Are new Macs missing a word processor?

by Giles Turnbull

There was an interesting thread over on the Macintel mailing list last week, in which members discussed the presence, or lack of, a word processor on the latest line of Mac computers.

The point was made that other than TextEdit, there's no supplied word processor on a new Intel Mac. You do get trial versions of Office:mac and iWork, but if you want to keep them, you need to pay more. Appleworks, while still available for download if you want to pay the money for it, is no longer one of the bundled applications.

So the question was: should Apple be doing this? Is TextEdit enough? I'm inclined to think that it is, but I'm interested to hear what Mac Devcenter readers think.

TextEdit is very basic as far as word processors go, but for the majority of simple tasks done by the majority of consumer-level users, it is sufficient. With TextEdit you can write letters, novels, school papers, ReadMe files, lists; most stuff that most people need, most of the time. And thanks to the OS X smarts, exporting to PDF is a neat little feature that even owners of Word on Windows have to pay extra for.

As we have seen with recent product releases from Apple, its policy these days is to provide decent basics and charge for the extras. Just as modems have become an optional extra now, so has a full-feature word processor. Apple's basic offering is TextEdit and for most people, it will do the job just fine. If you want something with more oomph, you can pay for iWork and use Pages.

Right now, NeoOffice does not run on Intel Macs, but it seems there are recent builds of that do that do. I'm not sure of the current status of AbiWord, it's been a long time since I used it. Nisus Writer Express is now a Universal Binary, and apparently Mellel's next release will be one too.


Ron Bannon
2006-03-06 14:13:19
I know this won't be an answer for all, but I think TexShop is a possible solution, at least for those who need to create long documents. Best of all, it's free and has a very nice community of users to help.

Andrew Witte
2006-03-06 14:55:47
The only problem I see with TextEdit is that people are liable to dismiss it as being to Mac OS X what Notepad is to Windows. The main hurdle is convincing people that "the built-in text editor" is actually a fairly capable word processor. Otherwise, I think it's ideal for the word-processing needs of 90% of home users.
2006-03-06 15:23:28
If TextEdit could do tables and endnotes, I wouldn't need NeoOffice/J at all. Then again, I would wager that 2/3rds of Mac users would agree that if TextEdit could do X, Y and Z; I wouldn't need a real Word processor. The problem being that combination of XYZ is unique for each user.
2006-03-06 16:08:25
Well ther's always nano, vi, pine and emacs! ;)

TextEdit also lets you make tables (Under format - Text - Tables), drag and drop images, lists, hyperlink text, user set tabs, Page command inserts, ie line, page break. and page numbering.
The font control is in par with inDesign. It can save to PDF, RTF, HTML, Word and Word XML.

My 2รง is that TextEdit is just as usefull as the word processing portion of AppleWorks. (for my needs)


Geoff Hutchison
2006-03-06 16:11:08
TextEdit actually does do tables.

But I'd still like to see Apple bundle iWork into all new Macs. For education users, iWork comes in at ~$49, which seems to be a pretty reasonable amount. But iLife is also a commercial product and included for free with every new Mac.

So why the difference? Keynote isn't necessarily needed by all home users, but if my mom had Pages, she'd be able to whip off flyers and newsletters in nothing flat. As it stands, she has an ancient version of AppleWorks, which certainly isn't a universal binary.

I think a big advantage of iWork is that it's much more obvious that it does tables, columns, TOC, endnotes/footnotes, etc. It also handles typical page layout with ease. (Try that with TextEdit!)

Come on Apple, throw in a full version of iWork!

J. Patrick Greer
2006-03-06 16:11:36
Windows comes with two text editors by default, Notepad and WordPad (which is like a MS Word lite). I use both platforms and I can tell you TextEdit is a lot more powerful in terms of features and usability.
Roger Weeks
2006-03-06 16:53:35
If you want to consider third-party tools, what about TextWrangler? It's a Universal Binary and it has most, but not all of the features of BBEdit, and it kicks ass seven ways from Tuesday over TextEdit.
2006-03-06 19:33:30
Does anything besides Word handle a bibliography as well as EndNote (or any other reference utility)/Word combo?
2006-03-06 19:35:45
GNU troff (groff) is built into every version of MacOSX out there, and beats any graphical tool in terms of power and speed (even FrameMaker, which is stuck in Classic and orphaned anyway). Granted, on 10.2 you really need to recompile it because of a gcc glitch, and I'm not sure about 10.3, but what comes with 10.4 is good to go out of the box.

If you want something more narrative than the manpages, try Unix Text Processing for starters.

Kody Bryson
2006-03-06 19:45:17
I find Appleworks to be so annoying. I hate that some of my family members use it and then ask me advice. I'm like, "I don't know, that thing is from that 80's practically! Didn't the Pet Shop Boys write that?"

Pages is truly a great program. I mean it really is and it's my favorite layout/word processing program ever. However, to be honest, TextEdit is probably fine for the rest of my family. They're smart enough people, but not as into computers. I'd rather they used TextEdit than Appleworks because it has less features to confuse them, which means less questions to me. If they got serious, then I'd say buy iWork. But they won't.

I imagine a few people will miss Appleworks, but I mean really, I don't think anyone with any interest in computers would use it. Yuck.

