MS Office for Mac & Scrivener

I ran into the inevitable snag today - file compatibility and feature issues.

I sent my crit partner two chapters of a new WIP. I compiled the MS in Scriv, saved it to a .doc file, and emailed it from mac mail.

While she was able to open it on her PC, it gave her a message that the file couldn’t be saved. However, she found she could save it without issue. She made some comments in Word and sent it back to me. Of course, I don’t have anything other than text editor on the mac. I had to print out her comments and make changes within Scriv.

I’ve heard that for track changes, I should get Office 2008 Home & Student for Mac. My concerns:

  1. Does Word 2008 for Mac have the comments feature like its Windows counterpart?
  2. Any part of Office for Mac I should NOT install? Entourage?
  3. How will this affect my Mac overall (performance, stability, etc.)
  4. Does Scrivener have any issues with Office for Mac 2008 that I should be aware of?

Yeah, I’m a Mac newbie. Help, please? I have a PC with Office 2007 (I really hate the new PC version with a passion - all those tabs and stuff. Hard to find and do the simple things.) Sigh. For the PC, I like Office 2003 the best, but I digress…

Hi and welcome. If you search this forum for Office 2008, you will find many comments, most of them critical. My personal experience led me to these conclusions:

  1. don’t even attempt to run it on a PPC machine. Intel running Leopard is better, but Office is still a huge memory hog. It installs a zillion fonts, for example.

  2. Pages (iWork '08) is smaller, faster, neater. Pages opens DOC files. You may then save as Pages and export as DOC, RTF, Text, or PDF. Like Word, Pages also tracks changes. Others on the forum say Pages and Word users may exchange files and track the changes. (search for Track Changes)

  3. I have found that Apple Mail, Address Book, and iCal are superior to Entourage. They are also better integrated with the OS and its Services. And with .Mac, where you have a subscription.

Thanks, Druid! I did a search for track changes and all kinds of posts came up. I’m going through them now.

I’m not anti-PC, but I’d rather not spend the extra money if I don’t need to, nor do I want to put memory and disk intensive software on the Mac if it isn’t necessary.

As someone who works with a LOT of .doc(x) files, I wish I could agree with druid. I love Pages, Numbers, and the like, and they’re all I use if I’m writing something slightly concise. But unfortunately, in conjunction with Scrivener, they just come up short. Believe me, I long for the day when I can just wipe office from my system and go gleefully into the world Microsoft free.

Unfortunately, I can’t, and the reasons break down into two groups: global compatibility and local features.

As far as global compatibility goes, non-Microsoft programs are getting better every day…but it’s not perfect. If you ever have to run something written specifically for Excel or Word, you need…wait for it…Excel or Word. And most people have no idea the proper tools for page layout – I can’t count the number of times I get documents in which page placement is controlled mostly by spaces. For better or worse, nothing handles textboxing and page layout exactly like Word – and, unfortunately, it’s a Word World.

The question of local features is a more personal inquiry. Does anything you write in Scrivener ever have footnotes? Ever? Then Pages isn’t for you. Unfortunately, Apple’s RTF interpretation scheme doesn’t quite understand footnotes. As a law student, that makes Pages utterly useless as the production step for a document I prepped in Scrivener. If you’re not going to use footnotes, or you don’t need any of the more “advanced” features included in Word, then godspeed. Pages might be all you need.

As a final note, Office 2008 is FAR superior on my Macbook Pro to the previous version. If nothing else, it’s Universal, and so it runs about twice as fast. And yes, it installs a boatload of fonts, but, unfortunately, lots of people USE those fonts, so it never really hurts to have them around. But that’s just me – hard drive space is cheap, lost time is very expensive.

Oh, and for answers to your questions:

  1. Yes, Word 2008 has comments. But so, too, does Pages.
  2. I, too, find entourage useless. Apple Mail + Addressbook + iCal is enough. Everything else is fine.
  3. as a general proposition, single programs on Macs don’t effect global system stability (there are, of course, exceptions, but as a rule, it’s true).

I’ve found Office '08 to be a totally reasonable option, though it’s far from my first choice of applications. Here’s my hierarchy: if I don’t need footnotes, or I’m not going to use Scrivener, I use Pages. If I do, I use Nisus Writer Pro. And if I’m going to be passing around an original, I use Word 2008. It’s all about choosing the right tool for the job. Rest assured that Word, while a fairly SPECIFIC tool, is not an endemically bad one.

bhpascal, all good points–except about font overload. I may use footnotes, but never Syrian or Korean!
Most of my problems with Office 2008 came from running it on an old G5, where it was slow, slow, slow. I tried out iWork '08 and was pleasantly surprised. Today I just set up a new Intel Core 2 Duo, with 2 gb of RAM, so perhaps I’ll install Office 2008 to see if it runs any better.


