7 Reasons Why Mac OSX Is the Best OS for Writers

by Aayush Arya Feb 14, 2008

Mac OS X has always been hailed as the artist’s operating system. If you are a creative professional, you need a Mac. I agree. But one thing the operating system does not get enough credit for are its literary and linguistic capabilities. Sure, you can edit videos on it, record songs and podcasts, do image editing and 3D rendering and whatnot, but one thing you can also do on it is write well. And that’s what I am going to focus on today.

Ever since I’ve started writing for Apple Matters and MacUser, I’ve been struck by just how easy the operating system makes for me to author impressive articles (you have been impressed, haven’t you?). From the systemwide dictionary and spellcheck to the autocompletion abilities of Mac OS X, it all seems to have been designed with the author in mind. I’ll briefly point out all the various little features that I’ve been using for the past two months.


imageIt’s everywhere. It’s simply all-pervasive. If you are a Mac OS X user, you don’t have any excuse to not know the meaning of a word when you’re reading anything written in English. As soon as you run into a complicated word in any cocoa application (which includes most applications on Mac OS X these days), you can just press and hold Cmd-Ctrl-D (⌘^D) and roll your mouse over the word to know the meaning immediately through a floating sheet that appears next to your cursor.

Alternatively, you could right click on the word and select the option ‘Look Up in Dictionary’ to go to the entry for that specific entry in the inbuilt Dictionary application in Mac OS X. This application is a powerhouse of features. Not only does it house a full fledged dictionary and thesaurus, it can also look up the queries on Wikipedia and bring you related information from the Apple reference dictionary of terms related to the company and its products and technologies.

Or you could launch the Dashboard and enter that word in the Dictionary widget to see a meaning in the Dashboard itself. The Dictionary widget is especially well designed. Not only does it show you the meaning of any word, it also shows you a list of all the words and phrases starting with that particular word and also the various synonyms and antonyms of it when in thesaurus mode.

No matter which (cocoa) application you are using on OS X, if you are writing something, you can be sure that spellcheck is around to correct you in case you make any spelling errors. Whether it be a form field in Safari or a document in TextEdit or an email message you are composing, spellcheck is omnipresent in Mac OS X, ready to come to your rescue whenever you make a typo or just plain don’t know the correct spelling of ‘agammaglobulinemia’. This is one tool that has saved me many an embarrassing situation.


The Dashboard helpfully equips you with a built-in translation widget just in case you run into any foreign languages on the Internet that you can’t make head or tail of. Its fairly large list of languages consists of Chinese, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish and it can translate from any one of of these to another.

Word Autocompletion

Whenever you are typing anywhere in Mac OS X, you can simply press the Esc key while typing any word and you’ll be presented with a menu of all the words and phrases that begin with those letters and you can choose any of them. In the example shown here, I’d entered ‘appl’ before hitting the Esc key. Though not very useful in regular usage, it does help when you remember the first few letters of a word but aren’t sure how it ends.

TextEdit Auto-save

In Leopard, Apple introduced one new feature in TextEdit which essentially changed it from an application you could do your writing with to the application you should do your writing with. They added the ability to have TextEdit auto-save your documents on the fly as you go about writing. So far, this has only saved one of my pieces but that one miraculous recovery has made me realize just how useful this feature is. If you are a writer and use OS X, TextEdit will probably be sufficient for your needs as long as they don’t include a lot of heavy duty stuff related to images and tables, etc.


Alex is the name of the new synthesized English voice in Leopard. It is categorically illustrious. Though it does not have a direct relation to writing, the fact that it can respectably read out the tens or hundreds of articles an author reads everyday makes the job of writing a whole lot easier. It is particularly useful because you can have it read an article after you’ve completed writing it, which makes it easier to spot those tiny errors that inevitably creep in. I’ve been using Alex ever since I installed Leopard and can say without any doubt that this is one of the best features of the operating system.


There are several more features in Mac OS X that don’t directly relate to writing but are useful for people in this profession nevertheless. The fact that TextEdit supports Word documents right out of the box ensures that Mac users are not left in the cold in case someone sends them one for reference. In the same vein, the built-in support for PDF is a blessing. The ability to select a bunch of text from cocoa applications and drag them anywhere on the hard drive to save it as a clipping is a great feature to have, specially with the Spotlight integration that makes it a cinch to search through them.

