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Writing tools

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Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Apr 4, 2007 at 02:31 PM

 

In one of the recent previous topics, someone mentioned writing tools… as opposed to information/note management. Whizfolders seems to be gaining in popularity. No one has mentioned SuperNoteCard or Writer’s Blocks. I’m wondering if anyone uses these applications, and how useful they find them to be.

For actual composition, I still find myself using the plain text editor NoteTab. It’s clean look helps me focus on writing, and it has a very nimble editor—by nimble I mean it has full extended selection capability, making it easier to re-write and re-organize. I tend to do a lot of revising as I write, which is why I appreciate a nimble editor. But NoteTab is really a default choice, because I have not found any other editor that I like better. I have to say that I was drooling over the screen shots of Scrivener… If I were in the Mac world, I’d definitely give Scrivener a try. It seems to combine several different tools into one… with its notecard and outline functions. This is why I asked about SuperNoteCard and Writer’s Blocks, which are the two “index card” type programs that come to mind for the PC.

Steve Z.

 


Posted by dan7000
Apr 4, 2007 at 05:07 PM

 

I’m giving IdeaMason a try (again) for writing.  I tried it earlier for note/knowledge management and it was way too restrictive and cumbersome for that.  But I think it may work really well for writing.  It forces you to categorize and organize your snippets of writing with a final composition in mind, and allows you to reorganize your writing while keeping snippets with their citations and sources intact.

I have a major paper due in 4 weeks.  We’ll see how it works.

 


Posted by Thomas
Apr 4, 2007 at 06:36 PM

 

There are few comments regarding SuperNotecards on http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/

It seems nice and simple. Unlike IdeaMason, it has a visual mode (cards on the desk), and is simpler to use.
IdeaMason is generally more flexible (more ways categorization), allows easier reuse of various text snippets between similar projects.

SNC is written in Java, and generally I wouldn’t use Java software as it tends to be terribly slow, but SNC somehow isn’t affected by this problem on my machine (while IdeaMason, written in .net, is slow slow slow).

SNC doesn’t seem to allow images, IdeaMason allows them (but is size limited thus larger pictures can’t be included directly from IM).

For those in need of references, IM is obviously winner, but SNC can also output them, in MLA format.

Disclaimer: I have only spend a short time with both so far, and I’m not a writer by trade.

 


Posted by Hugh Pile
Apr 4, 2007 at 07:40 PM

 

Steve Z

I’ve used IdeaMason 3, SuperNoteCard, Scrivener and Writer’s Blocks.

All of them are writing tools, of different kinds and comprehensiveness.

IMO it would be a mistake to try to use any of them for knowledge-management. Other than for short-form work they should be used in conjunction with a knowledge-management database such as Zoot, UR, MyInfo, or (on the Mac) DevonThink, and probably also a word-processor for final polishing.

I had a licence for Writer’s Blocks 3 and trialled SuperNoteCard. Neither is a complete writing or drafting tool; I wouldn’t use them for that purpose. They are essentially “outliners-plus”, and fit into the workflow as such with other tools. Both use cards as a visual metaphor for outlining, although they do it in slightly different ways. The real-world equivalent is of course the screenwriter’s index card deck and the corkboard; rows or columns of cards are top-line items, with their children subsumed as cards alongside or below them. 

I think Writer’s Block 3’s index cards can be transformed into an outline that will export to MS Word; I can’t remember whether SNC will do the same. WB3 is “of its time”; I don’t think it has been developed for a couple of years and its functions, capabilities and UI have been overtaken. SNC is more up-to-date and very Maccish in appearance (it is in fact cross-platform); decks can subsume other decks, and they can be “flattened” and colour-coded. SNC has been designed with the fiction and screenwriting markets in mind and has a number of bells and whistles to support this. Yet for some reason I personally cannot engage with it. Perhaps it’s the design, which comes across to me as pale and passive.

Both IdeaMason and Scrivener are ideal for drafting “long-form” documents, put together in a non-linear way. (For linear, soup-to-nuts writing, or short-form I think there’s still little to beat MS Word.) Both IM and Scrivener actually need Word or a similar word-processor for styling, despatching or printing.

IdeaMason IMO is the best pure writing tool under Windows. Its recent upgrade was a huge step forward. It’s particularly good for long and complex academic or non-fiction documents where citations are needed. It’s very satisfying to knock out a passage and slot it away in the IM materials dashboard, not knowing quite where it will fit into the final documment but confident that IM’s search and metadata facilities will enable it to be retrieved plus any comments whenever required. But IM is not ideal for fiction, and it costs.

Scrivener is IMO yet another step upward, especially for fiction, and definitely droolworthy. It is best summed up as a drafting tool. Its website gives an idea of the completeness of its functionality, the care of its developer and the enthusiasm of its users (who include a number of playwrights, screenwriters and published authors): http://www.literatureandlatte.com/ Some of these users also deploy it for academic writing and factual reports. It’s relatively cheap - if of course you already have a Macintosh.

H

 

 


Posted by Wojciech
Apr 4, 2007 at 08:43 PM

 

>SuperNoteCard and Writer’s Blocks, which are the two “index card” type programs that
>come to mind for the PC.

I would add ndxCards to this list. I use it to store various bits of information and ideas when I do not for what particular project or paper I can need them in the future. And the developers respond to my questions and request immediately.

W.

 


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