I’m only taking one humanities course this semester, so I don’t have that many essays to write. But for the few assignments in that course, I’m planning to use VIM and Latex to write my essays. I have Pages.app installed on my laptop, and I already use Google Docs for stuff, but I’m still more comfortable writing in VIM, even if I’m not writing code.
Latex handles smart quotes like you’d expect it to. If there are single-quotes or double-quotes in the text section of your document, they’ll get turned into left and right quotes in the final PDF.
I just use VIM’s built-in spell-checking feature. Make sure you use it with MacVIm/GVIM, or else it looks terrible. Apparently there’s a way to bring up the correction suggestions list too, if you look for it.
You can do bold and italics and lists in Latex. I like it even better than the WYSIWYG editors, since you can do line manipulation and fancy macro stuff in VIM too.
You can mix inotify-tools and your Latex compiler to get you basically instant feedback. Every time you save the file, you can get it to re-compile your Latex and Preview.app will reload it. I’m just sharing my home folder through VirtualBox shared folders (configured in Vagrant), so I can work with files directly on the VM.