Whether you're a professional writer who needs software to create your latest epic, novel or someone who simply needs to produce documents, reports, newsletters, and other text-based tasks, then macOS is the right place to be. The selection of quality word processors available is incredible, ranging from minimalist no-distraction apps right up to fully featured office suites.
We've gathered together 10 of our favourites that allow users to get things down on the page quickly and with as little fuss as possible.
When it comes to word processors, Microsoft Word is still the gold standard for most people. Its widespread use by businesses around the globe means that you should never run into any issues with people not being able to open a document or having your formatting going awry when you send the file to a colleague.
Word is a powerful app that has pretty much anything you'd need for something as simple as a short letter right up to detailed reports with graphics and charts.
There are handy features like Smart Look Up, which allows users to select a word or phrase in a document and access information about the term from the web. There's also a Resume Reading feature that auto-bookmarks your reading position in a document and takes you back there when you re-open it. Plus, the Editor will suggest grammatical and structural improvements to your sentances so that all your prose is as clear as possible. The built-in Microsoft Translator is present for language duties, and you'll also find tools for scaleable vector graphics and 3D images.
Best of all, though, is the integration with Microsoft's online Office 365, which makes it easy to work on documents in the iOS and iPadOS versions of Word or in a web browser.
The standalone software costs £109.99/US$139.99/AU$159.99 for a one-off payment from Microsoft or from Apple, but arguably the best value is to be found in the Microsoft 365 monthly subscription, which not only gives you access to Word, but also Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, as well as 1TB of storage on OneDrive. Prices start at £5.99/US$6.99/AU$10 per month.
Apple's Pages has always been as much about making your documents look great as it has been about providing you with powerful writing tools, and the best news is, it's free!
As well as support for technologies such as Split View and Voice Over, Pages makes switching between macOS and iOS as easy as it could be. The use of iCloud as storage for documents means you can work on them wherever you have a Mac, iOS device or access to a web browser. But what sets Pages apart from others is its support for Handoff, meaning you don't have to save and close a document on one device before moving to another, and its integration with iCloud, so that you can access your documents and work on them anywhere and on any device.
While there have been many additions to Pages in recent versions, one thing that hasn't changed is the best-in-class templates for creating documents easily. Placeholders make it easy to add images from the Photos app, or anywhere else on your Mac, and if you're not happy with the colours or fonts used in a template, you can change those too.
You can also now link to websites and email addresses from objects in the document, as well as embed and play YouTube or Vimeo videos on the page.
Apple's Pages is a fully featured, modern word processor, all of which makes its price (or lack thereof) all the more impressive.
If you prefer the minimalist approach to writing, there are no shortage of apps on the Mac App Store from which to choose. iA Writer was one of the first and remains among the very best.
Its flagship feature is Focus mode, a way of writing that scrolls the text as you type so the sentence you're working on is always at the centre of the screen and greys out everything else. This can also be expanded to include the whole paragraph on which you're working.
The new Style Check analyses your writing and suggests words that are redundant or cliched, so you can remove them before sending out your document. This done in real-time, with offending terms dimmed or crossed out automatically so you can see them as you write. There's also a handy PDF Preview that displays, in real-time, how a document will look when exported to PDF.
Like other minimalist writing apps, iA Writer supports Markdown, allowing you to format text by typing characters rather than selecting from a menu. It also supports Markdown's LiveParse mode, meaning you can write in plain text with Markdown markup on the left of the screen and see the formatted text in one of three templates on the right.
iA Writer will also colour-code verbs, adverbs, nouns, adjectives and conjunctions, making them easy to spot and, if necessary, tweak. There's a document library too, and the app hooks into both Wordpress and Medium.
You won't find much in the way of formatting features or the kind of bells and whistles offered by other software, but if your primary desire is to get your words down, then iA Writer is an excellent and afordable option.
You can buy iA Writer for £28.99/US$29.99/AU$29.99 on Apple's Mac App Store.
LibreOffice is a free office suite which has many of the features of Microsoft's offering. Writer, as the name suggests, is its word-processing element, and very good it is too. Importantly, it has full support for .doc and .docx files, so you can open those and work on them without a problem.
Wizards allow you to quickly set up memos, letters and even mail-merge documents, and there are all the styling and formatting tools you would expect. An auto-complete feature makes suggestions as you type, though this may not be for everyone.
