11 Sep, 2009
Writing Tools for Mac OS X
While you can certainly do serious writing with a word processing application (MS Word, OpenOffice, Pages, etc.,) there’s an entire class of application aimed specifically at the process of writing. These applications aim to help you get ideas and words down without distraction, help organize your thoughts, etc. Some are aimed more at the novelist, short story writer, or technical writer, while others are dedicated to specific tasks like writing a screenplay.
Let’s look at some popular writing apps for Mac OS X:
Outline. Edit. Storyboard. Write.
Scrivener is a project management and writing application aimed at anyone who writes longer documents (novels, short stories, research papers, long blog posts, etc.) Scrivener is different from a standard word processor in that it helps primarily with the collection and organization of ideas, resources, links, photos – whatever you may need during the writing process. The focus is on the writing not the presentation of the final output. When you’re done with your final draft, you can export into any number of formats. Scrivener will do some basic formatting, but ideally you would import into Word, Pages, or some other tool to apply styling and make it “pretty.”
Here’s how the developer describes Scrivener:
Writing a book, short story or research paper is about more than hammering away at the keys until it’s done. Research, scrawling fragmentary ideas that don’t seem to fit anywhere yet, collecting faded photos from old newspapers, shuffling index cards to find that elusive structure – most writing software is only fired up after much of the hard work is already done. Enter Scrivener: writing software that stays with you from that first, unformed idea all the way through to the first – or even final – draft. Outline and structure your ideas. Take notes. Storyboard your masterpiece using a powerful virtual corkboard. View research while you write. Track themes using keywords. Dynamically combine multiple scenes into a single text just to see how they fit. Scrivener has already been enthusiastically adopted by best-selling novelists, academics, lawyers, script writers and journalists – whatever you write, grow your ideas in style.
Scrivener makes it easy to collect bits of information – image files, PDF documents, movies, sound files, web pages, notes – and refer to them during the writing process. You can view your research in one pane and do your writing in another pane right along side.
The corkboard is one of the great features of Scrivener. Create virtual index cards, complete with a synopsis, linked directly to a document. Shuffle the cards around virtually on the corkboard and your overall project structure changes instantly to match.
Scrivener has many additional features that help you write:
- Outlining – A fully-featured outliner helps you take control of the structure of your work.
- Script writing mode – complete with Final Draft compatible exports.
- Snapshots – roll back to earlier versions using the snapshots feature.
- Full screen mode – fade the background in or out to give you a distraction-free writing canvas. Just the “paper” and your words.
- Keywords – Use a powerful keywords system to keep track of characters, themes or ideas.
- Export – Export your finished draft to your favourite word processor for final formatting, including support for footnotes, annotations and images.
Everyone has an idea for a novel. What’s yours?
StoryMill is another project management and writing tool, aimed primarily at those writing a novel.
StoryMill enables you to manage the creative process like never before. You can track, tag and filter characters, scenes, locations, research and more with the unique dynamic outline. For fiction writers, StoryMill provides features like word frequency counting, a cliche meter, and a progress meter to help you meet your daily writing goal.
StoryMill boasts an industry-first timeline feature that allows you to visually arrange the scenes in your story in chronological order. The timeline really shines when telling stories not in chronological order.
StoryMill has a Smart Views feature that works very much like smart folders in the Finder or smart playlists in iTunes. For example, if you want to find all instances of the word “pirate” you could create a smart view and save it for whenever you want to do that particular search.
- Track, tag and filter characters, scenes, locations, and research with StoryMill’s unique dynamic outline.
- Visually and interactively display your story across time with StoryMill’s timeline view.
- Annotate any text in your project.
- Revise your work with innovative tools like a word frequency tracker and cliche finder.
- Set and achieve your daily writing goals with the progress meter.
- A built-in support for tracking submissions to editors and agents.
- Manage the creative writing process with Smart Views.
- Write, distraction-free, in Full Screen Mode.
- View your novel in multiple views.
- Back up any and all activity in StoryMill
The retail price as of this writing is $49.95 (or $99.95 for a 5-user family pack.) There’s a note in the online store that says to contact the sales department for educational discounts. No word on if those are for single users, entire schools, or both. There is a 30-use trial version available. After 30 uses you will no longer have the ability to print or save.
- Macworld StoryMill review
- StoryMill Takes a Novel Approach (The Mac Observer review)
- StoryMill word processor for novelists (Applelinks review)
Where words just flow.
Ulysses is on of the oldest dedicated writing applications for Mac OS X, and has a loyal following. Ulysses is very different from other applications, though, as it’s a semantic editor. There is no visual style display at all, just semantic markup. This can be the best thing in the world for some people, but make no sense at all for others. You’ll definitely want to spend some time with Ulysses to see if it suits your writing style.
Forget everything you know about traditional text editors and word processors. Forget about WYSIWYG, formats, rulers and page sizes. Then forget about common means of managing your documents. Forget about the Finder, files & folders, sub-sub-folders and Spotlight search results. Ulysses is not like that. Not at all.
- Semantic Text Editing
- Console Mode (aka Fullscreen)
- Extensible Export
- Project-Wide Search & Replace
- Multiple Document and Project Notes
- Counters for Characters, Words & Pages
- Configurable Metadata (status, label, dates)
- Integrated Backup
Additional Writing Tools
Here are some additional writing tools, minus the longer writ-ups:
- WriteRoom – Distraction free writing. WriteRoom is a very basic full-screen text editor. Its sole purpose is to provide a distraction free writing environment without the bells and whistles.
- CopyWrite – Project management for writers of all kinds.
- Jer’s Novel Writer – Designed for large creative writing projects. Has margin notes, full screen mode, and more.
- MacJournal – From the makers of StoryMill, MacJournal is a dedicated journaling app that can be used stand-along or as a front-end for most blogging platforms like WordPress, Blogger, etc.
- Montage – From the makers of StoryMill, Montage is a dedicated screenwriting app with pre-formatted templates for film, TV, and theater.
- Contour – From the makers of StoryMill, Contour is a dedicated story development system that streamlines the process of turning your movie ideas from first glimmer to full outline.
- Celtx – All-in-one media pre-production and scriptwriting software. Best part: it’s free!
- Final Draft – The industry standard scriptwriting software, used by many professionals. A bit pricey, and some say it’s somewhat clunky to use. Remember: Scrivener can export to Final Draft format so you could do most of the writing in Scrivener, then clean up the script formatting in Final Draft. There’s also Final Draft AV specifically for digital media projects like commercials, training videos, etc.
- Movie Magic Screenwriter – Another popular screenwriting application.
Traditional Word Processing Programs
You probably already know about Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, and Apple Pages, but there are other word processors available for OS X. So, when you’re ready to polish your creation for the printed page, give one of these a try:
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