Best word processor for tables and for links in PDFs?

jn
jnailen
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Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:07 pm Post

Hello everyone,

I'm looking for a word processor or page layout app that I can use with Scrivener for PDF/ebook output.

These are my needs:
1. works well with Scrivener
2. excellent tables
3. TOC, index, and cross-references that can also be internal hypertext links (esp. TOC) to other parts of the document that will survive as live links when saved or exported to PDF
4. works well with a bibliography/citation app, altho this is less important

As long as it can do these things, I don't care if it's Carbon or Cocoa or a text editor, word processor, or page layout app or a vegetable or mineral, tho I really don't want to use MS Word unless I can't find anything else.

Any ideas???

Thanks in advance!
Jeff
Cheers,
Jeff Nailen

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exegete77
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 12:23 am Post

Howdy, Jeff. I think I remember you over the years on other lists. You always had good insights and thoughts regarding word processors (I go by "shades" on other boards).

For all of your requirements (except second) Mellel and Nisus Writer Pro would be more than sufficient. Both do tables, but they both have short comings in the realm of tables.

Both have 30 day fully working trial periods.

I have both and find them excellent choices.

jn
jnailen
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 12:42 am Post

exegete77 wrote:Howdy, Jeff. I think I remember you over the years on other lists. You always had good insights and thoughts regarding word processors (I go by "shades" on other boards).


Yea, I remember you! How's it going?

"For all of your requirements (except second) Mellel and Nisus Writer Pro would be more than sufficient. Both do tables, but they both have short comings in the realm of tables."

Yea, especially Mellel. The consensus seems to be that NWP is better at tables.

"Both have 30 day fully working trial periods."

Yea, I have Mellel too because it's supposed to be the closest thing to FrameMaker which I used to use in pre-OS X days. But it doesn't yet have indexes and I don't think it can have a hypertext TOC that links to the chapters of a PDF. Maybe it can but I havn't figured out how to do that. I've been playing with the NWP demo. Do you know if either can do this so that it survives in the PDF? Or if Papyrus or NeoOffice can do this? I have all the demos and have been trying them out but was hoping someone might know.

I know Adobe InDesign can do this, but to get cross-references and an index you have to buy some expensive plug-ins that each cost more than InDesign itself last time I looked.

"I have both and find them excellent choices."

Which one do you end up using most of the time?

Cheers,
Jeff
Cheers,
Jeff Nailen

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Lord Lightning
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:08 am Post

Have you thought of using InDesign? It sucked up Framemaker.

:)
Lord Lightning

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When I make a declarative statement it applies to ME. Not to everyone.

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ptram
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 8:55 am Post

jnailen wrote:I know Adobe InDesign can do this, but to get cross-references and an index you have to buy some expensive plug-ins that each cost more than InDesign itself last time I looked.


Cross-references can now be had for only 99 euro:
http://www.dtptools.com/product.asp?id=crin

I've not yet used it (I'm still using FrameMaker, and will until the end of times), but one of my collaborators has and is happy with it.

Paolo

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spinningdoc
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:01 pm Post

I can only really comment on tables. Occasionally I have to create 15 page or so documents that are basically a single two-column table, and I’ve tried pretty much every WP for Mac at some stage. None of them is great, but Word is the least worst.

- Mellel’s tables are terrible. Even the makers admit this.
- Pages won’t split tables over, ahem, pages.
- Nisus is okay but you can’t tab through the cells as easily as you can Word
- Neo’s similar, and of course rather big and clunky.

None of them is very good at using different styles within a cell, and of course there’s the ever present compatability problems, assuming someone somewhere is going to get aereated if they can’t open it easily in Word.

I’m increasingly sending clients the resulting documents as pdf’s and asking them to use the Acrobat marking up tools. This also has the effect of stopping them inflict the god awful track changes ‘feature’ on me.

jn
jnailen
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:22 pm Post

Lord Lightning:

"Have you thought of using InDesign? It sucked up Framemaker."

Yea, I bought InDesign 2.0 a few years ago when it was bare-bones. It has matured since then so I suppose I could get an upgrade. I suppose there's nothing better for PDFs and ebooks since that's Adobe's baby, but I was hoping to find a more Mac-centric Cocoa alternative.

Paolo:

"Cross-references can now be had for only 99 euro:
http://www.dtptools.com/product.asp?id=crin

I've not yet used it (I'm still using FrameMaker, and will until the end of times), but one of my collaborators has and is happy with it."

