The future of Nisus Writer - A people's vision!

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The future of Nisus Writer - A people's vision!

Post by Digimarkus »

If the vision for Nisus Writer is be “the writer’s word processor”, what do we as “writers” want this “word processor” to look like in the future? Consider the fact that Classic is no longer an option on Intel Macs and it might not even show up for PPC in Leopard (I wouldn’t be surprised). In either case, Nisus Writer Classic days are numbered and NWE is the future for this company and its loyal customers. Therefore, I hope this thread might start a discussion about what Nisus Writer (Express) should ultimately look like, as a complete product for Mac OS X.

To shape a vision for the future of NW, we need to first consider the NW user base. I think there are five main groups of writers that use either the Classic or Express version of NW:

Academic writers: Nisus seems to have a strong group of academic writers who use and enjoy using NWC or NWE. Many of these people seem to have started with NWC and then, with their (eventual) conversion to OSX, consider NWE. However, NWE isn’t up to par with NWC in professional features and many of these users are starting to look elsewhere (i.e. Mellel).

Student writers: Some university students seem to use NW. In particular, students who study under profs that use and promote NW (that’s how I found out about this product). I also imagine some grade school educators and parents of grade school students purchase NW. Still, I think Apple’s Pages will likely dominate the grade school market and if profs stop using NW, they will promote what they use (i.e. Mellel).

Professional writers: NW is great for people who write articles, books, manuals, and other publication oriented material. The fact that most print publishers like documents in RTF format makes NEW a great workflow. NW seems well suited to people like Seth Godin, who think different and enjoy using a focused, stable, and professional word processor.

Casual writers: People who want a straightforward, easy to use, word processor that lets them focus on the task of writing. However, Pages will likely come to dominate this market segment, especially if version 3 adds more “word processing” features. This is the rumor, anyway (

Multilingual writers: An academic, student, professional, or casual writer who also needs special support for working with non-English languages.

With these key writer groups in mind, we need to consider the key features that they need, want, and most importantly desire in a “writer’s word processor”. As for me, I fit into both the academic and professional writer groups. And in terms of these writing roles, the most important features for me are:

User Interface: I like a simple, clean, and very usable interface. NWE does a pretty good job in this department. There still room for improvement, but it’s better than anything else out their in this area.

Performance: On today’s hardware, I think that a text processing application should be lightening fast and very stable, even with huge documents. NWE could really use some improvements in this area, with long documents in particular. I think that this was a big seller for NWC.

File Format: The most important element for all writers is protecting their work. Hence, I want my data stored in an open and standard format. Open in the sense that any application can easily read my documents now and into the distant future. Standard in the sense that exchange of, and collaboration on, a document not require anyone to export, or import from one file format to another (I want no fuss, no bother). NWE does a reasonable task of this now by using RTF -- a MS format for document exchange. However, in the future I hope Nisus might eventually make Word Open XML the default format. That is to say when Open XML (.docx) becomes an ISO standard and proves that it’s the leading standard. ODF is another option, but I don’t think it will be used as widely as Open XML. Either, way I want Nisus to use the most widespread, open standard as default. This is RTF for now and will likely be Open XML in the future. So it’s worth keeping an eye on stuff like and

Outlining/Document navigation: When I write, structure is important to me and I want my word processor to help me with this difficult work. I want an outline tool that allows me to easily create, view, navigate and edit the structure of my document. I would love to be able to move chapters, sections, tables, figures, and so forth around in my document easily.

Reference management: For scholars and university students, good integration with bibliography software makes writing research papers a lot more enjoyable. It would be great to be able to access, search, insert and manage citations to a bibliography database via a NEW palette. Integration with both Sente and Bookends would be good. As RedleX already has a Bookends + Mellel bundle, perhaps Nisus could explore a NWE + Sente bundle. I know that Sente has a new plug-in architecture, which would make integration an easy task. At any rate tight UI level integration between a word processor and reference management software is a valuable feature to me as an academic writer.

Styles: Styles are a nice way to keep my formatting organized. NWE does a fair job of styles, but things like auto titles, style groups and manuscript templates would be nice. Moreover, it could be easier to manage styles and move them between different documents.

ToC/index/cross-references: For someone who prepares manuscripts these are very useful features that save a lot of time.

Comments/track changes: Collaborative writing is becoming an important part of both academic and professional writing. This area could really use improvement and innovation in comparison to other packages out there. For example, a document comparison feature would be really nice and unique among word processors.

Layout control: This isn’t a big issue, but NW could use more refined layout controls, especially in terms of footnotes, endnotes, lists, tables, and graphics.

So, here’s a start to what could be a very interesting thread. I encourage everyone to share what group, or groups, best fits you as a writer, and what features are most important to you? The Nisus guys seem to be very open to feedback and I think that this discussion would be a helpful to them in their planning for NW and Nisus.

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Post by Agnostus »

Integration with both Sente and Bookends would be good.
I asked for that once on this forum, but my plea remained completely unheard :cry:

Seriously, wish for integration with reference management software came up in several threads now, and I really think it is one of the things that should be considered by the Nisus folks if they want to stand their ground in academic/professional writing.