Robert Jung
2006-03-06 20:45:53
I'm actually less concerned about the absence of a "real" word processor and more concerned about the lack of any kind of spreadsheet. Having to cough up for either Office or iWork just to get rudimentary number-crunching seems like a minor crime to me...


2006-03-06 20:57:07

1) Why can't Apple make TextEdit do adjustable margins? I mean 1" margins, come on!

b) Can 'Pages' make a document of hundreds of pages? Like a manuscript?

iii) AppleWorks WP won't handle unicode fonts - like 'Apple Symbols'. Only Cocoa apps do. D'oh!

4) If Apple drops AWorks, what do we do for light paint, draw, and DB apps? 'Cuz there's no way in hell I'm getting Office. That's like driving your only child to school in an 84 seat school bus.

2006-03-07 00:17:41
I'd agree that TextEdit is rather 'undersold' by it's name - it does about 90% of what I see most people using a WP for. Could really do with a rename to something like 'TextLite' or even iPage (to imply it is the iApp for editing). Preview is another application that can do a lot more than most people know.
Between the two of them you can cut and paste stuff from a bunch of PDF files to produce a new PDF, which is handy functionality.

I kind of wonder if they are not promoting it too much, so as not to eat into iWork or Office sales?

One thing I think would be good would be a friendly Apple provided interface for package management for O/S OS X apps - a bit like Port Control or package managers on Linux systems but MUCH more consumer friendly - restricted to 'Apple approved' OS X specific projects (NeoOffice rather than OpenOffice) and linked into the standard Software Update - Apple already have much of the information on their website but you need to look for it.

2006-03-07 00:25:19
Moctod - there's plenty of open source alternatives, many of which are available in OS/X flavors, and are certainly better than AppleWorks. Apple can't distribute many of them WITH the machine but they can link to them from their website. It is a shame they're not providing the most basic set.

(Office on the Mac really isn't that bad - it's more Cocoa than a lot of cross-platform apps).

2006-03-07 04:09:45
Textedit is good enough for me 99 times out of 100. But I have to say, it's only because of what OSX offers. Spelling, dictionary, typograpgy, PDF... This list is quite long. Most of these practical features cost extra using other systems. But like sal said (3. comment to this article), it's the combination of features that make or break this deal and these combinations are unique.
2006-03-07 06:31:01

I only crack open AppleWorks when I need columns. Otherwise, I use TextWrangler for "text only" and powerful find and replace needs, and I use TextEdit for all "formatted" text needs. My only gripe (besides columns) is the margin issue mentioned earlier.

I followed the instructions at the bottom of this MacOSX Hint to build a version of TextEdit with margin control. Works great. Tables would be nice, but I am working with 10.3, so they aren't available to me yet.

2006-03-07 06:33:00
For an alternative to MS-Word on Mac(intel or powerpc), you can consider It is a good online/offline office suite compatible with MS-Office.
Ryan M
2006-03-07 12:25:36
I think there should be a more full-featured word processor on each Mac. Yes, TextEdit isn't given the credit it should receive, but the Appleworks Suite can do far more than TextEdit alone. I think that the presence of this functionality gives switchers more reason to switch. I've had to work with two individuals who have switched in the last year, and they had to dig around for suitable alternatives, none of which were nice, neat solutions (web based apps, shareware, etc.), at least not as nice and neat as an already installed and integrated suite.
My tuppence
2006-03-07 13:41:08
I reckon TextEdit is a starting point.

Everyone will likely add something extra, either business (read Office), sysadmin (emacs, pico, etc.), home (Office or iWork), and there's a plethora of shareware/open source options.

So leave it to the individual, but i object to paying extra (nothing's free!) for something i don't need.

2006-03-07 15:37:50
My first thought wasn't so much "What do I use if Appleworks is gone?", but more that Classic and Carbon need to go away. Personally, I'm a vi fan.
2006-03-08 09:35:14
Appleworks is obviously a lot more than a word processor. Last month I needed a simple database for a child's book reports -- AW was right there for me. But how does AW run on Intel? I wonder what I'll do next year when I buy a mac intel....
2006-03-08 18:38:53
AppleWorks simply sucks. It was more trouble at times than it was worth. Good riddance to it. HOWEVER, with its riddance leaves those of us who do more than just word processing (e.g., spreadsheets, draw, etc.) via any tool, this is / may be a travesty.

I LOVE my Macs (5 in various shapes, styles, and flavors), but I'm just a tad tired of Apple's aloofness and most assuming (that all will work out just fine - 'trust' me) posture toward its users. They are lousy pretenders of customer feelings. Most of us shell out horns of plenty to help Apple keep a measly 5% (give or take a percentage point or two on any given day) of the market.

As for text writers / editors, the few third party ones that I've tried work reasonably well, but just not up to the speed that those who possess Mac should have or expect,

2006-03-27 22:01:11
I stronly second the opinion that TextWrangler is the best free text editor. Barebones Software provides everything needed. Need more? Omni Outliner and Apple's Pages (neither is expensive) do the rest. Spreadsheet? Use Omni Outliner columns, or the appropriate version of openoffice/neooffice Calc spreadsheet. What more could one want, and mostly free.