Writing a PhD in Mellel

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GediWorrier
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Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by GediWorrier » Thu Aug 29, 2013 10:42 am

Hi all,

I have just submitted my PhD thesis after writing it in Mellel. I thought that I would write a series of critiques of Mellel based on my experiences, and based on a specific application of Mellel.

First, some specifics:

Words: 95,504
Pages: 365
Autotitles: 264
References/citations: 765
Tables: 24

OK, so the first thing I want to say about Mellel is that it worked like a dream. It never crashed. Never. Ever. And this was a serious document. It always opened nice and fast, even on my poor old MBPro with 4GB RAM. The outline made navigation a cinch. The inbuilt highlights of cross-references and citations made checking for orphans easy. But most of all, because I always struggled with Word's style sheet design (I found that every time someone sent me a Word doc, it would do strange things to my Normal template), the structured style sheets in Mellel were a delight to use and very reliable.

Interestingly, it wasn't until I finally abandoned Scrivener and moved permanently to Mellel that I started to make real progress in putting this thesis together. Now, this is an individual thing. No complaints about Scrivener (except that their table handling is worse than not having table at all!!), but I found that I got too muddled in the myriad of documents, and my thoughts kept being restricted to the size of the sub-document. Consequently, I was perpetually in a composing mode. Once I put it all into a single Mellel doc, I found that I could easily navigate once I set the autotitles, and I immediately got a sense of the effort needed to complete the whole document.

Later, I will report on what didn't work for me in Mellel. This is meant to be a positive contribution, not a rant. Finally, I will make a post on what can be done better.

Regards, and with Thanks to the Team...

Gedi.

macsailor
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by macsailor » Fri Aug 30, 2013 8:00 am

Congratulations and I believe we all looking forward to be reading about your experiences while writing your PhD thesis.

Just for curiosity, what was your subject in your thesis?
Peter Edwardsson
..............................
Truth is not always popular, but it is always right.

GediWorrier
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by GediWorrier » Sat Aug 31, 2013 2:57 am

OK, I would like to mention the things that really irked me during the process. I am mentioning them not to bag Mellel, but to raise these issues as just-about-game-breakers. All have been mentioned in this forum before, and I feel that a failure to address these features will impact on Mellel's viability.

I will try to deal with the least serious first (in my opinion, of course).

Auto titles: These were easy to use, but changes to formats can be problematic. The formatting of auto titles should be part of the style sheet.

No index feature: This was a major annoyance, but not a game breaker for a PhD. Indexes are not required for dissertations or journal article writing, but gee it would have been a good feature to help with finding where key words appear first. And how many times. I know I could do a "find", but that is a sequential process and is a poor substitute to seeing it laid out in front of you. A live, updating index is not even a feature anymore, it is just something that should be there.

A static table of contents: Really, how annoying is this?! Because the Mellel TOC will not update in real time, I could not run it until the (almost) very last thing to do before submitting. Yet there are always last minute changes, meaning that I had to spend a couple of hours checking page references before handing in. Also, the process of formatting and setting tabs within the auto titles was a nightmare. Speaking of which, the memory of it is starting to give me nightmares again, and I'm not even asleep yet!

Table control: Yep, this is the biggie for me. Not being able to set controls for tables breaking over the page was the most annoying element of Mellel. All I wanted was a repeatable header whenever this happened. Even Pages '09 does this by default. Less critical but still annoying was not being able to set default table formats in the Style sheet. Having to keep setting the cell padding and different paragraph styles was annoying, and the fact that I couldn't define different types of tables meant that I had to just stick to basic grid type tables. Yes, I know Mellel will let me get fancy with shading, show or hide grid lines, and so on. But all of this could have been done in Style sheets, and I could select my defined grid table or fancier styles with one click.

And captions really do need to be attachable to a table or figure.

So, those were my big negatives, and I really do think that the Redlers need to give some of these priority.

In my next post, I will list some other areas of improvement that came to mind while working on the thesis. Some of these might not have been requested before, and some might not be of interest to anyone else, but what the hell, hey?

ozean
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by ozean » Sat Aug 31, 2013 5:27 pm

GediWorrier wrote:So, those were my big negatives, and I really do think that the Redlers need to give some of these priority.
Thanks for writing this up – I do fully agree with your assessment. Looking forward to more feedback!

skaertus
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by skaertus » Sun Sep 01, 2013 12:10 am

Thanks for the input, that was really nice.

I wrote my PhD thesis in Word, not in Mellel. I moved away from Mellel to write such a large project for some reasons:

(1) My supervisor wanted to read the thesis on her computer and to make comments. She is a 70-year old lady who uses a Windows PC and, of course, Microsoft Word. I would never be able to convince her to use anything else. And compatibility between Word and Mellel is not among the best.

