Sunday, June 10, 2007

Software Tools for Writers

The choice used to be between pen and typewriter. Then it was between pen and computer. Writers are increasingly turning to sophisticated software programmes to help them write their magnum opus, writes Rachel Donadio in the New York Times. She lists several novelists who have found computer technology an essential tool for organising their fictional universe. So what software have they used?

Richard Powers who won the National book Award last year with The Echo Maker favoures Mindjet MindManager and also Microsoft OneNote.

Marish Pessl structured her novel special Topics in Calamity Physics with Excel spreadsheets.

And Vikram Chandra used Microsoft Project to keep track of an enormous cast of characters in his sprawling novel Sacred Games.

Other authors find software packages produced specifically for writers very useful.

But as Donadio points out the best bit of software might actually be a timer that puts your internet connection on hold while you actually get some work done! (Oh, I would pay for that!)

What software do the writers among you find useful?

19 comments:

Chet said...

All the various software quoted are expensive.

To focus just on the writing, what about SuperNoteCard? It's based on the trusted 3x5 index card, and pretty fun to use, too.

SuperNoteCard is available for both Windows and Mac, and the files can be opened in both platforms.

There's also a version for scriptwriting, too.

Obiter Dictum said...

Chet: I have had a look at the Aphasmart you on your website and increasingly being attracted to it... is it still available? Seems more suitable to distractions I face.

Say, which one do you use, Sharon?

Chet said...

obiter - There is an even better machine than the one I have. It's called the Neo, and that's still available. Also by AlphaSmart. Complete 100% writing machine. The distributor is in Penang. Email me chincm at gmail dot com for more info.

Sharon - sorry for using your blog for this.

bibliobibuli said...

chet - go ahead! i love the alphasmart, the ultimate so distractions writers tool.

i don't use any but think it would be very useful to find ways of organizing my stuff. i plan to browse the packages mentioned here for a start and am very open to suggestions.

Chet said...

My Dana helped me finish three NaNovels in 5 years, and I highly recommend it!

Obiter Dictum said...

I started using the Notebook feature offered by Google. Still grappling with the tool.

But the best part of using a notebook with Net connections is you can look up something easily.

Radical Scope said...

is there a site that reviews these softwares, complete with their pros n cons?

nel said...

Here is some software on my computer ...

1. http://www.writerscafe.co.uk

2. http://www.yadudigital.com

3. http://www.rightmindlogic.com

4. http://www.celtx.com

Most or all this software is able to download for trial before buying. Please don't ask me how I fair in using this software, I think you guys can give better run and reviews as a writer on the needs for a writer's software. I am just running them for fun and not serious ... lol ... :)

My personal preference would go for WriterCafe.com. That is because at that time I was looking for a software where I can keep reference, knowlwdge, ideas, at the same time connected to the Internet for bookmarking and writing in a single software for my writing fancy.

My second preference would be Celtx.com. It has a storyboard part where I can have scatchboard for my comic. If I am not mistaken, this software is free for download, but it can slow your computer down if you don't have enough computing resources. I guess the software was design and run on Java script. It is still a beta software.

My third preference would be from YaduDigital.com. It a very simple writing software, but it able to break into projects, then articles or hierarchy format without limit. But I think most the software above can also do that, only the project part, I guess. I also like the way it tools are layout out for convenience.

The last but not least, would be i*write by RightmindLogic.com. This is more of journal software. Nice and simple as well, with a few extra gimmick.

All these softwares are run on Win98 with a computing resource of Intel Pentium 4 with 1 Gig MB Ram. You guys would have to check their website for the actual configuration if interested.

Hope this info is helpfull as well ... cheers guys ... happy sunday ... :)

nel said...

Oh yeah Chet, I forgot that your Neo and Dana remind me of my Psion 5mx I use to have. Now, I don't know where to get support to repair it. A classical mono screen ... lol ... though a nice feeling to it.

Eliza said...

Hi Sharon, finally a post on software! I've tried two before, including a trial version of a very expensive one - Dramatica Pro - and The Writer's Software Companion. What I found is that these programmes will help if you already have a story, plot ideas and characters in mind and want a good way to organise all the elements of your novel together. But it won't actually help you to WRTIE, if you know what I mean.
Chet's little machine is enticing, but I'm holding off the temptation for now until I have more TIME to commit to writing. Looking forward to software reviews from you soon!

Radical Scope said...

thanks, nel. i go for celtx first. if they require a lot of computing resources, then all the more reason to upgrade my machine hehe.

Sham said...

I like me pen and paper.....
I do medical writing and I suppose the only software I use is MS Word. But...it is a resounding but here, I scribe on paper...all my thoughts, flow, ideas.....

nel said...

Hi Radical, don't get me wrong. My resources is mainly use to run my graphic and design software, which is what I do best. I doubt those writing software would eat up a lot of resources, but you just have to try them out yourself to know it better.

If you are just looking for a doc software and free. I would recommend Sun Microsystem - Star Office. It is an open source software. The complete set has a presentation and spreadsheet as well. I first got my free copy at their office at Manara CityBank at Jalan Ampang. Downloading is hell. I don't know if they are still there, and I don't use Microsoft because I don't deal with alot of document. It work well for me as long as I don't do too fancy doc layout. There is still other open source and free doc writing software in the market, but I forgot their names. Just ask some IT savvy people and they will point you to these software as well.

Other than that, you can also try out http://docs.google.com. An internet doc and spreadsheet internet software by google.com.

... have fun ... :)

Radical Scope said...

oh, if that's the case then no problem. well, i still need to upgrade my computer; for the sake of online gaming and animation pleasure haha.

Anonymous said...

Software reviews for MindManager can be found here:

http://www.download.com/Mindjet-MindManager-Pro/3000-2076_4-10438651.html

Radical Scope said...

thanks, anon. visiting that link asap.

Radical Scope said...

how long is the trial period for mind manager anyway? usd349 is a bit...

Anonymous said...

There are two types of trial versions: a 5 day quick download and a 21 day download that offers additional training and resources while you test MindManager, which requires a brief form to be filled out:

http://www.mindjet.com/us/download/

James said...

I just posted an article about my use of Dramatica, OneNote, and MindManager on my blog "daily dramatica":

http://dailydramatica.com/2007/06/13/another-look-at-software-for-screenwriting/

Please note that I am very biased towards dramatica (as you can see by the title of my blog!) - so don't expect a fair review!

I love the program/theory and find it immensely useful when it comes to the structure of story.