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I like geek-toys. Software, gadgets, you name it. But I like them to have some purpose, not just be shiny for the sake of being shiny. I’m sure part of it is that it’s more fun to play with new tools than to use them, at least for me, and another fraction of it is the “If only I had the perfect $X, I’d get so much more $Y done” mentality. Still, shiny.

Writing is one area where I’ve thought a better tool might help. Nothing too fancy, as that inspires font-fiddling rather than writing. I’ve done a lot of writing in VIM, but while that is first rate for editing code and data files, I find it suboptimal for managing large writing projects. It’s hard to beat for speed-drafting, but not great for project management. I’ve thought about putting together a text-file project management system using various linux tools, but I’m pretty sure that veers waaaay into time-wasting territory. Somebody’s got to have already done it, and snazzier than I can manage.

I’ve been a bit jealous of Mac users for a while, because Scrivener sounds just lovely. I used to be a Mac owner, once upon a time, but dumped for linux when I developed a need for fancy scientific software that didn’t exist for other platforms. That restriction has pretty much gone away with Mac’s BSD base, and I’m occasionally tempted to go to Mac for my next laptop. I’m unlikely to do so because of the need to maintain compatibility with work projects (on linux) and so that I have access to a Windows computer for the occasional highly-annoying work requirement that won’t work on linux no matter what I do. (You’d think an online training system could be cross-platform, but you’d apparently be badly confused.) A Windows-linux dual boot system works very well for me as my personal laptop. And yet, there’s Scrivener.

I’ve tracked down a few Windows options to try that sound possibly useful. I want a writing part that is just writing, no fiddling, and I really don’t care if it has formatting options (fonts, margins – the word processing stuff) as long as it’s a clean interface and can be exported into something a word processor can read for the final formatting. Spell check would be convenient, but isn’t necessary. I also want a project management portion that makes it easy to rearrange chunks within the overall flow, and to go back and fill in parts around a skeleton.

yWriter is well-liked by at least part of the online writing community. It claims to do everything I want, and is free. It doesn’t look terribly polished in the screenshots, but function before form, right?

RoughDraft is another “writer’s word processor”. It doesn’t sound as appealing as yWriter, but close enough to be worth a spin.

Writer’s Cafe is a commercial offering, unlike the previous two. There are Windows, Mac and linux versions, and purchase is by the user, so one license lets you use it on Windows and linux, just not simultaneously.

This post is really just a glorified to-do list: Note to self, try these programs, and here are the links so you don’t lose them. I’ll report back later. If you’ve used one and love it, or hate it, or tolerate it until something better comes along, leave me a comment.

4 Comments on “Writer-Geek”

  1. #1 george harter
    on Aug 19th, 2008 at 1:14 am

    Have a LT, an older ACER I can boot VISTA(UHHH) or Ubuntu. I thought I would like a linux better than I have. The only value to me is the terminal, which I use a lot to talk to the UNIX computers in the Biio=Informatics lab.
    The word processing really s**ks, OPEN OFFICE is trash. It won’t even read-in WORD fil;es, 98 2000 nt XP Vista, nothing, they get reformated very,very badly. ARGGH, it’s just useless so I am back to Windows, my old G4 is really just a CD library now!

    George Harter, Jeweler/Designer discovering yarns AND seashells(WOW)

  2. #2 george harter
    on Aug 19th, 2008 at 1:18 am

    Oh, sidetraked, will try those software items, but am mostly just looking for anything better than 2003WORD (2007 is a reversion)

    George H

  3. #3 Phiala
    on Aug 19th, 2008 at 6:26 am

    George, that’s odd. I’ve used Open Office exclusive for the last ten years in a professional setting with a bunch of MS Office users, and rarely if ever have problems, and then only minor ones. The page breaks might be in a different place, for example, but that happens even switching between computers with same version of Word.

    With these tools, I’m looking for something that isn’t a word processor, but is more designed for organizing and accomplishing things than fiddling with them.

  4. #4 george harter
    on Aug 19th, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Not sure I understand but do U mean computer equivalent of pencil and scratch pad?
    Or a TOPICAL ORGANIZER, all refs to a certain something get reassembled in ONE FILE?
    Real free thought it’s still just me, a few sharp pencils and some handy paper. IKIKIK it has to be transcribed, but hey, a chance at editing.~!
    I also must confess, I first learned autocad1993(?) hated it, I am a board designer. Tried MasterCam in 1998, uhhhh. Squiffled a recent v. of autocad.I STILL HAVE MY DRAWING BOARD AND DRAFTING MACHINE. The board is so big, designing machines, I could lay on it!
    My race is dying out, oh well, we can USE computers but don’t believe they are really trustworthy, so, can’t use them for CREATIVE WORK!!!
    TOO Much,
    George (Hansa is my yoga name) PS Hard to believe, I’m not gay even though I am a good seamster(????) rofl