Help with finding best writing app for the Mac

Hi everyone.

I need your help to find the best writing app for my needs. I have previously used Byword for many years and it has served me well. But I’m starting a project now, which requires a structure where I can easily access other documents in a left-pane folder view. Byword does not have that, so I have to look elsewhere.

What I am looking for is an app, similar to and Evernote, that groups documents in simple folders kept in a left pane. I’m going to create about 5-6 folders and in those I will have up to 200 documents that I will be working on. would be ideal. It is simple and fits what I want to do perfectly. But it is not really a writing app and I use it for other things, namely personal notes.

Evernote would be ideal as well. But again, it is not really a writing app and I use it as an archive for documents.

I have looked at Ulysses, because I like how it keeps notes in folders in a left pane, but I don’t want an app with a subscription and Ulysses does way too many things that I will never use. It is a fantastic app for writing, but I can’t justify the subscription for my basic needs.

The closest contender at the moment is probably Bear. It is dead simple and doesn’t need a subscription, only for iCloud syncing to another device, which I wouldn’t use it for as I do all my writing on the Mac. The only thing I don’t like, is the use of tags. I always avoid using tags whenever I can. I don’t like them. I just want a simple folder structure.

Can anyone out there suggest a good app for writing with a simple left pane folder structure without a subscription service?

Thanks for your help.

What sorts of other documents are you looking to have in the app? Just text documents? Images? PDFs? Something else?

Do you need to be able to put the stuff in the left pane in a user-defined order? If not I’d say use Finder and Byword.

I found the tag-based organisation in Bear to be unwieldy and am happily subscribed to Ulysses. You can always get Ulysses for the duration of your project then save everything in an external folder. Or export to other formats. Either way it’s very easy to get your work out if you decide not to stick with it.

If you can wait, WriteRoom 4 should meet your needs, but it may be a while before it’s available.


If I understand your use case correctly, I believe Scrivener may be what you are looking for. I have used Scrivener for years and it has the functionality that you are looking for but, it is not intuitive and not simple—there is a learning curve—and it may have more features than you want/need.

I recently switched to Ulysses. I don’t like subscriptions either but in this case I made an exception, in part because I want to use Markdown so that that my content is “future proof” as technology and file formats change. I use Ulysses for everyting from short presentations to a book I’m working on.

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Sounds like Scrivener is what you need.


Sounds like Scrivener would fit the bill. It is NOT plain text/Markdown-based but a rich text app so be aware of that. It has Mac and iOS components, should you need that, and you can throw practically any kind of doc into its left pane.

It is mine-to-keep-forever software.


Scrivener - excellent organization capabilities,with tagging and grouping. But not a native markdown app. This is not entirely true ; Scrivener can export to markdown and marked 2 can inpret markdown in scrivener files.

For markdown capable writing environments with file management,consider:

IA writer
Sublime text

Marked 2 can provide some excellent previews of markdown files. You can transclude files(include the paths to other files and have them included in the preview).

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+1 for sublime text. Can make it as simple or complex as you like (with package installation). Rapid shifting between documents, and loads more.

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Sublime or Atom fit the bill.


Typora is free (beta) at the moment, and it has a folder view available in it’s left-hand panel.


Versatil Markdown has a file browser on the left and a robust editor. Another possible choice would be Highland 2. Both lack iOS apps. Should be OK if you use a different markdown-powered app on iOS.

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+1 for iA Writer — you have described it almost word for word. You can manage files of any kind in its folder structure and even embed them in your text. It’s incredibly powerful, and a joy to use.

Katie Floyd may not agree. Text editors are fun to compare. But they are a personal choice. …yea profound. :wink:

Since I included an iPad in my toolbox Ulysses became my tool of choice. I’ve added Drafts. It does not feel like task duplication. (Awaiting Drafts on the Mac)

Though not unified both apps do well with organization,

Nothing wrong with Scrivener … Ulysses is a just right app for me.

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Just ordinary text documents. They can be plain text or others

Thanks for your insight! I will look into WriteRoom 4 when it becomes available.

Thanks for your insight. Scrivener is definitely not for me - I have tried it. Thanks again!

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Thanks for your insight!

iA Write is definitely a contender, but as I will have up 100-150 documents they will be cluttering my finder, which I don’t like. But thanks for your insight!

I know you said you don’t want a subscription, but I think Ulysses is probably the best fit for what you’re looking for.


Thanks Chris. I’m posting an update now on the quest, which also answers your comment