GlassWriter Pro

I’d never heard of this until it showed up on this site yesterday.

Glasswriter seems like a fairly fresh approach to a writer’s environment; the developer has included most of the standard stuff, plus a few extras such as a skinnable interface, bookmarks this rather unusual book layout.

No full screen mode though

I tried this ages ago and it didn’t really work for me. But then I am a bit of a snob - I like my programs to have a “Cocoa” feel to them, and this is definitely a REALBasic sort of program… It definitely has some good ideas, but it feels a bit clunky in its current implementation.

I was very surprised too. I really thought I knew all applications which declare themselves especially designed and suited for writing fiction: Avenir, Manuscript, Jer’s Software Hut, Writer’s Café, SuperNotecard, StorySpace, Ulysses and of course Scrivener. But yesterday I discovered the existence not only of Glass Writer, but also of WriteItNow and Z-Write: all three of them were wholly unknown to me.

None of these three seems very interesting, though; they all seem a bit outdated, and not just because of their antiquated look.

Indeed; I’ve just tried the Glass Writer and Write it Now – both looked a bit confusing to me (no doubt because I spent no more than 10 minutes on them), and lacking many of the core features I use.

Maybe they’ll catch up.

To add a bit of history, it was Z-Write that practically created the market for programs aimed at novelists and creative writers. It was the first program (to my knowledge) that was designed around the premise that creative writing is a non-linear process. It had a document browser where you could add and reorder chapters and an export dialog where you could merge them into one final RTF document. All “non-linear” writing programs that we know today, including Ulysses, have only refined this recipe. In the early days (around 2000 / 2001) Z-Write owned the market it had created, but it was written in RealBasic, and the developer wasn’t smart enough to adapt Z-Write to OS X. There was an OS X version, but the interface looked very outdated in Aqua, and other programs like Ulysses quickly filled the gap by offering a superior interface, better system integration and many new features.

There were many developers who experimented with the new Cocoa text technologies in the early days of OS X by programming “non-linear” text editors. One program I used under OS X before Ulysses came along was Idea Knot. (You can still download it from their website, though it’s not under active development anymore.) It had a poorly designed interface, but I liked it because it had one very clever feature: You could preview all your notes in a “combined view” - very useful for checking transitions between chapters and reviewing the flow of the final text. Ulysses, independently or not, also offered this feature with its preview pane. However, in both Idea Knot and Ulysses your text is not editable in combined view, and one of the things I like about Scrivener is that its “Edit Scrivenings” mode does away with this limitation. :slight_smile:

Thanks, Jan; interesting to know!

I missed those early Mac programs as I’ve been using Power Writer for Windows since the late 90’es, I think. It was non-linear, with a browser on the left and various notes at the bottom.

I loved it. In comparison, Z-Write and many others look quite basic. Only Ulysses and Scrivener surpass it (Scrivener - at a fraction of the price) for my needs. My main issues with many ‘professional’ writing programs for Windows were that they tried to force a ‘writing system’ from ‘best-selling authors’ upon you and charged a lot.

Interesting. I didn’t know about the various attempts at creating word processors for writers under Windows. Power Writer seems to predate Z-Write by many years. I should have made clear that I was only talking about the Mac side of this market. (My perspective is narrowed to this platform because I have been using Macs exclusively since … well, forever.)


Yes, I used to use Z-Write heavily in OS 9. It was quite unique for its time and I loved it. But with OS X a lot more became available and Z-Write became quite outdated. Thanks, Jan, for acknowledging the historical import of this great little program.


I just found out that Z-Write is now in Beta 1.5 Pre-Release for OS X.

I used the OS 9 version extensively, it was the single most important factor in my hanging on to my iBook for so long. The OS X version was a little funky (its fragment of an icon is hanging in my dock as I write this) and when I discovered that its files, when uploaded to my online storage, and then downloaded again, were mangled by the process, I figured it was time to say goodbye.

It’s not exactly pretty. But pretty is as pretty does, and an OS X version that is as steady and swift as the OS 9 version is welcome to dwell on my hard drive.

Since discovering that the developer is now planning continued updates and support, I’ve been thinking of ways I can work a new and better Z-Write into my routine. It’s not that Scrivener can’t do the kind of drafting I’m thinking about, it’s that Z-Write can work as a kind of subroutine.

The new version seems like it would be amenable to letting me wander around in it, working on a single scene that is a sum of many parts, while still being able to do global search & replace and other functions that would let me treat it as a complete document. When this pre-drafting process is completed, I can mark the pertinent sections and export them as Scrivener-worthy.

Perhaps it only appeals to me because I’m such a structure nut; I struggled mightily to learn good plotting because everything else came more easily, and I still have a number of tricks that work for me, tricks that Z-Write could do.

Those interested in Z-Write can find it with this link:

And a thank you to the person who pointed me to OmniOutliner; it looks intriguing, and I’ll be playing around with both it and the Beta Z-Write to see which one works better for me. Part of the appeal of Z-Write has always been its bare-bones approach, just you and the text, without any distractions. And for some reason a change of scene perks up my brain and encourages me to move words around; part of the appeal of a laptop, and part of the appeal of using different tools for different tasks.

I used Z-Write for awhile, and it certainly was an innovator. But when I was making the decision whether to buy it, iOrganize, or SuperNotecard (or whatever it was called then), I got a new PowerBook that had OmniOutliner bundled, and discovered Jer’s NovelWriter and Mellel – all superior to Z-Write IMO. That took care of that until I discovered Scrivener, which swept the others away. Unless Marc is really changing Z-Write a lot, I can’t imagine what it could do that Scrivener can’t, but by all means let us know how it works for you.

Well, I’ve played with both the new Z-Write and the OmniOutliner demo, and decided that nothing works as well as Scrivener.

Learned much more about the Outlining in Scrivener (customizing the toolbar was a great help in this process) and Scrivener does what I wanted to do, and added some real nice touches to the process.

This “Edit Scrivenings” is indeed one of the most clever and useful features of Scrivener. It helps to avoid a danger that comes with a writing system that allows to write a story in independent chunks: That they stay TOO independent and create an overall feel of “being built of raw blocks”. If the scenes of a novel give the reader the feeling that their order is arbitrary, he will more likely go lost. One scene should lead to the next in a way that feels inevitably - and this can be made sure by using the “Edit Scrivenings” feature.

Keith mentioned that GlassWriterPro looked a bit more RealBasicy than Cocoaie, but it is in fact a Supercard stack. It feels very OS 9-esque. It’s not really bad, but it’s no Scrivener.