Is there a word processor that handles files like scrivener?

Sorry that the title of this thread isn’t very clear, but I ran out of characters! What I am looking for is a ‘full’ word processor that allows all the changes of font and style and insertion of clip-art and charts and all the things that programmes such as Word do, but that handles files in a similar way to Scrivener.

By this, I mean that I could create multiple documents within one project rather than having to create and open separate files for each document. The closest I can find is BBEdit, but that doesn’t do all the formatting either.

If you can understand from this what I am looking for (I know I haven’t put it very clearly), is there anything that actually does this?



I think the straight answer to that has to be “No” … that’s essentially why Keith wrote Scrivener. And you can have multiple documents within one Scrivener project if you wish … that’s what I do with all the translations I edit. For instance, I have a .scriv project for the work I do for the International Office of the university, and all the texts that I edit for them, whether for the Newsletter, the website, or for special events, meetings, conferences or whatever go into that project. Not only does it hold the final edited version of each, but also it retains, in the research area, a copy of the unedited originals and an archive of all the completed and exported jobs, thereby providing me with a source of texts and examples for my teaching work.

Another .scriv project has the work for the “Interpreting team” with whom I work extensively as English language advisor/editor. Currently, that project in the draft folder has all the units of a book-in-progress, together with copies of the unedited originals in the research folder. I will shortly be adding all the dialogues and texts used in the recent mainland final of the Cross-Strait Interpreting Contest* which will also be published as a book in the immediate future, and for which I will be asked to edit the reference translations from Chinese. Again, I will put copies of the unedited originals in the research folder.

But when it comes to full word-processor page-makeup features, I’m with Keith, that that’s best left out of the creation process to the last stages, and better done in software designed for that. For Keith to do it in Scrivener would mean him having to write his own version of Word or OpenOffice as the text-engine within Scrivener and it would become bloated and counter-intuitive, just as they are; or someone else would have to write not only the text-engine, but also pinch all Keith’s ideas and programme them into their word-processor. Imagine Word with all of Scrivener’s features built in … über-bloated would be an understatement!

My two ha’p’orth … now I’ll leave it to those who really know what they’re talking about. :smiley:


  • Yes, I know, I know … it should be “Competition”, but Beijing Foreign Language Press, who sponsored the event and will be publishing the book, insisted on “Contest” as CCTV-9, the English language TV channel, uses “Contest” … and don’t get me going on CCTV-9 and their English usage! :smiling_imp:

The problem with what you are looking for is that you are looking for something that is really approaching the same general field of work from two entirely different philosophies addressing two different phases of the processes. The word processor and page layout applications, such as Word and InDesign, revolve around the fashioning of a single document with a high degree of typographic and layout control. What exports from them should be, or at least can be, ready to take to the press. At that point of the game, the notion of having lots of smaller files making up a bigger file would be a strange way to go about things (you could argue that linked media lives in that realm, but that is fundamentally different than text). On the other hand you have a relatively new breed of application (at least compared to the document processing genre) which is aimed right at the author and deliberately eschews extensive formatting on the premise that such is a hindrance to the creative process at that stage. These applications, which Scrivener falls within, are basically not book generating platforms, they are content generating platforms. There is an important distinction there. Some go so far as to not even allow any formatting at all. Scrivener lets you use some standard formatting controls as this is more natural for the majority of authors not accustomed to marking things up with symbols. But that doesn’t mean it should be confused with book generating software. :slight_smile: It is still very much content generating software. LaTeX is really the only notable exception to this in both Scrivener and Ulysses—and even then I bet hardly anyone just exports to LaTeX and runs straight to the press with their PDF. That will get you 95% of the way there, whereas working through a word processor is probably more like 80%. Neither is 100% print ready in the majority of cases.

So on the other side of the issue, are the types of project management features and multi-file outlines seen in applications for authors, useful in a word processor or layout engine? I don’t think so, because at that point word flow becomes integral with page flow. It suddenly matters what page text is on. Thus adding or subtracting words in a long stream provides immediate feedback toward this fact. You can see, right in front of your eyes, that if you add a paragraph in front of a figure, you might be pushing another paragraph meant to address that figure onto the next page. You might decide that is okay, but the point is you get that feedback immediately. If there were somehow multiple files feeding into this long text stream (something that would very weird to implement and work with, I think), you’d lose the immediacy and “presentation first” aspect of these programs which is, by definition, their entire point.

