What’s Out There For Me? Part One — Writing Applications

There are so many different types of writing software in the market today that it can be a chore finding the one that best suits your needs. So over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at some of the more popular tools available to us as writers. This week it’s the turn of word processing and note-taking applications.

Disclaimer: While I acknowledge that there are many more applications out there (OpenOffice and Storyist to name a couple), I’m only discussing the ones I’ve used personally. I, as an individual, and Sarcastic Muse, as an entity, are in no way affiliated with any of the below companies beyond having purchased their products.

1. Scrivener (Windows and Mac) – $45/£33.90 exc. Tax – Literature and Latte

ScScrivener writing applicationsrivener is so well know amongst writers that its name is almost synonymous with writing software. A behemoth of a program, Scrivener offers an all inclusive plotting, writing, and publishing package and, with so many users out there, it’s now so simple to find a template that suits your writing needs.

Key features:

  • Distraction-free writing,
  • Cork board,
  • Scratch pad,
  • Scriptwriting functionality,
  • Statistics and targets.

Free trial available.

2. Ulysses (Mac and iOS) – From $44.99/£34.99 – The Soulmen GbR

Ulysses-writing application

Ulysses is the distraction-free writer to end all distraction-free writers. The concept of this program is simple — you only need concern yourself with the words. Ulysses developers have removed all the complicated toolbars of the WYSIWYG editors, leaving behind a clean working area for you and your words.

Key features:

  • Built-in file library — all your documents in one place,
  • Seamless iCloud/Dropbox sync — take your writing with you,
  • Goals and statistics,
  • Downloadable themes and styles to quickly edit and publish.

Free trial available.

3. Novlr (web based) – From $10/£7 per month – Novlr LTD

Novlr-logo writing applicationDon’t let the fact that Novlr is a web-based writing program put you off. It’s functionality is easily the rival of some of the big hitters out there and the cross-platform capabilities are astounding. With a beautiful, minimalist writing area, offline writing mode, and room to store an entire library of works in progress, you’ll never have a problem snatching moments to work on your novel.

Key features:

  • Constant access to all your words — all you need’s a web browser,
  • Automatic saving and word count updates,
  • Automatic backups to GoogleDrive and Dropbox,
  • Writing statistics.

Free trial available.

4. MS Word (Windows and Mac) – From $149.99/£119.99 for standalone licence – Microsoft

What can I say about MS Word that hasn’t already been said? This program is one of the most popular, and widespread, word processors on the market. It’s so widely utilised that almost all publishers and agents require electronically-submitted manuscripts in the .doc and .docx formats.

Key features:

  • Used industry wide,
  • Simple(ish) to use,
  • WYSIWYG editor with almost an almost limitless template library.

5. Pages (Mac and iOS) – From $9.99/£14.99 – Apple

Pages is Apple’s answer to the juggernaught that is Microsoft Word and, like its counterpart, I haven’t really got much to say about it. It’s a fully functional word processing software with Apple’s ubiquitous minimal design.

Key features:

  • WYSIWYG editor,
  • Cheaper alternative to MS Word for iOS and Mac,
  • Seamless iCloud syncing,
  • Works on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

6. Evernote (Windows and Mac) – From Free – Evernote Corporation

evernote-logo writing applicationBefore I discovered Novlr and Ulysses, Evernote was my go to application for writing on the move. With its myriad of note-taking features (text, photo, ever audio notes) and cross-platform applications, you’ll never find yourself in a position where you can’t meet your daily word count (except through procrastination but that’s your problem, not mine).

Key features:

  • You can attach pretty much anything to a note,
  • Cross-platform syncing,
  • Web-clipping plugins allow you to keep all your research together.

What are some of your experiences with/thoughts on our featured software? Are there any others you feel need highlighting?


Get with the Times! Upgrading Software to Benefit Your Writing

8-03-5So I’ve been a bit stubborn. For twelve years, I have been an avid user of Microsoft Word 2003. Yes, you heard me: Word 2003. You may be asking why I haven’t bothered to upgrade. And that’s a great question.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the greatest answers:

Force of habit?

A dislike of change?

Sheer willpower?

Having gotten more involved with editing in the last year, I’ve inevitably started running into problems with using older software. I’ve had to run compatibility programs to open docx. files (which didn’t arrive until 2007), risking conversion errors. Microsoft stopped updating Word 2003 as of 2013. My installed version has corruption issues with track changes, meaning I risk losing my edited work if I don’t save constantly. The disc is currently across the Atlantic Ocean, so I can’t even reinstall to see if that would solve my problem.

When I put it that way, I suppose my stubbornness now just hinges on stupidity. (I refuse to admit I’ve crossed the line, but think what you will.) When I told a friend about my refusal reluctance to upgrade, I got a link to xkcd in response.

I’d say that about summarizes it.

In the past, I’ve heard great things about other programs, such as Scrivener, but as a diehard Word fan, I’ve refused to even try it.

I’ve probably been capable of getting a student discount on a more recent version of Word for . . . quite some years. But I never bothered.

Word 2003 has worked for me. We get along. We understand one another. Those corruption issues? We’re still talking those out.

Yes, you see the problem now, I’m sure. So how did I get past this roadblock and enter the modern world?

I was forced into it. I got a work computer.

Without actually having to purchase the software myself, I’ve been able to finally test the waters with Word 2013. So far, despite my initial frustrations with all the tabs, I’ve started to enjoy the utility of the program. It has certainly made my editorial life much easier. After all, I like being able to work without worrying that the software will crash on me in the middle of an important job.

What should you take away from my personal experience?

If someone you know is suffering from Refusal to Upgrade Illness, call an intervention. Tie them up so they can’t harm you, then remove the software from their computer and install a newer version. Bar any access to older versions until the withdrawal symptoms have lessened. If needed, lock them in a room.

If you are still clinging to the past, quit. Get the upgrades you need to complete the tasks in the most efficient way possible. If you’re having to compensate for errors or a lack of functionality, it’s time to move forward with something more practical. It doesn’t take too long to learn how to use a new version of a program, and the results from taking the extra time to properly learn it will far outweigh the refusal to try. This goes for more than just software. Don’t just do this to meet the standards of the current industry; do this for your writing. For you.

Sometimes you find that it ends up working out better than you initially imagined.

So now I’ll announce to the world:  Word 2003, you’ve been a good friend to me, but I’ve got to get with the times.

Has anyone else clung to a particular outdated program or piece of technology, even when it would be wiser to upgrade? Let me hear your confessions in the comments!