Comments on Writing Tools

I write with a program called Scrivener. It is designed with writers in mind. It has a number of features that I am only beginning to explore. It does one thing extremely well. It lets me write with minimal distractions from my writing tool. I’d say that is my number one criteria for a good writing tool.

I have used several programs to write over the years. Being a programmer, I have had lots of experience with various text editors. Text editors have one job, allowing the user to create plain text files for use as input to programming languages or web pages or any other application where unadorned words suffice.

I have been a long time fan of the emacs text editor. Not that it is necessarily better or worse than any other editor but my fingers know how to navigate in it without my conscious mind getting involved.

Recently I’ve been working at a job where Vi is the text editor that everyone uses. I still struggle to remember how to do simple things like how to cut and paste segments of text. It is easily done, or so the Vi fans would have me believe. I know I will get used to using it but it gets in my way more than it helps me right now.

There is another editor that I like. It is called Atom. It is much better about staying out of my way and letting me write. There are other text editors, some better, some worse. Notepad++ is a decent text editor when I’m forced to work on a PC and don’t want to take the time to load emacs or Atom.

I have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft Word. It is the lingua franca of PC word processors. I have used it for over twenty five years now. Every time they come out with a new version they move the features from the previous version around so that I have to learn it all over again. I’m not much more enamored of Apple’s Pages. It makes your writing look pretty but it locks it in yet another proprietary format.

I suppose the same could be said of Scrivener except the features that it implements are all tools that working writers want. Things like an outliner and a cork board. It also has a way to experiment with different sequences of sections without having to move text. It also has support for keeping notes associated with a project without being included in the project per se. Things like character sketches and URLs to related web sites.

It knows about standard formats like screenplays and stage plays. It can take your text and generate all kinds of delivery formats. Everything from Postscript and PDF to electronic book formats like mobi and kindle. It’s definitely a tool written for a writer by someone who understands a writer’s process.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.