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Vote for Your Favorite Mac Word Processor

Word processing apps are as old as the personal computer, but what counts as a “word processor” turns out to be almost as contentious as determining the “best” word processor. In this TidBITS reader survey, our goal is not to crown any particular app but to collect your opinions about those word processors you’ve used.

That said, what does count as a word processor? Plain text editors have been around forever, but when WordStar came out in 1978, it popularized the concept of a word processor: an app that not only let you edit text but take control of how it would appear on the printed page. Although WordStar has been defunct for years, some professional writers still rely on it, most notably George R.R. Martin, author of “A Game of Thrones.”

Although there were plenty of worthy word processors on the Mac early on, including MacWrite, WriteNow, FullWrite Professional, Nisus Writer, and WordPerfect, Microsoft Word eventually came to dominate the market, in part due to running on both the Mac and in Windows. Word’s .doc format is in many ways a de facto standard when it comes to exchanging editable text documents, even when there’s no need for anything beyond plain text. Put simply, for millions of people using Macs and Windows, Microsoft Word is the only app they consider when they want to put words on paper.

In recent years, Word’s fiercest competitor on the Mac is Apple’s Pages, which has had a tumultuous history. As Apple moved toward an iCloud-based strategy that emphasized workflows that could seamlessly switch between macOS and iOS, the Mac and iOS versions of Pages clashed. You could create a document in one version and move it to another, but something often broke in the process. To resolve this, Apple retooled Pages, starting with Pages 5.0 on the Mac. It eliminated most compatibility issues but at the cost of losing many Mac features. Only now, four years later, have the semi-unified Pages apps nearly caught up with the capabilities of Pages 4.3. Since Pages 4.3 still works fine and is widely owned (if not readily available), we separated the versions in the survey.

Of course, as powerful as Word and Pages are, they’re far from the entire story. Numerous lesser-known word processors offer different approaches. Take Control started with Word, switched to Pages, and is now using Nisus Writer Pro because it offers a robust set of writing and document layout tools, solid collaboration features, and most importantly, a full programming language that makes possible things that no other word processor could ever do. But these full-featured programs can be overkill — sometimes a small, focused app like Bean, Growly Write, or Nisus Writer Express is more appropriate. And for those who move in the open-source world, there’s Open Office and its variants.

Apps for Another Survey -- Although we’re happy to add more word processors to the survey, we did have to limit ourselves in a variety of ways to keep the list to a manageable size. To that end, we’re not including online word processors, Markdown-based writing tools, plain text editors, desktop publishing apps, or iOS-only apps. If there’s enough interest, we can run another survey on these categories. Here’s why we’re keeping them out of this survey:

  • Online word processors like Google Docs are great, because they can provide a solid set of word processing tools and powerful collaboration capabilities. But because they’re not Mac apps, they have slightly odd interfaces, lack basic system integrations, and often don’t work at all without an Internet connection. We use Google Docs a lot because of its collaboration tools.

  • Many other writing tools avoid the formatting and layout capabilities of a true word processor, arguing that such gewgaws get in the way of serious writing. If the final destination of your text is a blog, for instance, one of the Markdown-based writing tools like Byword or Ulysses might be perfect for writing with a modicum of styling. There’s nothing wrong with these apps, but they’re not in the same category as Word and Pages.

  • Even simpler are plain text editors, which don’t allow any formatting. They’re still great for writing in Markdown, HTML, LaTeX, or another markup language, but tend to focus on features more of interest to programmers. We’ve long used BBEdit to write and edit TidBITS articles, using Markdown for the eventual formatting on our Web site and Subversion for version control. Tweaky, but effective.

  • Desktop publishing apps go in the other direction, often providing a full word processor within a layout program. Nothing prevents you from writing a simple report in Adobe InDesign, but it’s generally overkill, both in expense and complexity. We adore InDesign, but we wouldn’t pull it out to create a simple document.

  • Finally, although it can be helpful on occasion when a Mac app has a companion iOS version, as Pages and Word do, we’re focusing on the Mac here. Few iOS apps come close to competing with Mac apps for power and ease-of-use, particularly when it comes to writing and editing.

With all that in mind, it’s time to turn to you, the TidBITS reader, and ask you to share your opinions about the word processors you have used on the Mac. We’ll collect and summarize the results, as we did with personal information managers (“Your Favorite Mac Personal Information Managers,” 18 January 2016) and personal finance apps (“Your Favorite Mac Personal Finance Apps,” 29 February 2016). The survey is embedded at the bottom of this article on our Web site or you can navigate to it directly.

Notes on Ratings -- A few important notes before you start clicking your answers:

  • Please rate only those apps with which you have significant personal experience. That means weeks or months of use, not something that you launched once before discovering that it lacked a feature you need. Don’t enter ratings for apps you haven’t used.

  • We’ve listed a lot of apps in the poll, but if we missed the one you use, let us know so we can add it. To keep this manageable, we’re focusing on full-featured, Mac-based word processors. Please don’t suggest Web apps, text editors of any sort, desktop publishing tools, iOS-only apps, or anything that’s not in active development. There’s nothing wrong with these tools, but we have to draw a line in the sand.

