wordprocessing software

I’ve had a whole slew of intresting questions come my way, some in the comments and some by email. So I’ll be answering them one at a time, in no particular order.

Do you use a novel-writing software? (Or something like Final Draft, which has a novel-writing component.)

To start with a bit of trivia which still amuses me: I wrote my doctoral dissertation with WordPerfect 1.0. So I’ve been fooling around with word processing software since the beginning.

When WordPerfect gave up on the Mac platform, I had to switch to Word, which I did with a heavy heart. I use Word everyday for various things, and all of the novels were written with Word. On a Mac.

However. I have been trying to find a good alternate for novel writing. What I want, ideally, is a solid word processor, a way to organize notes into categories (and to overlap categories — a venn diagram kind of thing would be perfect), the ability to see multiple things at once (two different chapters with the relevant notes, images, lists, etc); the ability to see the document in an outline form and to drag elements from one spot to another. I also want some kind of user forum so I can get quick answers to things that mystify me, and there has to be reliable customer service.

I try just about everything that comes along, but mostly the programs I’ve tried have some big flaw, or just aren’t fine tuned enough. A partial list:

From the Mac people, the iWork package has a word processor called Pages. I had high hopes for Pages, but there are some seriously shortcomings. Like, no auto-save. I keep an eye on updates, but I think it will be a long time before Pages is a viable alternative to Word, for my purposes at least.

CopyWrite is another newer program that advertises itself as a project manager first and a word processor second. I tried it, I bought it, I found problems with the category setup that may have been my lack of insight, but there’s no forum and emails to the developers went unanswered. So, into the storage closet.

I own a (quite pricey) Tinderbox license, but I use that exclusively for mapping ideas and concepts. It’s something like a Venn diagram on steroids, but it doesn’t work for me as a word processor.

FinalDraft is really good for writing any kind of a script, and I have used it for that and liked it. The novel-writing part? Meh.

I’ve been using Scrivener for about a week and it’s very promising. It does pretty much everything I need. I’ll let you know how that works out. If Scrivener doesn’t pan out, I’ll be going back to Word, and watching the horizon for the perfect combination of features.

If you’re as much of a technogeek as I am, you might be interested in a list of all the software I use. Here’s the link to my page at iusethis.

11 Replies to “wordprocessing software”

  1. Interesting to hear your take.

    I was a WP user years ago, switched to Word because of work, and am now a Mac user, so Word is it.

    I saw the info about Scrivener recently, but haven’t tried it out.

    Tried Open Office, but bah, humbug, too slow to load and a lot of the keyboard shortcuts which I use automatically now aren’t/weren’t there.

    I’ve gotten so used to using them, I find that getting up to speed on something new gives me the cauld grue. ::g::

    Although, in a thousand other things, I’m Ms. Early Adopter techie.

    Will be keeping an eye out on your reaction to Scrivener.

  2. Excellent. It’s always interesting to hear what tricks other folks have in their bag. I didn’t know about Scrivener but will have to do a little research.

  3. This is a bit of a non-sequitor, but bear with me. It’s great to see new names popping up in the comments, but there are a lot of them lately, from places I wouldn’t anticipate or at least, I don’t see the connection.

    Any insights on this? Maria? Slimbolala down there in Nola?

  4. Mmm, blog-hopping: the bloggy-acquaintance of a bloggy-acquaintance of a bloggy-acquaintance who had you as a creative writing teacher (or something like that). I think one of them was Kevin Bacon. (Did that last joke make sense? I thought it was funny, but I’m not a reliable indicator.)

  5. “I use Word everyday for various things, and all of the novels were written with Word. On a Mac.”

    Augh. I use AppleWorks (I have a 4-year-old iBook that needs replacing) and before that, ClarisWorks. For straight text, it’s okay (the thesaurus is actually pretty good in a pinch), but I tried to convert a text list (gardening) into a table the other day and it was so frustrating I wanted to fling the whole laptop out the door. I *hate* Word with a passion, but I was almost wishing for it then.

    Why does Apple hate the text-based world?! Would it kill them to develop a decent word processing program?

    We have an ancient version of WordPerfect for PC at the office, and it still beats Word for certain things (formatting, search and replace, and macros).

  6. Thanks for this. I wrote a novel (for NaNoWriMo) a couple of years ago that I want to start working on soon. And I was thinking that things might go easier with software designed to help write novels – but I wanted to get something that was really good. I looked into FinalDraft, mainly because I have heard of it (marginally because I also might want to write scripts.) Am I using this as an excuse to procrastinate? (Guilty as charged.) Since I have Word, I will stick with Word.

    I did want software that would help me organize my notes. I might try desinging something Excel or Access. Hmmmm.

    Or, maybe I should just write!

  7. (hey, in case you didn’t realize, if you fill in the “website” box and then hit tab to enter a comment, in fact the focus jumps all the way down to the bottom of the page to “subscribe” and skips the comment box. woah!)

    I’ve been using Word for years (not saying I like it, but it’s there and, well, got to use something). Tobias Buckell, a few months back, mentioned using the ‘document map’ on Word, and I’ve been hooked on that ever since. It may not do all of what I want, but at least it shows me headers, subheaders, so I can jump back and forth through the document more easily. Plus, when I rearrange, I can see where I’m moving to/from. (In draft form, I also put as the header “X and Y do Z” so I can see the basic outline in the document map.)

    That is an awkward workaround, however, so I followed the link to Scrivener, which looks completely awesome. Best of all, as someone who often rearranges entire scenes and chapters in the course of revision, being able to rearrange a single link and have the entire scene move with it … that’d be great!

    […except that I downloaded the promo version and it did nothing. It opens and closes immediately. Must’ve been a blip in the d/l, I suppose; every now and then a prog will do that to me. Annoying. Must put that on the “go figure it out” todo list.]

    Regardless, thanks for the tip! Shall keep at it, because it looks like an excellent program!

  8. Argh: Scrivener requires Tiger, though there’s nothing anywhere that says that. Had to go digging through the forums before I found someone else with the same issue, and that person’s also on 10.3.9, like myself. (Just never saw any overwhelming reason to pay for upgrade if what I’ve got works just fine.)

    I suppose this is one more program ringing the death knell for me staying on this version…

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