There are tools to create tables of contents and indexes for longer documents, while a template centre on the LibreOffice website has lots of document templates you can download and use. There are also downloadable extensions that add features to Writer.
LibreOffice lacks the polish of Word or Pages, and doesn't have the same features to allow you to easily work on documents on an iOS device as well as your Mac, but as a free tool that supports multiple formats and covers all the basics, it's excellent.
Google pioneered the web-based app method of working, and its word processor Docs has gone from strength to strength.
It's a decent option for working on documents on your own, with the main benefit being that you can work on them wherever you're logged into your Google account, be it on your own Mac, an iOS device, or anywhere you have access to a web browser. But it really comes into its own as a collaborative tool. Multiple users can work on a shared document simultaneously (but only if they've been given permission to do so by the document creator).
Google Docs allows you to see changes others make to the document in real time and colour-coded user IDs make it easy to see who's made the changes.
It's not a tool we'd choose for writing a novel or a screenplay, but as a means of sharing ideas, creating documents and reports, drawing up lists, or sharing text used by multiple members of a team - say, boilerplate copy for stories on a website, or posts on a blog - it's excellent, especially as keeping that copy up to date is so easy.
Scrivener has an army of fans who use it to write everything from blog posts to full-length novels and screenplays. And it's easy to see why it's so popular, especially now the third major version has been released.
For a start there are numerous templates for novels, short stories, various screenplays (including standard formats for BBC Radio and BBC Taped Drama), non-fiction documents and even poetry.
Each document has a library for documents and their sub-documents, all of which can be colour-coded and kept in folders if you want. There's also a library for research notes. And Scrivener's split-screen mode allows you to have the document you're working on open in one half of the screen, with your research notes above or below. The corkboard view allows you to see how documents and sub-documents relate to each other and, if you prefer, a separate viewing mode organises them in outline form.
You can create a synopsis for documents which is stored with the document, as well as adding keywords and other metadata. Another panel allows you to add references and another makes it straightforward to take a snapshot of a document and roll back to it later, if you want.
Once you're ready, the Compile feature makes it easy to pull all the documents and sub-documents in a project together ready for printing or export, including to the Kindle eBook format. There's also an iOS version, too, so you can create on the go.
If Scrivener is overkill for your writing needs, Ulysses offers a simpler option. It combines elements of iA Writer, such as Markdown support and distraction-free writing, with a document library similar to that in Scrivener. And it has an iOS app, so you can swap easily between iOS and macOS when you're working on a document.
It's a comprehensive suite, with grammar and writing style analysis, a clean and sparse writing environment with modes such as a typewriter scrolling layout similar to those in Byword and iA Writer, plus it also has a split-screen view like the one in Scrivener.
There are light and dark modes and you can customise, for example, colour palettes. Ulysses also has powerful tools for posting directly to blogging platforms from within the app, and supports multiple cloud storage services, including iCloud and Dropbox.
Ulysses has seen quite a few updates in recent years, with new features added all the time, making it a competitive app in an already crowded field.
Like Microsoft 365, you'll need a monthly subscription to use Ulysses or pay a year at a time if you want to save some money. At the time of writing this costs £5.99/US$5.99/AU$9.99 p/m or £48.99/US$49.99/AU$81.99 per year.
One of the newest offerings on our list is Highland 2, a multi-format processor with a primary focus on screenwriting. This isn't surprising, as the software was developed by John August, the writer of the movies Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, and Aladdin.
Everything about Highland 2 is there to get you writing and forget about formatting, fonts and other distractions. For screenplays, the software automatically recognises direction and dialogue, meaning you don't need to select the location mode or tell it that a character is speaking. As an example, for the latter you just type the character name in all-caps and Highland 2 will seamlessly move into dialogue mode, allowing you to write without breaking your momentum while looking for settings.
It's not just a tool from creating scripts though, as there are formats for presentations, graphic novels, stage plays, speeches, novels, articles and more.
The software also allows you to set writing goals so you can stay motivated, plus there are clever tools that analyse the gender balance of a document (so you can see whether one sex is getting all the lines), plus international terms that suggest alternative common-use words for other countries (say, sidewalk in the US or pavement in the UK).
The best part is that Highland 2 is free, with only a few features held back for the Pro tier. These include a Revision mode (one that tracks your changes), Word Analysis (reports how often you repeat words or phrases), as well as some of the templates.
If you're looking for a lightweight, intelligent and genuinely helpful writing suite, then Highland 2 should definitely be on your list.