  • Some apps will get more votes than others, so when looking at the results, take that into account. A lot of votes may indicate popularity (or a successful attempt to game the system), but an app with just a few highly positive votes is still worth a look.

  • Ratings don’t give a complete picture, so feel free to say what you like or don’t like about apps you use in the comments for this article; we’ve seeded the top-level comment for each app, and please keep your thoughts within the appropriate top-level comment. Searching for the app name will be the fastest way to find its associated comment thread.

We’ll report on the results next week, calling out those apps that garner the most votes and have the highest ratings. Thanks for the help!


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Comments about Vote for Your Favorite Mac Word Processor
(Comments are closed.)

Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:26
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Adobe InCopy as replies to this comment.
Lindsey Thomas Martin  2017-07-12 13:54
I can't see anyone using InCopy outside an editorial and production workflow that includes InDesign. Its purpose is to enable editors to edit stories placed in a publication while the designers and typesetters work on the creative assets and layout.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:26
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Apache OpenOffice Writer as replies to this comment.
Derek Davis  2017-07-10 20:49
I initially switched from Word to Open Office to communicate with other poor folk in our rural area who can't afford Word. I found it quite useful and friendly. But gradually I became disenchanted with peculiarities such as (so far as I could discover) not being able to have a continuous-page draft view. But finally, it was a matter of the "help" being close to useless if you wanted to learn how to do something even slightly difficult, such as print out labels. There's no real search function in the help, and the directions are written for other techies, not for average users. So I'm back to Word, which I'm at least more used to.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:26
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Bean as replies to this comment.
Alan Sanders  2017-07-10 23:17
Although Bean is no longer being actively developed, it still works in the latest version of MacOS. Bean is hands down my favorite word processor. I don't know of any other simple word processor that offers as many typographic controls. Outstanding!
Colin Owen  2017-07-11 12:24
Bean is my goto app for every day stuff. It does everything I need.
Derek Currie  2017-07-11 16:06
Bean isn't abandonware but it isn't being further developed. It IS being updated in order to maintain functionality as macOS is updated. So what do we call it? Maintenanceware? Limboware? Statusware? Perpetualware? Aetherialware?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-11 16:55
I'm not aware of a "ware" term, but that's traditionally known as being in "maintenance mode."
Lisa Spangenberg  2017-07-13 21:24
I love Bean. It's one of the apps I recommend for writers of fiction who want something that isn't overkill and that will run on an older or low-end Mac. I can't use it for a lot of my own writing because scholarly stuff requires footnotes.
Alan Sanders  2017-07-18 01:16
I wasn't aware that Bean is still be updated to maintain MacOS compatibility. That's great news! Thanks!
raggmopp  2017-07-17 23:31
I LOVE Bean. All I want to do is write basic stuff without having all the bells and whistles getting in my way. Bean is straightforward, simple and small. I'm glad it's being maintained to keep up with system upgrades: it doesn't need any 'upgrading'.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:26
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Growly Write as replies to this comment.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:27
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about iText Express as replies to this comment.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:27
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about iText Pro as replies to this comment.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:27
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about LibreOffice Writer as replies to this comment.
Mike Vlasman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-07-10 19:49
LibreOffice lets me open documents created long ago and far away in AppleWorks and ClarisWorks - something I need to do regularly.
LibreOffice receives regular updates and new features. It has a lot of features and to be free and open-source is an amazing tool. I write in Scrivener, but do use LibreOffice for layout and tweaking depending on my final output format.
dshelbyd  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2017-07-10 22:14
LibreOffice is my cross-platform go-to suite. I have used it and the predecessor OpenOffice for maybe 20 years, starting with linux. I long for a robust iOS app equivalent for "Open in" AND edit purposes. Right now LO is frustratingly slow to open on a Mac, even when initialized upon boot. Once open, however, it sings.
gastropod  2017-07-10 22:31
I use it fairly frequently to rescue user's corrupt MS Word files. It's also quite good at opening up old file formats from many different word processors.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:27
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Mariner Write as replies to this comment.
Nik Friedman TeBockhorst  2017-07-10 22:25
MW is the spiritual successor to WriteNow, but it's unfortunate that it's proven to not be a terribly profitable app, having languished for some years with minimal updates and drastically reduced pricing. (it's part of nearly every cheap app bundle offer.) Buy its fast, easy to use, and has the features most writers or students might need.
Dean Boyce  2017-07-12 18:17
I have used Mellel for many years. I have used it to write (with illustrations and production markup) for small jobbing tasks up to complete books. It's big plus, apart from its features, is that Mellel alone of other word processors I've used, has been 100 per cent stable, even in huge complex files. Although there is a steep learning curve, especially if you're coming from Word, it is worth the effort.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:27
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Mellel as replies to this comment.
I'm shocked that there haven't been any comments on Mellel yet. For a few years, I would think it was probably the most popular non-Word word processor available. Things that users like include the precise controls over headings, sub-headings, footnotes, figure captions, and so on.
Has TidBits ever done an in-depth review or, better yet, a thorough comparison of Nisus Writer Pro, Mellel, and Word? (I'm thinking that those 3 are the heavy hitters; apologies if I've overlooked something.)
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-11 10:08
I'm a little surprised too. I've never thought that Mellel was hugely popular, but it does seem plenty powerful alongside Word, Pages, and Nisus Writer Pro.
Michael Lever  2017-07-12 06:01
I use Mellel regularly when writing reports and when I want a letter to my clients to be particularly accessible, for example using line numbers.

