Apple Silicon and Nisus Writer

Some customers have asked whether or not the new Macs with Apple Silicon will improve their Nisus Writer writing experience. The short answer is yes! Apple’s new M1 chip is really fast and Nisus Writer has native support for M1 that will definitely reduce wait times.

Let’s take a look at some firm numbers to see what you can expect. The following benchmarks were collected by comparing two humble Mac Minis:

Intel i5: 2018 Mac Mini, 16GB RAM, SSD
Apple M1: 2020 Mac Mini, 16GB RAM, SSD

Those Macs were tested using two large Nisus Writer documents. One is our Nisus Writer Macro language reference guide, and the other is our Nisus Writer Pro full user guide. Both are relatively complex documents using features like tables, bookmarks, cross-references, etc.

Now for the fun part. Let’s have the Intel and M1 Macs fight it out to see who is faster 🤓

The above graph is for our macro guide which contains 54K words, over 145 pages, with a 330K compressed file size. The results are clear: the M1 is about twice as fast as Intel. That’s awesome!

Let’s try the same common operations using our full user guide:

That’s also nearly a 2x speed improvement for the larger file which contains 227K words, over 770 pages, with a 90MB compressed file size.

If you’ve read about the M1 elsewhere you already know that it’s a significant leap forward for computing. By all accounts Apple’s new MacBooks are excellent machines. So these results are no surprise, but it’s nice to confirm that the M1 will also speed along your writing.

macOS Monterey

Earlier this week at Apple’s special event (unveiling speedy new MacBook Pros) we learned that macOS Monterey will be released early next week on October 25.

If you plan to upgrade to Monterey please make sure that you have the latest version of Nisus Writer. So far as we know Nisus Writer Pro 3.2.2 and Nisus Writer Express 4.2.2 are compatible with Monterey; earlier versions may not be functional.

Please let us know if you see any issues with Monterey or otherwise. We’re always happy to help!

Nisus Writer Updates

We are happy to announce the release and immediate availability of Nisus Writer Pro 3.2.2 and Nisus Writer Express 4.2.2.

These updates have plenty of fixes and enhancements for your writing pleasure, including preliminary macOS Monterey compatibility (pending Apple’s final release) and Bookends 14 compatibility. You can read the voluminous changes in our Nisus Writer Pro release notes or Nisus Writer Express release notes.

These updates are free for existing owners of the current version of each app. You get the update from inside the apps, the Mac App Store, or our website.

Issues with macOS Monterey and Bookends 14

Nisus Writer has issues with two recently released pieces of software:

1. The latest beta/preview version of macOS Monterey. Nisus Writer will often crash due to changes in the macOS system.

2. The recently released Bookends version 14. Nisus Writer can’t communicate directly with this version of Bookends due to internal changes in how the app identifies itself.

We are working on a software update to Nisus Writer that addresses all of these issues. We hope to finalize and release those updates soon. However, if you need to bypass these problems immediately please contact us about obtaining early access to a private beta version of Nisus Writer.

UPDATE: These issues have been resolved in Nisus Writer Pro version 3.2.2 and Nisus Writer Express 4.2.2.

File Conversion Failures due to Permissions

We’ve recently had more reports that Nisus Writer Pro users can’t import or export file formats that require conversion (e.g. DOCX). The error message states that “you do not have permission” to run the Nisus File Converter app. The alert looks like this:

This is caused by a bug that was introduced in recent versions of macOS Catalina and Big Sur. It affects not only Nisus Writer’s file converter, but also other kinds of helper apps. Apple has a support page for affected scanner software. MacRumors reports that apparently Apple will fix the problem in a future system update.

To quickly bypass the issue you can click the “Retry” button in Nisus Writer Pro. That will use a backup converter built into macOS. However, be aware that this backup conversion is less thorough and will omit special content like styles, comments, footnotes, etc.

You can fully bypass the issue by first manually launching the Nisus File Converter app in the Finder. Please see our FAQ for a precise list of workaround steps and more details on this issue.

How to Insert Overline Characters

In certain kinds of writing (e.g. mathematics or linguistics) it can be useful to insert characters with a line on top. This line is known by several names like an overbar, overline, or macron. Here are some examples of such characters:

ā ō n̅

You can easily enter such characters in Nisus Writer and other Mac apps.

How to type standard overline characters:
If you’re using a recent version of macOS like Catalina or Big Sur you can type several standard overline characters simply by holding down a letter key on your keyboard. As explained in Apple’s support document on typing accents, you hold down the letter key (e.g. the “A” key) for a few seconds. A popover will appear with several character variations:

You can now either click the desired character, or press the corresponding number key, to insert it.

