For a long time, Vellum has been arguably the best formatting software for authors. However, it has always had problems due to it only working for Mac, and is very expensive. Furthermore, Vellum has publicly said that they do not intend to make a PC version and point authors to either buy a Mac, or use a Mac in Cloud paid service in order to use them.
But then entered Atticus, a software that not only claims to be as good as Vellum, but works on all operating systems and is much cheaper.
This leaves people with the question – is Atticus really that good and how does it actually compare to Vellum?
So, in order to answer this, I'll be doing a side-by-side comparison and will discuss the pros and cons to each and see if Atticus can replace Vellum.
Let’s dive in and take a look.
- Which is better, Atticus or Vellum?
- A side-by-side comparison of each platform’s features
- An upcoming look at future features for Atticus
Table of contents
- Vellum vs Atticus: A List of Features
- Major Features
- 1. Pricing
- 2. What Computers Do They Work On?
- 3. Ease of Use Comparison
- 4. Online and Offline Use
- 5. The Word Processor (and related features)
- 6. Exporting/Importing Options
- 7. Book Previewer
- 8. Available Chapter Themes
- 9. Custom Chapter Theme Builder
- Minor Features
- Upcoming Features
- Atticus vs. Vellum: The Bottom Line
Disclosure: In this article I use affiliate links. They don’t cost you anything extra and they do not affect my decision between Atticus and Vellum. But it all goes to the Kindlepreneur coffee fund, which I greatly appreciate. Also, Atticus is owned by Dave Chesson, also the owner of Kindlepreneur, though I have done my best to objectively evaluate Vellum and Atticus against each other.
Vellum vs Atticus: A List of Features
These two sets of software help authors to format their own book with ease and make them look professional. However, how exactly do they stack against one another?
In order to quickly see how the two compare, let's start by doing a side-by-side comparison of the two. Then, once that's complete, I'll do into a full dive into each of the most important features to better explain each. With that, here is a Vellum vs Atticus comparison table:
|EPUB, PDF, DOCX, RTF
|EPUB, PDF, DOCX
|DOCX, RTF (EPUB & MOBI Coming Soon)
|Number of Chapter Themes
|Number of Trim Sizes
|Volumes and Parts
|Custom Chapter Theme Builder
|Full Bleed Images
|A Dark Mode
|H2 - H6 Headings
|Large Print (all features)
|Cloud Storage and Backups
|Check it Out
|Check it Out
Not all the features in a product are that relevant to most authors, which is why I wanted to start with a list of major features. These are aspects of each software that I consider essential, or nearly so, to the point that the lack of one could be considered a deal breaker.
When comparing Atticus to Vellum, I considered the following to be the most significant features:
- Platform Availability
- Ease of Use
- Online and Offline Use
- The Word Processor Itself
- Exporting/Importing Options
- Book Previewer
- Chapter Themes
- A Theme Builder
- Reusable Elements
- Box sets, Parts, and Scenes
- H2-H6 Headings
Let’s break down each of these individually:
Vellum is priced at $199.99 for the ebook-only package, and $249.99 if you want to do paperback formatting as well. As a prior user of Vellum, I can tell you that you definitely want the paperback package to make it worth your while.
Atticus is priced at a universal price of $147, and it includes paperback capabilities, meaning you get the same package for more than $100 less.
Is there a free version?
For Vellum, you can download their software for free and play around with it, but if you want to actually export an ebook or paperback PDF, you’ll need to pay.
For Atticus, there is not a free version, but there is a 30-day return policy, so if you try it out and decide it’s not right for you, you can easily get a refund. Some ask, why not do what Vellum does and offer it free until someone exports. However, the reason why Atticus doesn't do this is because, unlike Vellum, Atticus offers a full writing capability and will soon offer collaboration, plotting and more inside of it, making it a full suite of capabilities for authors.
In short, Atticus is the clear winner when it comes to price. But does it offer the same value? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Point +1: Atticus
2. What Computers Do They Work On?
This is the deal breaker, the area where Atticus steps up as the clear favorite.
Vellum is available for Mac only and while you can pay extra to use a service called Mac in Cloud in order to use Vellum on a PC, it's slow, costly and a pain.