M has two features that I would'nt be without. Line numbering to the right hand side which is best when binding pages on the left hand margin and printing to duplex. And autotitleflow which as an outliner is excellent.

I am looking forward to Mellel 4 which is promising some great new features, such as indexing.

Mellel takes a lot of getting used to but for stability I find it more reliable than Nisus Pro where for example the language in document set up tends to slip.

Where I find Mellel not good is for simple letters writing: it has no vertical ruler so it is not easy to see where to start spacing for typing the reicipeint's name and address etc.
Jolin Warren  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2017-07-13 07:00
Mellel is really excellent. I don't know what I would have done without it when writing long reports. Its support for structured documents and styles makes working with long documents easy and enjoyable. It always puts a smile on my face. Sadly I haven't had the need to use it lately (no big documents to write), but I can't recommend it highly enough. It's fast, reliable, well thought-through, and predictable. Loads of great features, too.
I’ve used Mellel since 2004. On my computer it’s always open and ready to go.

For me, the important thing is that I enjoy using this program. I have copies of Scrivener (which I also like), Word (hate it), Pages, Write, etc., but Mellel fits me like a pair of comfortable shoes.

Mellel makes long documents easy to organize and navigate, and the outline feature is incredibly useful. The whole program is rock solid and a joy to use.
Lisa Spangenberg  2017-07-13 21:26
I use Mellel for a lot of scholarly writing because it supports complex footnotes and multiple languages and writing systems. It handles footnotes more flexibly than MS Word and is better about mixing languages and writing systems than Pages. It also works well with the Bookends bibliographic/reference management app.
I have used Mellel since it first appeared. Multi-langugaer, especially Hebrew, auto-titles, multiple footnotes streams, unbeatable. Rock solid, never crashed in 15 years. Any long document, Mellel is my choice.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:28
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Microsoft Word as replies to this comment.
Dennis Fazio  2017-07-10 15:59
The most aggravating when it comes to mysterious formatting; can be very complex. Figuring out how to do something can be difficult even for veterans and near power users. Various controls are all over the place (in preferences, different places on the ribbon bar, etc.)
I have to use Word at work sometimes, but I try to avoid it whenever possible. Saves me a lot of time figuring out stuff.
Jeff Hecht  2017-07-10 16:54
Bluntly, a mess. Too many features duplicated in too many places, making it unwieldy and maddening to use. I have lost track of how many fonts it has accumulated, and how many styles build up on the selection menu. Features are poorly documented at best.
cafeface  2017-07-10 20:37
I first used a "liberated" prototype of Word in 1984. At the time, a marked improvement over MacWrite. It's devolved since then. What I learned in previous versions either breaks in the new one, or gets lost in the changed menus, dialogs, … It's not the mess it is in Windows, but it's still a far cry from what Macintosh software can be.
president339  2017-07-10 21:19
Using MS Office since 1998 and be very used to it. However there are some flaws but most importantly is that it without confusion or special complexity allows Mail Merge Manager. Apple does not even has i. We often need this specific feature and that make it most usefully to us.
Geoff Hutchison  2017-07-10 22:56
I probably would have separated out a few versions of MS Word, e.g., 2011 and 2016 are very, very different
Dr. Z.  2017-07-10 23:01
I have used this product since Word 4. It has successfully produced many complex documents over the years, including my dissertation in 1998. In short, I can depend on it to accomplish demanding tasks, knowing that there is significant overhead in learning how to control some of the arcane/hidden commands. However, it would be nice if Microsoft would allow some Apple User Interface gurus to retool all of the menus, ribbons, etc. to be more like the intuitive GUIs that are the norm for Apple-produced apps (excluding iTunes - which acts like Microsoft products).
Alan Sanders  2017-07-10 23:20
Microsoft Word is the only word processor I know of that requires the user to read the manual in order to figure out how to do the simplest things! I banished Microsoft Word from my computer years ago.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-11 09:59
We thought about that, but decided that at its core, Word is Word, and, apart from the ill-fated jump from 5.1 to 6.0 decades ago, generally just gets better with new versions. Pages is unusual in going backward from 4.3 to 5.0 and then slowly recovering features. It felt like differentiating versions for apps other than Pages would just be confusing.
I do think that Word from 2016 has been pretty impressive in terms of the things it can do combined with increased stability, but I'm not convinced the annual fee I pay for the updates and sync are really worth it.
Maybe this is just a thing with my system, but, when Words is not running, double-clicking on a Word file simply launches Word without actually opening the file I clicked on.
I do find it difficult to work out how to do some customizations I would like to do, such as adding the Text Highlighters to the Review ribbon/toolbar.
Robert Morgan  2017-07-11 14:24
I use Office for Mac 2011 for two reasons. Like other commenters, I have used Office for years on PCs and Macs and am used to its features as well as its flaws. The other is that I do not want to deal with a document format other than .doc or .docx because it is the defacto standard that most writing apps can open. That does not mean I "like" Word. The navigation is a mess and some (many?) features are difficult to use. i disagree strongly that each iteration gets better. For me, Office 2008 was superior as it did not have the wretched ribbon interface.
Ex2bot  2017-07-11 04:41
I know there's a lot of dislike and worse for Word, but the latest versions have been decent for moderate use. I've been using Word so long I don't have any trouble finding features. I even like the ribbon, which is less of an issue on the Mac, since the menus stayed where they're supposed to be. I believe all the old toolbars are still available, too.
Tommy Weir  2017-07-11 02:33
What was it 5.5? Last nimble version I think. Mostly relegated to ‘Have to use’ tasks, complex form laden documents which have errors when translated. I have Pages 6 set as the default for Word docs now. Apparently the latest version is good, I can’t be bothered to check to be honest.
One frustrating thing about Word for Mac is that its spelling dictionaries are full of errors – misspelled and non-existent words – and there's no way to get rid of them.
I believe it was 5.1a. The "a" was a fix so it could run under a then-new version of the OS, with no feature change. I believe the next version was 6.0, but I could be mistaken.

