The Write Calling

Is writing your true calling? Here you'll find encouragements for writers, book reviews, publishing industry insider tips, and market news. Read musings on writing and publishing by Katey Coffing, Ph.D.: Life Coach for Women Writers.

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Published fiction and nonfiction author who embraces her creativity and coaches other women to do the same. For information and prices, visit Women-Ink.com.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The best software for writers (Mac/PC)

This post has been a long time (and a lot of fun experimentation) in the making. If you're a writer and you live in the modern age, you probably want software that will make the writing process easier and more organized. Today's post includes some of my favorite little helpers, many of which have free demo versions you can try.

Take a look at the websites, screenshots and features, and then demo the ones you think would work for you. Writing software is a very personal thing, and software that suits one person well may just feel "off" to someone else. It's probably better to invest a little time now to see what suits the way YOU work best.

What I use:
I'm a HUGE fan of the Mac-only Scrivener. I prefer it to every other writing program I've ever tried, Mac or PC--and that says a lot. I was a happy beta tester during NaNoWriMo in 2005 and now rely on it for whole projects, not just my manuscripts. I adore Scrivener's structure and its many flexible features. An outline on the left side of the screen organizes your draft (and all your research, useful URLs, .pdf files...). In the right-hand pane you can do a split screen view (brilliant!) to look at your current scene plus a research document or two scenes at once. (Can’t remember what color the heroine’s dress was when she put it on four chapters ago? Go back and look, and the scene you’re working on is still visible!) Annotate/make comments, see your drafts in full screen mode, seamless exports to .rtf... I love, love, love Scrivener and recommend it to all my Mac-based coaching clients. It’s a beautifully thought-out program packed with useful features.

But different strokes for different folks; everyone has their own method of writing and their own preferences (not to mention computing platform), so I'm going to mention a few other apps worthy of a look. (And needless to say, there are many more good ones out there that aren't making it into this post.)

My PC-based clients are variously fond of:

- Liquid Story Binder, which (like Scrivener) can handle images in addition to text. In other words, if you find a great photo or image on the web, you can store that with your manuscript. (Great for research!) It seems to have a lot of other features handy for writers, too.

- PageFour, a newer program that seems to have a pleasant and uncluttered interface and a nifty Document Importer.

- WriteWay Pro. I liked WWP one a lot, and wrote some of my 2005 NaNoWriMo novel on it. (Yes, I was bilingual then.) WWP was created by the husband of a novelist, so it has a lot of smart features (character profiles, goals & productivity tracking, etc.) that novelists will like. Alas, the interface is pretty ugly (circa Win98), and there's no autosave, so you'd better save at regular intervals. (Which is always a good move, anyway.) The installation might seem a little tricky, since it requires an additional, free piece of software from Microsoft that you may or may not already have on your computer, so be sure to read the installation instructions.

- RoughDraft is free, has a good reputation and is well-liked by a lot of writers. It doesn't have the most modern interface, but it's been around for a few years--and being free, it's certainly practical.

Several others worth a mention: Writer's Blocks, WriteItNow, and
PowerWriter
.

Have fun exploring and seeing what kind of interface feels good and intuitive to you. Here are some questions that might help as you look through these programs:

(1) Does it organize manuscripts in a way that will be easy for you to find scenes/sections, add to them, and move them around as needed?

(2) Will it let you name scenes/sections (or otherwise identify them) so you can find them quickly?

(3) Does the program make it easy to save your work and back it up?

(4) Does it feel fast (so you won't waste time when working with a big manuscript)?

(5) Are there any special/unique features of this program that would be particularly handy for you and the way you like to work?

(6) Do you enjoy the layout and feel of the program (since you'll be looking at it a LOT)?

I look forward to hearing what you prefer, so feel free to discuss your choice in the comments! Have fun and enjoy exploring.

Katey
Women-Ink.com

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

WriteWay Pro has a new release out that addresses some of the items that have been clunky in the past. Still the same look and feel, but I've never found anything PC that works as well for me.

March 23, 2008 3:09 PM  
Blogger Katey Coffing, Ph.D. said...

Great, glad to hear it.

March 23, 2008 3:33 PM  
Anonymous T. Benjamin Larsen said...

Hi there Katey! Just googled my way to your blog and found this post. Thought I should inform you about my own personal favourite writing-app: Jer's Novel Writer.

This is a truly brilliant application for just writing - completely undistracted. I actually wrote a glowing piece about it on my blog this weekend. Highly recommended! (The app that is).

March 31, 2008 9:45 AM  
Blogger Katey Coffing, Ph.D. said...

Hello! Glad you stopped by. I tried Jer's Novel Writer a couple of years ago and preferred the feel of Scrivener, but I believe Jerry and the author of Scrivener keep in touch and continue to borrow ideas from each other and add new features. IOW, just as Scriv has improved, I bet JNW is much better now than when I tried it.