Cool! Thanks for that Paolo. That's much better than the $1,000 or so Virginia Systems wants for theirs. That changes things.

spinning doc:

"I can only really comment on tables. Occasionally I have to create 15 page or so documents that are basically a single two-column table, and I’ve tried pretty much every WP for Mac at some stage. None of them is great, but Word is the least worst."

Yea, I know Word has good tables but I've lost data in the past when heavily formatted documents get longer than, say, 3-pages long. I really don't want to go back to that nightmare. I have hundreds of legacy Word docs and I'm looking for a new home for them.

"- Mellel’s tables are terrible. Even the makers admit this."

Yea, I agree.

"- Pages won’t split tables over, ahem, pages."

Unfortunately, and Page's TOC can't be linked to the corresponding parts within the document. Otherwise I do like it.

"- Nisus is okay but you can’t tab through the cells as easily as you can Word"

That's ok. Does Nisus allow for TOC links?

"- Neo’s similar, and of course rather big and clunky."

I read a rather thorough comparative review a while back between FrameMaker, MS Word, and NeoOffice from a guy looking for for a Frame replacement on the Mac. Surprisingly to him, tho NeoOffice is supposed to be a Word knock-off, NeoOffice came out better than Word for most long-document stuff and even better than Frame in some areas.

"None of them is very good at using different styles within a cell, and of course there’s the ever present compatability problems, assuming someone somewhere is going to get aereated if they can’t open it easily in Word."

True, altho that's not a problem for me since I'm kinda a one-man show.

"I’m increasingly sending clients the resulting documents as pdf’s and asking them to use the Acrobat marking up tools. This also has the effect of stopping them inflict the god awful track changes ‘feature’ on me."

Yea, I was thinking that if I can't find something that does all the hyperlinks in the PDF, that I might go with NWP or Papyrus or NeoOffice and then do that sort of thing in Acrobat or PDFpen Pro whose newly released 4.0 version now does linked TOC, or use a different PDF alternative like pdf-Office made in Germany, or just bite the bullet and go with InDesign + Acrobat and deal with the learning curve.

Any thoughts on that from your experience? And thanks for your perspective.

Jeff
Cheers,
Jeff Nailen

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spinningdoc
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:44 pm Post

I've lost data in the past when heavily formatted documents get longer than, say, 3-pages long. I really don't want to go back to that nightmare.


Well quite. I forgot to mention Word crashes a lot, especially if you move things round in tables a lot. Or maybe I took it as read... Word 2004's better than Word X though. And I'm just not getting Word 2008 until a client insists I get it and I can discreetly charge it to them. I don't want half my screen taken up with rubbish layout suggestions. I can manage rubbish layout on my own.

I don't know about TOC links, as I've never had cause to use a TOC in anything other than Word.

Neo's pretty good, and the last version is hardly sluggish at all. My problem with it is more that it's too much like Word - too many complicated functions, too many badly organised menus. On occasions though it's a life saver as it seems to be able to open pretty much anything. It suffers from the table-tabbing thing though - I want to use the tab to move the cursor to the next cell, rather than select the cell then press Enter or something before I can type. It sounds like nothing, but when I'm using it for a two-column scripts, and my brain isn't it layout mode, it's a right pain.

If it's PDF marking up you're after, Skim is your man. Free and voluptuously fully functional, though since I've never had any need of TOCs, linked or otherwise, I haven't explored whether there's a way of making it do that.

jn
jnailen
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 5:35 pm Post

Thanks spinningdoc. I'm trying Skim now and it's pretty cool.

So bottom line all things considered, for the kind of extensive multi-page table work you're doing, which is similar to what I do as well, what would your second choice be of all the tools you've used if you couldn't or didn't want to use Word? And especially for publishing in PDF?

Thanks,
Jeff
Cheers,
Jeff Nailen

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exegete77
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 8:28 pm Post

Two other options:

Papyrus, which is both Mac and Windows for $100. I used it to finalize a book and actually did the page layout with it. By doing so I made the PDFs that were sent to the printer. He had no problem using Illustrator and make final print runs. I had used tables (not crossing pages though), with automated caption numbering that was flawless. Rearranging chapters, sections also was flawless. Never crashed. Because it runs in memory it is the fastest program of all those listed. Not sure if it can properly handle RTL, which is critical for my theological writings. But this is a powerful tool that provides excellent reference tools.

Ragtime 6, and is also Mac and Windows. Also includes full blown spreadsheet capabilities. I have the academic version, $125.

Both are excellent programs.

For everyday writing, I use Nisus Writer Pro - it feels like a good writing tool that doesn't get in my way. For theological writing I use Mellel (English, Greek, Hebrew). For desktop publishing I have used Papyrus, and now I am exploring the depths of Ragtime.

