Jottings on science, religion, technology, pop culture and faith from the Antipodes.

Mac, Writing & Research Tools

Thinking about writing tools

Over the years I’ve used lots of different text and word processors to support writing I’ve needed to do:

  • nroff and similar on UNIX systems for writing documentation
  • View on the BBC Microcomputer in the 1980s
  • Something on an Apple II+ which only displayed 40 characters per line
  • WordStar, MS Word and WordPerfect under MS-DOS (pre-Windows)
  • Nisus and MacWrite on my Mac Plus and Mac LC to write my Masters thesis
  • MS Word 2.0, Word 95, Word 97 and Word 2003 on various Windows computers.
  • MS Word 3, 4 and 5 and ClarisWorks on my Apple Powerbook 150 and 520c and PowerMac 6100 (Still have a set of Word 5 install floppies somewhere)
  • AppleWorks and MS Word v.X on the Mac OS X G3 iBook (the latter for the PhD thesis)

Of all of these, MS Word 5 on the PB150 and PB520c offered the best system for just blatting out text without getting distracted by the bells and whistles of the software. The black-and-white display and keyboard of the PB150 seemed to work for me, plus with no internet connection etc. I only turned it on to write. Word v.X was okay (and it supported EndNote) but it didn’t really inspire me to write.

Now with the thesis all written up I’m wondering whether it’s time to look at trying some different things to aid the writing process in the next few months. Some tools that help organize the writing process as much as just allowing text entry and formatting. I’d like them to run on the iBook (which won’t be replaced in the near future) and to have some support if possible for bibliographic data. MS Word compatibility is less of an issue as I still have Word v.X and Word 2003.

From looking around the net these links look helpful.

Applications that help with note-taking and organising writing material

Bibliographic support

Some articles about Mac word processing

I wouldn’t be adverse to a Windows XP/Vista word processor and material organizer though, if they did the job. Just don’t have a Windows laptop to run it on.

Anyway, now feels like a good time to try something new, before I get caught up in not being able to change while projects are ongoing.



  1. Bill

    If you’re interested in Windows software, you could try PageFour. I’ve found it incredibly useful, and like Scrivener for the Mac, development is ongoing.

  2. Cheers, Bill. Looks interesting. I’ve added it to the list.

  3. You might like to consider askSam and Inmagic (Windows version DBText). Both are text databases, useful for note taking.

  4. Thanks Steve, I’ll have a look at them.

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