These are but a few of the several features that make the Mac the most ideal platform for authors and people from other professions and students who often find themselves indulged in literary pursuits. Since I’ve been using most of these for quite a while now, it occurred to me that OS X deserved a public ovation for these nifty attributes. I’m sure I must have missed a few related features here and there that some of you might be using on a regular basis. Please let us know about any hidden gems that you are particularly fond of.


  • jer’s novel writer - mac only, brilliant program

    magicg had this to say on Feb 14, 2008 Posts: 8
  • I’ll second what magicg said above, but broaden it a bit.  The writing applications available on Mac OS X are an important advantage for writers: Jer’s Novel Writer, Scrivener, WriteRoom, and others. 

    Also, for more details (and screenshots) of Apple’s splendid Dictionary, see http://watchingapple.com/2007/11/dictionary-is-even-better-in-leopard/.

    John Blackburn had this to say on Feb 14, 2008 Posts: 1
  • I’m not entirely sure what kind of writer you’re talking about, but technical writers who need to use Framemaker have been left out in the cold because Adobe chooses to support Windows and Solaris only.

    The rest of the features you quote are merely toys. Serious, hard-core technical writers wouldn’t bother with most of that because they’re too busy writing.

    VetPsychWars had this to say on Feb 14, 2008 Posts: 1
  • If only Charles Dickens had had a mac, then his books would really have been good.

    wallydog had this to say on Feb 14, 2008 Posts: 3
  • I would agree that MacOSX is great for writing, but I don’t think any of the reasons you listed above have anything to do with it.

    Spellcheck is nice, but hardly unique to OSX. The dictionary/thesaurus is almost useless; if you don’t know a word you shouldn’t be using it.

    I never use Auto-complete because it’s always faster just to type the word out. I don’t really see the scenario you portray happening often.

    I hadn’t thought of using Alex to read out files. He might be be useful for checking not only errors but logical structure.

    That’s alot of rebutals, so here’s why OSX is the best platform for writing. It places the fewest barriers between the author and the page. Using OSX I get down to writing faster, and stay writing longer, then when I use Windows.

    Finally here’s where Windows beats OSX: Font rendering. I find ClearType so much easier to read than Quartz. Calibri almost closed the gap for me by itself. When you spend as much time staring at a screen as I do, font legibility can be the difference between another hour of writing and a throbbing head-ache.

    Ideal is superlative, ‘most’ is superfluous.

    simo66 had this to say on Feb 14, 2008 Posts: 78
  • Hm, if you happen to be writing in (American) English, then Apple does indeed offer a few nice gimmicks. For writers of other languages there’s no dictionary/thesaurus to cross-check with, no useable text-to-speech-function, etc.

    And if you happen to live in a bilingual environment (as hundreds of million do all over the world) even the spell checker becomes largely useless.

    jobberwacky had this to say on Feb 15, 2008 Posts: 1
  • If only Charles Dickens had had a mac, then his books would really have been good.

    Ha!  Agreed!

    All things being equal, I prefer Macs simply because, for whatever reason, Final Draft and Word both look prettier than they do on Windows.  Not sure why that is, but it is.  It also doesn’t really matter very much.  I write on my Mac when I’m at home and I write on my PC laptop when I go out and I switch back and forth without missing a beat, or any features.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Feb 15, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • I agree with jobberwacky.  If Apple really want the Mac to take off in Asia, then they need to accommodate the languages in the dictionary.  All I want though, is an English dictionary not an American dictionary. Can anyone tell me how to achieve this on a Mac. Preferably without paying money.


    mikepass had this to say on Feb 15, 2008 Posts: 5
  • Wow, Alex and Jer’s Novel Writer just changed my life. And my name is Jer and I’m writing a novel!

    jhansonf had this to say on Feb 15, 2008 Posts: 1
  • Yes, I agree with you Mac is helpful for writers. With the given features it is ideal not only for writers I guess.como adelgazar la barriga

    ashley had this to say on May 05, 2011 Posts: 1
  • I think we need to bring more ideas for this purpose. Involvement of young people can be handy in this regard. I am happy to find a good post here. Thank you. payday cash advance

    timhopkins87 had this to say on Sep 29, 2011 Posts: 5
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