Recently, I spent some time reinstalling OS X and the applications on one of my Macs. Before reinstalling Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac (which really isn’t up to the standard of its Windows counterpart), I thought I’d consider the alternative Mac word processors available. The word […]

Recently, I spent some time reinstalling OS X and the applications on one of my Macs. Before reinstalling Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac (which really isn’t up to the standard of its Windows counterpart), I thought I’d consider the alternative Mac word processors available.

The word processors I’m going to look at in this post all have a short learning curve because they stick to Mac interface standards, so you’ll be able to be productive quickly, which is always a good thing.

Take a good look at the documents you produce and the features you need; one of these word processors might be a ready alternative for you, especially if you are working on an older Mac and don’t want to invest in a costly Microsoft Office license.

Bean. This free word processor has a light footprint which can be important if you don’t need all of the features (and bloat) that Microsoft Word brings with it. It requires a Mac with a PPC or Intel processor running OS X 10.4 Tiger, OS X 10.5 Leopard, or OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, so it can even be an option if you are trying to bring life to an older Mac. This is a great alternative word processor if you don’t need features on the level of Microsoft Word.

Mariner Write. This word processor was part of the last MacHeist offering, and includes a well-designed menu structure, spelling/grammar checker, and support for many document formats, inlcluding Mariner Write (a proprietary format), Stationary, RTF – MS Word, RTF – Mariner Write, Text, SimpleText, TeachText and PDF. While I liked Mariner Writer during my testing, its incomplete support for Microsoft Word — a standard document format for many of my client projects — makes unlikely to adopt it for my professional writing projects. It costs $49.95.

Pages ’09. Part of iWork ’09, Pages is a very capable word processor that includes a wide range of templates, advanced features like table of contents, tables, shapes, sharing via iWork .com (covered by Imran), and the option of saving documents in MS Word format. My testing of conversions to Word format were hit or miss so I recommend testing for yourself through the software’s 30-day free trial prior to purchasing it ($79.00).

Nisus Writer Express. This Mac word processor comes with Nisus Thesaurus as part of the same download package. As a word processor, it includes a document manager, paragraph sorting, document styles, tables and macros. It does not include a table of contents feature (unfortunately, a deal breaker for me). It costs $45 (a free trial is available).

What is your Mac word processor of choice? Share it below.

  1. Open Office dot org’s word processor (called Writer) is a very good (and free) alternative to MS Word.

  2. I’ve recently spent a lot of time using WriteRoom, it’s a totally black screen with green text (like an older PC) and is brilliant for when you need to minimise distractions.

  3. Hi,
    Mellel is another fantastic Word processor for Mac. I use it for academic and professional writings. It has not a so short learning curve. However, once the effort is done, a good surprise comes up. It is very fast and reliable with a lot of features available. Nothing lacks and nothing is superfluous.
    At the price of USD 49, I strongly recommend it to anyone.

  4. We are transitioning from PC to Mac in our office, we tried OO 2.1 hoping we could put everyone on it (PC and Mac). Unfortunately there are still a lot of bugs that cause it crash, and there are lots of compatibility issues between OO and MS Office. We ended up adopting MS Office for Mac 2008, it has been fine so far.

    FWIW, IBM announced a beta of Symphony due later this year which will be built on top of OO 2.1, and it will be free.

  5. Jeff Mortenson Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    I have used NeoOffice since I got my Mac. I love OpenOffice on my PC and said “why not” and went with NeoOffice. Why bother paying for something that is bloated, and with features you’ll never use?!

  6. I’m very happy with Scrivener. It worked fantastically for NaNoWriMo.

  7. NeoOffice rocks. Full Featured. And yes, includes Table of Contents feature. Love it.

  8. ‘Word Processor’ is so last-century.

    Any web worker worth his or her salt is using a development-integrated text editor like Coda.

  9. Surprised that the OP disses Word for Mac; that’s the single most-raved-about software from a large number of Switchers I’ve brought over to the Mac in recent years. “Much less painful” is the most common comment.

    That being said… Word:Mac is my #2 most-used word processor now. I generally fire up Pages first; the current version (’09) has far fewer interop problems than any other non-MS package I’ve used on the Mac. I still get a few docs that will only render properly in Word – but if I’ve a mind to, it’s usually the matter of a few minutes to clean them up to something that Pages can deal with – and I’ve only ever had one recipient say he had a problem with the file I sent back. (That was quickly rectified using Word:Mac).

    I have always thought it good to have more than one set of tools for each of your main toolchains – office, technical writing, coding, whatever – and to switch between them regularly. This not only keeps your mind limber and able to learn new things more easily, but it helps you appreciate what works for you better than others, and provide feedback accordingly. As in any true marketplace, this requires a two-way conversation between customer and vendor for the benefit of both.

  10. Do they have to be native Mac apps? What about google docs? I’ll admit I’m not a major word or any other word processor user but google docs works pretty well for me and a lot of clients I work with.


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