Typesetting Software

Hey folks,

I’ve been using Scrivener in the law school context for quite a while now, and it has been a GODSEND. Between importing cases into research, extracting quotations and keywording for quick reference, and the lovely exporting features, I’m in writing nerd heaven.

But here’s the question, and I know it’s been addressed tangentially in other threads – I’m looking for some opinions on typesetting software. I’ve been using Apple’s Pages, which is okay, I guess, if somewhat limited. I saw some references to Mellel, which I tried but never got past the interface. Like all good Mac users, I hate Word with the fires of a thousand suns.

So, I guess what I’m asking for is some opinions on what my options are, and what y’all suggest. Should I give Mellel another shot? Is Pages perfectly good, and I should jus deal? Is there some well-hidden gem out there that I just don’t know about?

Thanks in advance for the help,


I’d give NeoOffice a try. It’s pretty feature-rich, and it’s free.

If you’re not worried about price, you might want to consider Nisus Writer, too. I tried the demo and liked it, but not enough to pay for it.

I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Mellel, but I’ve never actually tried it.

As far as Mellel’s interface is concerned, I just hate the default brushed metal look. But you can set it to have the standard soft grey Aqua look via the Preferences. Whenever I install Mellel (I’ve upgraded machines quite a lot over the past year or so…), I always set the interface to Aqua.

However, you may want to postpone your decision until Nisus Writer Pro comes out. Nisus Writer Express is nice, but Pro is very nice (I’m on the beta team, but NDA means I can say no more than it is a good step up). Plus, the Nisus developers are very helpful.



Not actually talking about the Brushed Metal look, but more about the overwhelming pallette of inspector panes, the varying styles over characters and over paragraphs, etc. It just seemed…inelegant to me.

But is it worth beating my way through the interface to the delicious effective center underneath?


Well, I was in law school long before Mellel and Scriv even existed, so I can’t really apply this advice to current practices there. But as much as I loved Mellel’s outlining and several of its other features, I, too, had trouble getting past the clunky (IMHO) styles handling and a few other quirks. I almost never have to print anything anymore, so for my post-Scrivener formatting, I’m pretty happy with plain ol’ TextEdit or the freeware iText Express, which adds some page formatting and a few other features to TextEdit. On the rare occasions I’ve needed more than that, I’ve used NeoOffice, even though I have Word X. I’ve never used Pages but I’ve read that the next version will be a serious improvement, so it might be worth waiting a few weeks (months?) for that. If you’re writing a law review article with copious quantities of footnotes, I still haven’t come across anything that handled footnotes better than Mellel, though.

Do you mean word processing or typesetting typesetting? I ask because Adobe’s CS3 Indesign will be out in a while and it can handle most typesetting tasks.

I’m talking more about something less formal than InDesign, but more formal than plain ol’ TextEdit.


If you really mean typesetting, I would recommend LaTeX as a professional typesetting system. Via MultiMarkdown you can export your Scrivener draft to LaTeX-format.


I too couldn’t get past the Mellel interface … that is to say, I think I could and would have done if it hadn’t been for one issue that really affected me, that Mellel couldn’t import .docs in Chinese, which is essential to me. The other thing that I’m not keen on with Mellel – and this goes for Pages too – is that it has a private native file format. Whatever everyone may think about RTF, having that as the native file format, as Nisus does, removes one more hurdle from the document exchange process.
So I’ve been with NWE since before it was Nisus. I’ve always felt really at home with the interface, and while I’ve had to be patient while the feature set has built up, to me it has been worth it.
I too am on the Beta team for NWPro, and the same goes for me with the NDA, but today Nisus announced the public beta, so perhaps people might like to download it and have a look. There will still be problems … a huge raft of features has been added and it is a beta.
As for the price, NWExpress will apparently still exist, though Nisus have dropped the price, and my guess … and it’s only a guess … is that NWPro will come in at or near the price they used to charge for Express. I was willing to pay that and I think it has been worth it. When NWPro is finally released, if it is at that price point, I think it will definitely be worth it. And as Keith says, the guys at Nisus are really responsive and helpful.
Mellel is cheaper, so if it works for you, great. Pages … well you have to pay a heftier price 'cos you get Keynote along for the ride; if the rumours are true about a spreadsheet app in the next version of iWork, then it will presumably be even more pricey.
NeoOffice is free, but it’s a bit slow, being written in Java, and you have to put up with a rather non-Mac-like interface. I need it for various emergency situations, but don’t particularly like using it. I also regularly use InDesign (CS1) which I like very much and am wondering about upgrading to CS3. In point of fact, for anything I’m going to print or turn into a PDF for my students, I import what I’ve produced in NWE, or lately in Scrivener, and do it in that as it gives me total control over layout … except for footnotes/endnotes --I have to use my own work-around – which would be a good reason for upgrading to CS3 if it handles them.

