Writing Apps on Mac

Curious to those who write (Journal, Digital Notebook, Book writing, Blogging). What apps have you found useful for this?

I use one note for my digital notebook as it feels more like a tabbed notebook. I’ve tried the Day one app for Journaling just doesn’t feel very user friendly. I have a bad habit of composing my blog post directly into the Gutenberg Wordpress editor and then having to copy and paste it over into a document later. I have Word which is great for things like a resume. Just wanting to figure out what’s out there.

Thank you all in advance for your thoughts.


Andy Ihnatko of MacBreak has been known to chose writing apps. I tried googling, but this was all I came up with quickly: App Pick: Ulysses 12

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Don’t get me started. I’ve spent a lot of time on this subject, looking for the perfect tool. Oh. Too late.

Ulysses is great, but so is another Andy favorite, Scrivener. Both are based on an older tool called Zettlr, which is inspired by (rabbit-hole warning) the Zettlekasten method.

Evernote used to be a good choice, but it’s become pretty expensive and I fear for its future. A lot of people like Bear - it’s very simple, as is SimpleNote or even the free Google Keep, which keeps getting better. Microsoft’s OneNote is powerful, but maybe overkill. At least it’s free.

I would take a look at the free and open-source Joplin. I think it has a lot to recommend it. It’s cross-platform and supports a number of cloud services for storage. It’s in active development and is feature rich but easy to get started with.

As an old-schooler, I really like emacs’s org-mode. But it takes a bit of finger training. I maintain my markdown-based blog with emacs and Tramp-mode, or with Panic’s Nova, which is a great Mac-ish all-in-one solution (markdown editor, terminal, sftp, etc.)

On the web Roam and Notion are, I think, very exciting tools with a new paradigm that works quite well.

On the hardware handwriting side, I’ve been playing with the expensive but nicely designed, Remarkable2 e-ink tablet. It has excellent integration with iOS and macOS. And when it comes to that, there are a ton of iPad choices like Goodnotes, Noteshelf, and my favorite, Notability. But you have to have an iPad. On the upside, Notability will record audio that links to your notes, which makes it excellent for note-taking during lectures.

I would recommend choosing something that provides portability - so you can move from tool to tool - is free or inexpensive, and cross-platform. Open source text-based solutions are probably the best; you don’t want to be stuck in a tar pit with all your notes. And learn markdown - so many of these tools support it and it’s a great way to created formatted, structured documents in plain text.

Note taking is very personal, and it’s worth trying a bunch of tools until you find one that fits your style. My journey is ongoing and probably everlasting!


Thank you. I’ll have to download a couple of these and test them out.

Have a look at Scrivener, it’s the best writing app I’ve ever used. Andy Ihnatko uses it as well, from what he has said in the past


Yes, Scrivner and Ulysses seem to have the best reputation among writers I know.


Leo’s list is very good.

I’m a long-time Scrivener user. It’s excellent for maintaining and developing a bunch of information for a large project. The “Compile” operation is very neat. Once you understand what it does, you will start to have your head wrapped around this software.

One tool of software I didn’t see mentioned was Mars Edit. This text editor has a focus on blogging, but it could be used as a general text editor. You can plain-text edit in Markdown, then have Mars Edit generate HTML for your text. It’s a very long-running MacOS tool and owner/developer Daniel Jalkut is a pretty interesting character. I’m an occasional user of Mars Edit, and Daniel has been quite responsive to questions/comments.

I noticed that Bear has a non-Pro mode: you can use its basic features and upgrade at any time. I think this is an excellent solution for someone who is learning/deciding on a piece of software, or even casually using some software in the long run. I admire Bear’s simple simple interface. It’s hard work to make a simple text editor!

You may also want to see what Federico Viticci has said about various editors on his Appstories podcast. While his team focuses primarily on the iPad, there’s a tremendous overlap between iOS and MacOS apps. Many apps in the list (e.g., Bear, Scrivener, etc.) exist on both platforms. These people are also highly interested in workflows, which should be an important feature for the editing software that you choose. I’m pretty sure that Federico has been on TWiT shows in the past – he’s definitely another interesting character.

There is no definitive choice – it’s a very blurred spectrum. One lesson from Federico is that you may marry yourself to one editor today but change in the future to a different solution.

I realized I left out a venerable macOS program that is insanely powerful: DevonThink.

I bought a full license several years ago but found it too heavy for my application. Nevertheless, it’s quite good.

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Here’s another interesting app just released (and a good deal through 2/15/2021):

Oh and I almost forgot this…

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@Leo I would posit that you have an addiction to editors, but I think we all know you’re just being very thorough :smiley:

@floatingbones Thank you for your recommendation of MarsEdit. I was able to connect it to my wordpress hosted blog and it imported all of my already written posts.

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As you know I prefer open source, and this is a new project with great promise…

Mac, Windows, Linux

But I do think MarsEdit is a great choice for blogging. I used MarsEdit + Acorn for years to post to my Wordpress blog.

Andy recommended Spaces on MBW today. Here’s the episode video cued to his recommendation:

https://youtu.be/GGIll1tLGow?t=6381 .

Update: I tried Spaces yesterday. I created 3 URL links in a note, then I attempted to number the links. That operation totally hosed my links, and I didn’t understand why. I then attempted to do an UNDO (Command - Z), and it didn’t undo the number-command.

When editors have powerful commands, it’s vital that you can always undo the last thing you did. That should have been built into this editor from the start. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case.

I’ll file a bug with the developers on what I did, but I’m going to skip spaces for now. :frowning:

Also tried spaces. Reminded me of a fancy one, quick version of one note or evernote. I am however loving MarsEdit.