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Post by Matze »

I am a professional writer. I write scripts, novels, non-fiction books and quiz-show-material. And NWC is my tool to write all that.
NWC made it very easy to number chapters, pages and to mark and index text. I can not say that NWE has these features too.
NWCs Glossary stays the best in whole textediting universe!
The catalogue and some macros made it very easy to combine different files or to split one in many others.
Often I am writing with different files open at the same time. In NWC your file remembers every change and opens it exactly the way you left it, position, window size, cursor position ...! You can save all your docs at once, close them all, search them all, even scroll two docs at once!
This makes writing very comfortable!
Even better are NWCs rewriting-features: Find/Replace capability combined with its macrolanguage is a huge tool to change, sort and rewrite text. How often did I do a catalogue summary-search on selected files or on all open files. This saved hours and hours of work.
I've got tons of macros, which very kind people of the dartmouth list - thanks Kino, Philipp, Patrick and others! - made and which I wrote myself with F/Rs macroize button and menu-commands. I could never ever do all this with apple script or PERL.
So NWEs Find/Replace and macro language is of no use to me.

If it comes to serious writing I still open Nisus Writer in Classic and I will stick to my PPC as long as I can or as long as NWE has become a texteditor for professional writing. At the time it is a slim and beautyfull texteditor for just typing. It is the best though for Mac OS X and it will become better, this for sure.
Please consider what we professional writers need when (re-)writing and remember, what NWC gave us. Try to implement as much as possible in NWE!

Thanks, Matze

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Open Standard?

Post by minienigma »

While I understand the rationale for deciding for Microsoft's OOXML, and also realizing my own bias against it, I would just like to offer the following comments...

Considering preservation of Nisus Writer users' works for the long run, it is relevant to consider the track record of Microsoft Word's backwards compatibility to its own document formats in the past, which would be agreed by most as fair to poor.

In terms of interoperability, Microsoft's past views on interoperability in terms of file formats may also apply to its OOXML file format, which was viewed as a tool for vendor lock-in. By choosing to go with Microsoft OOXML, are you sure that the choice of your file format serves the best interest of your users?

Software developers are put into a very difficult situation -- whether to use a truly open standard or the one that is not-so-open standard, but is the "de facto standard" based on one company's dominance. I, personally, would always choose the former -- if all else fails, someone can always write software to read the document based on its open nature without fear of licensing issues or inadequate document specification.

Lastly, take a look at the following blog -- while it's an argument against OOXML, but at least, to anyone who's interested, could get another view point to this issue:

<a href="">http://ww ... m/blog/</a>

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Professional, academic, and disappointed

Post by Jake »

I am a professional and academic writer who is disappointed with 1) the crashes caused by long documents in Word and 2) the fact that MSO has not released a UB version. So I've been exploring other options. But I have a major problem with both NW and Mellel: neither has a track changes feature. This is a deal-killer in making either my exclusive word processor, though I may eventually use NW or Mellel for first drafts and then convert the resulting documents to Word for passing around. This seems like an inelegant solution at best.

Mellel's forum also has a number of users who are requesting track changes or something like it. Lotus WordPro had (has? I think it's still made) a simpler version than Word that still worked well. Technically I imagine this would be difficult to implement, but for me it's of vital importance.

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Post by alephnull »

Agnostus wrote:
Integration with both Sente and Bookends would be good.
I asked for that once on this forum, but my plea remained completely unheard :cry:

Seriously, wish for integration with reference management software came up in several threads now, and I really think it is one of the things that should be considered by the Nisus folks if they want to stand their ground in academic/professional writing.
You might be interested in checking out the current version of Sente at, which includes support for Nisus. This new feature is still in beta (although it is included in the current official release), but it is working pretty well so far. (Note, I am with Third Street Software.)

We would be very interested in hearing your feedback on this integration, including any bugs you might find. We are excited about the new support for Nisus -- and we hope you find it useful.



Post by 109% »

I'm a professional writer too and for me, it's pretty simple:

1) Comments; I think this is one of the (very) few things that Pages does well
2) Track changes
3) Actual page count in the status bar; the current "virtual" page count is so head-scratchingly useless that I can't decide if it's a bug or a horrible design decision

Otherwise, I'm very happy with NWP. Like most of you (I'd imagine), I think I'm more afraid of bloat than anything else ...

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Post by samuelas »

A Nisus plugin? Is this new? I remember trying out Sente a few months ago, but I don't think I found anything like this. Do I download it along with the app? Or elsewhere on your site?

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Post by ptram »

I use automatic track changes in FrameMaker everyday. However, I also learnt how to use highlighters in Scrivener/Nisus/Mellel to track my changes (green for added or revised text, orange for deleted text, and so on), and I feel at home with them. They are also easily exchanged between Nisus and Scrivener.

While we wait for a track change/versioning system, is there something that cannot be tracked down with highlighters in everyday use?


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Post by alephnull »

samuelas wrote:A Nisus plugin? Is this new? I remember trying out Sente a few months ago, but I don't think I found anything like this. Do I download it along with the app? Or elsewhere on your site?
The Nisus plugin comes in the standard distribution of Sente, so all you need to do is download Sente and try it out. (This has only recently been added, so it was not there when you tried out Sente a few months ago.)

There are some notes on using this feature in our forums and in the on-line help within Sente.


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