. However, some claim that NWP does crash more. I don't remember anyone complaining about Mellel crashing.

    No, neither program allows 2 page views, although both developers say that it is on the list "for the future."

    As for Pages, when I bought this MBP in late Feb I purchased iWork 08. I have begun using Pages for layout for a quarterly theological newsletter (first one to appear this summer). And I like the ability to see more than one page at a time.

    For higher end page layout I have been using Papyrus 12.5, an excellent (cross-platform) program that also can serve as a word processing program (and has some database capability). For $99 it was great; I used it to lay out a 235-page book along with ~100 pictures. It handled changes and automatic numbering (pages, outline headings, captions, etc.) without a hitch. I produced PDFs directly from Papyrus and the printer worked with them.
  9. slashjunior macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2007
    In my opinion the interface is better in Word 2008. Especially the Document Elements tab, I use that all the time.

    In regards to .docx files. They are a bit of a pain. If you do send a .docx file to someone make sure the Append File Extension box is checked. If it is unchecked people won't be able to view it. All .docx files I have tried open in Word 2003 as a read-only file, the user can then save to .doc if they need to do any editing. If people have updated Office then they should have full read-write in older versions. To be on the safe side though you care still best off sticking with .doc or .rtf.
  10. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I've installed the demo versions of Mellel, Nisus Writer Express and Nisus Writer Pro and very briefly tried them out with some existing Word documents I've written in the past.

    It seems that Mellel can't handle footnotes, and neither of the above can handle mathematical equations. So I'm back to square one again.

    Seems to me that I'm already doing better with NeoOffice even though I hate its bloatedness and ugly user-interface. Or I'll have to give in to the dark side and buy Micro$oft Word :mad:
  11. nplima macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2006
    You can also dual boot or virtualize Linux so you can use a proper version of Openoffice.
  12. psychofreak Retired


    May 16, 2006
    OpenOffice Aqua is in development, and you can get the beta already. It should be finished in September.
  13. exegete77 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 12, 2008
    Didn't realize that equations were part of what you needed. Some who use NWP or Mellel will handle equations in another program then make PDFs and insert them. For NWP, LinkBack would be the obvious direction to go.

    But I have not had to deal with equations for past 38 years when I graduated from college with a degree in math/physics. :)

    Give OpenOffice 3.0 Beta a try.
  14. nplima macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2006
    you can also dual boot or virtualize Linux to use a P R O P E R version of!

  15. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I used OpenOffice before, but NeoOffice is (as far as I know, or I thought I knew up to now) that it's the same application, but more "Mac-like" user-interface wise.
    OpenOffice is in my experience just as slow and bulky as NeoOffice.

    I've just installed the "trial" version of Micro$oft Office 2004 (there's no Office 2008 trial as far as I know) and my document (with the mathematical equations etc.) displayed properly. I assume that Word for Mac and Windows is 100% compatible both ways, right?
    I've read several reviews that Office 2008 on the other hand is a pure disaster for the Mac platform.

    I'm hoping there's other software around which works just as well as I prefer to put my cash other places than at micro$oft, but since Word compatibility is important I need to find a word processor that creates files that are readable in Word.
  16. Mac Player macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2006
    Well latex is not a word processor but it is widely used for academic papers.
  17. Platonist macrumors member


    Nov 3, 2006
    Macstatic: Which reviews of Office 2008 were you reading? Can you provide links? There may be things in the reviews that some of us who use Office 08 can speak to -- either positively or negatively. I think that 08 is an improvement over 04, but there could be things that I don't use that might be important for you (e.g. macros, as mentioned earlier in the thread, or Entourage).
  18. nplima macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2006
    Probably MS Office and are your best bets. Seriously, I've used OOo on Ubuntu Linux on a laptop with 1GB RAM and the thing starts up in 2 seconds. That is two seconds between the moment I double-click on the icon and the moment the program is waiting for me to do something. that is a big difference from what I got with NeoOffice. The overhead from using it under parallels/vmware is something I can't guess, but considering the very reasonable price point, I'd surely try it before coughing up the cash for MS Word/Office. After you have some sort of solution set up, then you can wait for further developments on the Aqua OOo front.
  19. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I read a lot of negative comments about Office 2008 (in comparison to Office 2004 which, according to the same people seems a lot better) here (read the comments, not the blog article itself).

