Atticus: A New Alternative for Writers

I’ll admit it. I’m a card-carrying, loud and proud supporter of Vellum. I recommend it to all my friends. It does everything I want when it comes to formatting a book for publication. It doesn’t matter whether you are doing an e-book or print version. Vellum has you covered. Except. . .it is Mac only. That leaves out a lot of writers and, to be honest, there are times when I don’t have my Macbook Air with me and I need to format a book or tweak something in a book that’s already been uploaded. I’ve tried other software, including Scrivener, but none have been as easy or intuitive as Vellum. But that may be coming to an end. There’s a new software “kid” on the block–well, at least in beta–and it looks promising. Welcome to Atticus.

The good:

One of the developers for Atticus is Dave Chesson, aka the Kindlepreneur. He’s made a name for himself helping authors learn to navigate the sometimes murky and confusing waters of Amazon. It is clear he’s put much of what he’s learned to use in this program.

  1. Atticus is designed to be more than just as conversion tool. You can easily write in the program, formatting as you go. To me, the interface is more eye appealing that that for Scrivener and certainly not as confusing or potentially distracting as Scrivener with all that program allows you to do.
  2. You can use Atticus either through a web interface or through an app you download. You do not have to be online to use it, although to sync your work or to download, you must be online.
  3. Best of all, you can use it on your PC, Mac or Linux machine. You can even use it on your Chromebook. So, if you are out and about with your Mac, you can work and sync with your PC, etc.
  4. Excellent customer service response. Not that I’d expect anything less from Chesson.

The “Eh”:

  1. The program is still in beta and, the last I checked, there was no date for the full release. 
  2. Going hand-in-hand with this, it isn’t a “free” beta. It’s what can best be called a pay-to-play beta. Yes, you do get the full program once it’s released, but still. . .  That said, I did go ahead and pay for the program because I wanted to see what it was like and I wanted to give you guys my opinion. Basically, what you get is a locked-in price for the program which will be lower than the release price.
  3. Because it is a beta, it is glitchy. So be prepared for that.

The bad:

  1. Because it is a beta version, you don’t get all the functionality. That can be frustrating. At least the devs are open about it and about what they are working on now and what is coming down the line. Check out their roadmap here.
  2. Related to the above, some general word processing functions are not currently available. There isn’t a find & replace option yet. Nor is there function for volumes and parts of a book beyond chapters. 
  3. In the Atticus vs Scrivener battle, Atticus falls behind because it doesn’t have outlining/plotting functionality. It is coming, but not until after launch.

Some general observations:

I do have great hope for this software. The devs are consistently updating the beta and, as a gamer, let me tell you this isn’t nearly as glitchy as some AAA games I’ve played. 

My concern for the software’s growth is that it isn’t as intuitive as Vellum and Scrivener has such a rabid fanbase. That said, the devs have considered different ways people convert their work. There’s even a throwback to Smashwords, if you can believe it. Atticus has three ways (that I know of so far) that it recognizes new chapters. The first is if you use H1 headers to indicate a new chapter. The second is if you type in 20pt font. The third–drum roll please–if you have three paragraph breaks or more in a row, it will recognize a new chapter.

But, as noted above, this is part of the problem as well. It recognize H1 headers but no others, at least not now. So you can’t have a section heading and then chapters using H2 to give you an interactive table of contents that shows the section heading and then, if you open it up, the chapters under it.

Another thing that bugged me a bit is the difference in how it deal with ePub and pdf downloads. Your ePub download is instantaneous. But it has to email you a link for your pdf downloads. So there is a lag there and that can prove to be problematical if you are running up against a deadline and something happens and the app chokes on sending you the link.

There’s more, but I’m not going to be too critical since this is still in beta testing and the devs do seem to be responsive and listening to their beta testers. I will say I have hope for the program. But do I recommend you run out and track down how to be a beta purchaser?

Waggles hand.

That’s something you have to ask and answer for yourself. But I do recommend you follow the app’s website, maybe even sign up for the waitlist. Frankly, to have a program that offers the exact same capabilities cross-platform and is easy to sync (a real issue with Scrivener) is something I’d appreciate. I’m not sure it will get me to completely give up on Vellum. In fact, unless it becomes a bit more intuitive in use, it won’t. But it is an option I want available, especially if I’m traveling and don’t want to carry both the Mac and the PC.

If you are interested in seeing the app in use, check out the following Youtube videos.

There’s more, but this gives you a taste of the app. What do you think?

*

victory from AshesAnd now for a bit of promo. I have three pre-orders up right now. The first, Victory from Ashes, will be available for download 9/7/21. (The link is a universal link that lets you choose which store you want to use.) And here’s the blurb:

War is hell. No battle plan survives the opening salvo. When the enemy is set on the total destruction of your homeworld, how far will you go to protect it and those you love?

This war has already cost Col. Ashlyn Shaw too much. She has lost friends and family to an enemy that doesn’t know the meaning of honor. Marines under her command have died doing their duty. Her enemies at home conspired and brought her up on charges, sending her and members of her command to the Tarsus military penal colony. But they didn’t win then and she won’t let them win now. She is a Marine, a Devil Dog, and they can’t take that away from her.

Ashlyn is determined to do all she can to protect her homeworld and end the war. She will lead her Marines against the enemy, knowing that if they fail, Fuercon will fall. But will it be enough and will those who have conspired behind the scenes to destroy her and all she stands for finally be brought to justice?

