in Mac apps, tip, writing

Mellel and Bean: Great Word Processors

I just read MacWorld’s recent comparison of iWork Pages and Microsoft Office 2008 Word in the latest issue of their magazine. At the end of the article, author Jeffery Battersby offers up some alternatives to these two dominant word processors.

He suggests BareBone Software’s TextWrangler and Peter Borg’s Smultron as alternatives to TextEdit for basic editing. For full-fledged word processing alternatives, he suggests Hog Bay’s WriteRoom, Mariner Software’s Mariner Write or Nisus’s Nisus Writer Pro. These are all excellent programs.

But I’d like to point out two other alternative entries that didn’t make the list which deserve recognition: Bean for light text work and Mellel for complex and robust text editing.

1. Bean:

Bean is a quick-as-lightning rich text editor with all the core tools you need when you just want to write. It’s a wonderful alternative to TextEdit — it adds better formatting control, a nicer design, live word counts, and other goodies. Don’t expect to get all the features of Word or Pages in this package — it’s simple by design. In fact, there’s not much more to say about it. Best of all, it’s free.

By the way, if you want to set Bean to auto-open your text docs (.txt, .doc, .rtf, etc.), you can set this preference using the ‘Get Info’ dialogue box (right click on a file, choose ‘Get Info,’ select Bean from the ‘Open With‘ drop down menu, then choose ‘Change All‘). Alternatively, you can install Rubicode’s free RCDefaultApp preference pane and select the document formats to open with Bean from this panel. This is a bit of a side note, but RCDefaultApp is an excellent tool for assigning and managing document types (extensions) with programs on your Mac.

2. RedleX Mellel:

Here’s my word processor of choice. Mellel never crashes. It’s fast, fast, fast. It’s robust. It’s elegant and streamlined. It handles foot/endnotes, page styling and multiple languages extremely well. While I like iWork Pages for the quick and easy templating, I turn to Mellel when I want to put together a long and complicated document.

I’ll say this: it’s not for everyone. Some people don’t like the look and feel of this program — you can’t customize the app’s toolbar, the steely monochrome finish may put you off, and almost all of the functional choices for the app are arranged into a densely compressed floating palette on the side of the screen. Me? I’ve grown fonder and fonder of the design over time. It has a certain minimalist, Zen appeal. At any rate, you’ll very quickly decide if you love it or can’t stand it. Mellel costs $49 (which includes two years of free updates).

Now back to work on my Yojimbo review…

  1. When I read the iWork vs. Office comparison, I wondered, “Where’s Bean!?” I http://www.mergelayers.com/2008/04/10/bean-an-alternative-to-textedit/“ rel=”nofollow”>posted about Bean a few weeks ago and something I didn’t mention is that the free Bean offers a full-screen writing mode, like WriteRoom. It’s a nice feature when you want to write without being distracted by e-mail, IMs, or even Twitter.

    Also, wanted to mention that alternatively, you could use Open-With Manager to edit the list of file types a given application thinks it can open.

  2. I’ve never understood why mainstream Mac software sites continue to pimp Mariner Write. It hasn’t been updated in forever, and is not very much fun to use. My opinion is that Mellel and Nisus Writer Pro are the two best word processor alternatives (Nisus being my personal favorite; Mellel what I’d recommend to people who need better academic features or more languages).

    I completely agree that Bean is a far better TextEdit replacement than the plain text editors recommended.

    And WriteRoom isn’t a full-fledged word processor at all; more like a universally available extension for word processors. Sometimes Macworld makes me wonder if they’ve ever actually used the software they write about.

  3. Ian: I’ve never used Mariner Write, but I did have the same thought about WriteRoom (expensive for what little it does).

    Kelly: Bean rules. I didn’t know it had a full screen writing mode.

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