is there a way to make word work????

I’m in the process of adapting to a new Imac after using Microsoft products for decades. So far, it’s been an easy move.

I haven’t written for publication for a long while. When I did, I published mostly short stories and articles, with quite a bit of business writing thrown in. Everytime I tried to write a book–and I tried numerous times–I started off with a great surge, then, after the third chapter, everything fell apart.

A friend of mine who had published 28 novels told me I wasn’t outlining enough. I tried to follow his advice, but his methods didn’t work for me. Then, last year, I stumbled onto Writer’s Blocks (a Windows software) and it turned out to be the exact thing I needed to get past the outlining/conceptualizing hurdle. I don’t know why, exactly, but it freed me from whatever was blocking me.

I recently purchased Scrivener to help me pull the outline (about 50 pages of disparate bits and pieces) into a rough draft that actually goes somewhere. I had no problems moving the outline into Scrivener, and spent about a day dividing it up the way I wanted to work with it.

Now, I’ve started on research. Thanks to reading this board somewhat obsessively I learned about and downloaded Devonthink Pro to replace AskSam, which is what I have always used in Windows. I actually like Devon better than AskSam, although they are both very good.

Now the question. (As you may be able to tell, I’m really wanting to talk to other writers about all this.) What is wrong with Word for doing a final draft? People talk about it being “bloated” but that doesn’t bother me. It’s easy to build the Word interface exactly the way you want it and send all the features you don’t use into hiding.

I HAVE had some bad times in the past with it getting wonky when I re-wrote and edited longer pieces (say, a hundred pages) and then crashing at the worst possible time. The really bad part of that was that even with a backup all I was doing was restoring it back to a wonky about-to-crash version which took me back down the yellow brick road all over again.

Is there some way around this? Say make each chapter a separate document and then put them together at the end or something?

I’ve downloaded Mellel, and to be honest, I don’t think I like it very much. It’s spell checker is just lame, and I really rely on the autocorrect in Word when I am going fast. I don’t want to have to go back and spend a day or two correcting typos by hand in Mellel that Word just does for me.

I like Word. I just don’t like it when it starts behaving as if it needs an exorcist.

I gather the people on this forum all detest Word, but is there a way to make it work for someone who’s spoiled by its niceties?



I’m not among the Word haters. It isn’t my favorite tool, but it has a place.

To minimize crashes, avoid the following features:

  • “Fast Saves” which you can turn off from the Preferences/Save menu.
  • “Master Document mode”
  • Embedded objects of all kinds, but especially things like dynamically updating spreadsheets.
  • Macros, unless you have the ability and interest to debug them yourself. Especially avoid macros from other people, as they are a known source of viruses.

What all of these have in common is that they place hooks deep into the file system. If one of those hooks lands in a bad place, you can easily suck corrupt or malicious data into your own document. Word has become much more stable over the years, but these operations remain inherently risky.

Good luck!


PS You also may find that Word on the iMac is more stable than Word under Windows. (Isn’t it ironic?) Because Microsoft doesn’t own OS X, it can’t play fast and loose with code stability practices in its efforts to tie the two together. Plus OS X is more stable to begin with. … php?t=2116

I have no problem with Word for final formatting - although I’m considering trying out NeoOffice Writer to see what that’s like. - Actually, I have a big problem with Word’s heavy-handed formatting system. I’m just used to it, and I don’t fancy hand-setting my documents in Illustrator (although I’ve tried that, too). If I were a MultiMarkDown whiz like Amber and could generate a Word document without even opening Word, that might be ideal.

When I worked on large projects in Word, I found it very easy to lose track of where everything was, even with Master Document mode. That’s one of the things I like about Scrivener and DT Pro’s hierarchical document panes and search facilities. I can see everything at once, and what I can’t see, I can find quickly and easily, and I can flip between documents effortlessly without losing my place. That plus the ability to snaffle pages from the Web and work with them. Makes Word for Mac look like an old typewriter.

There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with using Word for your final draft at all - it’s an industry standard, and (with the caveats about turning off certain crash-prone features, as others have mentioned above) works perfectly well for a straight-through revision draft.

