Why does Mellel have no highlighters?

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Timotheus
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Post by Timotheus » Sun Sep 03, 2006 6:13 am

I share your surprise, and I second your implicit request, which has already been made many, many times on this forum.

But the point is that Mellel has always focused more on delivering a polished final product (styles etc. etc.) than on facilitating the writing process as such. That's why there still is no highlighting, nor (for instance) a split window function.

But things are moving in the right direction now. Mellel has indeed excellent outlining, and now it has Full Screen too. Other tools which greatly faciltate the writing process, like highlighting, might follow: perhaps as part of version tracking, which is high on the developers' list.

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Post by Timotheus » Sun Sep 03, 2006 11:15 am

To which applications are you alluding, Maria? Scrivener and … … ?

alexwein
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Post by alexwein » Sun Sep 03, 2006 10:03 pm

No shouting from me! I agree on all counts. Though I don't use all the programs you do and use a couple you don't. But the sentiments are the same. I think you are correct as to why Mellel has limited appeal, despite it's many wonderful features.

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Post by Timotheus » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:30 am

Mellel is near and dear to my heart, yet I would never recommend it to anybody, except to persons with a vast experience in the world of wordprocessing, who are able to put things into perspective.

One of the reasons, I think, is this whole style building inside Mellel, which is the pride and joy of its architects, who see it as the pinnacle of rationality.

And maybe it is. Unfortunately, though, to many users it continues to appear like the labyrinth of Crete, full of walls which bar the way and oblige to make long and often unpredictable detours. Most of us only know some headways in the labyrinth, and carefully avoid to turn into side roads, for fear of getting lost and being swallowed by the Minotaurus. Only very few of us would be able to act there as a confident and confidence inspiring guide.

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Post by CabinEssence » Mon Sep 04, 2006 8:26 am

[Maria wrote]The most basic step to usability will be (1) the step from independent styles to hereditary styles and (2) relating page format with margins, and (3) split screen, and I hope that these steps will be taken in the near future. Not to speak about a clean-up of the user interface, it got cluttered and unlogical with the addition of -- excellent -- additional features over the years. [/quote]

If you want that -- and if your REALLY want it for scientific purposes -- use LaTeX and one of its excellent editors (like TexShop). I think WYSIWYG word machines can't do things like that properly, it's a structural problem (contradicting features/purposes). I use Mellel more as a kind of intermediate word processing machine, like for letters, and occasionally short papers. It's great but -- structurally -- can never come even near to LaTeX.
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Post by rpcameron » Mon Sep 04, 2006 3:18 pm

Maria wrote:
CabinEssence wrote:
Maria wrote:The most basic step to usability will be (1) the step from independent styles to hereditary styles and (2) relating page format with margins, and (3) split screen, and I hope that these steps will be taken in the near future. Not to speak about a clean-up of the user interface, it got cluttered and unlogical with the addition of -- excellent -- additional features over the years.
If you want that -- and if your REALLY want it for scientific purposes -- use LaTeX and one of its excellent editors (like TexShop). I think WYSIWYG word machines can't do things like that properly, it's a structural problem (contradicting features/purposes). I use Mellel more as a kind of intermediate word processing machine, like for letters, and occasionally short papers. It's great but -- structurally -- can never come even near to LaTeX.
it is weird to set the system up for Chinese and Japanese and German and if necessary some other languages. There seem to have been changes in the recent past, but I am not willing to spent too much of my precious time with preparing a simple tool. In the case of LaTeX I have to confess that I never really got command of the system -- and never seriously tried.

I am not unsatisfied with Mellel. What makes me upset is the mechanism:
<irony>
suggestion -- reaction (uuh, wordish, cannot be good) -- suggestion rewritten in other words -- reaction (Mellel does not work that way, Mellel is for for the intelligent user) -- eruption and statement of what was suggested -- reaction (now we have come together).
</irony>

I can work with Mellel but think it is far from being perfect. Making suggestions for improvement doesn't make me an idiot incapable of using Mellel as it is.

This thread started with highlighters. To come back to the roots: Would be nice.
I do have to say that Maria hit the nail on the head. I must say I fully agree with her statements. LaTeX (or ConTeXt and XeTeX) are great and produce beautiful materials, but they can be a beast to set up. (I also agree with her requests for cascading/hereditary styles, page styles at encompass the margins and split window editing.)

And bringing it back, this is a thread about highlighters. No, Mellel currently does not have a highlighting function. There are work–arounds, such as using style variations or even a highlighter style to color the text, but there is nothing that can change the background color to a running stream of text. Perhaps this will be added in a future version.

