February 08, 2005

Mellel and Bookends Comments

Danny Zacharias at deinde.org has drawn my attention to his thoughts about Mellel, the very promising word processor that scholars would do well to know about, and the bibliographic software Bookends. As I have said to the many of you asking my opinion and review of word processor options, I'm withholding significant comments on word processor comparisons, because I see us in a state of transition right now. You can read the full post here at deinde, but I'll highlight a few comments. The post is not so much a full review, as it is a testimonial for choosing the applications, highlighting a few key advantages for Mellel and Bookends. One is the price tag. Another is the tremendous responsive support I, too, have personally witnessed from the folks at Redlers. They are very active in support forums and email responses. Danny also says,

Mellel is a word processor for writers and scholars. It does not have frills like inserting clip-art and inserting drawings, etc (although these things can be done). Mellel is designed for paper writing, and specially equipped to handle large documents, especially book/dissertation writing, etc.
This really goes along with the smaller price tag. It is a smaller program. It feels smaller. The only snag here, is you never know what "frills" any given user is going to miss. Danny mentions that he misses the voice recording feature found in Word. I've never used the voice recording feature in Word since the day I recorded my dog barking on Word 5.1a in order to scare my cat at random intervals. Danny also mentions the customizeability of Mellel, but this is more a feature that is up to par with other standards, not something that puts it ahead of the game. In Word, for instance, you can do anything you want, and I mean anything you want, with a simple keystroke if you're willing to record the VBA script and assign a keystroke. This leads me to a MAJOR problem with Mellel. Mellel isn't scriptable! It has no Applescript functionality, or other macro solution (at least a search through the help files found none). All I can say is "What a shame." There's no chance I'm going to use a word processor that doesn't allow me to automate repetitive tasks. The only reference to Applescript in the current (1.8.2) pdf manual is a negative remark about scripting. Well, one can of course devise some work-arounds using 3rd party solutions or GUI scripting to accomplish repetitive tasks, but this is no solution for me. The discussions on the Mellel forum seem to indicate Applescript is a priority for the developer. That is promising to hear, and I await it. Also, I have a great appreciation for Mellel's approach to Unicode fonts... it overrides the default behavior of changing display fonts if the current font does not contain that character. But, as the developer shared with me in an email, there's no reason to deny the user this smart-technology. It doesn't prevent the user from then still choosing the best font for displaying their Hebrew or Greek. Despite those caveats, don't forget, Word can't do Unicode Hebrew, while Mellel on the other hand is indigenous to the language. Hopefully someday I'll do a review of the app myself, where I'll say things like, "Thank you for adding some side border to the window pane." I'd like to spend more time with Mellel, but the demo for the beta version I was sent ran out on its time limit before I got around to doing much with it. Update: I just received the newest beta for Mellel. It seems to include many added features, very promising. It includes a brilliant, best-of-both-worlds solution to the Unicode font substitution I've mentioned earlier, and discussed with a Redler developer months ago. I'll not discuss them here because I don't disclose features of software I have a beta copy of. I find it interesting that I recieved the beta version not 30 minutes after posting this blog entry about Mellel. The trial period is still expired though... going to be a bit annoying to try out this way. As for Bookends which I've not yet looked at, the main thing I have to say is if you haven't begun exploring the use of a bibliographic manager for your work, "shame on you". I'll say more about that on another day. The second thing is that if you are using Mellel, something that may very well be a great idea, you should also choose Bookends. Intentional integration at the programming level can not be surpassed.


Anonymous said...

Does Bookends format in all the leading biblical studies bibliographic styles: SBL/JBL, JSOT, Biblica, VT/NT, CBQ, etc.?

Jon said...

Hi Ken,

One of our users pointed me to this blog. Bookends supports lots of format out of the box, but not the ones you mentioned. Danny Zacharias (Bookends user) has created an SBL format, which he is willing to share (it's mentioned on our forum in the section on sharing formats). It is quite possible that one can create formats for all of the sources you mentioned -- if anyone would care to try, we would be happy to help.

Sonny Software