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Posted by MadaboutDana
Dec 13, 2017 at 10:52 AM


Well, the wonderful Matias, one of the team behind the previously rather expensive but very good app Manuscripts, has just announced that they’ve found a sponsor and are about to open-source the whole thing. They are even recruiting new programmers for their team!

The good news means you can now download the latest version of Manuscripts (1.29) for free. Imagine something like Quip, but optimised for desktop use; a very powerful word processor that relies on styles and a very easy-to-use “insert element” approach to build large documents (and comes with an astonishing selection of templates for research articles for any number of scientific publications). You can insert sections (paragraphs, numbered lists, section/subsection headings, tables, equations, figures, bullet points etc.) either using a mouse (along the same lines as Quip, a little pop-up set of options appears on the left as you mouseover the margin) or using key combinations if you’re an inveterate keyboard fiend.

What has this to do with outlining? I hear you cry. Well, Manuscripts automatically builds a content outline in the left-hand navigation bar, including the first line of every single element (headers, body etc.). But it also automatically compiles separate lists of illustrations, tables, equations etc., as well as cross-references (easy to insert) and hyperlinks. These appear beneath the content outline in a kind of references section. Thoroughly professional, and brilliant for academics, science/technical writers etc.

On the right is a very elegant “management” bar, which does more or less everything - styles, formatting, word/character counts (and targets), page layout, LaTEX settings, list settings, and so on. It’s a very intelligent alternative to Word’s increasingly obscure menu bars - not unlike Apple’s iWork apps (e.g. Pages), but much more comprehensive.

Of course you can make both bars disappear if you want to just focus on what you’re writing.

Manuscripts exports to Word, LaTEX, PDF, Markdown, JSON, Apple Help and a whole lot of other formats. Even more impressively, it allows you to “share” the document (or a selected part of the document) you’re working on with other apps, people, etc. The final icing on the cake is the ability to import citations from various reference libraries, bibliography apps (Bookends, EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, Papers… they all appear to be there) and generate bibliographies on the fly. Finally finally, it’s got a nice search function.

In short, it’s an amazing piece of software, and makes other word processors look positively outdated (although there will always be those who say “it’s not flexible enough”). The team are about to start working on (open-source) version 2.0, but 1.29 is already well worth downloading for a play. More info on manuscriptsapp.com

In ontological terms, I suppose it stands between something like Scrivener or Ulysses and a conventional word processor. While it’s not a totally original concept, the execution is really very elegant - clearly someone has spent a great deal of loving time and thought on perfecting the ultimate writing tool for academics and researchers.



Posted by tightbeam
Dec 13, 2017 at 11:53 AM


It looks nice - judging from the screenshots - though not revolutionary. If the new funding lets the developers release a Windows version, they’ll really have something there.


Posted by MadaboutDana
Oct 17, 2019 at 08:02 AM


Just had an interesting update from Manuscripts. Version 2.0 has now been released as a collaborative web platform, with desktop versions on their way.

They’re really gunning for conventional word processors with this one. I’m looking forward to trying out the desktop versions once they’re released.

At the moment, Manuscripts would appear to be aimed squarely at academic authors. But the range of features is impressive.

More details here: https://www.manuscripts.io/about/


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