Duty and honor. Corps and family. That is what matters. It is all that matters.

Featured Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

21 comments

  1. Disclaimer: I use Scrivener. I also use Wordpad and OpenOffice occasionally, because that’s all there was back in the day, and some of my old stuff I haven’t converted and may not ever.

    I’m not a rabid Scriv fan, but it suits my “everything including the neighbor’s kitchen sink, plus enough worldbuilding to support a gigacity” approach to my scribbles. There’s a learning curve, but it works decently okay for me. Enough that I don’t want to reach through the internet and throttle a programmer more than twice a year or so, so far. Atticus looks a lot cleaner on the formatting front, and that can be a bigger issue to some folks. If it is, those people would be better off there than Scriv. It’s worth looking at, I agree.

    1. I have Scrivener on both Mac and PC. I prefer the Mac version. But I can so easily go down the rabbit hole with it. That’s not to say I don’t still recommend it, because I do. With the disclaimer that you need to use only those features that help you.

      1. Oh yes. If you’re at all distractable by shiny thi- err, I mean are subject to analysis paralysis, avoid the deep, deep rabbit hole that is Scriv options. Its why it took me a month to actually start writing in Scrivener.

  2. It looks promising. I confess, one of the things I really appreciate about Vellum is that all the upgrades and improvements thus far have not changed the user interface. I have not opened the program only to discover that a function I loved has been “updated” out of existence. [1000 word grumble about MS Word’s designers and programmers here] I’d be leery of being an early adapter of Atticus when there are still a lot of changes/tweaks/fixes in progress.

    All criticisms and whining aside, I like what I see. I know that the portability across machines will be very popular.

    1. I will admit, the lack of cross-platform functionality is my one real complaint when it comes to Vellum. But their customer service rocks and, like you, I appreciate that they don’t keep trying to reinvent the wheel. I have hope for Atticus and am looking forward to how they do. But, until the kinks are worked out, Vellum will still be my go-to and may remain that way after Atticus is finalizes. It just depends on how easy the final product is to use.

      1. I write in Word and convert using Vellum. The only reason I use word is for the “track changes” function. Otherwise, I’d used one of the other, preferably open source, programs.

          1. I know it has a form of tracking, not sure it is the same as Word’s. The last time I used it, there were enough differences that I didn’t like it. Shrug.

      2. There are days when I think their fate should be helped along…

        I use Office 2003 myself; besides it actually being a word processor that is meant for writing things, I have way too much self-written code that would never work in any other version.

        $SPOUSE$, though, has to use 365 for her teaching job; writing IEPs and such like. The screams of rage from her computer have, fortunately, been reduced to an average of one a day. (She is firmly convinced that if it is a computer, or even vaguely so like her smart stupid phone, I am automatically expert in making it do what she needs.)

  3. It takes me about 20 minutes to format a book for print. That’s it. I don’t see what the big deal is. I even wrote the instructions up in a document that I use when I do it, so I don’t make any mistakes. (Word is my current word processor of choice, because I’ve been using it for over 20 years now – I even own my own copy).
    As for formatting my ebooks, I have a standard template that I use for them and the biggest thing is just don’t use tabs – ever – and stay away from ‘special characters’ as they tend to break things (though apparently Amazon has figured out how the one for the ellipsis works).
    But I honestly don’t understand why people have so many problems with this.

    1. And I’m not knocking that approach. I did it for years. I like Vellum because it allows me to add a few “enhancements” to the e-book you can’t do with Word, at least not with some of the storefronts. It is also easy to set up store links, and embed meta tags. I can convert for the various storefronts for e-books and do my print conversion in less than 5 minutes. Shrug. There is no one right way, just the way that works best for you.

      1. I think it comes down to WIBBOW – Would I Be Better Off Writing? Whatever system or program works the most smoothly for you, on your equipment, in your environment, is the best one. LibreOffice is better than it was, but it’s still clunky for some things (I use it on the Day Job computer because I can’t be bothered to buy another Word license.) Scrivener is great for some things, not so much for academic non-fiction. Caliber works well for some things . . . WIBBOW?

      2. It boils down to WIBBOW? Would I Be Better Off Writing? If Atticus does what you need, the learning curve’s not too steep, and the price is right, then great! If Vellum, or Caliber, Scrivener, PageMaker, or something else works and you know the program well, then that’s the way to go. As you say, Amanda, there’s no one right way. There’s what works for the writer and takes the least time away from writing, with the least stress.

  4. I find book conversion really difficult, and I wasn’t able to get Scrivener to work for me.

    I really, really hate current-day word processing. It’s all been downhill for the last 20 years, as far as I can tell, and they keep insisting that it’s intuitive.

    1. I was talking to someone earlier today about word processing and lamenting the fact no program does what early Word Perfect did. I miss all the macros, etc., it had and it worked. . . something too many programs don’t do today.

      As for conversion and being intuitive, that is the one thing I really like about Vellum. It is easy and intuitive, at least to me. My only complaint is it is Mac only.

  5. And then you didn’t say HOW MUCH the pay-to-play beta is? More exposition, please!

    1. Sorry. Since you have to contact the devs to ask about being part of the beta, I decided to leave it out. Let’s just say it is less expensive than Vellum and more expensive than Scrivener. Honestly, I’d have to switch computers to check my receipts to say more than that.

    2. I just requested the beta. It’s $117. I resisted before (especially since I just bought Affinity Publisher), but they do footnotes, which AP doesn’t.

Comments are closed.