by Ruth Harris
Like plumbers and carpenters, architects and astronauts, cellists and golfers, writers need the right tools to help them get the job done. New tools appear constantly and many of them are FREE. Here is a round-up of current offerings.
Word processors on steroids:
MSWord is the industry standard, the app editors and agents prefer. Has its lovers and haters but it’s powerful, sometimes kind of clunky, and can do just about anything including format your book into epub and mobi files for upload.
Make MS Word Work for You Instead of Against You is JW Manus’s quick primer directed especially to fiction writers. JW explains why over formatting and useless manuscript styling is a counter-productive waste of time for authors.
MSWord also provides the tools that allow you to create a cover. Here’s an on-line tutorial about how to make a cover in MSWord.
Book designer Derek Murphy offers DIY professional-looking book cover how-tos plus templates you can use in Word.
Scrivener (about $40 but you can find often it on sale) comes in PC and Mac flavors and is coming—soon! everyone hopes—for iOS. Powerful and very flexible, Scriv is a must-have for many writers including me. Scriv has a cork board function, an outliner, will file images and web-based research, and compiles to epub and mobi.
The manual is extensive, the video tutorials are excellent and the help forum is outstanding. Keith, Scriv’s developer, often appears to answer questions and his savvy crew is responsive and will walk you through any dilemmas.
Gwen Fernandez’ book Scrivener For Dummies has bailed this dummy out more than once and will help both beginners and experienced users.
If you’re still unsure about Scrivener and want to know more, Gwen has written a post about why she ditched Word for Scriv.
Google+ Scriv forum is another go-to resource. Scrivener enthusiasts answer questions, offer templates and share creative approaches to getting even more out of Scriv.
I found Ed Ditto’s How to Format Your Novel for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, Smashwords, and CreateSpace…in One Afternoon indispensable for working my way through the compile process.
Nisus (Mac only—Express $45, Pro $79) is a superb word processor, one I’ve used for years. Nisus works well with Scriv, it’s elegant but powerful, very stable, and the Pro version lets you compile epubs and mobis from within. Their user forum is terrific and Martin—I think he’s one of the developers—is there to answer questions and help trouble shoot.
In this article, Joe Kissell, Senior Contributor, Macworld, tells why he prefers Nisus and puts it on his A-list.
Intuitive, safe and reliable, superfast, portable and entirely customizable, Atlantis (PC only—$35) is a full-featured, moderately-priced MSWord-like app. Comes with a 30-day try-before-you-buy offer, offers on-line help and a user’s forum. Atlantis, which can encrypt your files, can do much of what MSWord does including turn your text into epub and mobi files.
Here’s a helpful review of Atlantis.
Google Documents is cloud based, fast, responsive, and FREE. Google docs does its job well, can be accessed from all your devices and is useful for collaborators who can log in from different locations and work together. Since Docs is cloud based, you get off-site back up along with a fine basic word processor.
Pages (Mac only) is iOS native, often FREE or modestly priced ($9.99) word processor to use on your iPad, iPhone, iPod. Pages also compiles to epub and mobi.
FREE for the Mac is a clean and simple word processor called Bean.
Vellum (Mac only—FREE to download. Pricing depends on how many you purchase. Right now on sale.) is easy to use and does only one thing: it builds elegantly designed ebooks. Upload a Word file, style text, preview a live version of your book for the iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or Nook; and export multiple versions with a single click.
Serenity Caldwell reviews Vellum, citing its easy templates, excellent preview support, and beautiful multi-version export.
My generous and tech-savvy twitter pal, @RangeWoman_Inc, clued me into three FREE powerful office suites.
Apache OpenOffice is FREE, has many the same features as Microsoft Office and is available for Windows, Linux, MacOS X, Linux X86-64, Solaris X86, Solaris Sparc. Through “save as” you can export your OpenOffice for Microsoft Office (inter-exchangeable).
