April 17, 2017

Searching for the RTF Editors: Sϵv϶N and Mach Write

Product: TextEdit
Price: Free (ships with macOS)
Product: Sϵv϶n
Price: $4.99
Product: Mach Write
Price: $3.99

Today I am going to talk about three applications which deal with RTF and RTFD files. TextEdit comes standard with the macOS. Sϵv϶n and Mach Write are commercial alternatives.

While researching RTF editors, which are primarily small and fast word processors I am reminded of WriteNow. It was an amazingly fast, compact, and versatile word processor which I used to love on System 7 and its follow-ups. I didn't know it then, but now I find that it was written in 68k assembly language, which explains its speed. WriteNow was incredibly resource efficient and an absolute pleasure to use. I miss it.

Microsoft Word is the standard in the word processing arena. I haven't used it for about twenty years. I don't know anything about it at this point. If you are happy using Word, have at it. I use text editors. Thanks to Curiota, I went on a search for applications which are conversant with RTF and RTFD files. This article will talk about three of the products I found.

One of them is a part of the system.


TextEdit iconTextEdit icon

TextEdit is an application which comes bundled with macOS. This is a much ignored application in the Mac world. It is a small, fast, capable and efficient word processor. If you are looking for collaboration features please use Word. For most users, however, TextEdit is an application which will take care of your basic word processing needs. It does styles, lists, tables, and paragraph and line spacing. It doesn't do footnotes or endnotes. It has the ability to save your documents in a whole plethora of formats, including the latest Word format. In other words, you can use TextEdit and no one needs to know that you have not been using Microsoft Word.

TextEdit ScreenTextEdit Screen

TextEdit has two major modes: rich text mode and plain text mode. In rich text mode it is a competent word processor. In plain text mode, it is a basic text editor. You can write html, css, markdown, or any other language you want in it, but there is no syntax highlighting.

TextEdit is a strange beast. It includes some features which are available in more advanced products, but leaves out some features which might seem basic to you. You can select multiple elements in a TextEdit document. For instance, you can highlight a word, hold down the ⌘ key and highlight another occurrence of the same word, keep holding down the ⌘ key and highlight another occurrence of the word. Now you can let the ⌘ key go. All three instances of the word are now highlighted. Press ⌘+B and all three instances are now bolded. TextEdit has the ability to select multiple instances and perform editing tasks on all selected instances at the same time. This is an advanced feature. But it leaves out footnotes and endnotes. I don't understand it.

As an RTF editor TextEdit is fast and capable. Supports the basic formatting elements and due to its speed, is a pleasure to work in.

Apple distributes TextEdit's source code as part of the documentation of its integrated development environment Xcode. That must explain how closely the next two products mimic TextEdit.

This is the TextEdit toolbar:

TextEdit toolbarTextEdit toolbar

This is the Seven toolbar:

Sϵv϶n toolbarSϵv϶n toolbar

This is the Mach Write toolbar:

Mach Write toolbarMach Write toolbar

Adds a bunch of useless icons to the toolbar. If you get rid of the icons, this is what it looks like:

Mach Write toolbar sans iconsMach Write toolbar sans icons

I don't know why I bothered to take three screenshots, one would have done fine.

In other words, all three are based on the same code. The only important thing is to figure out what the two commercial products have added to the free alternative.


Sϵv϶n iconSϵv϶n icon

According to the developer Sϵv϶n adds the following features to TextEdit:

  • Features to assist in producing application support documentation.
  • True highlighter pen.
  • Correctly handles RTFD (rich text with graphics) documents under control of the Subversion (svn, 1.7+ & 1.6) and Git version control systems; other applications often tend to break version control.
  • Manages OS X Versions so that documents under Subversion or Git control are correctly updated when using OS X revert operations.

Sϵv϶n has built in some features which are important to a developer. For normal folks, the major feature is the Highlighter Pen.

Sϵv϶n highlightsSϵv϶n highlights

The keyboard command for the highlighting function is ⌃+⌘+H. If you apply it once, the selection gets highlighted. If you apply it twice, the highlight is darker. It simulates a real highlighting pen. Neat if you are used to highlighting text.

Sϵv϶n helpSϵv϶n help

Sϵv϶n helps developers provide documentation for their program. As a benefit to the non-developer user, Sϵv϶n has extensive in-app documentation which is well written and presented. Sϵv϶n helps you manage SVN and VCS details. Sϵv϶n also does a good job of handling macOS's Versions system.

On the whole, Sϵv϶n is a well-designed, well behaved RTF and RTFD editor which adds minimal features to TextEdit for the normal user (if you love highlighting, your take might be different). Sϵv϶n's additional features are more geared to helping the technical writer and developer handle RTF and RTFD files.

Mach Write

Mach Write iconMach Write icon

Mach Write is a powerful RTF, TXT, PDF (Rich Text Format, Plain Text, PDF) Editor for iOS and macOS.

It adds several features to the base TextEdit on the macOS side. They include:

  1. iCloud sync. The availability of an iOS version and the ability to sync documents across your devices is useful if you need it.
  2. Syntax highlighting for a whole host of programming languages.
  3. PDF Creating, Viewing and Annotating are supported.

Mach Write screenMach Write screen

Mach Write is at its basic a simple RTF editor. It does the job of handling your RTF needs well. The presence of an iOS version and the necessary iCloud syncing support makes the product more useful to the multi-device user. The addition of its ability with PDF files makes the product interesting and different from the competition.

The developer has made a concerted attempt to differentiate this from the base TextEdit product and the additions are appreciated.


TextEdit is a good basic word processor. Sϵv϶n and Mach Write both add some features to TextEdit. I like the iOS support of Mach Write, but all three products are good tools for your basic word processing needs.

I was looking for an RTF editor to complement Curiota. All three of these products are well equipped to fulfill those needs.

TextEdit is free. I bought Mach Write and a license for Sϵv϶n was provided by the developer.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

macOS Sϵv϶n Mach Write

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