3 OF A KIND: Mac writing apps

Anthony Caruana
2 January, 2013
View more articles fromthe author
App Guide

There are some real alternatives out there for those who want a rich, powerful word processing tool but don’t want to follow the well-worn, and sometimes frustrating, path of Microsoft Word or have yet to discover Apple’s own Pages desktop publishing app.



Literature & Latte


With some writing tasks we refer to all sorts of bits and pieces – notes on the desk, research documents, Post-it notes and other scraps of information. Scrivener attempts to create that environment on your screen and give you a system for pulling it all together.

Scrivener isn’t a tool for creating simple, one-off documents; it’s for pulling together large, complex documents. It’s creator built it to assist with writing a novel. You can create sub-documents that are then complied to create the final document. We used Scrivener to help with the Great Australian Novel that we’re writing and it was able to bring all the parts together and compile a nice looking PDF.

The output options from Scrivener are myriad, but as well as all the usual text-based formats there are e-pub, Kindle .mobi and HTML so you can release your work any way you’d like. It’s a tool created by writers for writers.






Mellel has a slightly old fashioned look, but it’s a thoroughly modern app that’s packed with features.

A palette of tools allows you to use paragraph styles, format characters and tables and do all the usualediting you’d expect. If you’re working on a large document with multiple footnoting styles and other complex elements, Mellel allows you to create many styles, each with its own numbering style and sequence.

Cross-referencing is easy, as are bibliographies and tables of contents. This is where Mellel is most popular – for creating attractive documents that appeal to academics and other technical writers.

Mellel is a great alternative for those looking for a powerful word processor.


iA Writer


Information Architects


Unlike many other apps for dealing with text, IA Writer is 100 percent focused on the words. For example, its Focus Mode fades everything other than the sentence you’re working on to the background.

IA Writer is designed around the keyboard. For example, the text “*IA Writer* makes it easy to format text by using **special codes**” would underline the text surrounded by the single asterisks and bold the text with the double-asterisks. It supports up to six levels of headings and there are dozens of other shortcuts.

Text can be saved in plain text or exported to Rich Text or HTML. A small indicator at the bottom of the screen provides an estimate of how long it will take to read your document – perfect if you’re putting together a speech. IA Writer can save directly to iCloud and there are iPhone and iPad versions of the app as well.

Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us