MS means Microsoft too..who knew

Miss Snark,

I recently purchased an iMac. As a struggling writer, I could ill afford the $250 Microsoft wants for Microsoft Office for Mac. After a lengthy search, I found what appears to be a simple, functional word processing program called Nisus Writer Express. It does everything I need it to, and claims to create and read files compatible with any program but I worry that I might someday find myself in the position of having written the publishable American novel and have it requested by an agent of your snarkotimous stature, only to discover that she is unable to open my document and therefore, unable to offer me the sage and intuitive representation my budding masterpiece may someday require.

My question to you: Have you ever had difficulty opening a file generated on a Mac? My Nisus program recommends RTF format which is supposed to be universal. Is this better/more universally accessible than Word's format? Do you or your more gifted cohorts use Macs? PC's? Typewriters?

Miss Snark uses a Mac, as does anyone with style and savoir faire.
Miss Snark also requires clients to submit work electronically, thus she is fully informed on the perils of platform.

Here's how it works at Snark Central. You send it. I open it and convert it to my program. I can do that cause the Mac I have is designed to read damn near anything. I use MS Word cause that's the program editors read and use.

What you need to worry about though are the agents who aren't on Mac, and there are more of them than there are of us. What you can do is email yourself a saved version of your document in RTF and then go to Kinkos or your library, log onto your email and try to open the doc. See if it works. If not, you'll need to figure out what does.

And I spent $4o0 on Microsoft Office for Mac just last year and I have this terrible feeling they're about to upgrade and I'll need to do it all over again. Harumph.

**no more comments on this post. I'm fast losing interest in the pc/mac war.


Anonymous said...

Yes, every cool person uses a Mac. In publishing and design, I don't know anyone who uses PC. That's for corporate cubicles and Flyover Land.

Anonymous said...

Look at the contents of your Applications folder and open APPLE WORKS. Voila! It includes fabulous word processing software that came with OS X. It can write files readable by WORD. You don't need that Brand X thing.

You should also run the software update utility every now and then and update OS X whenever a new version comes out as that will keep your file translators current with new versions of the MS software.

Anonymous said...

RTF should by readable by anyone with any word-processing program on any platform. But if you're nervous, there are free programs available on the web that will translate your RTF files to M$Word format, so there's no need to shell out the big bucks for the brand name product.

Anonymous said...

I might be way off, since I don't know much of this kind of thing, but couldn't you just put it in a .txt file if other types don't work?

Katharine Swartz said...

I love Macs, but I've had some problems with editors opening my stuff up. I do have MS Word on my MacBook, but sometimes it opens in a big font, formatted improperly, etc. Usually it's not *too* big of a problem, though.

Anonymous said...

I use Macs exclusively for my writing. I also use Nisus Writer Express (a fantastic word processor that beats the pants off Word). I have not had any problems whatsoever sharing manuscript files created in Nisus with others critiquing my work (mostly in my Creative Writing classes) who use Word. Like everything Mac, it just works.

I also want to throw in my own Apple Akhbar! and say congratulations on graduating from the tinker toy computer to the world of real computing, which is all things Macintosh!

Joelle said...

Have you looked to see if there's a student teacher edition of Office. I'm sure there's one for PC so maybe for mac too. Yep. Here's one on amazon http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Office-Student-Teacher-Macintosh/dp/B0001WN16M for $129.99 You'll have to do more digging to find out if it will work though. Also, ask around. Someone might have an older version of Word for Mac that will work. That's what I did and then you can upgrade it on the internet. Try ebay. I would do my best to try and get Word somehow. Then you don't have to worry about it.

Carla said...

That's for corporate cubicles and Flyover Land.

And people who like to play computer games.

.rtf files are universal, and I can't imagine anyone having a problem opening them. I've never had a problem with my PC files opening with any Mac users. If you need .doc files, there's probably a converter somewhere online.

Anonymous said...

Try NeoOffice. It's fully compatible with Microsoft Office. Best part? It's free.


Anonymous said...