My recollection is that Word 5.1 was the last version before the bloatware versions took over, and it was the last version that had a clear Style interface.

Assuming we are talking about the same version, I completely agree that it was the last nimble version. I wish Microsoft would publish Word Lite with the 5.1 interface and feature set.
Peter White  2017-07-11 07:37
One perhaps unique feature on some Mac versions of Word was the ability to record audio as you typed,

This meant you do an interview, record the audio using the inbuilt laptop microphone or one plugged into the audio input, and type at the same time.

Afterwards I think you could playback the audio to match where you put your cursor in the text which helped with cleaning up the transcription. You could also export the audio out if you wanted to send or save it separately.

Otherwise Word has always been a clunky beast and I could never get it to stick to a non-US dictionary.
Harmon Abrahamson  2017-07-11 09:54
I use Word daily, but almost never push it to the breaking (or stalling) point. Part of this is inertia; I have been a Word user since v. 1.0 in the mid-80s. I also work in a cross-platform department, and seamless exchange of documents with Windows users is essential.
Alan Ralph  2017-07-12 04:07
I've used both Word 2011 and now Word 2016, albeit mostly for opening Word documents rather than creating new ones. When I have had to do stuff in Word, I've given thanks that at least there's still a regular menu—I am not a fan of the Ribbon at all! For writing, I'll use a Markdown-supporting app like Ulysses, and only enter Word if I need to create a Word version. To their credit, Microsoft *have* finally unified (somewhat) the Mac and Windows versions of Word now, and for sanity's sake, I hope they stick to this route.
Karen Hughes  2017-07-12 15:51
I'm always a bit conflicted about Word. It often seems that the Mac version has some annoying bugs and limitations compared to the PC version. You can't deny it is feature packed - but even with recent improvements things can be tricky to find. I have to use Word on Windows in my day job, so I find the similarities welcome, but can understand how a purely Mac user may find them slightly less welcome.
Peter Ulvskov  2017-07-14 13:49
MS Word is a must because it has developed into a de facto standard for collaborative writing tasks. But its GUI is awful and it has gotten worse over the years. You are not free to choose the best tool for the job at hand unless you work alone.
I was MS Word power user in 1990s. But every update has caused Word to be inferior to many other programs. Styles are abysmal. Near the bottom of my word processor list
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:28
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about NeoOffice as replies to this comment.
Mark Solocinski  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2017-07-10 20:19
It'd be great if it was under better than perpetual maintenance mode. However, the new beta based off LibreOffice does show some promise.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:28
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Nisus Writer Express as replies to this comment.
kcrosado  2017-07-11 02:58
I've found NWE pretty-much bulletproof and surprisingly capable for a cheap word processor. It has a few strange design features (why, for example, won't an apostrophe trigger QuickFix, when any other punctuation character will?) and I miss Word's built-in suggested autocomplete when I start typing a month or day, but I came to NWE after trying a number of alternatives and am quite happy to stick with it (although I still keep Libre Office around for some file conversions).
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:28
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Nisus Writer Pro as replies to this comment.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 16:54
Essential for me, because the Take Control book authoring workflow requires it! That said, at different times the Take Control workflow has required Pages and MS Word; I much prefer writing my Take Control books with Nisus.
Jeff Hecht  2017-07-10 16:56
A workhorse, and as a full-time writer my choice for all writing that doesn't specifically require MS-Word details such as equations or certain formatting.
Mark Solocinski  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2017-07-10 20:16
I've tried all the major word processors and this is the one for me. It has a really nice balance of features and doesn't use any proprietary file formats.
Bob Stern  2017-07-10 20:21
I hope this long comment is useful:

Nisus has the power of MS Word with an interface that I find much easier to learn and use.

Nisus has a much more powerful and versatile "Find-and-Replace" than MS Word or any other word processor. You may not think you need this extra power, but you’ll find more and more uses for it.

Styles and Cross-References are simple and logical.

Nisus’ native format is RTF, which MS Word can open, edit and save natively, making it great for editing documents jointly with Word users (Windows and Mac), including “Comments” and “Track Changes”. When I send Nisus documents to Word users, they think I used Word — no need to import and export as in Pages. (Alternatively, if you do need to import or export DOC or DOCX, Nisus includes the conversion routines from LibreOffice. Graphics importing can be troublesome, but all other complex formatting imports correctly.)