Therefore, you don’t really have anything that does both. It’s two different problems, both quite complex, and it would take extraordinary developmental resources to marry them—if such a marriage would even be wise in the first place. It would take a Microsoft or an Adobe to really address this thoroughly—and it would most likely have to come from that direction. The sciences of typography and layout are very intricate. Microsoft even screws them up on a regular basis, badly, and that’s considered to standard method of accomplishing these tasks in most contexts.

I think, to put it into perspective, a good analogy would be photo catalogue software and Photoshop. Both Apple and Adobe have taken a crack at combining these to a degree, in Aperture and Lightroom respectively. Neither does even a tenth of what Photoshop can do—and that’s probably a good thing. Organising images and providing near infinite pixel and vector level control over them are both very complex problems, better left discrete. Consider, even these two massive corporations have no intention of making a AperPhotoLightRoomShopeture. It would be a monster.

As Mark puts it, either way would be extremely bloated, and very likely a lopsided attempt where one part of the equation is deeply sacrificed for another. Your best bet will be to search for macros or plug-ins for existing word processors that increase its organisational capacity—but none of those are going to escape the single-document boundary—they will merely better the ability to manipulate a large text via some kind of outlining enhancement.

As an aside: Are you sure you mean BBEdit? That program is nothing at all like a word processor, or even something like Scrivener. It’s a plain-text, single-file editor. You can’t even make something bold in it.

Thanks for the replies guys, I really appreciate that you took so much time and effort to give me a full answer. I should possibly have been more specific about why I want such a thing, although since it doesn’t exist there isn’t much point, but suffice it to say that I wasn’t thinking in the terms of final presentation of a long text, but rather organisation of ‘sets’ of shorter ones of a page or two, complete in their own right, but related as well. Therefore, all I was thinking of was some kind of side panel or drawer to enable me to switch between them instantly rather than as in Word where I would have to open each as a separate document.

I certainly wasn’t making a veiled request for any changes in Scrivener. I use it every day, and for its purpose it is as near perfect as any piece of software I have ever used. I know nothing about software development myself, so I have no idea how hard it would be for a word-processor to have a panel or document drawer added to it.

I did mean BBEdit. I was searching through lists of wp’s trying to find what I wanted, and that has the panel that allows instant movement between documents, but as you say, it has fewer changeable features than Scrivener, so it’s not much good. I was just using it as an example of the kind of interface I was thinking of.

I guess I’m asking for too much within a single app, but maybe I can dream that some time in the future someone will see some value in this type of approach. Anyway, thanks very much for your help and time,

Helen :smiley:

Actually, there are at least a couple of writing apps that might do what you ask. I can’t recall the name of one of them, though I remember encountering it fairly recently, like in the past few weeks. But the other is called xPad. I used it briefly before Bean came along, and it was kinda nifty. Here’s the description from the website:

xPad is the ultimate notepad, TextEdit and Stickies replacement for Apple’s OS X. With a simple, easy-to-use interface and powerful multi-document features, xPad will quickly become your daily text editor of choice.

With xPad you can create as many documents as you like, all of which are managed in one window. Attached to that window is a drawer containing a list of all the documents you’ve created. Any document can be selected and loaded instantly—at any time—allowing you to easily create and manage hundreds of documents without cluttering your desktop.

Staying organized with xPad is easy. With the category editor you can create and color-code categories, then quickly assign documents in the drawer. Documents can be sorted by name, date or category. Now you can efficiently manage limitless documents with color coding that provides a constant reminder of your organizational scheme.

You can quickly rename documents, delete one or many, and export a single, multiple, or all your documents in both Rich and Plain Text formats using both drag and drop or conventional panels. You can also instantly export to your iPod, allowing you to read your documents when you are away from your computer.

xPad automatically saves your work, so you never have to worry about manually saving what you’re working on or accidentally closing something without saving—and losing all your information.

Does this sound like what you’re looking for?

Come to think of it, Pagehand, if I remember rightly has a tabbed interface. I don’t think you would want to have all your documents open in it all the time, but related documents, or works in progress could be there. On the other hand, it is very much under development and doesn’t for the moment have things that are essential, like floating image and text boxes and footnotes.