How to add an overline to any character:
The standard keyboard only allows easy access to certain popular overline characters. But you can use a combining overline character to place a line over virtually any other character. Here’s how you can insert a combining overline:

1. Type the base character, e.g. the letter “N”.
2. Show Apple’s Unicode/emoji character palette. There are a variety of ways to do this. One way is to use the menu Insert > Special Character > Show Character Catalog.
3. The search field at the top of the character palette has focus. Type the phrase “combining overline”. (You could also just type “overline” but the results will show multiple lines and it’s hard to tell which one is combining)
4. Insert the overline by clicking it with your mouse, or pressing the Return key.

If you use overlines frequently you may want to add it to Nisus Writer’s special characters list. You can customize the list via the menu Insert > Special Character > Customize Special Characters. Once the character is added it will be available on the special characters menu and palette. That means you can optionally assign it a customized keyboard shortcut in our Menu Key preferences

Nisus Writer and Custom Keyboard Layouts

A topic that recently arose on the Nisus user forums is whether or not Nisus Writer comes with any custom keyboard layouts. While we don’t provide any keyboard layouts, Nisus Writer does support all layouts that are available system-wide on macOS. That includes all the default layouts provided by Apple as well as any customized keyboard layouts.

To enable additional keyboard layouts (also called input sources) on your Mac you can visit the macOS system Keyboard preferences. You’ll see a host of keyboards available:

Once you’ve enabled a keyboard layout for your Mac you can use it all your apps. In addition Nisus Writer has special language features that can help you automatically switch the keyboard layout based on the language of your document text.

You can also create your own keyboards using tools like Ukelele or search for existing pre-made custom keyboards. For example, here’s a custom Yiddish keyboard layout for the Mac.

The sky is the limit when it comes to customizing text entry.

Multi-Key Keyboard Shortcuts

I’m a big fan of learning keyboard shortcuts. It’s nice to save time and avoid reaching for the mouse. Apple provides some basic macOS system preferences to customize keyboard shortcuts across apps, but Nisus Writer’s enhancements go much further.

Nisus Writer of course lets you customize the keyboard shortcut for any menu command. But an even bigger help are our multi-key shortcuts. You can choose whatever mnemonic is clearest to you. For example Command + H1 can apply the “Heading 1” paragraph style. To activate this shortcut:

1. Press and hold down the Command key.
2. Type the H key (press down and release up).
3. Type the 1 key (press down and release up).
4. Release the Command key (so it is now up).

Nisus Writer collects together all the pressed keys while the Command key is down and then matches the full shortcut at the very end, once the Command key is released.

Aside from activating any single regular menu command, you can also assign keyboard shortcuts to intermediate submenus. For example you might assign Command + OR to show the “Open Recent” menu. Once the menu is expanded on screen you can use the up/down arrows (or autocomplete typing) to select the desired submenu and open the corresponding file.

All these little tricks may take some small time to learn and set up, but once you do we hope you’ll see how much of a pleasure writing can be with Nisus Writer.

Upgrades And The Mac App Store

We have been receiving quite a bit of email on this subject lately, so I thought I would explain how to qualify for upgrade pricing if you have purchased from the Mac App Store. 

The Mac App Store does not allow developers to offer upgrade pricing. That leaves customers with two choices:

  • Purchase Nisus Writer at full price on the Mac App Store. 
  • Purchase directly through our store.

If you would like to purchase through us to receive the upgrade discount, you can follow the excellent instructions Martin provided in our FAQ (which answers many, many Nisus app related questions). Alternatively, you can email your Mac App Store receipt as proof of purchase.

Please know that while we make more money from direct purchases, feel free to buy from wherever you like. All of our customers are treated and appreciated in the same way. 

Extract Text from Images

Nisus Writer recently added a feature that allows you to extract editable text from your photos, scans, PDFs, and other images. This process is often called optical character recognition (aka OCR).

Let’s see how text extraction works using a COVID relief notice I recently received from the United States government:

Once the image is in Nisus Writer Pro document, select it and use the Extract Text From Image command to generate an editable text version of the image:

Most of the text is correct and in sequence. There are a few minor errors and text misplacements, like the number 6 appearing before the title– perhaps caused by the Treasury Department’s seal alongside the main textual content.

Let’s try a few others images, like this paperback book and store receipt:

Overall pretty good! Usually editing extracted text is a better starting point than retyping something entirely.