You have to find the workflow that works for you, and that won’t necessarily be the same workflow that suits others. My last novel was written entirely in Word; my current novel is being drafted in Scriv, because it suits my drafting method better. But as soon as the first serious draft revisions are done, I’ll be exporting to Word for final line edits so that I can work in the format my publisher requires.

They’re all just tools. Use whatever works for you, and that you’re comfortable with.

Thanks for the input on my question about how to make Word a little more crash free. I’ve used it enough down through the years to see that Word is basically a business word processor with a lot of jazzy features thrown in for writers and editors which work just fine…if you don’t use them very much.

I think Katherine’s ideas make a lot of sense. I know I was doing some of those things she said to avoid when I crashed word–over and over. I’ve also been there and done that about getting lost in a long document. I remember actually sitting down with a yellow pad and making notes as I paged through a file on the computer to try to figure out where I was.

I think one big reason why my previous attempts at book-length writing always fell off the tracks is that I couldn’t wrap my porous little mind around the whole project at once. I had no trouble writing publishable short stories, even long short stories, because I could “see” the whole thing before I began. Ditto for articles. Business writing was a little bit different in that it was task and goal-oriented, so you didn’t have to “see” the whole project, just the reasons for communicating and what you were communicating and to whom you were doing the communicating. You built the whole thing on that.

Scrivener truly is a writer’s software. I have never seen anything which is both this innovative and this on-target for what people actually do. I will build the rough draft (build includes write and figure it out both) in Scrivener. I feel like it was a gift that just as I got to the end of what Writer’s Blocks would do for me, I found Scrivener.

I think I’m going to give Word a shot as the final draft tool, depending on how far I get with Scrivener. If the draft is still pretty rough when I leave Scrivener, I may not be able to use Word. I still have bad dreams about what it did to me before. Word is in a class by itself as to its breadth of offerings and how you can bend it to your will. But it just plain throws you in the dirt if you use it to edit and rewrite too extensively.

I still have a couple of questions about setting up my computer work environment that I’ll ask seperately.

Then, if you don’t mind, I’ll be back with questions about writing itself that I hope the better writing minds on this board can help me with.

Thanks again,


I use word for exchanging documents for office use but I really like Nisus Writer Pro for formatting my own writing. I’ve been using the beta (which was just released as an actual 1.0) and it is a joy to use for formatting or for quick projects that don’t require Scrivener. You may want to give it a try.

You get a 15 demo to test it out.

Convoluted! Try figuring out how to suppress the page numbering on your title page. It’s not really a NeoOffice problem, though, because it’s an OpenOffice problem first.

Other than challenges like that (and some performance issues), NeoOffice produces gorgeous documents. I got endless compliments and, I suspect, triggered academically profitable first impressions with the faculty in which I was studying. All thanks to my slick, slick NeoOffice docs. :slight_smile:

Thanks, fldsfslmn. :slight_smile:

Rebecca, welcome to Scrivener and Mac. I would advice you strongly against using MS Word for final drafts. I know that the advice about minimizing crashes given above is well intentioned, but, in my book, minimizing crashes is just not an option when I’m working on a 400 page manuscript.

I have MS Word in my MacBook Pro, but mostly as a format translator, if that makes sense. I write and submit my manuscripts using Scrivener and iWork–no need to worry about crashes. This combination has allowed me to finish a novel (to be published at the end of the month), a dissertation, and to work now on my fourth novel. This is how I organize a long project.

  • I have a Scrivener project divided by chapters, and each chapter divided by sections. I use Scrivener’s ‘Research’ folder to copy and paste items I need to ‘see’ while I’m writing, but most of my research is stored in DevonThink.
  • When I’m done with a chapter, I print it from within Scrivener, using the Export… function, which allows me to have a generous right margin for editing, and prints page numbers. I edit, or rewrite the chapter again in Scrivener, and the cycle continues until I finish the complete manuscript.
  • When I’m ready to submit, I export the project to a RTF file, which I open with Pages (comes with iWork). I do all the formatting in Pages, because it has excellent page layout control and advanced font management options. In fact, if you print the same document in MS Word and Pages, and compare them side by side, you’ll notice that the one printed in Pages looks better. In addition, Pages is rock solid, slim and costs much less than MS Word (the academic version of iWork costs about $49).
    Using this setup, I never worry about losing my work–especially those last minute edits–and my final manuscripts look better. In fact, when I submitted my dissertation, the person in charge of manuscript inspection asked me what program I had used to print it.

