Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: writing software

The Best Writing Software *Ever* ?

I’ve used a tremendous number of software tools (and other aids) for writing.

Check out these two past posts to see just a few of them:

Free Software for Writers
Free Resources for Writers

I now have a piece of software that certainly seems like it could be the ONLY one I need.

Big, bold, brave statement, eh?

The name of this Miracle is Scrivener.

There’s a 30-day free trial and the full program costs $40—if that seems like too much, you are clearly unaware of how useful this software is and you’ll need to go sell something you hardly ever use so you can afford to buy Scrivener :-)

The best overall description of Scrivener’s awesome useability is this quote from their site:

“Designed to be extremely adaptable, Scrivener has a range of tools that can be utilised or ignored to suit the way different writers work. Thus, while some may prefer to meticulously plot and plan their draft in the outliner before even the first sentence takes shape, Scrivener can be equally useful as an organisational tool for those who write first and order their output after.”

Write first—Organize laterit enables me to think about structure after the chaos of writing the first draft.”

Try that using Microsoft Word and you’ll end up in the loony bin :-)

You may want to see more about Scrivener’s Features

There is a video at the bottom of this post but I want to introduce it with just a very few excerpts from Scrivener’s Testimonial Page:

“After years of suffering with Microsoft Word, I’ve finally found a program that makes it easy for me to write the way I want to write! I’ll never go back.”


“There was a point about one month into my first using Scrivener when I realized just how much it had changed how I worked, how much easier the task had become, and I just started crying in relief. I had no idea how much of the story I was stringing together in my head, trying to keep a whole universe balanced while I worked, not until Scrivener helped me lay it out across a binder. The key for me was being able to compose scene by scene and move them around as needed, to skip whole sections of story or include them only as notes without having to use an additional document or paper notebook to keep the mess straight.

“Since using Scrivener I write much faster, and now years into use of the program I’m creating custom templates and labels, getting wicked with keywords, and in general writing smarter as well as faster. It helps me professionally as well: I keep my correspondence with my publisher in the binder, right beneath the research notes I use to double-check information during copy edits. I’ve also been able to customize exports of drafts for beta readers and for professional formatting in a way I could never have done with Microsoft Word.

“I could write without Scrivener, yes, but I’d never choose to do so. Thanks for making my life so much easier and helping me make my stories stronger.”


“I began writing my book as a single MS Word document and very quickly got into trouble. Spanning fifty years and having a complicated timeline, my draft began to tie itself in knots. Me being me, I persisted with a bad idea and, consequently, sank into even deeper trouble. While I was casting around for mind-mapping software—in the hope that I could draw myself some pictures—I stumbled across Scrivener.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you. I copied my existing text into Scrivener, pulled it apart, made liberal use of the fantastic corkboard and, finally, I could ‘see’. Without Scrivener I would still be staring at a gridlock of unhappy words and eating too many biscuits. Not only was Scrivener great for my writing, it was good for my health too.”


“I have bought, and been disappointed, by nearly every writing tool available… Each one would have a unique feature that I loved, but would be lacking in some other regard, so I found myself moving projects in and out of different pieces of software as I wanted certain tools. But then I stumbled over the Literature & Latte site and my world changed. Scrivener is simultaneously the most featured and flexible writing tool I’ve ever used. Within fifteen minutes of launching it, I was in love.”


“After reading a glowing review of Scrivener last year, I saw the potential to hugely ease the challenge of collecting and organizing book scenes, notes, and ideas, and moving them around my manuscripts. Well, I downloaded the free trial and dug into it, and must say that I was totally blown away by how effective, intuitive, and productive it is.

“Think of Scrivener as a corkboard where you can organize and search all your text clips and ideas at will — then compile them from a single window into a final Word (or other word-processing) manuscript when you are done. For me the program’s biggest “Eureka” feature is the ability to readily clip and paste between chapters, seeing and changing each of them separately while at the same time concurrently modifying the whole. I also like the ability to easily compare and combine drafts of the same chapter via a single window.

