Writing on a Mac


For drafting a novel, you’d think finding a free little text editor would be a cinch. Unfortunately, there seem to glitches to all of them. Between file size limits, unstable behaviour, and missing word counts or basic formatting, there doesn’t seem to be a perfect (free!) text editor out there. Yes I’m being picky: I want smart quotes, word counts and italics and I don’t want the program to start crashing when my file gets to near novel lengths. Here are the text apps I’ve tried.

  • Textedit Maximum file size? I wasn’t even a third finished my draft and the program stopped autosaving. At least it warned me.

  • Textwrangler This simple text editor is a staple on my laptop, but it’s better at parsing code than composing in.

  • Celtx This is a powerful little app for formatting and organization. It separates chapters and stores index cards by project. Also intended for scriptwriter, the formatting is truly superb. Unfortunately, to show a word count one must awkwardly select the text and right click (the word count shows at the bottom of the drop down menu). I’m compusively motivated by an increasing word count so seeing it live is important (chipping away at my first million).

  • Ommwriter Beautiful backgrounds and sounds, chimes for each keypress, this little app feels like a trip to a yoga studio. Unfortunately it’s full screen and plaintext only. Sometimes, text just has to emphasized.

  • Bean Bean is quite the ideal little app (word count, full screen, customizable views) except that the screen freaks out (all squiggly lines and dots) like it’s about the crash every once in a while. Scary. 

  • Texts This program is a little different. It’s a markup text, that is, it saves in plain text but embeds style tags and can output to a variety of formats including rtf and html. As opposed to other markup editors though, the style tags are hidden and the view is formatted output. Very nifty. There’s a live word counter in the upper right hand corner so it seems ideal. Unfortunately, it uses the Mac’s overly aggressive autocorrect and a partially finished word can morph into something unintentional and a change undone is liable to remade the next time the space bar is hit. When all you want to do is blaze ahead with a semblance of the intended word (and no, not a word vaguely spelled correctly but with a wholly different meaning), stopping and correcting the autocorrect all the time is more infuriating than autocorrect on a smartphone. It can’t be turned off within the app, but at least I can disable autocorrect Mac-wide (drastic, but works). Other text editors seem to manage to reign in the Mac’s autocorrect making it usable.

I’m still using Texts with my OS-wide autocorrect disabled.

Anyone else on a Mac working with similar text files have other suggestions?


3 thoughts on “Writing on a Mac

  1. As strange as the idea seems, I’ve written whole posts on my tiny iPod with the Notes application. For what I needed it for, especially riding the train everyday into the city, Notes provides me with the right functionality. It even has a built-in spell checker and dictionary. This is something I didn’t know until I discovered it by accident. Maybe one day I’ll go for a full-fledged Mac to see where it will take me in the world of literary awareness!

    1. I write on my ipod all the time too but I use a diff app that synchronizes with Simplenote. Yeah, the spell checking is just right on it. Do you write in Windows? What do you use there?

      1. I have a Samsung netbook I purchase a couple of years ago that came with Windows 7 Starter. I downgraded it to XP and loaded Microsoft Office 2003. It purrs. Loads up in seconds from hibernate mode. I use Word for all that I do. I’ve had the app for a decade and know it blindfolded (hotkeys at least)!

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