But that’s easy, once one got out of the Microsoft-thinking (which took me a while, I admit): You just give your first page another page layout, for example the page layout “first page”, that comes predefined, et voilà ! Absolutely no problem. The OpenOffice interface is by far more logical than Microsoft Word’s.

This sounds interesting. But for me (a novel writer) the question of final formatting poses another problem: My editor gets my manuscript (as RTF or WORD-DOC), works on it in WORD, marks a lot of things where he sees problems, words and sentences he likes to be written in another way, makes annotations etc. and mails the whole thing back to me along with all annotations and changements marked in that special way WORD does it. Well - I have to have a piece of software with which I can open such a file and see the remarks and changements to decide whether to accept them or not. The only application besides Microsoft WORD on the Mac I’ve found until today that is capable to do this is NeoOffice. I gave NisusWriter Pro a try yesterday: An amazing program that seems to be capable of almost everything conceivable - but that is not capable to open a WORD document correctly.

So, my question: Do you have experience with Pages concerning this?

NeoOffice is a great program (and free!), but it uses the keyboard in an un-Mac-ly manner - more PC style, and unfortunately it is not possible to change this. Every time I start working in NeoOffice, my fingers get confused, and the first hour I make mostly mistakes… :confused:


That’s a great workflow solution if you have a flexible editor/publisher, but such creatures are rare! :wink: The majority of publishing houses still use Word, especially for markup and changes, as Andreas points out.

I’m all for fighting the good fight, but if the person signing my cheques needs me to use Word, then dammit I’m going to use Word…

I found that 2 for Windows has problems interpreting all the changes done in Word 2000/XP/2003. I tried several times, and every time a number of insertions and deletions done in Word and a number of comments were missing in Which is a real nuisance as I often get Word files from customers and have to keep Word on my machine to be able to process my customers files (I do most of my work in

I haven’t tried importing Word files into NeoOffice. But as NeoOffice is based on the same source code as, I don’t think the situation will be better on the Mac.

Greetings from Bavaria,

I’ve been reading your ideas about making Word work–and your suggestions for other options.

Microsoft Office is the lingua franca of the virtual world. I’m not like the rest of you. I don’t make my living as a writer. Years ago, I kept myself in an impoverished style by running my word processor, but that was long ago. Office is essential for me to communicate with my office and to run the rest of my work. I think one reason I’ve been contemplating using Word to do the final draft is that I have it on every computer I own already. The fact that I know my way around in it is another reason.

Word is essential for communicating across the internet. I haven’t worked with an editor in a long time, but my best guess has always been that Word is the only way to submit.

But the more I talk about this, and the more I think about it, and the more I remember the miseries of trying to write a book in Word, the more I start thinking that stability is the first and non-negotiable part of this equation. I don’t want any more crashes when I’m on a deadline. I mean, I just DON’T.

So, let me re-draft (pun intended) this question. I have Scrivener, which I like more and more. I think we all owe Keith a lot for developing it. I have Devonthink Pro. I have Word. I have Pages. I have word processors hanging from every tree. But what do I NEED?

The book I’m working on right now is nonfiction. I visualize it with an index and endnotes after each chapter. That’s another factor. Would it benefit me at all to have a software to help with endnotes while I’m still in Scrivener, or would it be just as good to wait? If it would help to do it now, is Bookends what most people suggest?

Again, I have bad memories of wriiting my thesis in Word and pulling my hair out trying to format the footnotes and bibliography. My advisor kicked it back at me three times because I didn’t have those right. I want a software that will do what I want done and not give me any more headaches than absolutely necessary.

I’m rambling here, I know. It’s just so great having this forum as a resource to talk about these things and get feedback from people who know so much about it.

