The Writing Toolbox

I wrote my first manuscript with typing machine I borrowed from a neighbor. It was a short story, titled: Kidung Kasih Untuk Lintang (The Love Song for Lintang) when I was 13 years old. It was published in the school magazine as the main short story. I kept using typing machine till I was in the college for writing reports, homework, etc. By the end of the year in the college, I started to know the computer. It was the first time I use the computer for my final essay book after two-three months of experiment with mushrooms in Sidoarjo, East Java. We didn't have Windows program at that time. We still used many keys. Could you believe how hard it was? I also went to several different computer rentals as the computer was still a new thing in Indonesia and many people didn't have it.

Nowadays, with modern technology we have more options for writing than any one person can easily process. With this excess of choice, it’s wise to take some time to consider the different tools available to us and make informed decisions about how to spend our writing budget.

Let's look over a few of the ‘standards’ in terms of writing software.

 

Microsoft Word

MS Word is one of the most accepted and versatile writing tools in the world. Despite Word’s perfectly adequate word processing, it is the tool we will want primarily after we’ve written. Word, at its core, is a formatting and layout tool.

Because the word processing is relatively easy, many writers will use Word exclusively as their writing tool. For most this will be just fine. But for some, the tools and style controls will be cumbersome, and the sheer volume of options overwhelming. For the writer who demands a simple, versatile writing tool focused on just getting the text typed up, Word may be too much.

The best way to use Microsoft Word is as an editing and design tool. We can take a completed manuscript and give it the final touches it needs prior to publishing, as well as export a PDF in a variety of formats to accommodate your printing needs.

It is also worth noting that Word, as part of the Microsoft Office Suite, is one of the more expensive writing tools on the market. Thanks to all the editing and design tools built in, along with the utility of the entire Office Suite, Microsoft’s product is important for any serious writer, and is generally considered the standard for word processing tools.

 

Libre Office

A free, what we see is what we get, Microsoft Office replacement. Libre Office offers much the same functionality as Microsoft. For those who want the editing and design power of Word without the price tag, you’ll get that same functionality with Libre Office. The controls and navigation will differ, so a user familiar with MS Word may be put off by the learning curve when using Libre Office’s word processor. If we’re very comfortable with Word, the transition to Libre Office may be jarring. But as a completely free to use, open source alternative, Libre Office is a powerful tool.

Another difference to note is that Libre, being free and open source, doesn’t have any dedicated support in the way MS Word or other commercial software does. If a problem arises, we’ll have a fairly thorough wiki page and a community forum to rely on, but nothing more.

 

Scrivener

While Microsoft and Libre Office offer tools for writing alongside layout and design, Scrivener is a writing focused tool with a multitude of functions to assist in the creation process. This includes storyboard layout, utilizing a ‘Binder’ to contain all elements in one easily navigable location. Focused Mode puts all other tabs and programs in the background, allowing you to avoid distraction while writing.

Scrivener is a complete writing tool, though it should not be relied upon for formatting or layout details. Many common features (page sizing, margins, font control) are present, and allow us to play with some of the layout, but the real power of Scrivener is in organizing our ideas and generating the initial content. The utility Scrivener offers, coupled with the clean, no nonsense writer will appeal to writers of all sorts.

As an added benefit, the software stores your files through a Dropbox link, meaning we can work on our content across multiple machines, and even with an iOS app on your iPhone or iPad. What Scrivener lacks in versatility, it makes up for in utility.

Sigil

Sigil is a unique program designed specifically for working with EPUB files. It is also a fully functioning word processor and if we plan to release our book primarily as an EPUB, the option is there to work solely in Sigil.

For most writers, Lulu Editor would not recommend using Sigil as your Word Processor. The tool will be too foreign, and the output can only be an EPUB file, so working in Sigil alone will not produce anything appropriate for print ready use.
But, for a more advanced user interested in fine tuning a book for EPUB use, Sigil is a powerful, easy to use tool with all the options we’ll need to create a high quality EPUB. Unfortunately, Sigil does not have an option to import a text file from other word processing tools like Word or Libre Office, but text can be copied into Sigil. More often than not, users will find Sigil most beneficial for editing and fine tuning an existing EPUB file.

If we are planning to only create an ebook (no print files necessary), you might find Sigil a nice tool for writing and editing, as the simplified text tools will limit us to only the options an EPUB can support. And once we’ve completed our ebook, Sigil can be used to generate the necessary metadata and table of contents for your work.


Evernote

Evernote is a handy note-taking and organizational tool. We probably won’t be composing a complete piece within Evernote, but we can easily write on the go and export to standard file types. We’ll have the security of cloud storage, so our Evernote files will be secure and accessible.

The real power of Evernote is in its versatility. If we are already an Evernote user, you’ll know how handy it can be to have an App capable of organizing your calendar, holding your notes, reminding us to go to the grocery store after work, and so much more. Evernote is a one stop, cross platform, multi-purpose productivity tool.

With an array of features, Evernote is really a very powerful tool to have available. But it is not the best when it comes to being a useful writing program. Yes, it’s helpful for catching notes on the run (using mobile) and syncing to your devices. Organizing and writing up anything more than a few hundreds words is going to be tedious, and probably beyond the purpose of Evernote. Same thing goes for formatting. Evernote is a not a formatting tool.

The bottom line? Evernote is a great tool for note taking and organizing, but not ideal for layout or story boarding.

FocusWriter

FocusWriter is less well known than the other software, but it boasts a couple of useful and unique features worth mentioning. FocusWriter, like Scrivener, stores our files in the cloud, allowing for easy cross platform use and the security of knowing our files are safe. FocusWriter also features a focus mode like Scrivener, allowing us to push all other functions on our device to the background and focus on just writing.

The biggest upside of FocusWriter is that it is a free text editor and word processor. We can download the tool and begin writing immediately without paying a cent. Formatting and design will need to be handled elsewhere, but for a cost effective, clean, and efficient first draft tool, FocusWriter is well worth a look. ***



Source: Lulu Editor
Published: Monday, July 10, 2017

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