Other than that, that’s it. Period. No exceptions. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Turns out Vellum is built on a coding language that only works on Mac computers, meaning they would have to build it from the ground up to create a Windows version, and it’s clear from their own website that this is not a priority for them.
Atticus, on the other hand, is available via every platform under the sun, and not just because it’s accessible via a web browser. Using a progressive web app (PWA), you’re able to use Atticus on:
That’s a lot of devices. Also because it works downloaded, or in browser, you can use it on multiple computers (your desktop, work computer, or laptop while traveling). In short, it’s the clear superior when it comes to availability to the widest possible network of authors.
Point +1: Atticus
3. Ease of Use Comparison
Ease of use is one of those metrics that are hard to quantify in a way that is measurable. But I’ll do my best here.
Vellum has long been known to be easiest book formatting software to use, with zero need for complicated instructions, courses, or anything like that. It’s relatively intuitive to find anything you need to find. The downside to this is that it lacks the kind of advanced features one might find in a program like Adobe Indesign. That said, Vellum was not built to be either of those programs, nor to appeal to their audiences.
Atticus is equally simple, with all of its features found with the same minimal number of clicks as Vellum. While Atticus aspires to have far more features than Vellum, so far its done a great job in not cluttering the system but giving advanced users ways to make their books look unique – something I'll cover in a bit.
But all in all, they are very similar in their operations and thus, their ease of use.
Point +1: Both
4. Online and Offline Use
There are a couple of questions I ask when determining which is superior in online and offline use:
- Is it backed up to the cloud?
- Can I use an in-browser version?
- Can I use it offline with no Internet connection?
For Atticus, here are the answers
- Yes, Atticus backs everything up to the cloud automatically, and with an auto save feature – this means that if something ever happens to your computer, like spilling coffee on it, your computer might be toast, but your works are completely safe.
- Yes, there is an in-browser version, so you can access it from anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection. This means that you can use it on your home computer or on your laptop or Chromebook when you're on the go.
- Yes, you can use it offline if the program is installed on your computer (note: an Internet connection will need to be restored if you want any work performed while offline to be synced with the cloud). The only time you'll need internet connection with Atticus though is to either initially log in, when you upload a new doc, export a book, or when you are using a future feature of Atticus – collaboration.
For Vellum, here are the answers to the same questions.
- Limited. You can use a third party system to save Vellum files in the cloud but this is not a native capability.
- No, there is no in-browser version. Plus your license only works for two computers so you can't use it on more computers (a work or travel laptop for example) without having to pay for it again.
- Yes, the program works offline and does not need an Internet connection, and this is the only way that it functions
As you can see by the answers here, Atticus is once again the clear winner since you get the best of both worlds with only some slight limitations:
Point +1: Atticus
5. The Word Processor (and related features)
Of course, we should look at the word processor itself to see what capabilities it has when you’re inputting your book into that space.
The number of features found in both include:
- In-app spell check
- Chapter splitting/merging
- Word count
- Adding images
- Style buttons (bold/italics/links/etc.)
While both have roughly the same number of features in the word processor, however, there are four major differences that I think should apply toward the vote:
- In Vellum, doing something like Command + Z to undo a mistake only does one letter at a time. While Atticus' is much better
- Atticus includes Writing Goal tools like Daily trackers and Writing habit trackers
- Atticus has writing preferences, which means you can select what you want your word processor to look like. You can change the font to something easier on the eyes or helps to make mistakes stand out better (such as Open Dyslexic for those with Dyslexia). You can also adjust the font size, line height, paragraph settings, and justification. In Vellum, you can not.
- Atticus also has footnotes in addition to endnotes
So, with that said, the winner on this point is…
Point +1: Atticus
6. Exporting/Importing Options
Though perhaps often overlooked, export and import options are important for reasons I’ll get into below.
Both programs export to an EPUB and PDF format. These are both the most common formats used in ebook and print formats.
Both also export to DOCX and Vellum can export to RTF and MOBI.
Now, considering that Amazon has announced that you can no longer upload a Mobi to their marketplace, and that you can no longer send a Mobi file to a Kindle and instead should only send ePub to a Kindle, the MOBI file is now obsolete and useless for the market.
