Best word processor to export to for theses?

I am doing a science PhD thesis/dissertation and am working on drafting everything in Scrivener (as I’ve already been using it for personal writing for some time) - but am wondering whether anyone has suggestions for the best word processor to export to for final formatting and figures and everything? I’d like to do everything I can to avoid MS Word - it was nightmarish trying to use that for the final draft of my MS, and in my experience just doesn’t handle large manuscripts with lots of figures well.

Any suggestions? A few people I’ve talked to really like LaTeX, but I’m leering of having to use anything that involves lengthy programming. I’ve got an old version of InDesign; but I don’t know how practical that is in terms of export either.

It might have been better to put this under Software by Other Folk, since that’s essentially what you’re asking about.

I can’t really comment on using figures in word processors, since I don’t have much call for it, so I’ll leave that to others.

I exported my own thesis to Nisus Writer Pro (version 1 – version 2 came out afterwards) and it worked perfectly well. It was a nice environment to work in, and pretty powerful. I haven’t upgraded to version 2 because I don’t need it at the moment, so I can’t really comment on that, either, but I’m sure it would be worth trying. I’ve toyed with Mellel, which a lot of people swear by, especially for longer documents, but it has a weird implementation of styles, which takes a bit of adjusting to (in my experience). It is cheaper than Nisus, but Nisus does have a considerable academic discount, which makes the difference easier to swallow. I’ve hardly ever used NeoOffice or LibreOffice, but you might want to investigate those as really low-cost alternatives. If you use footnotes, be careful to check if they import correctly – you can get some odd results, or even no results at all. Download some of the demos and experiment with them. If you are anything like me, you will find that you would love to have a combination of the features of about three of them, but none exactly fits, so you have to make a compromise. One day someone will produce the perfect program … Or will they?

Looking at the forums for each of the various options often tells you a lot about what they are good at, and where the deficiencies are.

Cheers, Martin.

I wrote the last draft of my thesis in Scrivener, and exported to Mellel for typesetting, insertion of cross-references, bibliography scanning and creation of table of contents. It worked well, but there was quite a lot of work to do in Mellel, as there would be in any word processor.

Word and Open/Libre/Neooffice are flakey. I’m not convinced that there’s any point using one of the open source Word clones if you’ve (wisely) decided to get away from Word.
Nisus Writer Pro (NWP) is more reliable. Mellel is rock solid. Mellel is said to be faster than NWP for documents with lots of footnotes. Certainly it handled my thesis (300 pages, with 221 footnotes and a few figures, with ease).
Mellel is the least Word-like in its interface, the way that styles work and so on (as well as its uncrashability). I think that’s a good point, but other people prefer NWP because it uses a more familiar model.
Each of them has features the others don’t have: e.g. Mellel allows an unlimited number of note streams. NWP exports links and a table of contents to pdf, while Mellel only exports the cross-reference links to pdf. NWP and Word have indexing, but Mellel doesn’t. Mellel has slightly better integration with Bookends and Sente. The auto-titles (headings) and cross-reference features in Mellel are (in my opinion) more flexible and powerful than the ones in NWP.
One big disadvantage of Mellel – that it doesn’t import text marked up with styles from rtf/doc – is moot for your purposes because Scrivener doesn’t export text marked up with styles…

Both Mellel and NWP provide timelimited full-featured demos, so why not try exporting and styling one chapter in both. You’ll probably soon work out which you prefer.

Mellel has just been put on special offer, by the way, so it’s only $19 at the educational price. Usual disclaimer: I’m a customer and beta tester, but have no other link to RedleX, and no financial motive.

If I had only one word processor, it would be Mellel. I use NWP Pro as well and it is an excellent program. But Mellel just hangs together so well, especially with longer documents, multiple note streams, etc.

For compatibility purposes, when I was working on my dissertation I was using Word. It worked great for both Mac and PC, and handled my Chair’s comments nicely.
Pretty much the only trouble I had with Word for Mac up to the 2008 version was due to OS X 10.5. After doing a clean installation of 10.5.3 Word (and other applications) behaved fine. No more spinning beach ball, font issues, or slow speeds.

If I had to choose between Mellel and Nisus Writer, my choice would be Mellel. It is certainly a bit more difficult to get used to it, but I found it more stable than Nisus.
Working with Tables in Nisus was a nightmare. They seemed to have fixed a lot of the problems with version 2. In addition to the problems with Tables, you can see all the stuff they finally fixed with version 2 here:

In addition, $80 to purchase plus $50 for an upgrade seems excessive, and I like buying word processors!
Mellel’s policy is more reasonable. If/when they ask me for an upgrade, I’ll gladly pay. Tomorrow they’re releasing version 2.9.

