Technical Writing and Publishing Software for Mac

I am wondering what suggestions may be out there for technical (actually medical) writing software for the Mac.

I am planning to write a series of books in which I curate and discuss articles in the medical literature. The big-players I see are only PC-based: Adobe Framemaker and Madcap Flare; among those Madcap Flare seems to have a superior user interface and features, though it costs more than Framemaker. Either of these can publish simultaneously to responsive HTML5, PDF, and ePUB. Scrivener seems the closest match on the Mac and is much less expensive than either of those, but it has at best very limited HTML output capability.

Thus I suspect I will go with Madcap Flare and use Parallels. Is there instead some Mac-native solution that I am overlooking?

I am curious as to why HTML is so important. I write books for a living (fiction, admittedly) and never once have I been asked for that. What is the prospected market?

You may want to clarify what you’re looking for a bit. I’d describe Framemaker as desktop publishing software (not familiar with Flare, but a quick glance at their website would lead me to put it in roughly the same category). It would not be my first choice for actually doing any writing. Instead, this kind of software is a place to take text after it’s written and format it nicely for output.

If you’re looking for native Mac software to do this your best bet is probably Adobe InDesign (Affinity Publisher also does desktop publishing, but they don’t seem to offer HTML or ePub). Alternatively, if you don’t need quite that level of graphical sophistication you could write in some sort of markup language like Markdown and convert to ePub/HTML/PDF with Pandoc.


That’s certainly a reasonable question.

The market will be three-fold: (1) Attorneys with medical-legal cases; (2) Physicians; and (3) Educated non-physicians. In each case the goal is to curate the medical literature and present credible point/counterpoint articles or summary/review articles for a given topic.

The reason for it to be HTML is that (a) A lot of this sort of research is done online by the above groups; (b) Much of the content will contain hyperlinks to the primary sources; and (c ) The material will be updated regularly since that is the nature of the field.

I would imagine that the PDF/Kindle versions will include a link back to the website for current information and that most who first read those versions will move to the HTML version over time.

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I am looking for something that will let me “write” non-fiction, which in this case will mostly involve organizing/curating links to primary sources with some introductory paragraphs for background/orientation. Toward that end, Madcap Flare is sort of like Wordpress but with much more sophisticated capabilities for organizing and reusing and linking information together. InDesign is great for graphical design, but what I really am aiming at is “information design” - my role in this project will be basically that of a content navigator or topic specialist to figure out how to make academic writing user-friendly enough so that either a doctor or an educated non-doctor can easily sort through an overwhelming volume of medical literature and find pro and con articles that are best-of-kind for the given topic.

That’s helpful. In that case it sounds like desktop publishing software may be overkill for the level of graphical and layout sophistication that you require. If Markdown can do what you need, then you might take a look at various Markdown editors that support export in the formats you’re looking for (for instance Ulysses supports HTML, ePub, and PDF). Alternatively you could write in markdown and use Pandoc or Marked 2 (although the latter doesn’t directly support ePub) to convert to the formats you need.

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That’s interesting about Uylsses - I did not realize it does HTML and ePub output

I use Ulysses for publication on the web, as ebooks, and in academic journals and find its export works well for all three.


Will the “books” be accessed and read on a platform you control, or will they be purchased there and then downloaded by the customer into Books, or Kindle or PDF readers?

BTW, Ulysses can publish directly to Wordpress – so they make a good and relatively inexpensive combination for authoring, design, content management, publishing, and access control.

You can write it in Word or any program you want, and then send to a print company, they will do the composition.
as @ChrisUpchurch already mentioned it, Adobe InDesign is good for that, but usually it’s used separately, as a 2nd step, not for writing directly in it.


I second that. Should not the technical considerations be left to a publisher? They’re the publisher’s job (unless you intend to go indie, which is a whole different thing).


Will all source articles be available on line or do you just plan to link to where to buy/borrow them? Will you need a bibliography/reference manager?

Yes - I will be the publisher as an indie

Links to source articles will be a major part of the project - I will include abstracts or brief excerpts with links to find the original materials.

I won’t need a classic reference manager, but a well-organized appendix and other methods of organizing the links will be essential, which is a major reason why the choice of software will be important and why I am considering MadCap.

Okay then that’s a whole different beast. Withdrawing as I can’t say much about indie publishing.

I think that actually clarifies things for me as well - admittedly my post is about a “Writing” project (and those are the responses I got) but in fact it is both a writing and publishing project. The goal in fact is to do something a bit non-traditional which makes information accessible more easily and more rapidly than possible in a traditional publishing arrangement.

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There are publishing platforms that can handle that side of the work for you. E.g., @LucCogZest uses Leanpub. These can handle regular updates to your content, and enable you to focus on writing and let someone else manage the publication.

(Leanpub is merely an example – maybe change the title of your thread to “Technical Writing & Publishing Software for Mac” to encourage input on the pub side.)


Thanks - how does that work if you want an online version as well?

I’m glad if this little brainstorming session helps you get going! Best of luck to you. :+1::slightly_smiling_face:

Not entirely sure I follow. You are anticipating customers who can read the content online, as well as download the content, and you also will update the online content periodically? So, the downloading customers are going to get out of “sync”, as it were?

Sounds like a dynamic website with a paywall, and customers can grab copies for offline reading. I don’t think that’s a case for Leanpub, then.

But what’s an example site that you think is like what you want to accomplish? Seems like the writing software is not the issue so much as what the content delivery user experience is.

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