The accuracy of the extraction will depend on a variety of factors including the quality of the image, whether text is slanted or rotated, the language and words in the text, and your system version. Nisus Writer uses Apple’s machine learning capabilities to accomplish this task, and requires at least macOS 10.15 Catalina.

Hopefully you’ll find a good use for this new feature.

Jump Around Quickly While Writing

One of my favorite new features in Nisus Writer Pro 3 is the Go To Content command. Whenever I’m writing a reasonably complex document I often want to jump around it, to consult material from other sections or simply work on different parts of the text. Nisus Writer has a Navigator sidebar that can aid in this task, showing key document structure like the Table of Contents or Bookmarks. But I wanted a faster workflow.

You can use the new Go To Content menu to see a list of available destinations, like all your Table of Contents headings. Or perhaps all text using a particular paragraph style:

This listing allows you to quickly filter by keyword or partial text, so you only have a few destinations to look through. This is a great way to find the desired heading (or other special content) and jump right to it.

Skip the Mouse
One thing I love about the new Go To Content command is that I can keep my hands on the keyboard the whole time. Using Nisus Writer’s multi-key shortcuts I’ve established a few shortcuts to trigger variants of the Go To Content command. For example: Command + GT for Go to Text in TOC, and Command + GB for Go to Bookmark.

Once a “Go To” dialog is open, it’s quick to finish the job via the keyboard:
1. Type a few keywords to narrow down the list of destinations.
2. Press the Down Arrow key to select the desired destination.
3. Press Return to jump to the destination text.

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t take that long to grab your mouse and click around, but it feels really great when you get something done using only the keyboard. You stay more focussed on your writing– in the flow. If you haven’t bothered to train your habits to reduce mouse usage, I suggest you give it a try. It can be a revelation!

Learn More
For more details on this new feature in Nisus Writer Pro, please see the Go To Content section of our user guide. It goes over some other details and tricks, like using the Go To Content dialog to produce a list of specialized search results.

Nisus Writer Updates for Big Sur

Nisus Writer Pro and Nisus Writer Express recently added support for Apple Silicon and macOS Big Sur. But those versions still had some rough edges to smooth out when running on Big Sur. Today we’re happy to release Nisus Writer Pro 3.2.1 and Nisus Writer Express 4.2.1 to fix the most commonly reported Big Sur issues.

Aside from improving app behavior on Big Sur, these updates include a variety of other fixes which you can read about in the full Nisus Writer Pro release notes or Nisus Writer Express release notes.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Nisus!

Nisus Writer Updates: Dark Mode, Big Sur, and Apple Silicon

We are happy to announce the release of Nisus Writer Pro 3.2 and Nisus Writer Express 4.2. These new versions are significant updates that add support for Dark Mode, macOS Big Sur, and Apple Silicon among other new features.

If you’re a Nisus Writer Pro user:
• Take a brief tour of what’s new.
• Get the update inside the app, direct download, or the Mac App Store.

If you’re a Nisus Writer Express user:
• Take a brief tour of what’s new.
• Get the update inside the app, direct download, or the Mac App Store.

Nisus Writer’s Improved Document Versioning

Nisus Writer adopts macOS autosave, which means copies of your document are automatically and periodically saved while you’re editing. The system preserves earlier autosaved copies so you can restore prior document versions. These prior versions aren’t kept forever (only Apple might say how long), but they’re incredibly useful if you realize you made a mistake or otherwise need to access earlier work.

Overall this arrangement works very well. However, there is one aspect of it that always seemed needlessly frustrating to us. When you enter Apple’s document version browser to compare earlier versions side-by-side, it’s not clear exactly how many versions exist, nor when they were created. There is only a graphical timeline along the side of the screen that looks like this:

That might look cool, but it’s not a great interface for finding a version from exactly the right date. It also won’t let you compare more than a single prior version at once; you can only compare the current document with a single prior version. It would be nicer if you could open and inspect any number of prior versions, in a space that’s not constrained by the version browser.

To fix these problems we added a dedicated version listing to Nisus Writer Pro version 3.1 and Nisus Writer Express version 4.1. The list shows you exactly what versions are available:

Nisus Writer’s list makes it so much easier to get an overview of what’s available, so you can pick out a significant version. You may open any number of prior versions in read-only mode so you can compare them at your leisure, extract earlier content, or save a copy elsewhere. Nisus Writer’s listing also marks versions that are exact duplicates, so you don’t need to bother looking at them.

We hope this improvement and all the other smart considerations in Nisus Writer help you with your writing!

