Open Source

Five apps to simplify your writing projects

Writing projects can be daunting -- which often leads to procrastination and sub-par work. Here are some tools that can improve the process (and the results).

As a writer, I am always on the lookout for tools to help make my craft easier. Yes, I do spend most of my time in a word processor (LibreOffice, thank you very much). But there are times when I need features no office suite offers. For those times, I have some go-to apps that are designed specifically for writers. Not all these tools are dedicated to novelists, either... so the student, the office manager, even the documentation designer can all benefit.

Let's see what we have.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: Writer's Cafe

Writer's Cafe (Figure A) is a sort of Swiss Army Knife for writers. It contains storyline planning tools (with drag & drop cards), formatting, screenplay auto formatting, text and screenplay import, instant reports, outline view, tag-based searching, customizable structure, file export, character profiles, story locations, spell check, undo/redo, keyboard shortcuts, and more. With this tool, not only can you write your brilliant work, you can plan it and manage it as you go along.

Figure A

Writer's Cafe

2: Scrivener

Often considered the best-in-breed, Scrivener (Figure B) is a complete writing studio that allows you to collect research, order your ideas, outline and structure your document, and view your research alongside your work, among other things. Imagine the archetypal writer, with notes and books scattered about on a desk -- Scrivener takes all of that clutter and manages it within a single application.

Figure B

Scrivener

3: Labyrinth

Labyrinth (Figure C) is one of the easiest-to-use mind-mapping apps you will ever find. There are times when you simply need to flesh out a line of plot or diagram a character's growth -- or map out a class or design a piece of code. For those instances, mind-mapping software can't be beat. Labyrinth features a scaling and scrollable canvas, text attributes (bold, italics, etc.), arrow navigation of thoughts, foreground/background colors, import/export, save state across instances, and much more.

Figure C

Labyrinth

4: Scribus

If you are the DIY-type author, you need to do yourself a favor and look into Scribus (Figure D). Scribus is an open source program for desktop publishing and page layout in the truest sense of the word. This tool will help you get your book professionally laid out with features like color separations, CMYK and Spot Color support, ICC color management, and versatile PDF creation. If you plan to write and lay out your own book, you won't find a better, more cost-effective solution than Scribus.

Figure D

Scribus

5: Bibus

If your writing involves a lot of citations, you'll want a piece of software to help you manage them. Bibus (Figure E) is one app that can help. It allows you to search and sort your bibliographical records as well as do live and online queries and insert references and formatting of bibliographies into Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, and OpenOffice. Bibus is free (open source) and easy to use.

Figure E

Bibus

Other suggestions?

Writing doesn't have to be a chore -- not when there are so many apps out there to help you along the way. Take a look at these tools and see if they don't help make the process of writing a novel, paper, or document much easier.

Do you have a favorite app that helps you with your writing projects? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

6 comments
Giraffin
Giraffin

Just tried http://www.prowritingaid.com mentioned below. It's fantastic! Straight away showed me some problems with my blog post I hadnt even noticed. One feature I also found useful which they don't mention is that it shows you how many times you've repeated your keywords and phrases. Awesome app! Check it out.

wotzisname
wotzisname

This is a great free app for helping you to edit your writing. It will highlight rambling sentences, vague, abstract and complex words. It shows you words you've overused and repeated. Very useful. http://www.prowritingaid.com

danezeller
danezeller

For all of the duties of a writer, perhaps including the other 90% related to promotion of your stories, I would recommend freemind, a visual project management program that is free and quite powerful.

wpshore
wpshore

Consider - if you need outlining some good Windows' outliners/organizers include UltraRecall, Whiz Folders, Page Four; software that can help with writing/plotting includes Liquid Story Binder, yWriter & Storybook Pro; and my favorite (very) bare writing tool (which helps focus by eliminating distractions) is Zen Writer;if you want some insights on the how-to of writing - check out this "10 Universities Offering Free Writing Courses Online" article - http://education- portal.com/articles/10_Universities_Offering_Free_Writing_Courses_Online.html . Best two bits of writing advice: 'Writer's write' and 'Fail Better'. Just say'in.

ed
ed

I haven't tried any of these aids, but might consider one or more in preference to a loose-leaf notebook and a wad of post-it notes.

amarcho
amarcho

Don't forget yWriter. May be compared to Scrivener but runs on Windows and Mac OSX (I didn't try, though) on linux using mono.

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