“I long ago imported my current book projects and am having a blast making them happen at rates many times faster than what I could do before. And the online forum support has been terrific. Wish I’d had this program to write my first five books!”


And, if you need a more in-depth, intimate view of how various writers use Scrivener, try exploring these Case Studies


So, on to the video about this Amazing software—but, first, please don’t worry if you can’t read the names of all the buttons and features shown in the video—Scrivener is all about Relaxing & Writing, Intuitively—sit back and just be aware of the Ease of use and the Miraculous Flow you can achieve with this Remarkable piece of work :-)

 Please note that the discount mentioned in this video was offered to ScreenCastsOnline viewers
and has long since expired—sorry!
Also, they show downloading Scrivener to a Mac and using it there but it’s nearly the same and just as easy on a PC :-)

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* Google Author Page

Free Software for Writers . . .

There’s almost too much software for writers.

And, there’s certainly enough free software that, if a writer can afford a computer and at least temporary connection to the Internet, they can be well supplied with writing tools.

I have 10 free programs on my computer that I use at different times for different jobs. Most are PC-only :-(

First is FreePlane.

This is a mind-mapping tool—sometimes called concept-mapping or information-mapping.

It’s much easier to show you a screenshot then describe what it does (all those word-tags can have images or files attached to them, too):

Another organizational tool is TreePad. This program is a Personal Information Manager, Organizer, Database, and Word Processor—though I feel word processing is easier in other programs. Here’s a screenshot:

Next come the Word Processors.

WriteMonkey: A stripped-down, zen-like program that gets all the bells & whistles out of the way and lets you commune with the words. Here’s a screenshot (the colors can be easily changed):

Jarte: Based on WordPad but much faster and with expanded features. This is for .rtf & .txt files.

RoughDraft: Similar to Jarte in that it handles .rtf & .txt files but also has an on-screen file manager and can have a whole slew of files open at the same time. Here’s a screenshot:

And, the last Word Processor, which is actually a Full Office Suite, LibreOffice. This program has all the bells & whistles that Microsoft Office has and doesn’t cost a penny; plus, you can save files as Word .docs

Now, for some tools to help with words themselves and editing.

WordWeb is a dictionary and thesaurus that sits in your taskbar and can be activated by highlighting a word (in most any program or on a web page) and using the hotkeys—instant definitions, synonyms, and spell checking.

WordNet could be thought of as a thesaurus but what a thesaurus! This program is so high-level I feel compelled to quote the site:

“WordNet® is a large lexical database of English. Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are grouped into sets of cognitive synonyms (synsets), each expressing a distinct concept. Synsets are interlinked by means of conceptual-semantic and lexical relations.”

Then, there’s SmartEdit. You put text into it and it shows you the dialog tags, clichés, repeated words and phrases, adverbs, and any monitored words you enter into the program. Here’s a screenshot:

The last free program on my computer, which I’m still experimenting with, is AutoHotkey. Basically, you could automate the opening of all the programs I just listed with single keystrokes. It does a whole lot more:

  • Automate almost anything by sending keystrokes and mouse clicks. You can write a mouse or keyboard macro by hand or use the macro recorder.
  • Create hotkeys for keyboard, joystick, and mouse. Virtually any key, button, or combination can become a hotkey.
  • Expand abbreviations as you type them. For example, typing “btw” can automatically produce “by the way”.
  • Create custom data-entry forms, user interfaces, and menu bars.
  • Remap keys and buttons on your keyboard, joystick, and mouse.
  • Respond to signals from hand-held remote controls via the WinLIRC client script.
  • Run existing AutoIt v2 scripts and enhance them with new capabilities.
  • Convert any script into an EXE file that can be run on computers that don’t have AutoHotkey installed.


Those are my programs. What’s on Your computer :-)
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Writers’ Software ~ Is It Necessary?

Every writer’s needs, as they dance the dizzy path of creation, are different—except, of course, those writers who copy their work habits from other writers :-)

Sure, there must be many groups of writers who have similar routines and one of them is Writers Who Use Special Software.

