Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Writing Tech

There are so many different programs available to writers. I use yWriter, Word, and Notebook almost exclusively. I have trialed many others. Here is a list of some of the ones that I have checked out. Check the links if one looks particularly interesting. This is somewhat long so read on after the jump.

  • Microsoft Office Word: This is probably the most recognized program on this list. Love it or hate it, Word has been around in various incarnations since the 1980's. Most kids learn how to use Word right along with learning how to type. Depending on one's needs, it can be simple or incredibly confusing to use. I use Word 2010 and at first I hated it. There was too much to mess with. The formatting and style options seem to be unending. I'm slowly getting used to it though.
  • Notepad: I use the notepad that comes with (I think) all PCs for quick notes. It is handy for jotting down something quick, but it is a very simple program. There are no styles. No headers and footers. No formatting. I have written in Notepad before when Word was too overwhelming, but I found myself going back over the copied text fixing errors for hours so I try not to do this often.
  • Google Docs: This is a handy web-based program. It has all the basic features of Word. The difference is that Google Docs lets you create documents online and save them to an online database. It has an interactive sharing feature that a few of my beta readers have used. The user creates a document and then shares it with others, allowing real time viewing of a document. Any updates made to the document are immediately visible to the other viewers the user has selected. Being able to access my files from any computer or web-based device is handy when I'm traveling. The one pitfall of this program is that it is web-based so it can only be used while your computer is connected to the internet. To access your stuff offline, you have to download a plug-in and your work is saved to your computer, defeating the mobile benefits of Google Docs for me.
  • Handwriting: While not technically a program, handwriting is still done by many writers. I keep hand written notes when I'm not at the computer. I've written about how Garth Nix hand writes his notes and novels. As I spend more time on the computer, my stamina for handwriting shrinks though. Just writing a few pages makes my hands cramp up. My 7 and 8 year old sisters are already typing reports in grade school. Cursive isn't a mandatory lesson in some schools now.Handwriting is a lost (or losing, depending on your perspective) art, in my opinion.
  • Typewriter: Ah the old go-to for writers of the past. And yet some people still use typewriters. I had one when I was a kid. Sure, we had a computer. But nothing was more satisfying than hearing the clacking of the keys and the ding as the carriage returned. Sure, loading paper was a pain. Don't get me started on replacing the ribbon. There is just something soothing about the familiar sounds of a typewriter that you can't really get with a computer keyboard.
  • Scrivner for Mac/Windows: I have not used Scrivner for several reasons. One, until recently, it was only available for Mac. A Windows version went into Beta last year. The full version will be available in August 2011. Two, it is a pay-for program. It requires a $45 subscription fee for Mac. The Windows version will be $40. There are many free programs that offer similar features. It is not just a writing program though. It offers a complete writing studio. There are cork boards, storyboards, outlines, places to pin research beside your writing page, etc. It also has a handy feature that exports your document in ePUB and PDF format. If you can tolerate bugs, try out the beta trial!
  • Dropbox: Dropbox is a program that allows users to upload notes, photos, and videos and share them to other programs. 2GB of storage comes with the free version. It can be used by any computer, mobile device, and offline. It has had some problems in the past with security issues though so use at your own risk.
  • yWriter: This program is neat, but has a steep learning curve. It is a writing program, fully downloaded to your hard drive, created by a novelist for novelists. It breaks a novel down into chapters and scenes. It allows scenes to tag characters, items, and locations to track the appearances of important things. It has an built-in word counter that provides the total words for the project and words per day. You can set word goals through the counter (handy for the NaNo). An outline feature allows the user to set character viewpoint, goals, conflicts, and outcomes for each scene. The storyboard feature allows the user to select a scene and move the entire portion to a different location within the project. It is completely free and worth a try. Download it a few days before your plan to get to work so you can learn how to use it properly though!
  • StoryBook: Storybook is much like yWriter. It is free-ware. It downloads to your hard drive. It uses strands to connect chapters, scenes, characters, and locations. The spell check gadget is just as bad as Microsoft Word. I say download yWriter and StoryBook both. Give them both a couple days to grow on you and see which you like better.
  • Open Office: Open Office is a free-ware office suite that mimics Microsoft Office Suit, and comes with a document program. It has most of the features of MOffice without the hefty price tag. It claims to be fully integrated with all other major office programs, but I have seen otherwise. I know some of the Open Office files I have opened in Word come up in Compatibility Mode so I can't edit them without copying the entire file and pasting it into Word, rather than opening it. It is fairly handy to use though if you can't afford MOffice.
  • Liquid Story Binder: This is another program similar to yWriter and StoryBook, but looks totally bad ass. It includes all the required things for writers, like spell check and a dictionary. It has outlines, chapter/scene editor, full screen mode, and a typewriter mode. A personalized color scheme for the program and a built-in media organizer for pictures, mp3, and audio playback make this program rock. My only issue is that is a pay-for program. They have a 30 day trial available, but the full program will knock you back about $46. I want Liquid Story Binder!
  • Write or Die: This is a program made for National Novel Writing Month. It encourages writers to avoid procrastination through punishment. You read that correctly. Customize the program in 3 different modes: gentle, normal, and kamikaze. Each mode has a specific consequence of no writing within a specific amount of time. In gentle mode, a box will pop up reminding the writer to get to work. In normal mode, an incredibly unpleasant noise will sound... and will only stop when writing resumes. In kamikaze mode, the work will begin un-writing itself! Write or Die is not a word processor. The only way to save your work is to copy and paste it into a document. Something a lot of Write or Die users like is the Word War functions that happen a lot throughout the NaNo. It is available online (free) or for download ($10).

I know there are lots of other programs available. Whatever your poison, if it works for you then awesome! What do you use to write? What have you used and hated? What's on your wish list?


NR | said...

I use Word mainly because of familiarity. I've also used Open Office extensively in the past.

I know the crazy cat lady on my's not you.

Dee said...

I'm pretty much in the same line as you. I use Word because I've always used it, but for a little while, I used Open Office. My Word program became corrupted somehow and wouldn't work properly. I couldn't reinstall MOffice because I no longer had the disc, so I used Open Office. It is nice to have when MOffice isn't available. I'm still more partial to yWriter for novel writing, but for typing up blog posts or articles, Word is my go-to.

Oh, I may not be YOUR crazy cat lady... but I'm becoming more and more convinced that I am THE crazy cat lady. :P