Call For Localizers

Nisus Writer Pro 3.1 (and Nisus Writer Express 4.1) were just released and added several non-English localizations. We are interested in adding additional translations, so more people can enjoy using Nisus Writer in their native language.

If you might be interested in helping out, please let us know. You can contact us any way you like, including an email to the following address:

This is purely volunteer work. We aren’t able to pay for the translation, sorry.

Big Sur, Apple Silicon, and Nisus

We have received a fair amount of email asking us if our applications will be ready for the new Apple Silicon based Macs. The answer to this is that we will be ready when the first of the new machines are released near the end of 2020. Personally I am excited to see what the future will bring with these new Macs. 

We also receive quite a bit of email regarding macOS Big Sur and compatibility with Nisus apps. We have done some testing and so far it seems, apart from cosmetic issues, our apps are compatible with Big Sur, pending the final release of the new macOS. 

For the latest news on both of these issues, please keep your eyes on this blog and, if you haven’t already, subscribe to our newsletter. 

Academic Discount on Nisus Writer Pro

Nisus Writer Pro offers an ideal writing environment and great features for academics, like:

  • Footnotes and endnotes. 
  • Bibliography management with Bookends integration. 
  • Comments and tracked changes for collaborating. 
  • Bookmarks and cross-references. 
  • Table of contents (TOC) and indexing. 

Did you know that we offer a discount for students, teachers, or anyone who works at an academic institution?

All you need to do is write to us and provide proof like a photo of your student ID, or write from your school’s email address (.edu, for example). Once we receive your email we’ll send you a link to purchase. 

Stepper Buttons in Nisus Writer

Even if you’re not familiar with the term, you almost certainly know how to use steppers. They are those little up and down arrow buttons you see next to numeric controls on your Mac. For example, you’ll see steppers next to the paragraph spacing controls in Nisus Writer:

As you probably already know (or can guess!) clicking the arrow buttons changes the spacing by ±1 point.

What’s new in Nisus Writer Pro 3.1 and Nisus Writer Express 4.1 is an enhancement for steppers that refines how they react to clicks. By holding down a modifier key as you click, you can increase or decrease the adjustment amount:

• Hold the Control key to trigger smaller changes.
For example, the font size will change from 12 points to 12.1 points.

• Hold the Option key to trigger larger changes.
For example, the paragraph spacing will change from 6 points to 12 point.

The adjustment amounts are sensitive to context and ruler units. For example, changing the paragraph indent using the Option key may result in a difference of ±1 centimeters vs ±0.5 inches.

There are a few mnemonics to help you recall which modifier key does what. You will notice that the relative order of the Control/Option keys on your keyboard matches that of the minus/plus keys. This is in harmony with the Control key triggering smaller changes (minus), and the Option key triggering larger changes (plus). Another way to think about it is that the Control key gives you greater control over the measurement, since the adjustment is finer.

We hope this improvement helps you dial in exactly the measurement you want, and reduces some repetitive clicking.

How to Change the Font Size of Comments

Nisus Writer Pro users often write in and ask us how they can increase the font size of comments in their document. The good news is that it’s easy to change the font size (and other formatting) of all comments in your document en-masse.

Whenever you add a comment to a document, Nisus Writer Pro will automatically apply a paragraph style called “Comment” to your new comment. By default this single style controls the formatting of all comments in your file. So to change the font size of all comments you need only edit this style like so:

1. Switch to your document’s style sheet, eg: use the menu View > Style Sheet
2. From the list of styles on the left, select the “Comment” paragraph style.
3. Edit the style’s formatting by using any available tools, eg: the menu Format > Size, the Character palette, etc.

In most situations that’s all you need to do. Once you switch out of Style Sheet view you should see that all your comments have been updated to account for the edited style’s formatting.

Manual Formatting and Comments
One potential complication is manual formatting, which is merely formatting that is not enforced by a style. In other words, the formatting was applied directly to text. That kind of formatting will override formatting in the “Comment” paragraph style.

This is an infrequent occurrence for comments, but you may encounter it in files imported from other apps. If your comments don’t react to your style changes, you may need to remove manually applied formatting. Luckily that’s easy too.

To remove manual formatting from all comments in your document:

1. Place the insertion point (caret) inside any comment.
2. Select the entire comment using the menu Edit > Select > Select All.
3. Use Select All again to expand the selection to all comments in your file.
4. Remove all overrides via the menu Format > Remove Formatting Except Styles.

After removing all non-style formatting, the formatting enforced by your “Comment” style should shine through as intended.