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Timotheus
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 8:58 pm Post

But before buying Papyrus, think twice. Papyrus as such is certainly a nice application, but:

- support is non-existent

- there is no user forum, and there will never be, for a very clear (but not very honorable) reason: the developers don't want the users of their application to discuss and solve their problems among each other, they want them to join the Papyrus Club, which offers paid assistance.

- versions, upgrades and updates are a very shadowy business in Papyrus: one never knows exactly what's the difference between the German version and the English version, between a new version and the previous one, and so on.

For these reasons, Papyrus for me is one of the most antipathetic applications in the market.
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jn
jnailen
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Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:24 pm Post

Yea, those are two good options and I've experimented with both over the years. I used to have RagTime Solo, which was a full working version that was free for personal use, and it's definitely powerful, but it has quite a learning curve, poor English documentation, slow upgrades, little or no integration with other Mac apps, and always seemed a few years behind in interface and functionality. Reviewers have said it's page layout capabilities, while good, are like the older Quark rather than the newer InDesign, but without all the documentation, 3rd party books, 3rd party extensions, etc. that at least the Quark ecosystem offers.

Papyrus is also promising, but as Timotheus points out support is a problem. Because of it's built-in relational database I thought it might be good for variable-data publishing. But there is no documentation at all for that functionality so I asked a pre-sales question via email about that possibility. It's several years later now and I'm still awaiting a reply! Not a good sign!

I'm weary of go-it-alone apps that try to be an island unto themselves. I have a systems approach so I look at entire systems of apps that work together in an entire workflow. Quark and it's extensions, InDesign and it's plug-ins, and Nisus Writer Pro with it's LinkBack system that connects with over 20 other Mac apps, including heavyweights like OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle, each offer an open ecosystem of apps that work together. Apple's apps, like Pages, have great integration with other Apple apps but not so much with non-Apple apps so it's a semi-closed system. Mellel is also a go-it-aloner with it's proprietary format and lack of integration with other apps except for 2 bibliography apps.

The more I try the NWP demo the more I'm agreeing with you, exegate77, and some others on these forums that it may be my tool of choice. I just discovered that it has some spreadsheet/calculation functions thru it's macros. I own Mellel and have used it lightly for a few years, and it's powerful, but they've managed to take the 'fun' out of functional.
Cheers,
Jeff Nailen

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exegete77
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Fri Sep 19, 2008 2:20 am Post

Timotheus wrote:But before buying Papyrus, think twice. Papyrus as such is certainly a nice application, but:

- support is non-existent

- there is no user forum, and there will never be, for a very clear (but not very honorable) reason: the developers don't want the users of their application to discuss and solve their problems among each other, they want them to join the Papyrus Club, which offers paid assistance.

- versions, upgrades and updates are a very shadowy business in Papyrus: one never knows exactly what's the difference between the German version and the English version, between a new version and the previous one, and so on.

For these reasons, Papyrus for me is one of the most antipathetic applications in the market.

Yep, I would agree with all that. I downloaded the German version of Papyrus and managed to get most of it working (prior to buying the English version). I had not had any German for 40 years, but quickly figured out most of it. One question I had involved placement and auto numbering. Like you, I never received an answer by email. But I was eventually able to develop a work-around of my own.

Still a very good program. And for my work on the book two years ago, it filled my need, and it was worth the $100 (couldn't afford ID or Quark at the time). As for the upgrade, they sent a notice by email, and I was able to download the upgrade easily.

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spinningdoc
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Fri Sep 19, 2008 8:22 am Post

I've just checked out NWE (I don't have Pro) vs the latest NeoOffice, and in fact NeoOffice gets the table job done pretty well. It ain't pretty, it's rather Word like in its lack of palettes, but it does the job and it's not sluggish at all. NWE, for example, doesn't appear to have repeating header rows.

OS X's pdf support is all I need, and as I say I don't us TOCs, so I can't really judge on those.

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AndreasE
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Sat Sep 20, 2008 6:57 pm Post

Timotheus wrote:But before buying Papyrus, think twice. Papyrus as such is certainly a nice application, but:

- support is non-existent

- there is no user forum, and there will never be, for a very clear (but not very honorable) reason: the developers don't want the users of their application to discuss and solve their problems among each other,


This is simply not true. There is a Papyrus support forum under, well, http://www.papyrus.de/support/forum/. :wink:

It's in German, in the moment, as the company is sitting in Berlin and Germany is the most important market. But this might very well change should some English speaking lurkers show up. (Germans who are writing in an internet forum about an application usually understand English quite well.)