Mark in China.

Well, I finally went and tried Mellel out, and I quite liked it. I’m just not seeing what the problem with the interface is; it seemed perfectly straightforward to me.

Having also just tried out the Nisus Writer Pro public beta, I have to say that, while I like both, I think I prefer Mellel.

Still don’t think I’ll end up buying it, though. I just don’t spend enough time in word processors now that I have Scrivener to justify any expense for one.

Good thing I discovered Scrivener before Mellel, or I may have ended up spending money for both. :slight_smile:

Brett mentioned above iText Express, which is FREE. It replaces Text Edit and offers many formatting features: header, footer, foot or end notes, etc. You may save files in RTF, DOC, HTML, or XML formats. I’ve used it for two weeks to write reports and letters. Easier and faster than Word. And it’s FREE. members.aol.com/iText/iTextExpre … xtExp.html

Hi Khadrelt,

I’m curious about why you like Mellel more. I am checking out NWP and like what I see. It does indexing and cross referencing and has other features Mellel doesn’t yet have and it’s a breeze to use. My only doubt concerns the outlining features, which I love in Mellel. But I also need Word compatibility (with readers and editors), and Nisus seems to do a better job there. I waste time having to make formatting changes when going from Mellel to Word.

But I’d be interested in your thoughts on the two programs. Thanks!


It’s hard to say, really. Just the feeling I get when I start using them both. With Mellel it was ‘hey, this feels comfortable, I get it!’ While I liked Nisus, too, it just didn’t jive with me quite as well.

Of course, I’m hardly a word processor power-user. I never use tables (perhaps a lingering phobia from bad experiences with them in Word…?) and I never use a TOC, lists, cross-referencing, or anything like that. Which is the exact reason I don’t buy word processors anymore, since there are free ones floating around out that that will suit my needs just fine. About the most complicated thing I need is header/footer formatting and page numbering.

I just tried iText Express a little, too, and it seemed to be a pretty nice little program.

So in a nutshell, I just felt more comfortable perusing Mellel than Nisus (though I’m not saying Nisus wasn’t comfortable, because it was, very much so). If I ever got into the more advanced features of both, my opinion could change.

Plus, unlike Keith, I love the brushed-metal look. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the prompt reply! I use iText Express for all my light wp needs and it works well. My need for a more powerful wp will hopefully be less now that my thesis is complete. But I do anticipate needing one at some point again so I’m not crazy about Mellel. It doesn’t jive with me as it does with you, thus I keep looking!

Thanks again,


Hi Alexandria,

Given that you’ve tried a little of Nissus Pro (I have a copy of Nissus Epxress,
but rarely use it), can you tell me if it might address the track changes issue
that I raised in the forum a few days ago. My publisher is dedicated to Word
and its Track Changes functionality. Can the new NWP handle this?




Someone else can probably better answer this. But as far as I could see, no, NWP doesn’t have the kind of Track Changes function Word has. I haven’t seen anything to match what Word offers in this regard in any other word processor.

I would like to find one, however. I really don’t like Word. It annoys the heck out of me every time I use it. I haven’t really found the word processor that truly works for me, that I feel comfortable working in. Even for just the final stages of a project, since I’ll be doing the bulk of my writing in Scr.!


Thanks Alexandria. Maybe one day… :unamused:

In a word, no. Whether that will be added as it develops, I have no idea. There has been extensive discussion on the various Nisus forums, but I don’t remember Martin or Mark from Nisus commenting on any implementation plans.

Although the initial effort to learn the language may seem daunting, and the idea that markup code should be needed to control document design is almost totally shunned in a WYSIWY(occasionally)G world, the capabilities of LaTeX to handle the issues you are presenting far surpasses anything else that exists.

It even does beautifully at typesetting in Chinese!

I suggest looking at these Web sites …



ctan.org/tex-archive/info/ls … lshort.pdf


This is probably worth a look if you are laying out pages.


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