Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writing Software

Another frequent topic of debate is the technology used to write. Most frequently I see pen and paper vs computer, but not nearly enough do I see comparisons of the writing software available.

Microsoft Word and Notepad are the most obvious tools, since they come bundled with a Windows package on almost any PC you can buy commercially. But if you've had to wipe your hard drive and have lost your discs or are more interested in freeware in general, there's OpenOffice. It has a lot of the same features as Word, except it can save in more formats. The default format isn't Word, and Track Changes is hard to translate to another machine that doesn't run OpenOffice, but it's free, not particularly buggy, and has lots of online support. Probably not best for absolute computer beginners, but if you can google "how do I ___ in OpenOffice" and aren't particularly set in your ways with Word, it's a nice way to go. And if you feel bad about using freeware, you can just donate: a substantial donation at can still be cheaper than Word.

But what if you're frequently switching between machines, and can't keep track of a flash drive to save your life? What if you're collaborating on a project with six people and can't keep track of the latest version? What if, like me, you don't want your hard work tied to your hardware? Then there's Google Docs. Available anywhere there's internet, they have a few fewer formatting capabilities than some software, but are free and perfect for collaboration. There's a bit of a learning curve for using it, but it's been well worth it for me.

Then there are the writing-specific softwares, like Dramatica and StoryWeaver. The only one of these that I've tried is yWriter5 (which everyone will be shocked to find is freeware). I found it interesting, the way it encourages planning and structure and pre-writing, but didn't find that it gave me any appreciable advantage that couldn't be filled by a spreadsheet. For people with large, sprawling worlds and huge casts of characters, it might provide more of an advantage.

Like every other aspect of writing, it's a matter of finding those tools that work for you.

1 comment:

  1. RoughDraft - great for simple projects like short stories or poetry. Light, easy to load, free, comes with a notepad and has a menu for characters with accent marks (great if you're writing in a foreign language).

    OneNote - this is essential for me when I'm plotting a new project. Lots of little tabs to keep information close together.