Before going into Office/Pages etc, a tip:

Next time your crit partner uses the Word comments feature to make comments on your work, ask her to save out the Word file as RTF instead of .doc or .docx. All she has to do is use Word’s “Save As…” feature and choose “Rich Text Format” instead of the default option. (You could send her your files in this format, too, as Word opens them quite happily.) That way, when you import the .rtf file she has sent you into Scrivener, all of the comments will be imported as Scrivener annotations. Scrivener can read them from RTF files because it is an open format, but not from .doc files (which recently was made open, but is much more difficult). RTF supports pretty much everything you would need in a basic word processing document and can be opened by any version of Word.

As for Office/Pages/etc… Well, I have half-written a blog post on why to avoid Pages. The crux is this: Yes, Pages is beautiful and very nice to use. I own it myself. However… In their infinite wisdom, Apple decided to add full support for only three file formats: the .pages format and .doc and .docx. If you import or export using the Word formats in Pages, you get full support for images and footnotes etc (I’m not sure about comments). Which is fantastic if all you want to do is avoid using Word but still have to pass documents along to colleagues in Word format.

The trouble arises if you want to use Pages as part of a workflow with other programs instead of as a one-stop replacement for Word. For instance, I doubt you will find another single program out there that supports the .pages format. Apple have published the specs on their website, but it’s a one-off format very peculiar to Pages and may change at any time (as they say themselves). Moreover, Apple provides developers with importers/exporters to many other formats - RTF, RTFD, .doc, .docx, .odt etc - but none for Pages. So it is very difficult for programs that don’t have teams of developers at hand to provide an importer/exporter for Pages. Then there is the .doc and .docx formats… Both are proprietary. Both are now open formats, true. And Apple provides .doc and .docx importers/exporters to developers. However, the standard .doc and .docx importers/exporters that are made available to developers don’t support images, footnotes or comments - Apple have added this support to Pages only. The same limitations apply to RTF - but RTF is an open format and comparatively easy to modify, so I have been able to hack into Apple’s RTF importer/exporter to add support for images, footnotes, comments and headers/footers. It’s not really possible to do the same with the .doc format, as it is a binary format and thus much, much more difficult than modifying a plain text format such as RTF. .docx is XML-based but it is zipped up. I recently looked into hacking into the .docx exporter to see if I could add such features to that, but it is waaay more difficult. (For instance, once you unzip the contents of a .docx file and then rezip it on a Mac, Word no longer recognises it as a valid file.)

All of which means that pretty much the only programs that can create documents which Pages will open with images and footnotes intact are… Pages and Word. Apple could easily have fixed this by improving Pages’ RTF support. Had they added support for footnotes, comments and images to the Pages RTF importer/exporter - something that would probably have taken their coders less than a day, and these are features that have been part of the RTF format for over a decade - then Pages would have been able to integrate with just about any other word processor out there, on Windows or the Mac. Instead, this means that Pages is only useful to users who wish to replace Word and who use Word exclusively to generate all stages of their documents. (Grr… Why didn’t Apple add better support for .odt, Open Office, as well as Word?)

I own Office 2008. And I like Word 2008 much better than previous versions. It runs fine on an Intel Mac.

But if you really want to avoid Word and still be able to open comments, footnotes and suchlike, I would recommend Nisus Writer Pro. The next update is going to be awesome. It still doesn’t support track changes as far as I know, but it is much superior to Pages in my opinion.

All the best,

I sent feedback to Apple and linked to this thread. Hope others will do the same.


Thanks, everyone. Great info.

I’m working on a Mac Powerbook pro. Also on my network are 2 PCs. One has Office 2000 (and the machine is slower than roadkill), and the other has Office 2007 (which I can’t stand). Both machines are desktops and are located in our basement - which is also where my mother-in-law now lives. She likes to keep the temp one degree short of inferno. Makes it miserable to be down there any length of time. Okay, stop laughing…

What I need is the means to send and work with 2 crit partners who own PCs. Time is valuable, so I don’t want to spend a ton of time converting stuff and running up and down the stairs, or… sweating it out in the basement.

I write fiction. I don’t need footnotes and such, but I do suppose compatibility is a big issue since at some point, I’m hoping for an agent and eventually an editor. This means I’ll need to consider compatibility and I’m sure it’s still primarily a PC world in the publishing biz. I know I can change the default setting on Word 2007 to save as 97-2003 format. Already done that. I’m not concerned about presentations or spreadsheets in the least as I don’t exchange those files.

So, MS Office or iWork or something else for the Mac? Please help keep me out of the sweltering basement as much as possible. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve been writing for various magazines for the latest twenty years or so, and have used a variety of wordprocessors, with not a single hint of compatibility issue (apart for one I will tell later). Either I was using Microsoft Write, WriteNow, FullWrite, WordPerfect, MacWrite, Mellel or Nisus Writer Pro, I’ve always sent my editors and publishers an RTF file, illustrations as separate files, captions in a different file than the main article and with references to the illustration files.

Commenting and tracking changes have always been made by using different colors for each type of editing/revision. Works great, is easy to understand, and exchanges wonderfully between different applications.