Bookmarks, Comments and Track Changes can be viewed in a sidebar or hidden.
Bob Stern  2017-07-10 20:26
In addition to “Track Changes”, there is an excellent “Compare Documents” macro that allows you to compare any two documents. It produces a third document showing additions highlighted in green and deletions in red. You can choose whether changes should be marked word-for-word or by longer clauses. I find it very useful to run the comparison both ways. I don’t believe Word gives you this choice.

Compared to Apple Pages, additional advantages of Nisus are:
1. You can use shortcut keys instead of the mouse for almost everything.
2. You can elect to display a document in Draft View, similar to Word’s Web View, in which text wraps to the window and no margins, headers or footers are displayed. Apple Pages lacks this capability, so you’re forced to waste screen space displaying your margins.

Nisus has the best online support forum I’ve seen. If you have a question regarding complex formatting, macros, etc, a Nisus employee (as well as other users) usually responds within 24 hours.
Tommy Weir  2017-07-11 02:39
NW Pro is my favourite word processor. Love the interface, the configurability, styles, find and replace, doc comparison, macros etc. It goes minimal, it goes maximal, it’s great.

It is, however, not as good as Pages when it comes to page layout features, embedding images etc.

For anything long, I use NW Pro, anything short or graphics heavy, I use Pages.
Jean-Pierre SMITH  2017-07-11 03:45
To compare documents in win word, you use delta view by Workshare. No mac equivalent.
John Wolff  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2017-07-11 05:54
I've come to depend on it as a solid app that can do what I need, especially when creating copy for a catalogue that we finish off with InDesign.

Updates are smooth transitions and don't require extensive recourse to manuals or online help.

NWP does a credible job of opening MS Word docs without too much loss of formatting.

Thank you TidBITS for championing it and thereby bringing it to our attention.
Michael Lever  2017-07-12 06:07
I used to use NWP before I got Mellel because the former has line numbering and permutations for settings. Quite possibly the only think I miss about having changed my office systems to Mac is that I can no longer use WordPerfect. Finding a Mac word processor that enables line numbering not just left hand side but also on the right hand side took a while. NWP met that requirement but I now prefer Mellel.
Karen Hughes  2017-07-12 15:54
I find NWP very capable, but in the end tend to fall back to Word or Pages for most things. The style system in NWP is one that I find a bit more clunky than the alternatives - but I'm keen to support Nisus as an independent company.
Jens stergaard Petersen  2017-08-02 03:20
The grep capabilities of Nisus Writer (PowerFind) are extraordinary. The ability to search for formatting on top of grep patterns I have seen nowhere else – it makes possible some useful searches. PowerFind makes grep searches accessible to everyone and PowerFind Pro gives leverage to more advanced users.

What I miss most in Nisus Writer is the ability to control tables precisely.
Nisus joins Mellel as my top two word processors. Scrivener is highly regarded, but used for different purposes. NWP is solid, easy to adjust templates. Np wasted efforts in using it. Have been using since it came out for OS X.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:28
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Pages 4.3 as replies to this comment.
Peter White  2017-07-11 07:52
Where are the rest of the Pages 4.3 supporters!

This app is my daily workhorse and has been for what seems to be a very long time.

Yes I went through the pain when the IOS and mac versions went out of step but I simply stopped using the IOS version.

It handles the Word files sent by clients including the show changes and comments options.

Naturally I also make use of its layout options to be able to easily add, edit and move around graphics. It's not a fully featured layout app but it is a great hands on tool to enable writing text to fit the design etc

Help is NOT useful but a web search usually reveals all.

I strongly dislike the way new versions of Pages have turned Inspector into an included sidebar that wastes screen space.

Looks like I will be using Pages 4.3 for some time, unless an OS upgrade breaks it and then I will consult the result of this survey for better options :)
Colin Owen  2017-07-11 12:28
I use pages 4.3 for all my book layouts. It does facing pages which is essential for me. I don't use the newer versions at all.
Andreas Frick  2017-07-12 10:06
I'm using Pages 4.3 for my daily work. But I still miss AppleWorks, which in some aspects was much better. Import of AppleWorks documents is very bad. Also Pages has many bugs, flaws and shortcommings. It has draw tool, but can't import AppleWorks drawings. I would like to pay for Pages Pro.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:28
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Pages 6.2 as replies to this comment.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 17:02
Disclosure: I just wrote a book about this app, so I might be biased. Nonetheless, having spent weeks exploring its nooks and crannies, I can truthfully say it is a very capable, surprisingly powerful, and visually attractive app. Most of the features lost in the transition from Pages 4.3 to 5 have now returned. If you gave up on it back then, it's definitely worth another look.
Tommy Weir  2017-07-11 02:53
Pages is my everyday word processing tool. Mainly because my daily work involves tasks Pages is really good at.

- A quick letter, or a packing label, or an invoice. I don’t type anything long on it, that typically I do in Nisus Writer Pro.

- Word documents. I find that Pages has the best Word importer so it’s become my default tool for dealing with my colleagues who use PCs.

- Pages is also a dandy page layout tool and its handing of graphics and embedded media is the best on the market. I do a lot of this kind of image heavy documents. Pages makes this easy.

