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Bean (and other none comestible writing tools)


I recently reviewed Bean 2.4 – a brilliant, free and very lightweight Mac word processor – for Macworld. Here’s my redux version of that review:

My quest for the ultimate writing tool continues with Bean, a stripped down and superfast word processor. Most of the applications Apple bundles with OS X are great – but TextEdit isn’t one of them. As a document viewer, it’s handy to have in the absence of Adobe Reader or MS Word. It supports RTF, HTML and even .webarchive files. As a word processor, I’d rather write with a sharp stone on the pavement.

I’m sure I can’t be alone in finding TextEdit clumsy to look at and cumbersome to use. Worst of all, it screws up perfectly good documents. Apple’s idea of ASCII text format seems to differ from everyone else’s.

If you can afford it, there’s MS Word. If you can’t, that’s where tools like come in – giving you the commercial standard features TextEdit can’t. Features like word count and print view. But, is pretty cumbersome, installing a suite of tools and requiring Java to run.

Bean is the ideal compromise. With a disk footprint of just 8 MB compared to’s 400 MB, it’s small – starting up in less than a second on our test machine.

It lacks a full word processor’s more advanced features, but Bean handles all the same files as TextEdit in an interface that’s very easy to use – with nice big icons and a clean and uncluttered work area.

Sure, it’s small. Compared to tools like Word it feels distinctly chopped down. But, it feels like Bean was designed by someone who writes for a living. All the features that have been left in are features you’ll actually use. With live word count, auto-save, spell check and page layout mode you won’t feel deprived. Though, used to using Scrivener recently, we did miss having full screen mode.

I’ve found myself using Google Docs a lot lately. Bean gives you the same simplicity, power and lack of clutter at the same price; nothing. Still – Google Docs has one thing Bean doesn’t. It’s cross platform. And you can access it from anywhere. So, make that two things Bean doesn’t have… I switched to Google Docs so I could access my writing on any machine I was logged in to – but it’s far from perfect. It’s ugly to look at, and it doesn’t quite know whether it’s using folders or tags to file your work.

These are petty issues – but there’s one major problem with Google Docs that can’t be overlooked: it screws up RTF export. Big time. That’s a big consideration when you’re writing professionally.

So – whenever I’m on a Mac – I mostly use Bean instead. Sometimes, I use it in conjunction with Google Docs, bypassing the export command and pasting my writing into Bean for final formatting. Either way, it’s free and takes up as much space as a couple of audio tracks. Win and, indeed, win.

Download Bean from

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