I use Nisus quite frequently, mainly for very simple documents. Interestingly, now I’m finally getting into TeX after avoiding it for years. I wish I would have started a long time ago. The programming does not seem too difficult (so far), and there’s a wealth of resources and tutorials available. MacTeX includes everything you might need:

The new version is out. It turns out I have free updates for life.
Release notes:


The current price of $29 is a bargain IMHO.

I wanted to avoid Word also. But in the end it seemed to best handle the RTF output from Scrivener. My manuscript used about 4 or 5 figures and they came in fine. I also liked Word’s handling of the table of contents RTF code Scrivener generated, as well as references in text to bookmarks in the text. I just tried my (older 2.2) version of Mellel and it didn’t handle the TOC/bookmarks properly; maybe 2.9 does. Pages fails miserably on all accounts. Unfortunately I am stuck with Word I think.

I use Sente for bibliography and citation management, and since I use Scrivener for my writing and export to RTF to import to Mellel, the bibliography integration on Mellel doesn’t offer any benefit.

Yes, it does handle RTF bookmarks and cross-references these days. They are easily editable and navigable within the application; and its sidebar Outline view will list all of the bookmarks that Scrivener exports. Mellel is a pretty good partner with Scrivener. RTF comments, if I recall, are the largest feature that is missing.

You are correct that Mellel doesn’t support rtf comments. That’s’ a bit odd, since it does support tracked changes (since 2.8). As far as I know, it’t the only app that can do tracked changes but not comments.

Edited to remove accidental smiley.

I think if Mellel even had some form of comments in the program they would probably implement it given how well they’ve done with everything else—but currently they don’t support any form of commentary, which is a bit weird. But, if you don’t need comments and like a heavy stylesheet bias, it’s a good entry. Rock solid and high-performance. I don’t think I’ve ever had Mellel crash on me, and I’ve been using it for years.

I agree style sheets, multiple notestreams and autotitles are definitely strong points. I have been using Mellel since 1.2, and it has never crashed on me. I had one (!!) problem about a year ago, and was resolved within a few days; the program was usable, but one feature wasn’t working properly, more irritation than limitation.

Well, since I have had a licence for Mellel since version 1, I’ve downloaded 2.9. I still can’t use it … it will still, after all these years, not read Word documents in Chinese, whatever you set the plain text coding to UTF-8, GB18030 or Simplified Chinese (Windows) … and that makes it totally useless for me.

Nisus does, and always has done this with aplomb.

No brainer, as far as I’m concerned, but then I guess I’m in a minority on this thread in needing to be able to import CJK texts. I have tried to like Mellel, honestly I have …


Have you tried importing rtf rather than doc? Mellel is like Scrivener in that it much prefers rtf to doc files.

Before NW came along, I had to do that. But since I am continually working with files produced on Word for Windows, most of them sent in .doc, some now in .docx, why should I open NWP/TextEdit/Bean/OpenOffice to convert them into RTF, when I can just open them in NWP and work on them directly. And then when I’ve worked on them in Mellel I’ve got to re-export to .doc or .rtf to be able to send them back (just like trying to use Pages), where NWP uses RTF as its default format and I can just send that.

And I’ve always found Nisus much more intuitive to use anyway.

I think if I was working with Hebrew or Arabic, I might be using Mellel, but for CJK, hassle all the way.

And Scrivener (Mac version … Windows version still not sorted) handles these Chinese Word files just as easily as NWP.


Fair enough. I agree to some extent, in that I keep Word and Pages around to deal with doc files that other people send me, and I keep Mellel for my own work, exporting to rtf only when I need to send a draft to someone.

Having said that, I’m sure that Mellel should cope with unicode text in doc files. If you can get one to me that doesn’t work for you (e.g. uploading here, or we can exchange email addresses by PM), I can test it and submit a bug report to RedleX (I’m a beta tester).

As a start, here are two screen shots of the same .doc opened in Mellel (plain text set for UTF-8) and NWP, together with the original file. Of course a .doc is a binary, not plain text like RTF, and Nisus use the OpenOffice .doc translator to do the conversion. As far as I can see, Mellel doesn’t have such a facility.

From here on in, it might be better to take any further discussion off-line from this forum, so I’ll PM you my email address.


coping texts.doc (24.5 KB)