Pagehand: An Elegant Little Word Processor

Editing text? What options do you have? Well, there’s the old go-to, Word, which has become bloated over the years; the newcomer Pages, which can’t make up its mind if it wants to be a page-layout utility or a word processor; and then the built-in TextMate, which is a tad too simple in most instances. While those three aren’t the only text editors for the Mac, they seem to the most popular.

Pagehand is a new word processing application that has just entered the market. It sports a number of interesting features yet to be seen in the go-to text editors on the Mac. For instance, instead of coming out with another new format to have to deal with, it simply creates and edits PDF files, so you can easily e-mail the files without having to convert them or run a compatibility check. Plus, anyone can see the fonts you’ve meticulously picked to show how important your dinner party or company volleyball tournament is.

Layout

The Main Window

The Main Window

The main window is presented with three main zones, all with a minimalistic air about them. First is a toolbar that switches depending on what actions you would wish to preform. It’s similar to Word 2007 for Window’s “ribbon,” but I found it a bit easier to use, once you get used to it.

A two tabbed pane on the left side allows access to fonts, colors, effects, etc., similar to Word for Mac’s Toolbox and Page’s Inspector.

Finally, there is the actual document, which sports an easy to edit header and footer options along with a simplistic margin and tab controls.

The Ribbon-like Toolbar

Changed Toolbar

Changed Toolbar

Selecting an icon from the toolbar will exchange all of the original icons for the specific function’s related tools. For instance, selecting Columns will cause all the options to disappear, showing you just the column related settings. While frustrating at first, getting used to clicking the main document window to bring back the original toolbar is a tad easier than working with Word 2007 for Window’s “ribbon.” However, I found for those who like to constantly adjust these features, jumping around these different toolbars can be a little confusing.

It also isn’t very obvious which buttons will cause a new toolbar to appear, and which ones will simply adjust a feature directly, for instance, Spell Check. For a program that is trying to be very minimalistic, redundant buttons, like Character and Paragraph, simply highlight the sidebar.

The Sidebar

The Sidebar

From my criticisms, it would seem that I’m not much of a fan of this toolbar. However, the option to customize it to such an extent to remove these non-essential buttons and even show just the text of the options is a welcome feature not found in many applications.

The Sidebar

On the left side of the window is an Inspector/Toolbox like pane that allows for quick and easy editing of the Character Styles, Fonts, Colors, etc. and access to the Paragraph settings for adjusting alignment and spacing. I really enjoyed using this easily accessible sidebar, much more so than the normally crowded-with-icons toolbars that infect most higher end word processors. I’ve never found it as easy to adjust superscripts and subscripts, make fractions or get a clear picture of what font I was choosing.

Editing

While there is no version tracking, web addresses and emails are automatically hyperlinked and the application includes a number of useful “ornaments” which are similar to symbols. It even includes ways to enter letters with accent marks if you aren’t that familiar with the Option/Alt + Letter shortcuts to write like a French or Spanish native. When you are done, you can even export the document to .doc/.docx formats.

Minimizing Your Workspace

With the growing trend of making your Mac as minimal looking as possible (we’re absolutely huge fans of Minimal Mac) there are a number of ways to make this application as simple looking as possible. For instance, you can hide the ruler, sidebar and the toolbar, or simply turn the icons to be text only. In no time you’ll have a distraction free workspace.

Minimalistic View

Minimalistic View

Upcoming New Features

Pagehand is a relatively new piece of software and several planned updates are on the way. For instance, they plan to include the ability add and edit images, footnotes/endnotes, text boxes and much more. Whilst not the most mature piece of software, it is very stable and is ready to replace your current word processor.

Conclusion

As stated in their help guide, “Pagehand is optimized for people who are thinking about what they are writing.” While some of the features are not as intuitive as I would like, the layout of the sidebar is extremely well done, plus the application isn’t bogged down with rows and rows of icons.

I enjoyed writing this article in Pagehand, and feel that this has become one of my got-to-have applications on any Mac I work on. To say the least, I haven’t touched Pages or Word since I downloaded this application. I encourage you to get Pagehand from pagehand.com and give it a try.


  • http://www.arpia.be Peter Craddock

    Interesting, I’ll have to try it out.
    However, I’d like to point out that TextEdit is the built-in text editor, not TextMate, and it’s “Pages’”, not “Page’s” inspector.

  • http://www.arpia.be Peter Craddock

    Hrm, first thing I’ve encountered, and I thought I might as well share this with you: it doesn’t load long documents fast, and it can’t import PDFs not created by Pagehand.

  • Jerome

    What about OpenOffice which is free?

    • dixhuit

      Bloated & very buggy. Shame really.

  • http://www.macosxscreencasts.com Zettt

    As always/most times we have already a screencast about Pagehand on our site. The first one is a review, the second one is a deeper look at Pagehand’s character and paragraph style options:
    http://www.macosxscreencasts.com/2009/08/pagehand-review-gewinnspiel/
    http://www.macosxscreencasts.com/2009/09/pagehand-arbeiten-mit-charakter-und-paragraph-stilen/

    @Mac.AppStorm: I’ve sent you a mail one week ago. Did you receive it?

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      I don’t think so Zett – Could you send it through again? Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/cupcakeluv Brooke

    This looks like a great app, thanks for the awesome post!
    Another great word processor for the mac is called Schreiben, from MoApp
    http://myownapp.com/site/moapp3.0/applications_leo/writing/schreiben/schreiben.html

    its kind of gorgeous, and pretty minimal. no extra tool windows everywhere. you can even completely strip it down to text only (they have a screen shot of that in its screen shot section). while you’re there, be sure to check out their freebies section for some neat little free apps. Schnippselchen is a great free app for code snippets.

  • http://www.genkgo.nl bram

    Have been using LaTeX for some time now.

    Nothing beats it if you like WYMIWYG in stead of WYSIWYG word processors.

    Creating stunning and visually appealing documents, with using only Textmate

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  • http://greystockton.tumblr.com/ Grey Stockton

    For $40 they could have made a better icon. But the software looks great.

  • Jamie

    Has anyone else tried Bean? That is what I use, and it’s awesome and free.

  • http://novastormsoftware.com Justin Mrkva

    You have an error there… TextEdit is built in, not TextMate.

  • http://novastormsoftware.com Justin Mrkva

    In any case, I’ve used Pagehand pretty often for personal projects as well as for just creating PDFs quickly, and it really is pretty nice. Unfortunately most of the stuff I do requires graphics and more advanced formatting so it’s not perfect for everything, but that’s where I use a combination of Pages and LaTeX. I do wish more applications would adopt the PDF-as-a-format design.

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