Thanks for mentioning it!

March 31, 2008 10:50 AM  
Blogger Todd D. Severin said...

Love your blog. I just came across it today from our mutual friend. I've started a writing blog, My Writing Life, that I'd love for you to check out. If you like it, let's exchange links.

Best,

Todd
My Writing Life
www.learnedaboutwriting.blogspot.com

May 21, 2008 5:13 PM  
Anonymous Jill said...

Hi, I've been mostly a Windows PC user for the past four years due to my present job, but am now switching back to Mac OS because of 1) Vista and 2) the new Macs simply ROCK. Didyouseethem?

I use and recommend a freeware, yWriter, by Simon Haynes, which I find superior to many commercial and free writing software I've tried. However, Mr. Hayes does not develop stuff for OS X and I've been considering Bootcamp to run it. But Scrivener sound interesting. I will check this out, thank you for the info.

October 27, 2008 8:54 PM  
Blogger Katey Coffing, Ph.D. said...

Thanks for the reminder about yWriter. I think I gave that a whirl just before I got hooked on WWP for the PC--but software is personal, so my favorite features in a program may be someone else's annoyances.

Anyway, welcome to the Mac! (You made the right choice. :-) )

Scrivener rocks my little world (it's even become a project manager and organizer of sorts for things that have nothing to do with writing), so I hope you find it useful. Have fun!

October 27, 2008 9:17 PM  
Blogger CMCM said...

Guess I'm a bit late to these posts, but "better late than never", right?"

I was interested to read this particular section because I'm currently checking out writing software...sort of. I've got demos of Scrivner and Story Mill, plus a couple of others which weren't terribly impressive and their names already escape me. I'm in test mode, trying to decide which program is more intuitive so I can learn it quickly and then forget I'm using it.

I think the organizational aspects of Scrivner and/or Story Mill look appealing. I'm moderately hung up on organization, which I think I need to be better at. I just bought a couple of new writing books....including "Write a book in 30 Days", or some such. Of course, you don't really write a book but you DO put together a somewhat coherent story outline thru the structural guide they present. We'll see how this works....

I don't want to spin my wheels excessively on "getting ready to write", though. I just need a modicum of organization in terms of plot and character, and then I need to get to it.

October 28, 2008 10:03 PM  
Blogger Tania Hammidi said...

hi kate - really like your blog. i am into scrivner too, glad to see others like it. i was wondering if you have recommendations for best Computer for writers. i'm deciding between a used large screened laptop, and a 13" used mac. thanks for any suggestions? i'm confused about what is most important.

June 09, 2011 9:52 AM  
Blogger Katey Coffing, Ph.D. said...

Hi Tania. That's a great question without an easy answer. :)

Since you mentioned being into Scrivener, I'm going to assume you're a Mac person. (Although there's a Windows version of Scrivener coming soon! I believe it's now in beta.)

If you're a Mac person and you're choosing between a PC laptop and a Mac laptop, you'll probably want to go with the Mac just because using it will feel more familiar to you. PCs have their own great uses, but the difference between the two operating systems can sometimes make transitions frustrating.

If your choices are between two Macs, then some factors for you to consider:

- How recent are the two machines? Check the models and see if you can find out whether they'll both be able to run (and have the power to handle) the new Mac operating system--OS 10.7, also known as "Lion"--due out this summer.

- Ergonomics: What screen size are you looking for? Do you plan to write mostly at your desk (in which case bigger might be better), or do you plan to travel a lot (in which case smaller might come in handy)?

- What will you do with the computer? If you want it mainly for writing and occasional web surfing, you probably won't need a ton of power... but if you want to do other things with it (graphics, etc.), look for a machine that won't stutter.

Right now I use a Mac Mini with a good-sized monitor, although I yearn for a blazing-fast Mac Pro. For traveling, I turned a PC laptop into a "Hackintosh" by installing the Mac OS on it--but I would NOT recommend that a casual user try that, folks.

Good luck with your purchase, Tania, and I hope this helps!

June 10, 2011 11:07 AM  
Blogger uncommon said...

Katey,

You might want to note that there will be two separate licences for Scrivener when the Windows version finally appears (soon.)

In other words, the Mac license won't permit you to use it on a windows machine.


brendan (atlanta)

June 15, 2011 4:19 PM  
Blogger Katey Coffing, Ph.D. said...

Excellent point, Brendan.

June 15, 2011 6:00 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

There is a new version of myWordCount that runs on Windows and the Mac that just came out. The program counts characters, words, phrases and even details the Flesch-Kincaid score for each sentence. It really helps you find repetitive words and phrases in your writing. The new version will also read MS Word and Scrivener files.

August 03, 2013 2:51 PM  

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