I started by trying to talk about how I write, more specifically the workflow that I use, but that turned out to be rather pedestrian and boring. Then I thought I would write a review of the software that I use, specifically Ulysses, that too seemed boring. Then it dawned on me that I have tried just about every writing tool out there1, so why not give people my thoughts on these pieces of software. The only problem is that I have tried so many I can’t remember them all, so here are my thoughts on the ones that I do remember.2
- TextEdit: Apple’s built in text editor and word processing machine, the cheapest and easiest way to work with .txt files on the Mac. I don’t hate it, but I am also not among those who love it.
- WriteRoom: A fullscreen text file editor from Hog Bay Software, there was about a year period where I only wrote stuff using WriteRoom and couldn’t bring myself to use anything else. I still love this program, sadly it has given way to some better options.3
- Smultron: A free open source text editor with a stupid looking icon. I used this for a while because I needed something to better highlight code, it has since fallen by the wayside, and I never quite liked it, Smultron always felt a bit off for some reason. Unfortunately the project looks to be dead now.
- MacJournal: Made by Mariner Software I always wanted to like this program, but it never stuck and I could never quite pin down why. The whole program just feels a bit off to me.
- BBEdit: A Bare Bones piece of software that they claim: “It doesn’t suck.®” That tagline I must admit was the reason I started using the program, I always found it to be good, but I never quite found it to fit my needs, plus the icon does suck and it is blue.4
- TextMate: Stumbled upon Textmate while looking for something to replace Smultron and the whole thing just stuck with me. I was just starting to write in Markdown and found out that it could convert Markdown to HTML, and from there it all started. TextMate is like TextEdit Pro and do I ever love me some ‘Pro’ versions.
- Ulysses: I found out about this great writing program from a Gruber sponsorship post. I wanted to write a novel at the time, I have sense given up, now I use Ulysses for writing just about every long form blog post I do (split with TextMate for shorter posts) and I love it. I especially love that I can manage all the posts in one database and have fullscreen with notes. A great program, there is also a cheaper ‘Core’ version for bloggers, I of course have the ‘Pro’ version because I apparently like to waste money.5
- OmmWriter: Most days I think that I am one of the only people out there that finds OmmWriter more distracting than MS Word, I just never got why anyone would need a picture background and music with typewriter clicky sounds in order to write.
- Microsoft Word: Honestly you couldn’t pay me enough to write in this wretched piece of crap.
- Apple Pages: Slightly better than Word, but really not a ‘writing app’ so much as it is create ‘lost dog flyers’ type of an app. There are a lot of people that love it, and I use it all the time, mostly though for doing quick page layout operations and pasting in text written in other apps.6
- Adobe InDesign: Is not a writing app…that said you can pry this app from my cold dead hands. I love InDesign and if you want to make documents look really good this is the tool you need, that said, don’t write in it just copy and paste.
- Scrivener: I must admit that I only tried Scrivener for about two days before deleting it. I think that if I wast a playwright, novelist, or screenwriter it would be excellent. I am, sadly, none of those.
- Notational Velocity – A text file note taking app seems like the perfect writing client, no? No not really, Notational is best left to do what it does best – take notes.
- MarsEdit: I love MarsEdit, but it is a blogging app, not a writing app. I copy and paste into it, the only words that are directly written in MarsEdit are those short quips I make on linked posts, nothing else. Though I do highly recommend it for publishing to blogs.
- TextWrangler: I have to admit that I never wanted to install this program based solely on its terrible icon – I am a huge icon snob it appears. I don’t have anything bad to say about it, nor do I have anything good to say about it. Still a TextMate fan.
I know there are a lot of programs that have been left out, if your favorite is missing please email me, or just accept my apology. I have probably tried it, but forgot about it completely.
Be sure to check out the updated list of reader suggestions that I missed.
I am too poor to try all the iOS writing apps, so I am limiting myself to Mac apps. ↩
Please email me if I left out one you were wondering about, I probably have tried it at some point. ↩
Better for me. ↩
Really with the blue icons people? ↩
My wife confirms this. ↩
We have our company letterhead setup as a Pages template. ↩