Another option: all Macs have the ability to print to PDF from pretty much whatever program you're using that prints anything, and PDF is a pretty darn common format that can be read across all platforms, MS Word or no, and almost everyone has the software to do so.

Granted, they won't be able to edit the file--but do agents need to do that for electronic submissions?

CM said...

I would like to suggest OpenOffice at http://www.openoffice.org.

It's free, and it can open and manipulate Word files. I used it for two years when working with a magazine, and never once had a problem.

Take a look. And yes, it's free. And it's legal.

~Nancy said...

Macs may be cool, but I feel they're overpriced. And, no, I'm not in Flyover Land :-) (but I am in Corporate America).

I learned on WordPerfect, and I've always thought MS Word wasn't worth the extra dough (I have to use it at work, unfortunately). What I use at home is Open Office, a free word processing program. It does everything Word does - for free (including saving to RTF). I recently picked up a notebook computer for a nice price; that has WordPerfect on it (yahoo!).

If you can do a Save As within your Mac programs, I don't see using one as a problem.


Patrick Samphire said...

There's always Open Office, which I hear is very good, although I haven't used it.

Cool people may use Macs, but people who want to do things easily (and play games) use Windows PCs. I have both, and I'd choose a PC any day.

Ms Molly said...

Open Office is what you should be using if you can't afford Word. It's the biggest, most well-known open source office suite out there. It will open all Word (and other format) documents, and you can save your documents as Word and they'll be openable by anyone with Microsoft Office. You also get a spreadsheet program and a Powerpoint eqivalent. Miss Snark's advice to email the doc to yourself to test this is good, though.

But seriously. I don't even know why people bother to buy Microsoft Office anymore.

ORION said...

Students and teachers version of microsoft office is only $99 at most college bookstores or computer stores. The only thing it doesn't have is access which most people don't use.
I don't know if you are a student or teacher but it applies to ANY student OR teacher even part time cuz I called MS and asked...
just a thought...
Macs ROCK.

Anonymous said...

If you don't have the $$$ to drop on MS Office (or simply don't want to) you can try Open Office (www.openoffice.org). It's a multi-platform freeware suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, etc.

Anonymous said...

I sent sample pages, partials and fulls as Word docs - "name.doc"

Only one agent out of about a dozen couldn't open tha attachment and asked me to send her a hard-copy version.

rejectedwriter said...

FWIW, Nisus is an okay program. I used it for awhile, but their coding crap finally bugged me too much.

If you're using the free version, I'd suggest you check out Apple's iWorks package before paying Nisus. Decent price (apple's), and the document program in it can save .doc formatted documents.

Macs rule; PCs wish they were evolved enough to drool

Aline Berkman said...

Let's face it, there are agents who aren't tech savvy but they're not the future leaders of the industry.

In publishing today you've gotta be net-savvy and computer-savvy.

So why don't agents just use Linux?

JLauren said...

Just get Open Office. It's free and basically the same as Word. And you can save your files as word documents so you won't have any problems with compatibility.


SP Rankin said...

You can get MS Mac Office Student Edition for about $140 -- and believe me, MS doesn't make a house-to-house search for student IDs or anything. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage (Outlook for Macs).

The thing with Word (grinding teeth) is that it really is the standard for editing. It's complicated and over-elaborate, but the change tracking and commenting are very powerful.

Nisus Writer is a good program. If you save in RTF, you should be fine but check your doc as Miss Snark suggests to make sure your indents and line spacing survive.

Anonymous said...

from a microsoft certified professional:)

please your snarkyness, the upgrades are ridiculous as are the constant request for pc users to download the latest windows update.

I have and use several versions of MS Office. the best one they ever made was office 97. office 2003 is a real stinker and 2007 will offer you little more than office 97, other than a few missplaced icons and functions.

so please don't think you need to upgrade each year Oh-Great-One.


Erin said...

If worst came to worst, as a strategy of last resort, you could turn your document into a pdf file. There are some freeware pdf writers out there.

Dr. Hack said...