Thanks for your help.



you say your book is non-fiction. I do not know whether it is academic, how much time you plan to work on it. I just wrote in another thread that we as archaeologists need years to produce a book. I hope in 5 years I will have finished three to five books that I have been working on for – in 5 years – 20 years. That is an average of 6 years per book. When I start writing, I do not care for endnote software or whatever, I just write a note like "(Ikehata 1986 chronology-- big drinking vessel stage 4 or so/ or 1987?) " and go on writing. Working on the bibliography in the end is boring and time consuming. But even if it takes 2 weeks in the end, this is nothing as compared to the time I spent writing it. And when I was writing, no ugly details kept me away from thinking and arguing.

Maybe this will encourage you to just start writing. Scrivener is excellent for that.

All the best, Maria


What a lovely note of encouragement. Writers write. Shakespeare used scratchy nibs
that would constantly break. His fingers were black with ink. His paper was neither
uniform in size or quality. But he wrote. Writers write. Scrivener is a great tool for
that. A better tool than any writer has ever had before. And writers write.


By all means investigate Bookends. I think it is fantastic, and the support from Jon at Sonny Software is very very good. Look at the forum: it’s full of threads where someone posts a problem and Jon posts the answer within minutes!
There’s a demo version that works like the full version except for a restriction on the number of references in a database, so you can get a pretty good idea of how it works.

I wish that there were a word processor I could recommend as much.
I think there are three reasons for using Word, two of which make sense, and three very good reasons not to.
First, as previous posts here say, there’s no 100% substitute for looking at documents sent to you, especially with tracked changes and comments. I anticipate keeping Word around just for this, long after I’ve stopped producing work in it. By the way, tracked changes are a well-known source of document corruption in Word, especially if they are allowed to build up in layers. The best thing to do may be to treat documents with tracked changes as read-only and make any changes that you want to accept manually on your own original of the document.

A second reason to use Word is if it has some features not available elsewhere that you need for your own work. If you need cross-referencing and embedded Excel files, for example, you are stuck with it. But OpenOffice, Nisus Pro and Mellel are all gradually catching up.

The third reason people stay with Word is inertia. “It’s already on the computer” / “I know how to use it already” / “Everybody uses it.” That would be less bad if not for the strong reasons not to use it: it crashes more than it should, and complex documents tend towards corruption. Finally, its user interface makes it very hard to use it in the way it should be used: all styles, no ad hoc formatting, no tracked changes left outstanding for long, and no use of the master document ‘feature’.
You can get round the user interface; you can sometimes mend a corrupted file; and after a crash you can restore from a backup. But we shouldn’t have to do all this in our main tool for work. It’s like asking a chef to use a blunt knife. It takes longer, causes accidents, and makes it hard to produce the very best results.

Ha! And I was feeling like a slacker for NOT taking the time to really learn a citation system, how to make Bookends automate things, etc. I tend to want to ‘just get to it,’ and I don’t take the time to learn some things. And I’ve been really trying to keep it simple. More programs or systems to learn, more clutter, less time spent on writing.

Anyway, for in-text citations, I (usually hurriedly) input them as passing notes (much like Maria described) and tag them and come back to them at the end to clean them up. For footnotes or endnotes, I simply use Scr.'s footnoting capabilities and then clean it up at the end in a word processor if needed (make them endnotes, whatever). If you need indexing, then I believe Word or Nisus Writer Pro does that. I’ve never managed an index, so I have no idea how to really do that.

I do use Bookends to store all my book reference info and generate a bibliography at the end. I had to set up my own Chicago-based style to fit my needs, but it works very well. Very simple.


Hi, nicka,

I also have Win systems in the house and one of them has the new Word 2007 on it. The only thing I can say is that when Word 2007 comes to the Mac, it will no longer have the “I know how to use it already” advantage.

They completely redid how even the most basic things are done. Inside the workings of it, this may be a good thing. For the UI, it means having to relearn it as if it were a new unknown word processor. It’s been very frustrating.

It really changes how I think about Word. I, too, used to consider it my ultimate fallback wp. I knew it well and could customize it to my heart’s content. With the 2007 version, I can no longer say the first and the second is problematic because I don’t know where many of the commands are.

Just a heads up that change is coming. No one has to upgrade, of course - at least right away - but at some point it will make some of us look long and hard at different ways of doing things.