As anticipated, I once had a problem when exchanging text. When at the university, I was earning money by typing theses for an agency. I used Microsoft Write on an Atari ST, then Word 3 or 4 on a Mac; the agency used Word 5 on DOS. The only issue I had was a page break that refused to be removed in a document in Word 5. But it was mainly a problem with the agency owner not being very skilled with this kind of things; I could solve this only problem in five minutes, and in the dense fog of an early morning.

So, no, compatibility has never been an issue for me in the publishing world, in particular after I stopped using Word.


NeoOffice supports comments doesn’t it?

NeoOffice is supposed to support comments and change tracking. However, I’ve just been working with a student friend helping her with her thesis, written in Windows Office and with change tracking and comments inserted by her supervisor in Word for Windows … both Chinese version Office 2003, I believe.

Nisus Writer Pro wouldn’t open it because of the change-tracking … the AbiWord interpreter they use chokes on that. NeoOffice would open it, but paragraphs with tracked changes lost their margins, spaced out like stars in the sky going way over the page boundaries. It also doesn’t like the fact that I have a trial of the that I’ve been having a look at!

Interestingly the only app that would open the file correctly … well, problems with one or two graphics aside … was Pages '08. First time I’ve used Pages for anything serious, and it saved our bacon this p.m.

My only contact with Microsoft itself is that I have to have an MSN account, though I access it with Adium.


Public beta just released. Can be downloaded from Faster and more beautiful than ever.


Now that it’s public, I can say that the 1.1 version of Nisus is looking very nice. The comments and footnotes work very well with Scrivener. I’ve been testing the next update of Scrivener a lot against the Nisus 1.1 betas to make sure that everything is compatible, and Nisus and Word are pretty much equal in their interpretation of RTF files exported from Scrivener with headers and footers, footnotes and comments. You can also change the background colours in Nisus if you want to get the same “look” as Pages, with the pale blue bar for the comments and the dark grey for the page background colour.

Not to mention the fact that Martin, one of the devs, has helped me out a lot and is an incredibly cool guy. Nice guys + good product = I’d go for Nisus as a word replacement.


Will it do track changes with Word, though? Serious question, I’d love to ditch Word just like everyone else, but being able to pass track changes back and forth with someone else using Word is the killer…

No, it won’t and as I said in my posting just above, the AbiWord converter, which is the basic engine for converting .doc binaries into RTF, seems to choke on documents that contain tracked changes. It is possible of course that this only happens where the files have been produced with the Chinese edition of Office, running under Chinese Windows, but those are the only documents I get to work with at the moment.

But I concur with Keith as to the continuing improvement of NW§ as a tool, as well as on Martin and the other guys at Nisus being really helpful, nice people. And NWP is definitely the word-processor of choice for me.


PS I would use Pages if I wanted to track changes, but when I tried to do it on a translation I was editing for someone, by the time I reached the end of the third line, the change-tracking notes stretched down the whole page! So I have to use end-notes or footnotes … :frowning:

I have track changes in FrameMaker, and admit that I must usually rework everything manually, since constant tracking ends up with changes very hard to understand.

When working on requirements specifications, I usually exchange documents with others in either OpenOffice or Word format. We ended up using the manual text coloring function to mark only major changes; minor changes, that are immediatelòy made after briefings, are not colored, to avoid excessive confusion.

The use of highlighters might be an even more elegant solution, and it seems to me that they are exchanged very well between different word processors (for example, between NeoOffice, Nisus Writer and Scrivener).

I would love to hear how automatic track changes are used by others, to see if I can make use of them, of should better continue with manual marking.


Paolo -

I’m with you. I loathe track changes; it’s not at all intelligent and makes as much fuss about a bit of grammatical restructuring as it does over completely changing the point and argument. More, often. And it looks an incomprehensible mess, too.

Sadly my corporate clients are addicted to it.

Like you, I prefer highlighting the bit I’ve changed, and then I explain why in an accompanying email.

There’s also the issue of who gets to see what metadata with tracking changes and comments. A few years ago various UK journalists managed to suss out the amends made as a government press release circulated and cleared in a department. They’d had it sent to them as a Word document and they did some burrowing in its history.

For the record, I don’t like using track changes either. But some clients/editors/publishers insist on using it, so use it I must… :frowning:

On a side-note: A couple of things that have come up in this thread - especially ptram’s post - have prompted me to add a “Revision Mode” to the next update of Scrivener. This is nothing very fancy… You just set five revision colours in the preferences (first revision up to fifth revision), then choose the mode from Text > Revision Mode. Whenever you type, the text takes on the colour set for that revision mode (first through to fifth) in the Preferences. In other words, it just saves you having to change the text colour constantly.

Normal programming now resumes…


Keith - this is most, most welcome. I don’t even remember how I was ever able to write on my Mac before Scrivener. I only open my Word processor now when I have to touch up the very final product for submission to editors who insist on Word/RTF…