Welcome to the glory of GNU Freeware:


It doesn't cost a penny, operates on a Mac, saves documents in the latest 2007 format, and works just as good as Office.

Gotta love them software hippies keeping freedom free in the free world.

Anonymous said...

There's also a program called Open Office, which is available for free download on a Mac. I have a full version of MS Word, but I use this to open everything not supported by Word. Best part? You can save in .doc format, and choose the option to "Save for PC" which means no screw-ups!

Steve said...

I use a PC because it's not the computer but the software that counts. But that's not why I'm commenting.

I'm not sure why you, Miss Snark, feel you need to upgrade your software just because a new version comes out. If software does the job you need it to do why change?

I often use software that's a few years out of date. New versions are rapidly approaching a plateau where the developers will struggle to add in any new features.

Poohba said...

I'm a Mac person too - and I've found Apple's iWorks programs to be a wonderful Office substitute. Pages, the word processing program, has opened every ".doc," ".rtf" and ".txt" extension I've ever encountered - and I can "export" to those formats as well.

FYI: This isn't as relevant to publishing, but the Powerpoint substitute is a little trickier to "export" with. It will open and read Powerpoint slides and "export" slides with blank backgrounds, but I've found they need some cleaning up once they're into Powerpoint. (Pages, I've found, has better compatibility with PC versions of Word than the old Mac version I used to use.)

I think iWorks cost me something like an extra $70 when I bought my computer. It was well worth it. And not one annoying little anthropomorphized paperclip cartoon in sight.

The Appleworks program that came with my Mac also opens many (but not all) Excel spreadsheets.

Anonymous said...

May I suggest CopyWrite by Bartas Technology. For $30 you can get a application especially designed for writers -- this thing is great (I have no affiliation with them, just a very satisfied customer). No page formatting distractions just a clean canvas on which to create. Check it out:

Kanani said...

Find someone who works at a university or is a student.
You can buy an educational stand alone of Word for around $120.00

Now, if you're not a student, then you can also order it online through the apple site. They'll ask you which school you go to. Just say you're a high schooler.

If I were you, I'd buy the student pack and take one less thing off your mind.

I love Appleworks for putting together chapbooks. But often I e-mail chapters to people in my writing group, and if they have PC's, they only thing that really goes through is Word.

Wiley said...

Use OpenOffice. Seriously. It's free, it works, it does almost everything Office will do. It works on all platforms.

My laptop is Ubuntu Linux, my Mac is OS X, and my PC is XP (soon to be Linux, however) and OpenOffice works on all of them.

And don't worry about compatibility. I work as a contract technical writer and all of my clients are Office addicts, but I have never had a problem opening or saving in .doc format and no one has ever had trouble with my files, this holds for spreadsheets as well as long documents with change-tracking and page numbering and all kinds of more complicated features.

So that's my long plug for OpenOffice.

Heidi the Hick said...

"Miss Snark uses a Mac, as does anyone with style and savoir faire."


I am getting the hang of Pages and I really like it. I will never touch Microsoft again. EVER!

My smart guy husband tells me that I can always send PDF if a PC user can't open my document.

Steve Malley said...

I did write the Novel That Won the Agent on a free downloaded program. I too worried that there'd be some kind of reading problem, despite all assurances.

My solution?

I slapped the '.doc' onto a CD adn took that to the library and used *their* MS Word to save a true copy.

I was right to worry. When I opened my 'fully compatible' version, my page numbers only showed up on every other page!

Eric said...

FYI to all: NeoOffice is the Macintosh-ified version of Open Office. That's the way to go. (OpenOffice does work on a Mac, but requires some extra software to run. NeoOffice doesn't, plus looks more Mac-ky.)

And both are free. Plus have spreadsheets to keep track of your money spent on postage, and a database for tracking agent submissions... heh.

Anonymous said...

Some of this advice is overly complicated. I use a Mac and the iWork suite that includes Pages. When you're ready to send it off to someone, just export it to a .doc format and ship it off. No fuss, no muss!

Mark (@WN.org) said...