So while it is not my favourite word processor it is my daily one. I don’t have the ‘oh, I’m immersing myself in words and writing now’ feeling I get with Nisus but I do find myself being very productive with Pages.
Jolin Warren  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2017-07-13 07:04
Now that linked text boxes are (finally!) back, we're almost there. But the way Pages 6.2 deals with Styles is still inferior to 4.3, and importantly it can't import Styles from another document. Once importing styles arrives in the 'new' Pages, I will banish 4.3 forever, but until then there are medium-length documents where I need to use it (even though the recipient then imports it to 6.2).
David  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-07-11 12:12
I've used Pages to write two books, largely because it's got the combination of power and simplicity that I like. Word always seems like you have to push through a thick layer of complexity to get to writing. Pages just seems like you can start typing and get into it.

Two notes:
1. Yes, this is my own personal sense of it. YMMV.
2. My power needs are pretty much limited to footnotes, export to Word, and track changes.
Scott Randell  2017-07-23 10:33
Hi Michael,
I generally use Pages 4.3 for most things I am going to print. The text layout looks better than Word. In Word I many times have to kern certain sets of characters manually (example Yo) but when sharing things with people who work at the college where I work as an adjunct, I use Word because most of the college does. I run both Pages 4.3 and 6.2 on my laptop to compare them. If Apple would bring (back) non-contiguous selection to Pages 6.x I could then permanently switch over.
Alan Ralph  2017-07-12 04:12
Compared to Word, working in Pages is a much more pleasant experience! I regularly use it for producing invoices to send to customers, business letters and other work-related stuff. Best of all, it can quickly spit out a Word doc or PDF for me when I need to.
Michael Lever  2017-07-12 06:12
Having updated the OS to Sierra, I am obliged to use Pages 6.2 but I much preferred the previous version. Whenever I save a document, I like to use Save As to ensure that all changes to the documents are overwritten. . With P6.2, using save as creates a copy of the original which then has to be renamed.

I find the font menu a fiddle and I am sure there are other irritants. I use P6.2 every day so I've gotten used to its foibles and avoid anything I can't be bothered with.

Karen Hughes  2017-07-12 15:49
I find the inability to mix different page orientations in Pages the only real issue. Otherwise I love it. It may not have all the features of Word, but as a result it is much easier to pick up and use.
Scott Randell  2017-07-29 14:07
Actually Pages 4.3 works fine in Sierra. I am using it on my Macbook Air with Sierra installed. So you can go back to it if you like.
Minus van Baalen  2017-07-13 08:58
I like Pages, in particular the clean interface. But it doesn't do maths (last time I looked anyway) so it remains a nono for me. Last mainstream word processor to have some sort of maths capacity was Word 5.x . But that got replaced by Equation Editor which is a nightmare when you use maths seriously, so I stopped using that too. (I can still read my old Word files but the equations and symbols got replaced by red crosses...)
Jeffrey Jones  2017-07-13 20:43
What do you mean by "do maths"? It sounds like you mean typesetting mathematical equations. The latest release of Pages (in the last month or two) includes a built-in equation editor. You type equations in LaTeX syntax (which I think is much easier and faster than using palettes of symbols like many other equation editors, including Word's).

Pages 5 and 6 have always had an option to include MathType, but MathType is sold separately. The new equation formatter is built-in.
Andreas Frick  2017-07-15 09:30
Still very bad hyphenation.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:29
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Scrivener as replies to this comment.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 16:50
I couldn't write long-form fiction without it. I know, because I've tried.
Scrivener is the best writers app on any operating system. I'm an academic, and Scrivener works amazingly for us, allowing structured writing and working from reference material in a way no other mix of programs can match. If you layout requirements are not too great you can use Scrivener stand-alone. But for complex output documents, most Scrivener users will compile their work then top-copy it using layout software. Note because it also supports Multimarkdown, very powerful publishing tools like Pandoc become available directly from Scrivener.
Stephan Fassmann  2017-07-10 23:30
As a technical writers I've used a lot of different word processors and text editors and web editors.

I love Scrivener because I can use it in so many different ways. I journal, outline and prototype in it. When creating a new major document at work I usually start in Scrivener before moving to the official system, once I have figured out how the document needs to work.
Ex2bot  2017-07-11 04:37
Scrivener makes a lot of sense for long-form writing. I just finished writing a novella using it. It can accept any file format in the Research folder. For example, I have a PDF with tips on creating high-quality characters stored with my novella project. I also keep an ideas document and various other support materials there.
Prior to Scrivener, I had each chapter in a separate file all in a folder.
Tommy Weir  2017-07-11 02:58
I use Scrivener for the first draft of screenplays. The approach it uses is perfect for this. It features flawless export to Final Draft which is where I do subsequent drafts.

I tried to use it for research and writing for academic work but ultimately found it lacking. I prefer using a combination of DEVONThink Pro and Nisus Writer Pro.
Colin Owen  2017-07-11 12:32
I use Scrivener to write my books. There's nothing better out there. It has way more stuff than I'll ever use, but just using it simply is perfect for me.
Alan Ralph  2017-07-12 04:15
I've only recently started using Scrivener, but I already like it. Designed for people who write! The addition of the iOS version and ability to synch your writing between iOS and Mac is a major plus.
Michael Lever  2017-07-12 06:19
I've used S for a few years but not as much as i used to. The novelty wore off when I was researching and writing content for a book I was invited to author but in the event I gave up having to rearrange each item and instead created a database in Filemaker with text fields and sorting records to my requirements.

