The Best No-Nonsense Writing Tools for Mac OS X

As a journalist and writer, I spend a lot of time on my Macbook typing away at my keyboard. Over the past few years, I have discovered a few programs that really make writing an easier task on Mac OS X. They are the best of the best, and now I’m going to share them with you.

The perfect writing and editing tool is the one that stays out of your way to enable you to write, but can be taken advantage of with its extra functionality when necessary. This is what great software does: it enables you to focus on the problem at hand and only assists you in further accomplishing that specific task.

That is why I have compiled a list of Mac OS X applications that can help get the job done quickly, efficiently, and without any of the other BS that comes along with typical software. I have used all of these writing tools, and I am big believer in all of them. Still, each one has its advantages over the others.

So let’s jump right in.

Notational Velocity

Notational Velocity is the perfect solution if you crave a writing tool that has “minimalism” written all over it. It was intended as a note taking application, but it offers great power as a writing application as well.

Some of the features include instant saving — there is no concept of saving in this application, as it’s all stored on the fly. There is also a powerful search feature included that places emphasis on searching for documents instead of storing them in folders (somewhat like Google Chrome’s Omnibar). Finally, the program is incredibly minimalistic, and it is perfect for those of you who love to control things with the keyboard.

It can be yours for the incredible price of $0. That’s right, it’s free! You owe it to yourself to give it a shot.


WriteRoom is an old-time favorite of mine. It was, quite honestly, one of the first applications I ever downloaded and installed when I received my first Mac computer. I still use this application to this very day, and if that isn’t staying power, than I have no idea what is.

Its simplicity is unrivaled. When you start up the program, you are presented with a black screen with a green cursor that serves as the starting point to your writing. It is a distraction-free writing experience, as it forces you to focus on the task at hand, which is writing, without being able to fiddle around with background tasks.

WriteRoom licenses can be purchased for $24.99 each, but it is a steal considering what it offers. I simply can’t recommend it enough.


OmmWriter takes the concept of distraction-free writing a bit further. This application presents you with a few relaxing themes to help you with crafting your sentences. There are several soothing musical tunes to accompany the theme, subtle sounds for every keystroke, and eye-pleasing backgrounds that accompany the flow of your text. It’s truly an immersive experience.

You might think these things could prove somewhat distracting, but they don’t. In fact, I have found that these themes make me even more productive. It simply puts your mind in a state of relaxation where you tune out the outside world and can just be in the moment. It’s something that all writers can relate to at one point or another.

I only learned about this product about a month ago, but it is quickly becoming my favorite of the bunch, especially when I need to write content that doesn’t require a lot of back-and-forth (like switching to different applications, which can be somewhat time consuming). That said, this is the perfect solution for a truly Zen-like writing experience.

The best news of all is that it’s free! However, if you are willing to pay a few dollars — with no set limit, as it’s a pay-what-you-want kind of deal (with a $4.11 minimum) — you can unlock additional audio and visual experiences. The included themes, however, have always been more than enough for me.


TextMate is referred to as the greatest text editing tool on the Mac by many. Its power is in its customization. Admittedly, it might sound scary at first — especially with our focus on no-nonsense writing tools — but it really isn’t. TextMate can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. That is the true beauty with TextMate.

The interface is minimal, but it can be expanded upon to suit your own needs. There is tabbed navigation of documents, a sidebar navigation element, and even project support (for those incredibly long writing projects). And the customization is also there for those of you who have complex workflows, as there are plenty of add ons (referred to as “bundles”) that extend the application.

At one point in the past, I used TextMate for every single piece of writing, blogging, text editing, programming, and web developing that I ever did. Those days are behind me, but I still use TextMate for programming and web development. However, this application is so versatile that it is worth a look.

A single license for TextMate can be purchased for €39 ($56), but there is also a 30-day trial that should give you enough time to see if TextMate is right for you.


Scrivener is the last tool on this list, but it might just be the most powerful tool for those who are wishing to take their writing to the next level. It is a fairly complex application, especially when compared to everything else listed above. Its use would primarily favor those who write long-form content (e.g. novels, multi-page writing projects, and so on).

The power comes from what this application enables writers to do. It serves just as well for writing content as it is for managing, brainstorming, and editing it. There are special functions like a cork board for brainstorming, an outline view for managing the flow of content, and the ability to collect and manage notes, images, videos, web pages, and other documents for research purposes. There is also a full-screen mode, just like WriteRoom, for a distraction-free writing experience.

Scrivener can be purchased for $45 — which includes a free update for the soon-to-be-released Scrivener 2.0, which is also looking pretty impressive — and there is also a 30-day trial to test it out. It might not be the best solution for everyone, but for those who can truly put this product to good use, it is a must-own application.

Did we miss something? Be sure to leave us a comment and let us know applications you use to craft your own writings.