Some writers obsess about tools; it used to be pens and pencils, then typewriters, and eventually text editors on the computer.
Since I’m starting to consider myself more and more as an actual writer rather than a researcher or teacher (although I would love to teach again, someday), I want to share with you some of my favourite writing tools for my computer and devices.
OmmWriter Dana II
I wrote an entire paper on this program, and I loved it. OmmWriter is one of these popular full-screen text editors that let you just write, with no distractions or visual editing.
The first time I opened it, I fell in love. The soothing music, the chromatherapy backgrounds and the ability to just type without being distracted by emails and notifications were a godsend. I did some of my most creative academic writing on it.
I haven’t had to use it for a little while but I have projects coming up that might require it. If you find that the white page of Word of Pages disturb you, if you need a writing space that just lets you put words on screen rather than edit for looks, then try out this neat (and cheap-less than 10$) app for Mac. It’s available on the iPad too, and I think they have a PC version in the works.
I downloaded the tryout version of Scrivener when I started to work on my dissertation project. Although the dissertation project has been scrapped, I still have a reason to keep Scrivener around.
Scrivener is meant as a large writing project manager. Instead of having one file for a long text, or several different files for each chapter or section (as I did for my thesis), Scrivener lets you write all your sections separately while letting you access and visualize the whole of your project. You can take notes, keep illustrations and graphics in a library, write cue cards for each of your sections and move them around if necessary. It also handles academic reference styles, footnotes and endnotes.
When you’re done your project and everything is in its right place, Scrivener will collate everything in a Word of PDF file ready for printing or publishing. Whether it’s a story, a dissertation or an e-book, Scrivener is the best friend of long writing projects.
Scrivener is available for Mac (and a PC version is coming as well) for US45$; there’s a student rebate.
I learned about Editor by Serenity Software in my composition and rhetoric course at the University of Alberta, and I haven’t parted with it since. It’s programmed part-time by two English professors who are otherwise tenured in American universities.
You think your Word red-squiggly-line editor is good enough? Think again. As an apprentice English professor I’ve seen (and written, to my eternal shame) words misused for others that Word can’t pick up. In an undergrad paper, I once wrote “heroin” for “heroine”. Editor catches these mistakes (and much, much more) to help polish your writing.
Editor identifies spelling, mechanical and usage errors as well as wordiness, clichés and other stylistic problems. It does not check sentence structure, but, as the creators argue, no computer program can check grammar reliably anyway.
Editor won’t correct all your mistakes for you; you actually have to feed your text to the program, which will separate your text in sentences. Then it will run the checkers (you can choose which checks you want, or use them all) and it will return a long list of potential mistakes by category and then by chronological order. The entries it returns are not always mistakes, and you’re always free to reject any suggestion it makes.
Editor is my anti-wordiness program par excellence. It’s generally aimed at the undergraduate essay-writing crowd, but I can see it being really useful for professional blogs, white papers and e-books. It requires a ton of patience, but all the work is worth it.
Editor is programmed exclusively for Windows and costs US$55 for the general version and US$75 for the version with a Word add-in. If you have a Mac, be ready to dish out an extra US$50 for Crossover (a Windows emulator) unless you are also running Windows on your machine.
Sorry for the lateness on this week’s tech post, but I hope I’ve more than made up for it with these reviews.
Do you use anything outside of Word or Pages? Any suggestions for writing programs and tools?