My trial period has run out, and since without those features it’s useless for me so I don’t have a licence, but it looks good in typographic terms. On the other hand, I think the text-engine behind it is the same Apple text engine that Scrivener uses … so no real styles.


Might an application like Macjournal fill your needs?


You might want to consider either DEVONthink or DEVONnote. They are not word processors per se, but they have decent word processing capabilities, and you hand handle images and text in the same file.

I think, in many of these cases, you’ll find that Scrivener actually does a better job for most book related tasks. All of these applications mentioned use the same text engine that Scrivener does, but Scrivener has amplified support for footnotes, images, comments, and some other things as well. Outside of Nissus, it’s probably one of the better Apple-based RTF handlers on the market. Bean is pretty good too, but neither of those are multi-document compiler solutions. DEVONthink is just using Apple’s engine as well, and last time I checked it can’t produce a single document out of many (but I’ll freely admit to not being a DT expert).

In short, if the OP just wants basic word processing and multi-file organisation of an outline then yes there are alternatives (but like I say, Scrivener is pretty top of the heap in that category), but from what I gathered, they were wanting something more powerful than what the Apple text engine provides. It’s a pretty decent engine, but it’s not really designed for layout and good typography—not even Apple uses it for their word processor.

xPad I found rather disappointing. Once you have more entries than a dozen or so, you soon get lost. You can’t search in all entries at once; should you need to replace all your "John"s by "Jim"s, you’ll have to do it in every text part you have again.

Plus, you have only one (1) xPad database per user. You can’t have different projects or the like.
Plus, you can’t compile multiple entries into one document (chapters into a novel, to name the first example that comes to mind).

Then again, xPad was free. So, I don’t complain.

Wow, thanks again everyone for taking so much time to help me out.

Amber’s right about what I want. I really want something like Word, but with the ability to handle multiple documents as Scrivener does. I have tried xPad over the last few days. Since it’s free, I’m not going to complain either, and it’s okay for short notes, but it doesn’t have a lot of the features I want. I already use MacJournal a lot, but again it doesn’t have the text control I want. I haven’t tried using DevonThink that way, so I will give that a go. Thanks again for all the help, and I really welcome any more ideas!


I second the motion to try DevonNote. It’s what I used before I found Scrivener, and it’s inexpensive, though it may not do everything you want.

You may also want to look at Nisus Writer Pro. Nisus has always had a little known feature for handling groups of files and in the current version of Pro they have upgraded the feature massively. Pages of documentation. In essence they’ve implemented an iTunes interface for Nisus files with searching, arbitrary groups and “smart” groups.

It may not be exactly what you’re looking for but Nisus is a splendid word processor which integrates well with Scrivener.



Could you elaborate on your workflow between Nisus and Scrivener?


I assume Dave is referring to Nisus’s handling of RTF files. Nisus is one of the best RTF-based word processors out there. RTF is its default format, so it handles RTF files about as well as Word. And given that Scrivener’s best export format is RTF, this means that Nisus is one of the best word processors to use with Scrivener if you are handling images, headers, footnotes and so on. In that regard, it’s a much better alternative to Word than Pages.

All the best,

There’s a bunch of little apps like xPad. One you might find useful is myNotes. You might also look into VoodooPad Lite.


Actually, I already use the full version of VoodooPad, which next to Scrivener is probably my favourite Mac app. I use one big file to store copies of just about everything on my computer, and generally make great use of it. I tried the free version first and ran out of pages in my first session! But it doesn’t quite fill the niche. At the moment I’m experimenting to see whether Pages can do most of what I want. By enabling the preview and putting everything on separate pages I get some of what I was looking for, but not all, so any other ideas are still very welcome.



I use TextWrangler to open orphaned files, those created by WriteNow, DeskWrite and other defunct writing apps. (The hazard of experimenting with too many word-processors.) The files line up in a drawer window and you may delete the garbage characters, then save as .txt files. TW is not a word processor, but it does let you stash a series of files in a Binder-like pane and also edit them. And did I mention that it’s FREE?

That’s interesting. What does Apple use?

I’m sure it has an internal codename, but it isn’t something that is available to anyone but Apple. Of course, I’m referring to Pages here. Asking what they use is akin to asking what Word uses: it’s something they developed specifically for their word processor and they no doubt consider it a trade secret. Same goes for Pages on the iPad. It uses tricks nobody else can use.