(I am of the sentiment that Mellel is more geared towards the final product rather than an all–in–one application part of the creative process, and therefore has no need for a highlighter function. Then again, I don’t use any sort of brainstorming applications, so I really can’t say. I also acknowledge that I am in the minority.)
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Post by Ori Redler » Mon Sep 04, 2006 5:56 pm

I understand the criticisms here and empathise with you and even with the frustration some of you feel. It makes sense to add more "editing" tools and enhance and make the outlining capabilities.

It doesn't make sense, however, to try and convert Mellel into an outliner of sorts, or to enter seriously into the realm of DevonThink, Outliner or Scrivner. There is a conceptual difference here, that cannot be bridged by adding this or that feature. Mellel is organised around the concept of the text as a single unit -- a long scroll, if you like. It has tools that let you move around this scroll easily and even move around pieces of it. All outliners and "project apps" are based on the concept of the text as separate notes you joggle around, and couldn't care less about all the things that a word processor must care: pagination, footnotes, columns, graphics, etc.
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Post by Timotheus » Tue Sep 05, 2006 7:44 am

Maria:

leaving the draft entirely to other applications and using Mellel only for creating the final product doesn't seem an option to me; were it only because Mellel is not at all suited for such a 'final' task (just think of the many limits footnotes and endnotes still have from a layout point of view, of the lack of a 'wrap around window' option, etc. etc.).

But there's another point which seems rather fundamental to me. If so many of us are looking for other applications for making first drafts etc., this can only mean that there's something fundamentally wrong with Mellel.

Mellel, indeed, wants to be the privileged tool for academics, that is to say for people who work on the same project for years, and whose products go through many stages. Well, if you want to serve that kind of users, then you have to offer a product which proofs itself a good tool in preparing the final version for publication, but first and for all an excellent tool during the long and often difficult genesis of the final product. And Mellel clearly isn't.

And it is of course true that different people have different needs, but this should not be exaggerated. Those who work in the field of the humanities have many, many needs in common; let's first try to satisfy all the needs we share.

But yes, maybe all this should go into another thread.

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Post by nvalvo » Thu Sep 07, 2006 9:00 am

Ori -- Hear, hear!

Mellel is perhaps the purest word processor I have ever seen. I set pages very simply in a tasteful typeface, and people in my department actually comment when I give them something I've made, say in seminar.

That said: my writing process happens among a number of applications, including also VoodooPad and OmniOutliner. I don't think this is bad. The way I see it, we could have slow, crashy Word with its notepad, macros, grammar check and mail merges for $300 (or whatever it is now), or Mellel for $49 (although I bought it for $19! don't tell...), OmniOutliner for $25, VoodooPad for $25, etc., all of which are well honed for their specific purpose, and none of which I've ever seen crash.

And hit Command-Tab a lot.

Thus, Timotheus said something I don't agree with:
But there's another point which seems rather fundamental to me. If so many of us are looking for other applications for making first drafts etc., this can only mean that there's something fundamentally wrong with Mellel.
Not necessarily. Sometimes you want a knife that has a corkscrew and toothpick, too, but other times you just want a knife that cuts well. So sometimes its the Swiss Army, and sometimes the Sebatier.

That said, I see another of Timotheus' points, too. Mellel needs some work (on notes, on columns, on flowing text) before it can really produce finished documents in the way I can make them in say, InDesign. And it needs collaboration features (proper versioning, comments and highlighting, real PDF export) and innumerable drafting/editing features.

That said, I really like it.

Oh, and Maria has a great idea:
One great step forward to an automatized way of transforming a document is the new Find and Replace. Now here is my suggestion: What about introducing "Actions on Find"? It means: You search for a paragraph style and the assigned action is: Create an autotitle from it. You search for an inline note in double brackets and the action is "Delete the bracket and create a note of note flow X from it". And so on. Replace might be understood as just one action among others.
Leverage that Find and Replace interface. It's pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread.

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Post by donb » Fri Sep 08, 2006 11:31 am

I have been using Mellel for some years now, and have seen it grow from a very simple word processing tool to a very highly developed program. Once it incorporated columns, I began to use it for publishing, and now use it exclusively when preparing texts for publication, including finished products ready for the printer.

It seems to me that some of the complaints have been from people so used to using Word that they have forgotten how idiosyncratic Word is. Mellel uses a very different basic premise than does Word: it is based on styles. I have not found Mellel's style in any way difficult. They seem so simple and obvious. And the fact that the program offers a variety of metods for setting and selecting styles is a plus, in my view.

The Style Sets Menu is the obvious place to work in setting styles. That it allows an infinite number of style sets is a very great plus I have seen in no other program. If I want to typeset a book, I simply select "Book" from the style sets menu, and all is ready. (Actually, I also use templates which allow for the automatic linking of page size etc. etc. to the style set.)

