Update on Software for Writers, Part II

[UPDATE: this article has been updated to version 3 on Aug 04, 2009.]

There many software tools that are better for novels, screenplays and research reports than a word processor alone. They provide more functionality and facility to assist the writer with those specific tasks. Because Mac users are known to be creative and artistic types, TMO has embarked on a project to formally review the major contenders in this category of software. This is the second recap and supersedes the previous summary.

Here are the Mac applications that have been reviewed to date. Click on the review title below to go to the review of that app.

  1. StoryMill Takes a Novel Approach 03 April 2009
  2. Scrivener Brings Out the Scribbler 07 April 2009
  3. Ulysses is a Heroic Writer's Application 15 April 2009
  4. Jer's Novel Writer is a Memorable App 21 April 2009.
  5. CopyWrite for Writers has the Write Stuff 07 May 2009

StoryMill, from Mariner Software, received a TMO score of 4 out of 5 rating, great. It's strengths are managing the overall, strategic structure of a novel, especially when critical timelines must be managed. It has great documentation and help. However, it is a very technical program that may make some writers feel constrained. It's about average in text management.

Scrivener, from Literature and Latte, was the second app in the series to be reviewed. It has a less rigid structure, feels more friendly, free wheeling, and approachable. It's particularly strong on text manipulation. It also received a 4 out of 5 rating, great. If I were embarking on a novel, this one is my favorite so far, but there are more apps to look at.

The third program reviewed was Ulysses from Blue Technologies Group. It's more ambitious than Scrivener and, as a result, suffers a little with trying to manage its own strengths. Also, the documentation was inadequate. For a variety of reasons, detailed in the review, it failed to meet expectations and received a 2.5 out of 5 rating, disappointing.

Pen and quill

After the review of Ulysses v1.6 was published, Blue Technologies released a public beta of v2.0. This reviewer has taken a quick look, and the new version looks like it will address most of the issues raised in the review of 1.6 in April. Also, the price may be reduced, according to the developer.

Ulysses has a lot of potential, but its style for semantic formating may not be for everyone.

The fourth app in the series to be reviewed was Jer's Novel Writer from Jer's Software Hut. I characterized the first three as aircraft carriers, that is, great complexity and great power. Jer's Novel Writer in that sense is a Destroyer. Much less ambitious, fast, sleek, and focused on just writing. Even so, it has good export capability. It received 3.5 out of 5, solid plus.

CopyWrite from Bartas Technologies was the fifth app to be reviewed. Using the ship simile, CopyWrite is a frigate. It's very much like Jer's Novel Writer in concept, but somewhat less capable. It avoids the admittedly difficult but necessary task of exporting the output in a variety of professional formats. Graphics are not supported anywhere. Yet, for all its limitations, it also has a friendly, focused, stable feel that many will appreciate. Given is target of limited scope and no distractions, it is too expensive compared to Jer's Novel Writer and, so, received a 3 out 5 rating, solid.

Writer's apps

The TMO rating system goes from 0 to 5

Next up will be Storyist 2.0 from Storyist Software (still in beta) and, perhaps, a concluding review of Celtx if it looks like it falls into the same class as the apps above.

If you have any requests for writer's software to be reviewed, especially those which are geared towards novel and screenplay writing -- as opposed to strictly technical writing with formulas, etc, send an e-mail to [email protected]. Technical writing software, geared to the scientists and researcher, may be covered at some future date.