I like to choose free software—basically ’cause I’m poor.

I use WriteMonkey for quick note taking and may use it for rough drafting on my next book. It’s been called “Zen” software because of its minimalistic, distraction-free design. (Windows only)

I use TomBoy Notes for projects that need inter-note linking and strong searchability. (Linux, Unix, Windows, and Mac OS X)

I’m checking out, again, a more versatile piece of software—something for novels and other multi-structured books–called yWriter. (Windows and Gnu/Linux)

yWriter is the work of Simon Haynes, novelist and programmer. Here are a few of his words about his software:

“I really struggled with my first novel because I wrote slabs of text into a big word processor file and I just couldn’t make sense of the whole thing at once. No real overview, no easy jumping from scene to scene, nothing.

“Next I tried saving each chapter to an individual file, with descriptive filenames, but moving scenes between files was a nuisance and I still couldn’t get an overview of the whole thing (or easily search for one word amongst 32 files).

“My last attempt to use Word involved saving every scene as an individual file – e.g. Chapter 01 Scene 01 – Hal Spacejock Gets a Job.doc. That was fantastic until I decided to move one scene three chapters ahead, and had to manually rename all the files. Then I decided to put it back again! I could never remember which of the 200+ files contained a note I was looking for either.

“As a programmer I’m used to dealing with projects broken into source files and modules, and I never lose track of my code. I decided to apply the same working method to my novels … and yWriter was the result.

“I realise Word, OpenOffice and other modern word processors have outlining features, but they don’t have snapshot backups to sequential files like yWriter does. Roll back scenes to where they were half an hour ago, or re-read a version from four months ago – yWriter stores them all, automatically.”

Here’s a link to Simon Haynes books on Amazon.

I also use Jarte (Windows only) for my ever-growing collection of .rtf files that contain others’ writing.

And, when I need all the formatting I can get, I take files produced in those other programs and put them into LibreOffice. (Windows, Linux, Mac OS X) I can also pop out .pdf files with this.

Do you use writing software?

Do you know an author who does?

Have you heard any glowing reports about particular types of software?

Have you heard any horror stories about particular types of software?
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For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Nifty Writer’s Tool + An Excuse To Laugh

I know

There shalt not be two topics in one blog post.

Well, there are only two topics in that title up there but there are three topics in this post :-)


Today is the Book Launch Party for Notes from An Alien in the virtual world, Second Life. There will be people from all over the world gathering on Book Island for Door Prizes, Fireworks, Live Music, Dancing, and All-Round Fun :-)


I found a really cool little piece of free software for creative writers: SLang

Here’s what they say about it:

“SLang is a story-creation tool, primarily of interest to writers. SLang stands for ‘Story-Language’. It is a story-creation tool, similar to an index-card tool but much more sophisticated. It allows you to break your story down into ‘events’, each of which will have a block of text describing the event.In addition you can have any number of alternative versions of these text blocks for each event. SLang allows you to mark an event as ‘excluded’ rather than having to delete it from the project, so you can come back to it later.SLang allows you to define special rules for each event called dependency-relationships. These define which events depend on which others. SLang can then examine all the rules, and then put all the events in a sensible order automatically, and show you how it made its decisions.Alternatively you can put the events in order manually. Either way, you can then generate an RTF or TXT file containing the whole story. Because of the way SLang allows you to specify dependency-relationships between events, SLang allows you to experiment with which events get included in the story and which don’t, so you can experiment, generating alternative routes through your story.The ‘Find shortest/longest path’ utility finds out what events are required to reach a specified event in the story, and lists them in chronological order, thereby enabling you to deal with individual threads.SLang can now export to ScriptMaker (a screenplay tool, free from the same website). This export facility creates an annotated ‘framework’ for your script.”


There’s one of my blogging buddies I immediately thought of when I watched a video recently.

Karla Telega. She works at and succeeds brilliantly with writing humor.

So, here’s the video that reminded me of Karla:

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