(2) Mellel doesn't have grammar check in Portuguese, and doesn't catch errors in grammar and punctuation. In addition, Word suggests synonyms to some words and this feature was really useful for me. These language features are time-saving, and Mellel doesn't have them.

If Mellel had such features, I'd definitely had gone with it.

GediWorrier
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by GediWorrier » Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:08 am

Yes, Word tends to get a bad wrap, but it does tend to do everything. It takes a long time to load on my MBP with 4GB RAM, but once loaded it tends to be OK.

My reason for not using Word is that I have never got my mind around how it does style sheets. Whenever I get it figured out, someone sends me a document that does unmentionable things to the Normal template. Hence my Body text might one day be a totally different font. I grasped Mellel's style sheets very quickly.

One thing I was planning to mention in my next post was Mellel's format being a problem. In my case it was keeping my thesis available. I only have one Mac, so if it died, I and my thesis is in Mellel format, big trouble. My solution was to constantly export to RTF.

laup
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by laup » Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:34 pm

Since your happy success provides a welcome and substantial set of new data, I have some questions out of curiosity.

1. Was your dissertation "complex" in the sense of having numerous (tens) of graphic figures or pictures?
2. Did it include "complex tables" in the sense of having graphics or pictures within cells, and also biblioographic-program citations?
3. Did you make use of the markup features?

I have generally had excellent results with Mellel also. However, I've had a few crashes in recent months due probably to (1) or (2) above. I've not used Mellel's markup features extensively but have seen humongous problems with Work markups (corrupted documents that have to be reconstructed).

I have had Zero problems with Mellel's very useful cross-referencing, which I am using extensively despite it not traveling well when, eventually, I will have to pass the final manuscript to an editor who will use Word and Adobe In-Design.

I agree with you on the index and suspect--but do not know--that it would not be too hard to add that feature, at least a good-enough version.
'
Congratulations again.
Paul

shades
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by shades » Mon Sep 02, 2013 12:43 am

I, too, appreciate the comments and insights. I had been an advanced Word user from 1990-2005. The style sheets were acceptable and understandable. But when I began writing the book with photos, etc., Word began to choke. So I switched full time to Mellel in 2004. Not one crash, instant updates on auto-titles, etc. as I moved material around. It was such a relief. (My final layout was done in Papyrus, another excellent program that I wish they would put out the English version of Autor —I have been waiting five years!). I wish I had had a computer and Mellel when doing my Master’s theses in 1977, 1986, 1998.

I skipped MS Office 2008, and just last winter picked up MS Office 2011. But I use Hebrew in some of my writing and I have found that Word just does not handle Hebrew well. So, if I am looking for a one package solution to my writing, Mellel is my first choice. I have been using Scrivener for editing and curriculum development, but Mellel is tops. Areas of improvement needed, yes.

So, I look forward to more comments on this project. Thank you.
Rich
old, slow, and confused...but at least I’m inconsistent!

iMac 27" (10. 13. 8 ) and MBP 13" Retina (10. 13. 8 )

jannuss
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by jannuss » Mon Sep 02, 2013 5:26 am

Just a side issue
shades wrote:But I use Hebrew in some of my writing and I have found that Word just does not handle Hebrew well. So, if I am looking for a one package solution to my writing, Mellel is my first choice.
I do most of my writing in Hebrew, so Word is not even an option for me.
I'm very pleased with my choice of Mellel.
Still, I wanted to point out that all the Word clones I've tried handle Right-to-Left languages very well. Currently I'm using Libre Office, mostly for the EXCEL portion of the suite.

My thanks also to Gedi . . . I'm looking forward to the remainder of his comments.

Janet

GediWorrier
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by GediWorrier » Mon Sep 02, 2013 11:18 am

OK folks, for a final post in this series, I would like to mention some of the "nice to have" issues that definitely would have made my life easier. Let me say first that this is meant to be a positive discussion, and some of these might already exist, so please be gentle in your flames.

Most of these concern the style sheets, auto titles and cross references. I am convinced that these are not being used to their potential, but like everything else in this post, this is only my opinion.

Right, in no particular order of importance:

1. I have mentioned this in a previous post, but it would be great to print one section or a range by selecting auto titles. How nice, if I wanted to print Chapter 4, to just select Chapter 4 in the auto title list, or to have an auto title pull-down in the print dialog.

2. Mentions are useful, but there does not appear to be enough options. For example, mentions are useless on a page where a chapter starts. The bloody big chapter heading sort of does the job for you, no need for a mention. They need to disappear whenever a designated auto title level appears.