Since Vellum can export MOBI and RTF and Atticus can't (even though MOBI is now a useless file), that is one aspect that should count in this side by side grade. But, if you do need to, for some reason, convert your EPUB to a MOBI, you can easily do that here.
Point +1: Vellum
When creating a new book, you might already have a DOCX file, an EPUB file, or other version of your manuscript that you want to import into Atticus or Vellum. So what formats does it accept.?
Vellum will only import a DOCX file, whereas Atticus current supports DOCX and RTF, with MOBI and EPUB technically functional, but we are working to improve them considerably.
Point +1: Atticus
7. Book Previewer
Both Vellum and Atticus feature a book previewer.
In Atticus, you can look at the print preview to see exactly what your book will look like as a print-ready PDF. The previewer also tells you how many pages your book will be.
Vellum has similar features in this area, but overall the capabilities of both Atticus and Vellum are about equal in this area.
Point +1: Both
8. Available Chapter Themes
Vellum has twenty-four different chapter themes to use in your books.
Atticus currently has seventeen, but is continually adding more and features a custom chapter theme builder (see next section).
This means that your chapter headers can look any way you want them too, and you can set your book or series apart from other authors using the same software. Additionally, Atticus allows for full page image bleeds, and the themes themselves look great and match more genres than Vellum.
So in essence, Atticus has unlimited chapter themes.
But Vellum has these features too so for now these are about equal.
Point +1: Both
9. Custom Chapter Theme Builder
Until recently, Vellum didn't have a theme builder. Now they have 24 styles and the ability to customize.
Yet, since its infancy, Atticus already delivered on a Custom Chapter builder making Atticus books unique and giving their users the ability to truly make beautiful books.
With Atticus' theme builder, you can either start with an existing chapter theme or start from scratch. There you can choose the font, font size, location and even add images. This way, you can make chapters look and feel like ‘your' book.
But since Vellum has since come out with this feature, we're giving the point to both.
Point +1: Both
10. Reusable Elements
Have you ever wanted to be able to update your “Also By” page in one book, then have it automatically update to all of your other books that use the same page?
Well that's what you can do with Atticus's reusable elements feature. With this feature you can create a chapter or element, reuse it across multiple books, then when you update that element, it will automatically include that update across all your books.
Since Vellum does not have a feature like this, I'm giving the point to Atticus.
Point +1: Atticus
Until Atticus came along, there wasn't any affordable and easy to use program that provided footnotes in books. But Atticus can!
With Atticus, you can easily add footnotes that will appear at the bottom of each page in your print edition (note: ebook editions, by necessity, default to endnotes).
In addition to footnotes, Atticus also lets you select endnotes, and let's you specify whether you want your endnotes to appear at the end of the book, or the end of each chapter.
Since Vellum only has endnotes, and not footnotes, we're giving this point to Atticus.
Point +1: Atticus
12. Box Sets, Parts, and Scenes
Vellum has long been known as being a great program to create box sets for your books. It is also possible to create various parts within a single book.
But one thing that Vellum can't do is create scenes within a single chapter, like Scrivener is known to do. This is one of the reasons why Scrivener was always a better writing program than Vellum.
Well now, Atticus has the best of both worlds.
Atticus has the capability to create, not only box sets, but parts and scenes as well. That puts it above Vellum in its capability, and makes it even better than similar features on Scrivener as well.
Point +1: Atticus
13. H2 – H6 Headings
For non-fiction authors, Atticus has the ability to create multiple levels of headings, meaning you can have main headings, then subheadings underneath those headings, etc. Here's what that looks like:
Additionally, you can customize the size and style of each heading type, which actually means that fiction authors can make use of the headings as well.
By selecting a specific style font, you could create the illusion of a hand-written note or a text that you could use insert into your text. So headings are not just for nonfiction authors!
Here's the what the heading formatting looks like in Atticus:
Vellum, on the other hand, does not have the same flexibility with headings. You don't have multiple heading types (just one subheading), and you can't individually adjust the style of that heading, it must instead conform to the overall style of your book.
Which leaves a lot to be desired.
Point +1: Atticus
Minor features are those aspects that are important, but aren’t necessarily deal breakers for most people. However, I think you’ll find that even here, Atticus excels.
