Before we start talking about the writing apps for Mac, let me make it clear, no writing app can improve your writing magically, that can only be achieved with a lot of practice. Having said that, using a good writing app will assist you in writing, so that you can get the words out of your mind and onto the proverbial paper. A good writing app does that by providing a writer with an aesthetically pleasing and easy to traverse work environment. It is also distraction free and helps you focus on what are you writing. Most importantly, it has all the essential features which are hidden when you are writing and only show up when you need them. It also makes exporting your text as easy as writing them. Basically, it lets you focus on the art of writing itself and handles the rest.
Now, no one app can fulfil all these criteria for everyone as each one of us follow a different form of writing. Some are bloggers and dabble in small-form writing while others are looking to write full-fledged novels. Some of us are aspiring scriptwriters while others are trying to complete their thesis and papers. That is why we have tried to include different apps which will suit different requirements. So, let’s find out the best writing apps for macOS you can get today:
Best Apps for Novel or Blog Writing
Some apps are best suited for short-form writing while others focus more on the long-form content creation. Ulysses is the only app which is equally good at both of them. You can as easily write a novel on Ulysses as you can a blog post. Ulysses achieves this feat by creating a perfect amalgamation of features and usability. When you launch the app for the first time, you are greeted by an interface which is simple and yet so powerful. The interface is divided into three major panes. The left pane is called the Library which houses your main navigation area including folders, trash, and storage options. You can choose to save the files on either iCloud drive or locally on Mac. You can even store files on other cloud storage spaces such as Dropbox using the external folder.
The Middle pane is called sheets and holds all your individual documents. The right pane is the text editor and it’s where all the magic happens. At any given time, you can hide the panes and only use the text editor to get a distraction-free environment. The text-editor supports markdown formatting, meaning you can use certain symbols to format your text. The idea here is that a writer does not have to use anything other than the keyboard to interact with the app. You can use different themes to customize the look and feel of Ulysses, I personally love to use it in the dark mode.
One of my favourite features of Ulysses is its exporting capabilities. You can export any document into Text, PDF, HTML, ePub, and Docx formats. You can even link your WordPress and Medium account and directly publish your articles without living the app. Other features include goal setting, photo attachment, keyword search, and inbuilt notes. What makes Ulysses also good at long-form writing is its organisational structure. You can create a multi-hierarchal structure by nesting folders inside the folders. The easy drag and drop tool to arrange the sheets is another feature which really comes in handy. There are a lot more features which we cannot cover, as this is not a full review, but know this, even though it is a costly software, it is worth every penny. I write all my articles on Ulysses and have no qualms in recommending this to anyone.
While Ulysses does well in the long-form writing arena, Scrivener is surely the reigning king here. Don’t get me wrong, Ulysses does come really close but for someone whose sole focus is on creating lengthy content such as novels, Scrivener still remains the go-to tool. I will be the first to admit that Scrivener is not as intuitive as Ulysses and has a little bit of learning curve attached to it. You will at least need a couple of hours to get familiar with the interface while unlocking its full potential will require some serious usage. The inbuilt tutorial does help a lot to learn the basics.
When you launch the app, you will be asked to create a project. There are a few templates which can help you get started. A project is where everything will take place. For this article, I chose the novel template. Now, I cannot go deep into all the features of Scrivener but I will cover some cool features which make it best suited for long-form writing.
The first feature which Scrivener does better than any other app out there is the organisation of your documents. You can create folders and nest folders inside other folders to create multi-layered organisational structure. But the best part is how easy it makes managing and finding your content. You can search your text by tags, characters, and keywords. You can use the outlining feature to create an outline. The cork board view helps in getting the essence of your work.
There’s also a separate section for research, where you can keep all your research (texts, links, pictures). There’s a place where you can create your character’s sketch. Lastly, Scrivener allows you to export your work in different publishing format, which is really helpful, to say the least. You can export your work as a simple manuscript, a hardcover novel, ePub for iBooks, and MOBI for Kindle. You just have to feed the required information and it will take care of the formatting for you. If you are a long-form content writer especially focusing on novels, this is the best tool you can get today. As Ulysses, it is also costly but worth every penny.
3. iA Writer
If you are looking for an option which is similar in functionality to Ulysses but does not cost as much, give iA Writer a try. iA Writer gets the basics right. It has a fluid and good looking interface which helps you avoid distractions and focus more on the writing itself. You can use the syntax (Markdown) to format your text. You can also create sheets and search between the sheets using keywords. When you launch the app, you will only see a single editor window and you can start typing immediately. To get to the navigation pane, just slide from left to right. Sliding from right to left will give you a view of how your text will look in an actual document.
One cool feature is that when you are writing only the current line is highlighted while the rest of the text is greyed out. This helps you focus more on what are you writing. This feature is also present in Ulysses but is not enabled by default. It also has a dark theme to go with it. Where iA Writer falls behind Ulysses is in its organisational features. The export feature is limited to text formats only. The goal setting feature is also missing. However, whatever it does do, it does best. The writing environment is fabulous and the app is very light and never lags. iA Writer can be a great alternative to Ulysses if you are ready to give it a try.
Just when you start to think, there’s nothing left to innovate in a certain category of app, there comes a new player which changes the game and Bear has earned its place among them. It combines note taking and small prose writing and put them into an interface which is not only fun to use but is also very effective. Maybe that’s why Bear has won the Apple’s best design award for 2017. Just like Ulysses, the interface is divided into three panes. One houses your groups, one your notes and one acts as your editing panel. However, Bear’s organisational structure is a little different from Ulysses’. You don’t create folder rather you organise your notes using tags. Any note can have n number of tags. This is a free form organisation and best when you need to show a single note in multiple groups.
