Best Mac word processor 2017


Long ago, Mac users arguably got the short end of the stick when it came to word processing software, but now they have access to office software that’s just as good – if not better – that its Windows equivalents.

From Apple Pages and Microsoft Office down to free tools like LibreOffice and even dedicated scriptwriting software, there’s something for everyone.

Word 2016

Word 2016Price: £59.99 per year / £5.99 per month as part of Office 365 Personal
Download now: Microsoft Store

Mac users have had a difficult relationship with Word over the years. For much of the last two decades it’s felt very much like the poor relation to the Windows version. Word for Mac 2016, however, is different. It takes many of the best features of the Windows version, but it’s very much a modern Mac app.

So, Word has support for the Mac’s full-screen mode introduced in Yosemite, as well as support for Retina displays and multi-touch gestures such as pinching and unpinching to zoom out and back in again. A new Design tab allows you to choose a theme, style set and colour palette for your document. The new Smart Look Up feature allows you to select a term in a document, click on Smart Look Up in the Review tab, and access information about the term from the web. There’s also a Resume Reading feature that auto-bookmarks your reading position in a document and takes you back there when you re-open it. And threaded comments allow you to reply to comments in documents.

Best of all, though, is the integration with Microsoft’s online Office 365, which makes it trivial to work on documents in the iOS version of Word or in a web browser.

iA Writer

iA WriterPrice: £9.99
Download now: Mac App Store

If you prefer the minimalist approach to writing, there are no shortage of apps on the Mac App Store from which to choose. iA Writer was one of the first and remains among the very best.

Its flagship feature is Focus mode, a way of writing that scrolls the text as you write so the sentence you’re working on is always at the centre of the screen and greys out everything except the passage you’re writing. In the most recent version, Focus mode has been expanded to include the whole paragraph on which you’re working.

Like other minimalist writing apps, iA Writer supports Markdown, allowing you to format text by typing characters rather than selecting from a menu. It also supports Markdown’s LiveParse mode, meaning you can write in plain text with Markdown markup on the left of the screen and see the formatted text in one of three templates on the right. iA Writer will also colour-code verbs, adverbs, nouns, adjectives and conjunctions, making them easy to spot and, if necessary, tweak.

There’s a document library too, and the app hooks into both WordPress and Medium. So you can write a post in iA Writer on your Mac and have it uploaded as a draft to your WordPress blog or Medium account.


BywordPrice: £11.99
Download now: Mac App Store

Another distraction-free writing tool, Byword’s Markdown support includes footnotes, tables and cross-references.

Byword also has extensive support for key features such as Split View, Handoff and full-screen mode. And you can use iCloud drive to sync your documents with Byword’s iOS app. And it has a typewriter mode that scrolls text as you write, keeping the passage you’re working on in the middle of the screen.

Spend £2.99 on the one-time in-app purchase and you can publish directly to Medium, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and Evernote.

There’s very little to choose between Byword and iA Writer, though Byword costs slightly more and requires an in-app purchase to enable blog publishing. That publishing add-on, however, supports more platforms than iA Writer. In the end, the choice between the two is very much one of personal preference.

LibreOffice Writer

LibreOffice WriterPrice: Free
Download now: Mac App Store

LibreOffice is a free office suite which has many of the features of Microsoft’s offering. Writer, as the name suggests, is its word-processing element, and very good it is too. Importantly, it has full support for .doc and .docx files, so you can open those and work on them without a problem.

Wizards allow you to quickly set up memos, letters and even mail-merge documents and there are all the styling and formatting tools you would expect. An auto-complete feature makes suggestions as you type, though this may not be for everyone.

There are tools to create tables of contents and indexes for longer documents and a template centre on the LibreOffice website has lots of document templates you can download and use. There are also downloadable extensions that add features to Writer.

LibreOffice lacks the polish of Office 2016 and doesn’t have the same features to allow you to easily work on documents on an iOS device as well as your Mac. But as a free tool that supports multiple formats and covers all the basics, it’s excellent.

Google Docs

Google DocsPrice: Free
Download now: Google Docs

Google pioneered the web-based app method of working, but Docs has been around so long, many of us have forgotten it’s even there.

It’s a decent option for working on documents on your own – its main benefit being that you can work on them wherever you’re logged into your Google account, be it on your own Mac, an iOS device, or anywhere you have access to a web browser. But it really comes into its own as a collaborative tool. Multiple users can work on a shared document simultaneously (but only if they’ve been given permission to do so by the document creator).

Unlike, say, Office 365, Google Docs allows you to see changes others make to the document in real time and colour-coded user IDs make it easy to see who’s made the changes.

It’s not a tool we’d choose for writing a novel or a screenplay, but as a means of sharing ideas, drawing up lists, or sharing text used by multiple members of a team – say, boilerplate copy for stories on a website, or posts on a blog – it’s excellent, especially as keeping that copy up to date is so easy.