I have now published a number of books, and a bi-monthly journal, exclusively with Mellel (well...with some help from PhotoShop).

Yes, there are features I would like in Mellel that are not yet present. Particularly the ability to change column widths. But since inserting a table gives me precisely that ability, I don't find this all that difficult. I make great and frequent use of the sections commands, and am used to inserting a new section with a simple keystroke and changing the number of columns with a simple keystroke. But then, I have no compunction about using a macro utility (iKey) and, for that matter, the System Keyboard Shortcuts in making these simple keystroke assignments.

Since I do not collaborate with others in writing my documents, keeping track of document changes is not really such an important matter for me. Though it does seem to me that in such a situation, using a specific font color for each of the collaborators would make it obvious when text is added or altered by one of them. Of course, it is also possible to do a Save As with the document title indicating which version it is...

Over all, though, I feel that many of the complaints stem from an unwillingness or unaccustomedness to using one's head to make use of the Mellel features to achieve what is desired, even though it may be different from what one is used to in Word. (I gave up using Word for publications many years ago, because of some major bugs in it, its unreliability, inclination to crash. Of course I have the luxury of not having to follow an employer's orders on how to prepare materials — and of having long ago worked out how to automatically convert from one style system to another without difficulties.)

Yes, I agree that the difficulty (or impossibility?) of making text wrap around graphics is a nuisance, though a bit of thought eases the problem considerably. There are tricks and then there are tricks...

And some time ago I pointed out simple ways (via iKey) of solving the small caps problems.

Ah well, I prefer to solve problems rather than to complain about them.

Don Broadribb

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Post by alexwein » Fri Sep 08, 2006 12:45 pm

Donb,

I have a couple of questions I thought you might be able to answer. I admit I do find Mellel a little hard to get a hold of at times, though once I figure out how to do something, I generally remember it from then on!

My biggest concern with Mellel is being able to get it into a format that publishers, editors, etc., can use. I generally don't do anything too fancy regarding styles. Mostly it's one font, nothing esoteric, a font like Times New Roman for example, with italics, bold, different paragraph formatting for block quotes, note text, like I said, nothing fancy. I also sometimes use multiple note streams. And auto-titles of course. Other than that, it's pretty straightforward.

I have minor formatting changes I have to make in Word (since most of the people I deal with require Word docs), such as changing the spacing after block quotes, a few minor adjustments like that. But I worry too about losing italics or other font formatting, especially after reading some of the posts on this forum

So my overall question is how do suggest getting things from Mellel to a publisher in a format that doesn't lose anything and that fits their requirements? Right now the requirement is sending things in Word docss. I export in rtf and then open it up in Word, make my changes, save it and then send it. But I fear I will miss something and I would like to be able to skip having to make adjustments in Word entirely.

You said you have worked out how to convert automatically from one style to another. I'd be curious to hear more about that, if you have the time.

Thanks in advance!

Alexandria

donb
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Post by donb » Sat Sep 09, 2006 9:22 am

The best thing is, after you have made your final text, whether in Mellel or Word or whatever, to save it as a pdf and send the pdf. Assuming your publisher does not intend to change anything in your document, there should be no problem.

It is, by the way, possible to modify the content of a pdf if you have the right programs, specifically Acrobat itself in its latest incarnation (not Acrobat/Adobe Reader). But keep in mind that many publishers have not updated their RIP program and may not be able to print a pdf made with, say, Acrobat 6 or 7.

In that case, save your document as a Postscript file, and the publisher can use it with older RIP software. (Postscript file is one of the alternatives you can choose when you choose Print and click on the pdf button.)

I'd need to know the details of the styles you want to convert automatically. It's a matter of working out a conversion system for each pair of styles, mostly with a combination of iKey and Mellel features.

Don Broadribb

alexwein
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Post by alexwein » Sat Sep 09, 2006 1:35 pm

Thanks, Don, for the response. Yes, I thought of sending things as pdf files, but right now some of what I send has to be altered somewhat. So I'm asked to send them as Word files. I pretty much have to do what I'm asked in those cases! So I was wondering the best way to set it up so I can do that.

But when I can send pdf files, I'll keep your tip about saving the file as a postscript file.

Right now I don't really need to convert styles, but I was curious about how you did that for future reference. So I'll just ask if it ever becomes an issue.

Thanks again!

Alexandria

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Why not just use Style Variants?

Post by laup » Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:56 am

Perhaps I'm missing the point, but it seems to me that sweeping a selection and clicking F6 or whatever is pretty simple. For me, that would turn all the text to red. Is a separate highlighting feature really needed?
Paul

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Post by Timotheus » Mon Sep 11, 2006 7:16 am

Indeed. The font variations are not at all suited to highligting text. And I wonder why so many of us don't see this.

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