Probably the best feature of Bear is its iOS client. Although Ulysses also has an iOS app, Bear’s app is more intuitive and easy to use. At first glance, Bear might feel like that it’s a note taking app which is not wrong but at the same time it is much more than that. Bear handles writing and editing short-form content like articles and blog posts like a breeze. It also has better theming capabilities than any other app on the list. The only major drawback is that it follows a subscription model. It will cost you $15/year to unlock the pro version, which unlocks its best features like theming, exporting and cross-device syncing. Still, it’s a small price to pay for what you are getting. Don’t just listen to me, try the free version and then decide if it is worth your time or not.
Install: (Free, Pro version for $14.99/year)
Best Apps for Screenplay Writing
I don’t claim to be an expert in screen-writing, however, I have my fair share of experience in it. For the most part, I have found FadeIn to be the best screenwriting app out there. The interface is easy to understand and you can start as soon as you launch the app. You will learn the pro features along the way. The best part about FadeIn is its predictive typing experience. Most of the times it figures out correctly if you are about to write a scene heading, a character or a dialogue. In cases, if it does fail to predict correctly, you can use the tab key to simply move between the options. This makes formatting your screenplay very easy. Our main theme for picking apps today has been selecting the apps which help you getting your words onto the paper and FadeIN does just that.
2. Final Draft 10
Final Draft is the most popular screenwriting software out there. However, I have kept it at second place because of two specific reasons. Firstly, it costs a lot and every new version will set you back additional $99 to upgrade, which is just absurd. Secondly, over the years it has borrowed a lot of features from its competitors which have made it really complex. Hence, it has a steep learning curve associated with it. However, if you get over these shortcomings and I am not sure that I can, at its heart, it is a great piece of software aimed at professional scriptwriters.
Like FadeIn, it also supports keyboard shortcuts to change the different script writing elements. In fact, I have found its prediction to be more accurate than FadeIn. However, the premium it demands over FadeIn is not justified in my opinion.
Best Apps for Journal Writing
1. Day One
Day One is one of those few apps which make the experience of using the app more powerful than the purpose it serves. The app just looks beautiful. From its design to its UI and its colour scheme to its typography, everything induces a sense of calm. The feature set is also huge. You can create multiple journals and each journal can hold infinite pages. Not only you can write inside the app, you can even attach photos to support your memories with visual cues. My favourite feature is the addition of geolocation data. It helps you to see the places where you have recorded your journal entry.
Day One serves as a multi-purpose tool. Apart from recording your days, you can use this as a dumping ground for your ideas. You can create tags and stars to sort your notes. It also has an inbuilt search feature which is lightning fast. The app is also password protected which helps in keeping your thoughts safe. The fact that it has apps for both iPhones and iPads makes this one a must for on the go journalism. There is so much to love here. If you are a regular journal writer, this one is a must have.
If you are looking for a journaling app which is truly cross platform, Journey is where your search ends. It has an app for all the major OS platforms including Android and Windows. The app is powerful and has a feature set which is comparable to that of Day One. It syncs across devices, supports photo attachment, markdown, and syntax editing and so on. However, I have two main problems with Journey which pushed it down to second place. First, it only uses Google Drive to sync your notes. I hope they add other popular cloud storages such as Dropbox in the future. Also, even when you buy the full app, there are certain features for which you still have to pay for, which is just outrageous. Other than that, it is a perfectly good app and you will not enjoy using it.
Best Writing Apps for Students
If you are a student, you don’t have to look any further than the app which comes preinstalled with every Apple Mac, Pages. There used to be a time when Pages felt like a cheap rip off of Microsoft Word. Now, things have changed and Pages has become one of the best word processor apps present in the market. The best thing about Pages, apart from the fact that it is totally free is that Apple keeps on improving releasing updates every few months. At the time of writing this article, Pages has received yet another big update. Now, you get a library of over 500 shapes, which are also customisable. The auto-correction and text replacement features also get some needed improvements.
But for me, the best new feature is the inclusion of threaded comments while collaborating with other people. All the comments can be seen in a threaded conversation format, which is updated on real time basis. Now you will be able to collaborate with your friends on a document without having to wait for your conversations to load. That is a huge improvement in my opinion. If you are a student, Pages is the software for you. It’s good looking, it’s feature packed and it’s totally free.
2. Microsoft Word
Microsoft pretty much invented the modern word processor and Microsoft Word is still the best. Don’t get me wrong, over the years, Pages did catch up with Microsoft Word but it still has some distance to cover. In my opinion, Microsoft Word is still the easier of the two software while packing more features. The menus and sub-menus are easier to navigate and the inbuilt search functionality is also better. There’s pretty much nothing more I have to say about it, it’s Word. If you have the cash to spend, this will be a purchase you will never regret.
The Best Apps for Writers on Mac
As I said earlier, these writing apps can not improve your writing, however, what they can do is to assist you in improving your efficiency while writing. They create an environment where you can forget about technical stuff like formatting and focus more on the art of writing itself. They are more like tools, which in the hands of right person can create wonders. Give these apps a try and let us know in the comments below which is your favourite. Also, do tell us which writing software do you use currently on your Mac and why.