Those looking for a Mac word processor might be interested in Mellel:


There's a free demo. I've been using it for around five months, and while it takes some getting used to, I'm very happy with it. It has its own file format, but you can export to .rtf or .doc.

I tried Nisus Writer Express as well. I almost got it instead, but I missed the footnote and outlining features too much.

Dave said...

May I say something about being a professional.

When I worked as a professional engineer, I didn't use a slide rule whan a calculator or computer would do. I didn't use a pencil and straightedge when the computerized drafting programs for flowsheets were available. I didn't use a 1950's reference book when the current version was 1999.

If writing is your life and is putting bread on your table, then get the proper tool. If that's MS Word with it's very good track changes and comment features, so be it.

You can use a typewriter and get free e-mail from a library, but you are cheating yourself.

PS. I don't care which you use MAC or PC.

Anonymous said...

the trick for mac to pc is that you have to name your file with .doc (if you're saving in word) or .rtf (if you're saving in rtf). the PC can still open the file without an extension, if you specify the program with which to open the file or detach and rename to a file with extension format, but most PC users are too novice or impatient to do this.

Anonymous said...

I use iWork's Pages, and it rocks! And also, I create every file in PDF format, so it is readable on any computer. Macs may not be "easy" if you're used to Windows computers, but after a little time, you quickly learn that Macs can do SOOOO much more out of the box, and generally better.

Anonymous said...

Another free option is Google Docs & Spreadsheets:


As part of Google's plan of world domination, they set up a word processing program that works in your web browser and can save .doc, .pdf, .anything files.

cheryl said...

I have two Windows PCs, but as soon as one of them dies (or I sell something for a nice chunk o'change) I'm buying a Mac because thier commercials are so freaking cool.

Way to go, marketing!

wardancingpixie said...

I have MS Office 2002. I deleted it from my computer and installed elements of the old Office 97. I like it better.

I do not use Word when I write. I use Word Perfect. It's much easier to use and format. It will save to Word or RTF (and a zillion other formats). It's a better product.

No one cares what program you use for word processing as long as they can read it in theirs. There's probably someone out there that remembers and uses WordStar. I think there is still an active user group .... Who cares, as long as it can be read on other programs?

Apple? No thanks. Don't like 'em. Don't use 'em. Neither Pixies nor goats like apples as computers. Apples are much better as food.

Anaea said...

I'm going to add to the chorus of people praising OpenOffice. I've never had any trouble with it that wasn't caused by me forgetting to save in the correct format.

But I'll also point out google docs. It seems to open and save to most formats, and has saved me more than once when I've saved a file as a .odt, then gotten to the library and needed a .doc Google docs does mess up formatting a bit, but can be a lifesaver.

Laura L said...

Mac vs PC parody
at YouTube

Anonymous said...

Mac is a cult. But it's a cult that has made me a bundle of dough from my Apple stock. Why anyone would want a computer where all peripherals and software are controlled by one company escapes me, except for the fact that some people just like to "think different." Talk about monopolies. The software for Mac is very limited, while PC software is abundant.

I do like John Hodgman, though, PC in the commercials, and author of "The Areas Of My Expertise: An Almanac Of Complete World Knowledge Compiled With Instructive Annotation And Arranged In Useful Order."

Mark said...

I hate Mac's. The only time I used them was writing for the college paper, where I had some files disappear after saving them on the drive. Apparently it didn't take. I don't like the goofy icons that expand like you're suddenly on acid. I'm sure the creators were, although I don't, ahem...hold that against them. I've actually lost reporting jobs because of them i.e. taken on old versions, fumbling with the menus and such under time constraint.

Real writers do use manual typewriters although I can't abide those either. Generally my Compaq PC and Word 2000 does fine.

Fiona said...

As with many other people...go for OpenOffice. I use it and it is very, very similar to Word and it's free.

You can save it to word documents and so you can open it with MS Word etc. Which is very good cos then you can save it to an MS Word doc to send to your agent and no worries there.