I still use S when drafting/writing content for a on-line newsletter that I contribute 1,000 words to every month.

I like S's interface and stability. Perhaps it's because I don't write fiction but I don't understand why so many writers apparently love Scrivener.

For use as a notetaker, research organiser I much prefer using Devonthink Pro Office.
Lisa Spangenberg  2017-07-13 21:30
Scrivener is where I tend to draft most long pieces; anything over 10K words is in Scrivener to start, with final editing and formatting in Pages. Scrivener makes it easy to deal with references, notes, citations, brainstorming/outlining and drafting in a single app, allows me to move the entire project in one lump, is easy to backup, handles export and import with flexibility, and I can use iOS with it.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:29
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about TextEdit as replies to this comment.
I would use this so much more if it had cloudsync
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 18:54
TextEdit can use iCloud for document syncing between your Apple devices — is that what you're looking for?
Alan Sanders  2017-07-10 23:26
TextEdit is ok for bare-bones text entry, but its typographic controls are shamefully inadequate. There's no good reason for TextEdit to be such a primitive writing tool after all these years.
Tommy Weir  2017-07-11 03:05
I would use TextEdit more if it did less.

I wish TextEdit was more of a plain text editor. Given that Pages is now free perhaps Apple would revisit the functionality they’ve built into it. There’s always a need for a bare bones text editor *cough* and it should ship with the system and load anything.
Alan Ralph  2017-07-12 04:26
The main reason I use it is that it's the default for text files on my Mac. I should really change that to something more useful. It's OK but feels like I've been transported back to the 1990s every time I enter it.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-13 10:57
TextEdit actually can be used merely for plain text (choose Format > Make Plain Text).
Tommy Weir  2017-07-17 15:39
Actually your prompt got me to check and I can set it to start in Plain Text in the preferences for all new docs.

Good job.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 15:29
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about Write 2 as replies to this comment.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-10 16:45
Please leave opinions, observations, and questions about LyX as replies to this comment.
cafeface  2017-07-10 20:31
Those to whom TeX is second nature may laugh, but for the rest of us, LyX makes using it practical. For scientific or technical writing with equations, figures, and such, LyX is superb.
Document templates for a multitude of journals.
Most important: What You Get Is What You Want.
Minus van Baalen  2017-07-13 09:04
For people doing maths there is virtually nothing but Latex (which isn't fun).
I mostly use BBEdit to create Latex files directly, but I find that to cooperate with less savvy people Lyx works actually fine. A additional advantage is that you can convert to Latex in the final stage.
I use:
- Word when I have no choice at all, I try to avoid wasting my time on its complexity.
- Pages for formatted text with graphics.
- SimpleNote for plain text writing as it has an absolute minimum of formatting.
- BBedit for stripping any invisible code.
Walt Jump  2017-07-10 16:59
I really liked the original Pages. It had great layouts and was very easy to use. All I wanted was automatic TOC generation that would translate into bookmarks when exported to a PDF. However the newer version of pages even with the updates still falls way behind (e.g. No advanced search and replace for tabs, line breaks, etc). Still hoping we can get back to the original Pages.
Jeffrey Jones  2017-07-10 23:25
What do you mean by "advanced search"? I can search for tabs, line breaks and other such invisible characters in Pages 6.2.

There are a number of ways to express something like a tab in a Pages Search. Of course, you can Show Invisibles, and Use Selection for Find (Command-E). Or, in the search box, type a tab using Option-Tab. Either way, the tab is represented in the search box by \t -- the same as in C and in most Unix commands -- and typing \t yourself also works. Similarly, Option-Return yields \n.

For example,
Search: \n\n
Replace: \n
will eliminate double returns (i.e., blank paragraphs).
Nisus has been my favorite word processor in its various iterations for a quarter-century or so, if I recall correctly.
Derek Davis  2017-07-10 21:02
Maybe you've already done this and I missed it, but it would be useful for the discussion of word processors if we had a link to a table or some such showing what overall features (such as "mark down," "collaboration" or "compatibility with Word") that each program has. I see wonderful comments about Nisus, for instance but don't quite understand what functions it may have that set it apart or in what situations it works better than the competitors.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-11 09:53
Many of these programs have insane numbers of features, so it would be impossible to be comprehensive without writing a book, but we'll try to touch on what separates the apps when we compile the results.
Rob Russell  2017-07-10 21:04
Markdown is the new Wordstar.
Steve "ssh" Hultquist  2017-07-10 21:11
What there heck does that mean? Markdown let's me write quickly, ignore the mess that formatting typically is, and just get the writing done. Output is decent, and is easy to update over time. I've written two books and multiple chapters of other books using Markdown in Ulysses.
Rob Russell  2017-07-10 22:01
it is a quip as the original article referred to wordstar. No need to be defensive.

Wordstar was a doddle to use and the earliest versions were pretty simple. I really liked wordstar back in the day.