    Personally I wouldn't go for anything by micro$oft if I can avoid it, but like I said I'm having trouble finding a decent word-processor for my Mac, so I'm looking into all possibilities.

    nplima: Open Office starting up in 2 seconds?????
    I've just timed it, and NeoOffice 2.2.3. patch 0 is ready for use in 45 seconds from when I click on the icon in the dock!
    I've always thought OpenOffice was more or less the same thing (only less Mac-like), but I downloaded the public beta (version 3) yesterday and have just timed that as takes 12 seconds from I click its dock icon till the "welcome to Openoffice -Create a new document" window pops up.
    When clicking the "Text document" icon it takes a further 17 seconds till I can start writing. This brings OpenOffice to a total of 12+17=29 seconds.
    Yes, this is definitely better than NeoOffice, so they must have done something right. Still it's not 2 seconds like you claim.
    My hardware is a Mac Powerbook G4 (1.67GHz) with 1.5GB RAM.

    I would really like a word-processor which starts up in a couple of seconds like you experience, but it has to be advanced enough to handle all sorts of academic work and all Word users to read my files in addition to me reading Word files without problems. Is there a (stand alone) word processor for the Mac that can do all that?
    For the occasional Powerpoint presentation I can use Open-/NeoOffice. I've never had the use for Excel, but if I do I can once again use Open-/NeoOffice.
    So I really don't need a complete Office suite for my word-processing needs.
  20. elppa macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    I don't know if these will fulfil all your needs (compatibility with Word is hard, not even all copies of Word on Windows are compatible with other copies), but you might like to look at these, as they often get good reviews and are specialist word processors, not full blown office replacements.

    You can get trails of both. Sorry — didn't you mentioned Nisus Writer already.

    Look on the Scrivener site of reviews. It has high praise and won awards from just about every major magazine.

    Here's some reviews of Nisus Writer:

    MacWorld (UK)
    MacUser (UK)
  21. dws90 macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2008
    My guess is that you were running the OOo Quickstarter, which loads the core libraries when you boot up your computer, so all it has to do when you click the OOo button is load a few Writer-only components.

    No such program exists for the Mac, as far as I know, and it's cheating in this comparison, anyway. Tt wasn't actually starting in 2 secs - most of it was already started but hidden (so to speak).
  22. nplima macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2006

    I'm not aware of the existance of the quickstarter under Linux, but that was the result I got on the first run of OOo on a freshly installed Ubuntu installation, ie: before I went to the setup options disable the Java runtime.
    This was on a laptop with a Core2Duo T2150 CPU which is older than the worst that can be found on Macbooks. That machine has 1GB RAM and a SATA2 HDD.

    I think this is a very positive result, compared to using Neooffice. I would try it this way and re-evaluate when Aqua OpenOffice is released.
  23. nplima macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2006
    I stand corrected, OOo on the laptop starts and is responsive after 6 seconds, not 2 like I mentioned previously.
  24. toby jones macrumors member

    Dec 21, 2007
    If you do mathematical formula I"m really surprised that you aren't using LaTeX. It produces beautiful PDF documents and was designed initially because the guy got sick to death of his mathematical formula being mangled by the typesetters.

    I don't do much math (though it produces pretty logical proofs, too, and also tree diagrams for linguistics) - and the paragraphing algorithms really do produce beautiful text. Many mathematical journals provide LaTeX templates for their submission, even.

    Best of all it is freeware - TeXShop is a free download.

    You also get BiBTeX - which plugs into LaTeX much as Endnote plugs into word.

    It is very stable (never heard of anyone getting buggy files). It produces lovely theses, too (with many templates available online).

Share This Page