Finishing School: Your Manuscript’s Next Step (After Scrivener)
So you’ve finished your manuscript. It might be a blog post, a short story, a novella, or a novel. (We’ll leave aside screenplays for this outing.) If you used Scrivener — and why would you not? — you may want to do one final touch-up in the regular word processor of your choice.
As most Scrivener users have already discovered, Scrivener is more a content generation tool than a conventional word processor. (For those who have yet to be introduced, have a look here, and at my extensive and shameless gushing here.)
For this outing, I’m going to take you through quick overviews of a trio of popular word processors for the Mac which do the job to greater or lesser degrees of satisfaction. Windows users have one of these options, Microsoft Word, but for Mac users the field widens a little with Apple’s offering, Pages, and Mellel from Redlex.
There are some contestants I’m leaving out — LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and Google Docs, specifically — and that’s for a reason: They don’t cost money. If you find you don’t like them, you haven’t lost anything except time and hard drive space for giving them a go without needing a good or a bad word from me to guide you.
Let’s dive right in with Mellel.
Mellel by Redlex
Product page: http://www.mellel.com
Price: $38.99 (through Mac App Store) $39.00 (direct from product page)
*Comprehensive (palette-based) toolset
*Reference software (ex. Bookends, Endnote) interoperability
*Significant learning curve
*Exported .doc files not true MS Word .doc format
While Mellel is one of the single most fully featured conventional word processors available, it’s very definitely intended for nonfiction writers. But for that segment of writing professionals, it’s absolutely the top of the line.
The interface is arranged in a way which is approached in similarity only by Apple Pages, in that the editor window is quite minimalist. The formatting and other technical functions, meanwhile, are displayed in a multifunction dual-pane palette to the right of the editor:
The most serious deficit I can think of with Mellel is that its “Word” file export does not, in fact, generate a true MS Word format .doc file. I discovered this when attempting to use Mellel to create a Table of Contents for a novella I’m working on — after exporting to Word format in order to upload the finished piece to Smashwords, that site’s software informed me that I had not, in fact, uploaded a .doc file.
Checking by attempting to open the file in Pages, I was dismayed to discover that Pages, likewise, didn’t recognize the file as .doc. The Word files exported by Mellel are, in fact, just .rtf files with the .doc file suffix.
For me, this is a dealbreaker that cripples the appeal of an otherwise outstanding word processor.
Pages by Apple
Product page: http://www.apple.com/mac/pages/
Price: $19.99 (Mac App Store)
*Intuitive, user-friendly design
*Full system integration with OSX media libraries
*Diverse file export options
*Extremely reasonable price
*Still lacks some advanced features of competitors
Apple’s own word processor received a significant visual upgrade when it was released as Version 5 back in October of 2013. Sadly, it also came as a stripped down version of its former self, to no shortage of user discontent. However, subsequent updates have restored many of the lost features, and Pages is now well equipped to resume its place as the Mac-based writer’s go-to word processor.
Word by Microsoft
Product page: http://products.office.com/en-US/mac/mac-preview
Price: (Temporarily) Free
*Extremely user-friendly UI
*Full feature set
*Generates genuine .doc files (well, of course it does)
*Integrates seamlessly with Microsoft OneDrive for painless cloud document storage
*User-defined text styles are apparently non-persistent
Though it’s still in Preview status, Microsoft Word 2016 for Mac is already shaping up to be a solid winner of a word processor. With a feature set somewhere between that of Apple Pages and Redlex’s Mellel, it will offer all the fiction writer could ask for in terms of putting a final polish on your fiction manuscript and then creating the output you need to publish that manuscript to any digital publishing platform out there.
Additionally, its interface is both clean and familiar, offering the most intuitive user experience of the three.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Word 2016, along with the rest of Office 2016 for Mac, will be free until the product is launched — expected to be “sometime this summer”. Pricing at launch is still completely open to speculation, with some sources indicating it may be as inexpensive as simply taking up (or continuing) an Office365 subscription.
In all, each of the three offers some compelling reasons to use it as the “finishing school” for your manuscript — but which will be the best fit for you depends, frankly, on your personal preference and on what your manuscript is.
If your work is nonfiction or academic, Mellel just may be your answer. If you’re dealing in fiction, everything from the short story to the epic novel, things get quite a lot more competitive. My personal recommendation here surprises even me:
For right now, today, it’s Microsoft Word 2016. With its combination of full features, user-friendly interface, and unbeatable (free) price tag, it’s the clear winner in my book. Whether that changes post-launch will greatly depend on the premium Microsoft asks for it.
As always, thanks for reading; do good work, and be good to yourselves and each other.