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ryan

July 10th 2012 2:25 pm

Best lightweight Mac text editors for long form writing?

I realized this morning that I'm actually super dissatisfied with my text editing setup. (I find this pretty amusing because I'm usually pretty in tune with which tools I love and which aren't cutting it for me.)

I'm actually pretty happy with my note-taking setup, which is Simplenote paired with Justnotes (recently swapped out from Notational Velocity). But I really don't have much good going on for long form text editing. I've tried a number of apps, but haven't found something I'm very into.
For a while I was using Smultron, but then when that project died I switched to a strange hodgepodge of NV, Coda v1, and other, lesser, more developer-oriented text editors. I love WriteRoom, but it's TOO out of the way -- I want something that does a little more, like help me keep my long form stuff organized (and out of my notes), searchable, etc.

But I don't want my text editor to do TOO much more -- I think something like Scrivener is just a little much for my needs. It should also go without saying that traditional text editors like Word / Pages are totally out of the question -- especially since I prefer composing in plaintext anyway.

So, writers, what do you like?
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chartier

I've been using Byword on Mac for most of my freelancing (Writing Kit on iPad, btw. Killer in-app browser with quote and citation tools), but I think I'm going to switch back to MacJournal, which I used for nearly six years while at TUAW, Ars Technica, and then Macworld. It has some organizational features like multiple notebooks, if you want, and search. It also has a clipping tool you can use for grabbing text and such from other apps.

I'm not sure if this is up your alley, but my favorite thing about MacJournal is that I can write in rich text, using all the great Mac text editing shortcuts (⌘-K to add a link, ⌘ and ⌥ + arrows for jumping around text, etc.), but then do an Edit > Copy as HTML for pasting into web CMSes. I hate looking at code while I'm supposed to be writing prose, even Markdown. I want to see clean, beautiful text while I write, just as the reader is going to read it. Best of both worlds for me.
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JustinCarone

I use a mix of nvALT and iA Writer. nvALT for syncing all of my notes and for outlining long form stuff. iA Writer for actually getting some writing done.

The problem with recommending your setup to anyone else is that people vary so widely in how they go about writing. I love to outline, and need a few tools for doing so, but once that is done I want to be immersed in a near featureless blank slate. iA Writer does a great job of it and the focus mode does wonders for my productivity.
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skyman375

Writeroom is working for me. I still use Notational Velocity for shorter material, and sync between both with Dropbox.
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anandman

I use Byword now for pretty much everything. It has all the distraction-free features a long-form writer should have, but it's quick enough to use for small notes as well (though I use TaskPaper a lot for that too). And, having Markdown support and preview means I can format easily.
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jonursenbach

Going to get groans for this from you, but what about Evernote?
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13 more answers
midnightsun

What about iA Writer?
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JPB

SublimeText 2 is, hands-down, the best text editor out there. It's also cross platform Mac / Linux / Windows.

I don't know if it handles markdown natively (I use it for HTML, CSS and Javascript mostly) but there is a package manager and it can be extended with plugins written in Python, so it should be adaptable to your needs.
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snackfight

I've been a devotee of TextWrangler for years. It's the (free) little brother of BBEdit. Not as powerful as BBEdit, but i rarely code anything deeper than CSS within WordPress posts.

But for writing, it's great. It does JUST enough and never, ever gets in my way.
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ikelleigh

I've always liked Bean for the middle ground between Word and Text Wrangler.
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NeuroMan42

Notepad ++ is one of my favorite text editors on my Windows systems... notepad­-plus­-plus.org/ Apparently someone has converted it to Mac too. Love it... between it and GDocs I have completely remove M$ Office from my systems. TextWrangler is supposed to be a close clone of Notepad ++.
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sheets

I love TextMate by Macromates for writing personally.
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praj

iA Writer is excellent.. When writing long wp posts with html, i use Sublime 2
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jtdennis

Smultron is back in development, they have a version on the app store. I like it, but am not a huge writer, so my needs are fairly simple.
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ddoyle777

Ryan,

I keep coming back to Nisus Writer Express when I want something quick and speedy. It's a full blown WP, but is quick and lively. nisus.com­/Express/
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MtnSloth

I too use MacJournal, but it did corrupt the data file once in a way that could not be recovered; and I had to revert to a week old backup. This was with a previous version (4 or 5). No problems since then. However, I can't say that I am totally in love with MacJournal; and I can't exactly say why.

I occasionally go back to terminal-based text editors (like nano - descended of pico). I am currently exploring BBEdit . . . but it may be too much work to get it configured exactly right for writing (as opposed to scripting). And I suspect I will return to MacJournal once again.
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willparkman

I use iA Writer & OmmWriter for my daily writing, and I use Scrivener for game & novel writing.
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bleepnik

If you consider an information manager like MacJournal, I'd recommend giving Journler[1] a look, as well. The two applications are very similar, but:

* Journler feels "lighter" to me, somehow.
* Journler doesn't save your stuff to a single-file library, so it's easy to find and retrieve individual notes using Spotlight or whatever.
* Journler was first abandoned, then bug-fixed and open-sourced by its developer; if it works well for you as-is, that's great, but I wouldn't expect updates.
* I didn't spend enough time with MacJournal to compare the two in this regard, but Journler is eminently scriptable, if that sort of thing matters to you.

I keep wanting to find a lightweight text editor, but inevitably I am dissatisfied by their lack of document management/organisational features. For that reason, I usually find myself looking through the info manager pile again and ending up with some Journler-esque application (currently Evernote).

[1] getsprouted.com­/applications­/journler
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ParasValecha

I don't use a Mac but I've heard Notational Velocity is damn good.
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