From someone who uses it, get it because it's better then any other free word Processor out there. Plus it comes with many useful thigns - Spreadsheets, PowerPoint thingies and others. Very useful tool proving that you do not need to fork out a lot of money for Office at all - ever.

Anonymous said...


Yes, Open Office is the go. It is 100% free, high quality and should be supported. You can get anything including word processors, spreadsheets, graphics and so on.

It will work with Microsoft or Mac. Strike a blow for free software lovers everywhere and subvert the military industrial machine at the same time.

Martha Bridegam said...

TextEdit, which comes with Macs, has a "Save As" function that will place documents in Windows-readable Word format. The only problem is, TextEdit won't do headers, footers, footnotes or page numbers. AppleWorks will do all of those things but I'm not sure if it's readable in Windows.

If the "no soup for you!" standards of agents allow PDFs, you can generate those with OpenOffice including page numbers and everything.

The only thing OpenOffice seemingly won't generate properly is legal pleading paper (grr!).

Robert Billing said...

I'll add nyself to the list of people suggesting OpenOffice. I use it all the time and quite freely exchange documents with clients who use word and excel.

The major advantage is that the format of an OpenOffice document is known and has been adopted as an ISO standard. Because of this we can reasonably expect documents in Oo format to go on being compatible for decades to come.

Anonymous said...

When you go and save the pages you hit the "save as" command. Then you give it a file name. Next, there will be a box below the "file name" that says "save type". This command allows you to save the pages in any formate and program you like.

Good luck. Don't let a little thing like money hold you back.

Anonymous said...

I find it amusing that someone would buy a mac and then neglect essential software that costs $250 when the premium you pay for a mac verse an equivalent machine is far greater then that.

In a perfect world I would probably buy a mac, but on my budget I can do a thousand times more on the best PC I can afford then I could on the best mac I can afford.

Angela said...

If you really do not spend money I to would suggest open office. I got it as part of a university course and whilst it took me a lot of getting used to, I found it sufficiant for my needs.

Judy Schneider said...

laura l, love the You Tube link. Thanks!

Just wanted to ring in as a PC user. When I worked in chemical research, there was no other choice -- Macs were for kids.

Anonymous said...

OK - so this is a blast from the past - I use a text editor to write (and edit), no fonts no headers, no frittering with styles and fonts and spacing and who knows what. My current editor is Smultron - it has auto spell-check - which I like a lot - but I also use just about anything depending on the computer/OS I happen to be working on. For output I use GROFF - which is a print processor - like in the olden days, I just add some simple commands to the top of my file - and bam - I've got a full-formatted Postscript file which I can print, or convert to a PDF. Best of all - changing the layout - font, spacing, indents, headers, etc - just means changing those commands - no changes to the file itself. Plus - the file is completely portable - I can work on anything - anywhere.

Too geeky for most - I expect - but for me much better for just focusing on writing.lkgydldp

Anonymous said...

.rtf will work for everyone. Don't covert it to a .txt file because that will turn it into a mess.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark:

If you need to upgrade and already have Word on your computer, you can buy the upgrade version for a BIG discount. It checks to see if you have an older version on your disk. If you do, it loads the new one, which is indistinguishable from the full price version.

I upgraded from Word 6.0, which was garbage IMO, to Word97, which was crappy in my opinion, to Word 2000 which is great and do not anticipate upgrading ever again as in ever again. New versions of Word are backward compatible, meaning they read documents written with older versions, but they may not be forward compatible. So agents may in due course have to upgrade - or not.

MS Word does read and write RTF (Rich Text Format) files. There is no need for your commenter to send files in MS Word format. Agents and editors probably do not know the difference anyway.

For that matter, neither do I.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Some of you "PC users" certainly have a chip on your shoulder. "Macs are a cult." "Macs have no software." Why don't you give me a list of software that you have on your PC. I guarantee that I have something equivalent on my Mac. Plus, I can even boot natively into Windows (notice I said natively, not in emulation) if I want to.