3. I preferred to have my Chapters start on odd page numbers (I was printing in duplex), so that they start on the right-hand page. Could not find a way to automate that in the auto titles of paragraph settings. Was I missing something?

4. Which leads me to one of my constant rants: tables and auto titles need to come into the style sheets. Having to draw every table from scratch? Arrrrghh!

5. And a constant worry that I didn't need…what if the hard drive that keeps making that clicking sound finally stops? Mellel is in proprietary format! Double Arrrgghhh! I had to constantly keep exporting to RTF for safely. Bugger that, next time I will just learn to use Nisus, I reckon. At the very least, I think Mellel should give the option of an auto export to RTF. Proprietary formats are just sooo last century.

So, that's it. Thank you all for your supportive posts. Some people want to know more about the thesis, so I will put more details in a later post.

Cheers for now.

shades
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by shades » Mon Sep 02, 2013 5:01 pm

GediWorrier wrote: 3. I preferred to have my Chapters start on odd page numbers (I was printing in duplex), so that they start on the right-hand page. Could not find a way to automate that in the auto titles of paragraph settings. Was I missing something?
Thanks again for your comments.

I think for #3, this can be done. When you go to Insert > Auto-Titles > Edit Auto flows, near the top you will see Title Flow Attributes. Under that on the right side is Insert Before, with a drop down. You can select several options, and it appears that Page Style Break would work. You could define a Page Style Break so that it would always begin on the odd page.
Rich
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iMac 27" (10. 13. 8 ) and MBP 13" Retina (10. 13. 8 )

GediWorrier
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by GediWorrier » Mon Sep 02, 2013 7:31 pm

Thanks, I will do some experimenting with this.

redlers
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by redlers » Tue Sep 03, 2013 2:49 pm

GediWorrier wrote:Hi all,

I have just submitted my PhD thesis after writing it in Mellel. I thought that I would write a series of critiques of Mellel based on my experiences, and based on a specific application of Mellel.

First, some specifics:

Words: 95,504
Pages: 365
Autotitles: 264
References/citations: 765
Tables: 24

OK, so the first thing I want to say about Mellel is that it worked like a dream. It never crashed. Never. Ever. And this was a serious document. It always opened nice and fast, even on my poor old MBPro with 4GB RAM. The outline made navigation a cinch. The inbuilt highlights of cross-references and citations made checking for orphans easy. But most of all, because I always struggled with Word's style sheet design (I found that every time someone sent me a Word doc, it would do strange things to my Normal template), the structured style sheets in Mellel were a delight to use and very reliable.

Interestingly, it wasn't until I finally abandoned Scrivener and moved permanently to Mellel that I started to make real progress in putting this thesis together. Now, this is an individual thing. No complaints about Scrivener (except that their table handling is worse than not having table at all!!), but I found that I got too muddled in the myriad of documents, and my thoughts kept being restricted to the size of the sub-document. Consequently, I was perpetually in a composing mode. Once I put it all into a single Mellel doc, I found that I could easily navigate once I set the autotitles, and I immediately got a sense of the effort needed to complete the whole document.

Later, I will report on what didn't work for me in Mellel. This is meant to be a positive contribution, not a rant. Finally, I will make a post on what can be done better.

Regards, and with Thanks to the Team...

Gedi.
Hi Gedi (and others),

A good blueprint for future enhancemnets to Mellel, I think. Auto-titles certainly need to get more flexible, especially with the annoying application of style changes; Live ToC is important; Tables - oh, of course. And Index (another sigh...).

Ori from RedleX

daiyi
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by daiyi » Tue Sep 03, 2013 7:18 pm

And a comments feature....

Thanks.

I did my dissertation in Mellel, and really enjoyed using it (save for a few frustrations, mostly of my own making).

When I filed it at the library, the archivist checking it over commented on how nice it looked (form not content).

GediWorrier
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Re: Writing a PhD in Mellel

Post by GediWorrier » Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:47 pm

Ori, sadly I think that your days of thinking and planning for these are over. And I am sad about that, because Mellel is such a joy. It's not for everyone, but it is for me (an academic). However, there are too many alternatives out there now before anyone has to consider using Word. Nisus is an obvious candidate. So hopefully your development of some of these issues is well advanced.

If I could offer a priority to focus your future development, and distinguish between what is going make people jump from Mellel and what is just going to cause grumbles of discontent, may I suggest the following two as game changers:
1. You must have pre-defined table styles, including as a minimum the option for repeating headers. This also fits with your chosen niche for Mellel.
2. You must have an option for automatic export to RTF when a document is saved. You could ignore auto save here, but if the user selects Save from the menu, or command–s, then also do an auto export in RTF. Assuming the user has elected to do this in the Settings.

Regards, and best wishes for your future developments.

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