PagesPrice: Free
Download now: Mac App Store

Apple’s Pages has always been as much about making your documents look great as it has been about providing you with great writing tools. The latest version, however, is a very competent writing application indeed.

And the best news is, it’s now free.

As well as support for the latest macOS technologies such as Split View, Voice Over and Force Touch on the MacBook and Magic Trackpad, Pages makes switching between macOS and iOS as easy as it could be. The use of iCloud as storage for documents means you can work on them wherever you have a Mac, iOS device or access to a web browser. But what sets Pages apart from Word 2016 is its support for Handoff, meaning you don’t have to save and close a document on one device before moving to another.

While there have been many additions to Pages in recent versions, one thing that hasn’t changed is the best-in-class templates for creating documents easily. Placeholders make it easy to add images from the Photos app, or anywhere else on your Mac, and if you’re not happy with the colours or fonts used in a template, you can change those too.

Pages isn’t the tool to choose for long documents such as a novel or research paper, but for letters, memos, flyers and even posters it’s excellent.


ScrivenerPrice: £43.99
Download now: Mac App Store

Scrivener has an army of fans who use it to write everything from blog posts to full-length novels and screenplays. And it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.

For a start there are numerous templates for novels, short stories, various screenplays (including standard formats for BBC Radio and BBC Taped Drama), non-fiction documents and even poetry.

Each document has a library for documents and their sub-documents, all of which can be colour-coded and kept in folders if you want. There’s also a library for research notes. And Scrivener’s split-screen mode allows you to have the document you’re working on on one half of the screen with your research notes above or below. The corkboard view allows you to see how documents and sub-documents relate to each other and, if you prefer, a separate viewing mode organises them in outline form.

You can create a synopsis for documents which is stored with the document, as well as adding keywords and other metadata. Another panel allows you to add references and another makes it straightforward to take a snapshot of a document and roll back to it later, if you want.

Once you’re ready, the Compile feature makes it easy to pull all the documents and sub-documents in a project together ready for printing or export. There’s still no iOS version, sadly. But you can sync projects by storing them in a folder on a service like Dropbox and working on them from there.


UlyssesPrice: £26.99 per year
Download now: Mac App Store

If Scrivener is overkill for your writing needs, Ulysses offers a simpler option. It combines elements of iA Writer, such as Markdown support and distraction-free writing, with a document library similar to that in Scrivener. And it has an iOS app, so you can swap easily between iOS and macOS when you’re working on a document.

Whereas in Scrivener, you create a new document for each project you’re working on, Ulysses works slightly differently. Its interface looks a little like macOS’s Finder and, like the Finder, it provides access to all your documents – but from within the app.

There are light and dark modes and you can customise, for example, colour palettes. Ulysses has a typewriter scrolling mode similar to those in Byword and iA Writer, and also has a split-screen view like the one in Scrivener.

You won’t find the same templates for scripts and novels, nor many of the useful tools Scrivener has for organising and structuring long documents. But for shorter writing projects, Ulysses is ideal.


BlogoPrice: Free
Download now: Mac App Store

For many years, MarsEdit was the go-to application if you wanted to draft blog posts on your Mac and upload them directly. But Blogo, which appeared a couple of years ago, has been making inroads and has the benefit of looking and feeling more like a modern Mac application. It’s available for iOS as well as macOS and even supports Handoff.

You can use Blogo with self-hosted or blogs, as well as with Medium and Blogger. It supports Markdown for writing and editing, but you can also work in rich text. If you prefer, however, you can use the inline HTML mode instead.

There’s a basic image editor built in and the Preview allows you to see how your post will look when you post it to your blog. You can schedule posts and a browser extension makes it easy to add web content posts.

The basic version, which is all that many users will need, is free. A subscription-based Pro version is also available, and that adds support for multiple blogs and features like syncing drafts with Evernote and moderating comments.


SluglinePrice: £38.99
Download now: Mac App Store

The Mac has been blessed with several good screenwriting apps, but the default choice has always been Final Draft. But while it’s beloved of Hollywood scriptwriters, the £169.99 Final Draft is a hefty investment for us mortals who dream of being the next Steven Moffat or Jennifer Lee. Step forward, Slugline.

At a fifth of the price of Final Draft, Slugline has plenty to offer. It’s heavily focused on typing and using the keyboard, rather than mouse, to format for your script. So, for example, type a character’s name and it’s displayed in all caps, and the script formatted for dialogue. Start a new scene by typing INT. or EXT. and Slugline knows you’re about to write action.

Formatting is also done from the keyboard – one asterisk either side italicises text, two and the text is made bold. You can add notes to scripts, create outlines as you go, and hide, rather than delete, chunks of copy.

Slugline documents are saved as plain text so you can work on them on a text editor on any platform. And when you’re ready to export, you create a PDF ready to be shared or printed.