Best software for writing only laptop

I have no resistence. I caved. I bought a Macbook Air and am loving it. 8)

I do want to keep it as a writing-only machine, though, and am in a quandry as to what is the best software mix for it. Here’s my take on what to put on it:

  • Scrivener (natch)
  • Writeroom
  • Devonthink Pro Office (a lot of my research is in there)
  • Adobe Acrobat 8 (though Preview may be enough with its comments)

Here are some of my options, but I am not sure about any of them (Yes, I’m embarrassed to say I own all these):

  • Omni Outliner Pro
  • OmniGraffle (Pro? I think that’s what I have)
  • SuperNoteCard
  • Inspiration
  • BeeDoc’s Timeline (or one of the other timeline apps)
  • Tinderbox
  • Yojimbo
  • Circus Ponies’ Notebook
  • Endnote 9 (don’t have X)

Anything else you would recommend?

I’d love to hear your ideas about what is the best writing laptop configuation.


Get rid of Acrobat and use Skim … fast, free, small foot-print.
Nisus Writer Pro.
I’d put Transmit on it too, for uploading to web-space.

I’m thinking of getting one too — principally to save me having to lug this 17" MBP around with me everywhere, nearly every day; the MBP will become a “moveable desktop” computer for me. — but I’ll include Keynote on it as I will need that for lectures, and OGPro and OOPro are sine qua non for me. Oh, and for me, BookEnds rather than EndNote.

Why do you need Scrivener and WriteRoom? :slight_smile:


I agree with Mark. If you only need to comment on PDF go with Skim. If you need more, like making pdf files with table of contents, organize order of pages, watermark them, etc., try PDFClerk.

– MJ

Thanks for the ideas. You’re right about Acrobat. I do all my creating and such of PDFs on my main computer, and I doubt if I would do much on the Air. (It is a sweet little machine, btw. :smiley: )

What does Skim do that Preview doesn’t? (Note that I haven’t looked at it, so I’m asking for the basics.)

I’ve looked at Bookends and might actually go with it, but since I’ve been with Endnote for a long time, I’ll probably stick with it until I can take the time to move everything over and learn a new app. (I.e., not in the near future.)

Why Scrivener and Writeroom? No solid reason other than I was using WR before Scrivener and I like that there’s so little to fuss with sometimes. It’s a bit like my Alphasmart Neo - it removes all but the simplest of interfaces for writing and I can then directly drag the file into Scrivener.

The other apps I mentioned I use occasionally, but nothing except Scrivener is in my regular work flow (well, I do like to keep the info in Devonthink handy).

One alternative to DEVONthink (and most definitely to those other choices you have there) might be a really nifty (and FREE!) solution called SlipBox. I am intrigued by DEVONthink and have been using it myself, but especially on a laptop I found the much sleeker SlipBox far more effective - especially it’s “scent” way of linking information. The current version (0.8) is now feature-rich enough to have allowed me to make the switch. And it’s really writer friendly with all your information just one Apple + Spacebar click away (all slips are searchable through Spotlight).

I would also recommend a tool that helps you organize other files that might prove useful for your writing (but also for other situations, in my case teaching) on your Mac, called Punakea. It manages files (if you chose to do so) based on tags, so you can “file” the same file under several “folders” (so to speak). Extremely useful. And also free.

And yes - forget Acrobat. Skim is fantastic. Especially when it comes to taking notes. And getting them out of your PDF in a “writer’s” format (native to Scrivener, that is, in RTF).

OmniGraffle is also my main software for creating charts. I use it all the time (for academic papers and books) - it’s super easy to use, and yields amazing results with relatively little effort. Good choices you made there.

Sounded interesting until I read that … presumably programmed by someone who never switches languages.


Thanks for all the great ideas. :smiley: I’ve looked at Skim and downloaded it, with my only concern being locked into using it over time because of the sheer number of PDFs I would be entering and commenting on. I do like that it has .rtf export. Has anyone reached a practical limit for it?

I’m not even convinced I should have my research on this machine, so I may be rethinking that. The seductive lure of all that information just waiting for me to hit a sticking point… :unamused:

If your laptop is not your main computer, what apps do you find you use most (specific to writing) when you’re out? Do you actually use the extra apps or do you mostly just write within Scrivener? I ask because I initially dragged the whole of my writing folder (which has been dragged from computer to computer for eons) and then realized I didn’t want to carry around all the writing I’ve done for years. “Move to trash” became my favorite task (even if it was accompanied by wincing and gnashing of teeth).

Interesting how much the combination of using Scrivener now for over a year and this new machine is making me rethink a lot of how I’ve been doing things.

Again, thank you for all your great ideas.

I don’t think that is an issue as Skim — at least as I understand it — is merely opening the PDFs in a much more useable interface; the PDFs merely reside on your disk, presumably with a hidden comment file attached if you have added comments.
There is an app called Yep, which describes itself as something like an iPhoto for PDFs. I have a copy, but haven’t actually used it … pretty damn silly, really, I must try. But that may have limitations because it is cataloguing the PDFs. Others here may be able to advise.


Well a few I would suggest would be

iStat Pro Widget.

This in my opinion is a must have for laptops. Small foot print but excellent information if you ever need it. Must Have. I install this on all my macs.

This next one I can’t believe I am saying (shiver)
but WORD.

Since its format is so commonly used it might be good to ahve a copy just in case you are on the road and away from your main computer and you have to work with the .doc or docx (2008) format or you may even need to submit something in word or actually use some of its bloated features for some ungodly reason. Best ot have it sit in a folder collecting dust than need it and not have it.


Another utility would be a RAR expander (like stuffit expander 12 - free) just in case some one sends you a RAR file one compressed in another format or you need to download a large file and it was compressed using another standard compression besides zip.

And a favorite of mine that I HIGHLY recomeend is

Little Snitch 2.0

Mainly it is used to monirot or prevent OUTGOING network traffic but its nicest feature and the one that makes it truly worth especially for laptops is its Network Monitor

This makes it a scurity MUST HAVE for laptop users because of this simple scenario. When you go home you probably turn ON your file sharing to swap files with another computer. Many people forget to turn OFF their file sharing.

Then they go to a “Coffee Shop” that has WiFi and sit down and write not knwoing the guy at the back of the shop is browsing their files and copying not only their software but sometimes sensative data.
With the Network monitor you can see in the menu bar anytime there is traffic and any time a New Connection is made a window appears (uses Growl notification which is NICE!) and lets you know of the new network connection being made.

THis is great for security and with laptops and wireless becoming mainstream you would not believe the amount of people that automatically log onto known wireless networks (without knowing sometimes depending on their wireless settings) and have their file sharing left on with minimum or no security (like passwords) protecting them.

I usually log onto these people’s computers and drop a text file on their desktop letting them know and explaining to them beter ways to secure their wireless connections. :slight_smile:

There are many more but that may come as personal preference but basic utilities for Security, monitoring, compression, and compatibility in my humble opinion are worth the storage footprint of having them on a laptop.

I just downloaded this and my computer magically became tidy. I’ve been wanting something like this for ages, it’s been the missing link in digital management - I’ve had Aperture for images, Scrivener for writing and now here is something for everything else.
This makes me a happy happy bunnyman.