That said, the vast majority of PC users' complaints about Macs seem to result from just not spending enough time with them. They are different. And Mac OS X is different than Windows. Not better, not inferior. Just different. It takes time for anyone to learn a new operating system.

I have my preference. You have yours. Can't we just accept each other's choices?

Niteowl said...

Actually, it'd be too geeky if you were using emacs with a fully personalized Lisp config file. But your setup is plenty geeky for sure.

First person to say they use a Mac, but go into the FreeBSD shell to launch Vim wins.

Anonymous said...

"I have my preference. You have yours. Can't we just accept each other's choices?"

Sure, as soon as Mac users stop telling PC users that they should switch to Macs, that Mac users are smarter and better and more stylish than PC users, etc., etc.

Two reasons I'd never buy a Mac: their lame advertising, which pretends that buying their product makes you cool and "different"; Mac users, who are insufferable in their constant evangelizing about their computers.

It's a piece of machinery, people! Nothing more!

Anonymous said...

"Mac users are smarter and better and more stylish than PC users, etc., etc. "

"It's a piece of machinery, people! Nothing more!"

Well....duh. Seriously, most people I know that are Mac users used to use Windows-based PC's. I don't see anything wrong with evangelizing about stuff you like. People do it with cars and beer brands all the time.

Oh, and to the other anon: Not wanting to buy a Mac because of Apple's advertising and other Mac users is lame. Just lame. Sounds a bit like you're the one with the superiority complex.

Anonymous said...

Macs are overpriced and hardly the tool of a struggling artist. If you have money to burn and like Mac OS, then great. It doesn't have so much to do with style and savoir faire as it does consumption habits and the amount of money in one's bank account. Personally, every one of my novels has been written on MS Word 97, which gets the job done just fine. Need a file that's in a universal format? Save as RTF. Yes, Word 97 can do that, as can word processors that are even older. Look for it on eBay. It can be had for about $10. Is that a lot of money? And no, you won't look as hip or sexy on your used $300 PC notebook, but since when is work supposed to be about fashion statements?

As per the upgrade game, don't buy into it. If it's not broke, why are you fixing it? I spend every day using a 10-year-old word processor that does everything a writer could need it to do. So then why is everyone constantly fretting about their computers? Just what exactly is the cause of this whole “I need to upgrade” mania?

Gerb said...

I use a Mac. My editor has a PC. We haven't had any problems.

BTW... I think she's the coolest. Maybe that quality doesn't have anything to do with computer choice? Just a thought.

Jeanne said...

I'm a PC person, my friend and her husband have Macs, my son has everything. We all recently spent some time after dinner viewing the Mac ads online. Hilarious! I'd never noticed them before. Now I turn up the TV whenever they come on. My favorite (currently) is when PC is getting the camera installed with masking tape on his head and then walks away angrily when he discovers Macs have cameras built in. Too funny!!

Anonymous said...

"Why don't you give me a list of software that you have on your PC. I guarantee that I have something equivalent on my Mac."

Yes I'm sure for every ten choices PC has of a particular application, there is one for the Mac.

Mac is like a cool small town where, yes, there is an Ethiopian restaurant.

PC is like NYC.

"Feel like Ethiopian tonight?

"Sure, but which one?"

Tom said...

:Yes I'm sure for every ten choices PC has of a particular application, there is one for the Mac.:

True; and that one works better than any of the PC 10 - nor is it inimical to other software or the OS on the system. Can't say the same for your WinDozer.

You are paying tribute to the Barbary Pirates when you have any truck with Redmond, and they keep coming back to you for more. And more. And more. And they laugh at you while they do. How smart does that make you? How does that make you smart?

Wanna impress the rest of us, the poor toy computing people? Do what the bleeding edge gang has done, and run Mac OS on your plain vanilla Intel box. Go to the trouble to take charge of your machine. Make some choices. Then you'll have some bragging rights.

Anonymous said...

Anon said: "Yes I'm sure for every ten choices PC has of a particular application, there is one for the Mac."

Why would you need ten applications that all do the same thing? Crazy PC user....