- Word count options: Both apps let you look at the word count, not just for a given chapter, but for the whole book as well. I’d say it’s a little more intuitive to find this information in Atticus, but for the sake of fairness, I’ll give this point to both. Point +1: Both.
- Chapter elements: When formatting a book, you need to know all the different parts of a book that you can add to your body, or front and back matter. Vellum and Atticus currently have the same number of chapter elements, so this one is a tie. Point +1: Both.
- Spellcheck: Both offer an in-app spellcheck. Point +1: Both.
- ProWritingAid Integration: Both Atticus and Vellum have standard spell checks. But Atticus has partnered with ProWritingAid (our longtime recommendation as the best editing tool), which sets it above Vellum in this area as well. Point +1: Atticus
- Large Print: While Vellum does let you create a larger font for your print books, there's actually more to large print (to be compliant with all the organizational guidelines) that Vellum does not do. Atticus, on the other hand, does it all. Point +1: Atticus
- Goal Setting/Tracking Goals: Atticus is meant to be an all-in-one tool. Part of that is its goal setting and tracking tools, where you can input writing goals, track word counts, see your progress, and more. Vellum does not have this feature, so… Point +1: Atticus
- Ebook Start Page: When you open an ebook, there is a piece of code that specifies when the exactly start point is, and this is where Amazon will automatically start a reader on. Atticus lets you pick where this start point should be. Point +1: Atticus
- Future plans: It might be a bit arbitrary to include this here, but I think it’s important to consider what the plans for a piece of software might be when determining its superiority. I’ll get into a breakdown of these plans below, but for now it’s clear that Atticus has more in the future (see its roadmap here) than Vellum does. If Vellum does have any development plans, this is not clear. Point +1: Atticus
- Find and Replace: This tool will let you find anything within a given chapter or inside your entire manuscript, and allow you to replace it with anything you want. Both Atticus and Vellum have this feature. Point +1: Both.
If you’re keeping track that means that Atticus leads in the minor features at 9 to 4. Totaled all together with the major features, that’s an updated score of 22 to 9 in Atticus’ favor.
But that’s just the features that Atticus already has. What about the features that it doesn’t (yet) have.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that Atticus is a relatively new software, and is growing and expanding every day. As such, there are a TON of new features that are on their way. Plus, as the creator Dave Chesson likes to say, it's not about just making a book formatting software, but instead, a complete suite of all things authors need to plan, plot, write, collaborate and format books. Dave likes to describe what Atticus will be by saying:
If Scrivener, Google Docs and Vellum got together and had a baby, its name would be Atticus!Dave Chesson
Vellum on the other hand, has changed little over the years (which is why so many alternatives have popped up), and while I certainly have no inside information on any upcoming features they plan to implement, I have no past evidence to suggest that any such improvements are likely to happen soon.
A few of the upcoming features that I'm excited about include:
- Nonfiction Update: This will allow nonfiction authors a slew of new tools, including H2-H6 headers, call out boxes, and a lot more.
- Dark Mode: This would allow the night owls among is to have a mode that puts less strain on the eyes in a dark environment.
- Organizational/Plotting Tools: A story involves much more than just the written text. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it such as characterization, outlining, worldbuilding, etc. These features will eventually be integrated into Atticus, and are not currently part of Vellum.
- Collaboration Tools: Eventually, Atticus will see tools to allow co-authors to work together on their manuscripts, without the need to constantly be passing files back and forth, or worry about which version is which.
- Version Control: This would allow you to save multiple versions of the same manuscript without having to create separate files for all of them, making it even easier to keep your work safe.
In short, there is a lot of great features coming down the pipeline. And most of them Vellum doesn’t even come close to having.
Atticus vs. Vellum: The Bottom Line
If you tally all the points above, you get a score of:
That makes Atticus the clear winner of the two, even if your only goal is to format books (Atticus will do a lot more than just formatting). And that's not to mention all of the upcoming features that are sure to shift the tide even more in Atticus' favor. Furthermore, you can check out another site's review and comparison of them and see basically the same thing as well.
All in all, Atticus will give you the same features that Vellum provides, without skimping on quality, and it also has a number of features that Vellum sorely lacks. And it does all that for almost half the price of Vellum.
If you want to learn more about formatting, check out my master guide on the subject. Otherwise, I refer you to Atticus. Don’t settle for less!