Writing and Reference Software for Mac



Im starting my PhD next month and I am looking into the best writing and referencing software to use. I am a Mac user and currently have Word and EndNote installed.

I would love to hear actual PhD students recommendations rather than the software "armchair" experts that confuse me on various forums.

From what I have found, I have made a shortlist of the software I think could be useful,

Writing -
Word for Mac (I have seen some horror stories for creating very large documents, the largest I have created is 15K)
Open Office
LaTex (Although I have heard this is complicated)

Referencing -

If there are any other software applications that you think are worthwhile, please mention.

Thanks in advance.



I used Word and EndNote in my part-time PhD. EndNote couldn't actually generate references in our departmental style - I spent a lot of time fiddling with it, and got close. However it was an incredibly useful database of what I'd read. By the end of my PhD (nearly 6 years long) I'd forgotten a lot of the earlier things I'd read, but they were there in my EndNote database to rediscover, and so ended up in my Bibliography.

I wish I'd been able to use Scrivener. I've got it on my Mac and it's a very powerful creative tool. But I didn't learn about it until after my PhD, and it was released far through my writing process anyway. I like the way it makes complex writing more approachable.

Apple's own word processor Pages is a very viable alternative to Word. It can work with EndNote, and is in my experience much more stable than Word. However I used Word in my thesis (a very ancient version, in Office v.X from 2000!) and am still using it, because it's the format that academic journal editors use.

Good luck!


Great thanks for the quick reply!

I know what you mean about the style issues in EndNote. I am leaning more towards using what I already have (Word and EndNote), but just wanted to see if there were any other recommended apps out there. I have always had this stereotypical view that Pages was for doing my funky documents like flyers or quirky letters and the such, maybe I need to have a good look at it again (With more of an academic hat on!!!)

Thanks again! :)


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What discipline are you? If you are in mathematical or computational science, you will find that LaTeX is more-or-less expected. There is a learning curve with LaTeX but once you get the hang of it it takes no more time than something like Word. I use LaTeX for most of my work.

I have Word for Mac which I use for collaborating, something LaTeX is not designed for. Word for Mac is better than Open Office which I found tended to chew up the formatting of any document created in MS Office. I never tried using Word for Mac with a large document but you could split a very large document (such as your thesis) into individual chapters - probably sensible to do this whatever you use.

I use Papers and think this is brilliant but I don't have experience of using the others. Papers has iPhone/iPad apps so you can sync your library to your mobile device and read pdfs on the bus :$ (I don't know if the others have this facility.) You can download a free 30-day trial of Papers and see how you go, you can always export your library out of Papers if you decide not to use it. I think Papers is like "iTunes for papers" so if you are already a Mac user you might find you feel at home.




Even though I'm in the Computer Science Department, my area of research is not technical. I am researching the barriers that face students, educators and policymakers in Technology Enhanced Learning.

I have had a look at papers but saw that people had issues directly citing into word. People were saying they were just getting a loading symbol and nothing else?




I never tried citing from Papers -> Word, sorry!

(But your research sounds interesting - good luck 8-))


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======= Date Modified 02 Aug 2012 21:32:47 =======
Hi Adamsky2012,

I started using Endnote with Word for my Masters but ended up switching to Pages. I have since evolved to Papers with Pages for the PhD.

I found Endnote became quite slow and buggy as my references library grew, but more importantly the EndNote links were often broken when sharing documents with my collaborators/supervisors. Because Papers codes are plain text they are not affected by being opened in different word processors and you can cut, paste and edit in total confidence.

Using Pages enables me to easily share very easily in a variety of formats.

The only problem I have have ever had was one particular table in a manuscript being sent for peer review which did not import well back into Pages from Word. I bought Office for Mac with a student discount for £30ish which I can use should this problem reoccur.

As mentioned below Papers on my iMac plays very nicely with that on my iPad meaning I have all my stuff everywhere.

Hope this is helpful



======= Date Modified 03 Aug 2012 00:01:18 =======
I have a mac and I'm embarrassed to say I haven't used any referencing software during the phd. Anything that has impacted upon my research has been quoted in the main body of the thesis or I've put it into my footnotes. I did use refworks at the start but with all the log-ins and clicks to get to what you want it wasn't worth the hassle. I'm pretty content that anything worth worrying about is in the thesis.


hi adamsky2012
I use latex on my mac.
For referencing I have jabref and also bibdesk. I use bibdesk on my mac and the jabref on the pc installed in my lab.

if you are patient, like learning new things and do not mind the initial struggle (and possibly some frustration),
then use Latex, as it is a lot smoother than Word. It can handle really big files; you don't see the big Wheel turning when MSWORD is trying to open some files.

love satchi


Hmmm, so this LateX is seeming quite popular on here and with the guys at Uni. Ill have to take a closer look at this.

Thanks for everyones replies.

Much Love!!

Adamsky :)


Hi Adam,

Idea Rover for Mac can help www.idearover.com