Open Office extensions (includes dictionaries) and templates can be downloaded at http://extensions.openoffice.org/
OpenOffice extension “After the Deadline” (FREE editing and grammar check extension).
NeoOffice is a FREE office suite for OS X and includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and graphic program. You can export NeoOffice documents in different formats, including .doc, .xlsx and .xml.
LibreOffice is FREE open source office software for Apple OS X, Linux and Windows and includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and graphic program. It has received awards from the Linux and Apple communities. In 2013 it was awarded the InfoWorld Bossie Award:
Dropbox is a must-have essential for off-site back up. It’s FREE, creates one file in the cloud and another on your desktop as you work. DB also synchs on all your devices and works seamlessly with both mobile and desktop apps.
Publishing blogger Passive Guy—who has worked on computers for thirty years and knows first hand the soul-searing tragedy of lost work—shares his belts-and-suspenders back up method in his must-read post Never, Never, Never Lose Your Work!
Hemingway app aims to make your writing—guess what?—bold and clear. Hemingway highlights long, complex sentences and common errors, highlights passive verbs, points the finger at adverbs.
Ginger, a spell & grammar checker, offers various monthly plans and works with MS-Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, IE, Firefox and Chrome and enables cross-platform users to correct their text with a single click. Ginger’s Text Reader lets users hear what they wrote in a U.S. or U.K. accent as spoken in the voice of a male or female reader and is useful when proofreading.
ProWritingAid is a FREE online editor that checks your grammar but also acts as an online plagiarism checker, finds overused words and phrases, improves readability and checks for consistency of spelling, hyphenation, and capitalization.
Although I’m still addicted to old-fashioned paper notebooks, I find the cyber versions indispensable.
Ubiquitous Evernote, is a powerful, FREE note keeping app that works on all platforms. Searchable by keyword or tags, includes reminder and web clipping functions, great for keeping research including images, for brainstorming ideas, for parking stuff you’re not yet sure what to do with. Cloud-based, Evernote synchs across all your devices.
One Note is now FREE and comes in Mac, Windows, iPads, iPhones and Androids flavors. An electronic version of a 3-ring binder, OneNote lives in the cloud and is synchable across devices.
In this article, award-winning tech writer Ed Bott offers cross-platform power tips for OneNote.
Bestselling romance author, Jami Davenport, provides a cheat sheet to OneNote and talks about the was she uses it to keep track of her heroes and heroines.
Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld.com and the author of more than 45 books. Preston compares Evernote and OneNote pointing out the plusses and minuses of both.
Put the prod in productivity:
Spend too much time on FaceBook and not enough writing? A Tweet-a-holic? An internet addict? Need an enforcer?
RescueTime It’s FREE, but there’s also a Premium version with a monthly bill attached. https://www.rescuetime.com.
Write Or Die by Dr. Wicked. $20. Windows, Mac and Linux which aims to eliminate writer’s block by providing consequences for procrastination and, new to this version, rewards for accomplishment http://writeordie.com.
Mac Freedom $10 compatible with Windows, Mac, Android & Ubuntu that blocks the ‘net 60 day money-back guarantee.
Whew! We sure are lucky to have somebody as tech-savvy as Ruth offering us this smorgasbord of tech help for the writer. What about you, Scriveners? Do you have any more fav technology to add to this amazing list? Any questions for Ruth about what might work best for you? Have any of you made a book cover in MS Word? …Anne
BOOKS OF THE WEEK
#1 in Kindle 30-minute Short Reads: Humor
|Kindle | Kobo | GooglePlay | Nook
- Will Trailer is a super-achiever on the baseball diamond but at home? Not so much, according to his gorgeous movie star wife.
- Efficiency expert Howard Hopkins has just retired. His wife married him for better and for worse—but not for 24-hours-a-day.
- Gordo Canholme would procrastinate breathing if he could, but will he ever get the new baby’s room ready? Not without HTS, according to his very pregnant wife.