I use and love Markdown and do my documentation with it (I've lost documentation with MS Word or Pages to don't want to rely on programmes that use proprietary formats).

One of my colleagues has completely replaced FrameMaker with a markdown like language and perl scripts. He no longer had an old mac that could run the last version of FrameMaker for the Mac and wanted to avoid the big programmes.
Steve "ssh" Hultquist  2017-07-10 21:07
How about Ulysses and Bear?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-11 09:54
They fall into the Markdown text editor category, which very likely will be our next survey, given what we're hearing from people.
Adrian Thomas  2017-07-10 21:17
Poll: In what _category_ is your favorite app for word processing?

1. apps like those in the survey above
2. online word processors
3. Markdown-based writing tools
4. plain text editors
5. desktop publishing apps
6. iOS-only apps
Adrian Thomas  2017-07-10 21:18
Scrivener supports a markdown workflow yet it is in the list, so answer: 3>1
Rob Russell  2017-07-10 22:04
Am I correct that Scrivener sucks in the markdown data and from that point it is "in" Scrivener?

That is, your text is no longer plain text files?

How is the data stored?
Nik Friedman TeBockhorst  2017-07-10 22:26
Alan Ralph  2017-07-12 04:21
Having used Evernote a fair bit, I can concur that it does a fairly decent job for editing text, as long as it's already in Evernote. On the downside, the formatting options are pretty minimal, as are your options for exporting from Evernote.
Steve "ssh" Hultquist  2017-07-11 10:57
1, 3, 4 depending on the task and potential collaboration.

Ulysses is my primary go-to app, although Bear is giving it a run. BBEdit is excellent, and I think of it in the same category. I still even use various Emacs incarnations!

One key these days: transparent sync and use between all devices.
Alan Ralph  2017-07-12 04:23
I've switched over to a Markdown-based workflow for actual writing, although I'd like to start using Scrivener more for long-form writing and more complex work.
Dennis B. Swaney  2017-07-10 23:37
Drafts are done on a lined yellow legal pad using a yellow pencil.
Jean-Pierre SMITH  2017-07-11 03:53
Best ever: macwritepro. Now gone. I use msword a lot. On bicycle trips, which is now my main activity, I use Notes on my iPad mini which I carry along. Back home, I convert it to plain text with BBEdit and prefix, suffix lines with p and /p. Then it goes into webpages. (
beverly  2017-07-11 07:47
Very solid, long-time usage: Tex-edit

Cannot live without, in addition to BBEdit.
lindacameron  2017-07-11 10:07
If I had to use one word processor, I would choose Nisus Writer Pro, but I am a longtime user of Adobe InDesign, so what I do is use Tex-edit Plus for a simple text program, then import it into InDesign for formatting. That isn't an option for a lot of people. Having used Nisus Writer Pro, I can say it is very intuitive and simple to use and seems to have all the features you would get with MS Word. Word has always seemed to be complicated since I ever tried using it.
Arthur Smith  2017-07-11 14:39
Pages 6.2 and some version of Microsoft Word are both indispensable.
Peter Anderegg  2017-07-11 19:37
Well, to start, my go-to apps for document creation have been stricken from the approved list: Google Docs and InDesign. It's hard to beat the online collaboration tools in Google Docs and the flexibility found in a locally installed copy of InDesign, when I need that, can't be found in any typewriter like application such as MS Word.
It seems to me that the starting place for the survey might really be what category of document creation tools is your favorite rather than going directly to specific instances; do you need online, desktop layout, coding or maybe you're writing a movie script. The tools available in each category may not carry over to the others; e.g. I don't need code completion if I'm writing a review of a local theatrical production. In my case online is my typical category as I'm usually working on documents I want to share with others, but when I need to print a note to leave on my front door informing guests I'm in the back I usually go to InDesign.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-12 10:22
"Favorite document creation tool category" is an entirely different kettle of fish, and I'm not sure what aggregate insights it might provide.

Our goal with these surveys is to tease out which apps in a particular tightly defined category generate the most (and least) positive responses.
Peter Anderegg  2017-07-12 18:54
Adam, thanks for the quick reply. I think your survey begged the question of "which category." And here I am using "begged" in it's literal sense, as in assuming the answer to a question not asked. It seems clear to me that "word processing" is not really a "tightly defined category" after all. So how about following up with surveys for other large word processing categories, such as online or desktop layout.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-13 10:13
I really don't see how there could be any confusion. We were entirely clear about the fact that we were defining the "word processing" category in a particular way, and we gave five similar categories that we explicitly weren't going to include in this survey but could cover in the future if there was enough interest. And I've said repeatedly that we came up with these categories purely to make the survey manageable for users, and that they in no way imply that we think one category is better or worse than another.

It has become clear that the Markdown-based text editors are quite popular, and we'll probably do another survey on them soon. And once again, we'll limit it in specific ways, such as by covering only Mac apps, since if we were to include iOS-only apps and Web apps, there would be hundreds of apps to include.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-07-13 12:12
It's not really an "approved" list. We mostly use BBEdit and Google Docs for our work! We merely wanted to hone in on a specific category of app. Otherwise, this would be a survey of hundreds of apps, and we'd be spending months compiling it. But given all the feedback, we'll be doing more surveys along these lines for text editors, online word processors, DTP apps, etc.