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Would you use this software for writing? (1 Viewer)

Would you use this software for writing?


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kareman

Senior Member
I use Scrivener for creative writing, and although it's an excellent piece of software it doesn't quite meet all of my needs. There is a description of my idea of the perfect writing software here (sadly I could not think of a better name for it than “TextSmith”), and below are what I think are the two most important points. So is it just me or would other people find these features useful too?


Fearless editing
Writing should be fun. And even when it isn’t, you should at least feel free to try whatever you want. Change that paragraph. Move that over here. Delete that. Write something, even if it most likely will be shit and soon discarded. The only way you will be able to do this without restraint is if you know you can always get back to how things were before you messed up.
This is why TextSmith lets you view the history of every paragraph, section or the entire text and restore it to a previous version. You can also make a snapshot and label the current version for future reference. And if you have made some changes you’re not quite sure about and want to get back to later, you can keep them as an alternative version of that part of the text.
So just like Time Machine on the Mac allows you to go back to previous versions of your files, TextSmith allows you to go back to any previous version of any part of your text.

Focus
When writing it is best to focus only on the text itself, everything else is just distracting.
Which is why TextSmith will not let you do any formatting or layout in the editor. You can underline, strikethrough, embolden and italicise, but that’s it! No fiddling with points and centimetres and colours and what have you.
TextSmith will refuse to write two or more consecutive spaces, or leave single spaces at the beginning or end of a paragraph, since that is not something anyone is ever going to need. Nor can you add tabs or other special characters only used for layout. Not having to deal with all the invisible characters that somehow have snuck into the text is going to be a big relief.
You can view one section or even just one paragraph at a time, to keep you from nitpicking on what you just wrote and keep on writing. And you can view different versions of a section or paragraph side-by-side, to see which one works best.
 

elite

Senior Member
I voted no, but that's only because its lacking enough features to take me away from scrivener.

If you plan to make writing software, you need to think more out of the box. There is a lot out there that already deals with the writing part, and with a simple subversion server anyone can make changes and backup the stuff online, no hassle and with the benefits of multi-platform.

What I'd like to see is some more cloud oriented writing. I want to make mind-maps, relationship charts. I want to have an auto-generated list of all the places my character appears, with customizable fields to suit my needs. I want the software to suggest things beyond spell-checking, automatically search for definitions and synonyms, or show me images in real time about what I'm writing (from the web or from a local folder)

I'd want for writing what google is for the internet, basically. I think that would be MUCH more of a selling point than draconian layout enforcement.
 

kareman

Senior Member
If you plan to make writing software, you need to think more out of the box. There is a lot out there that already deals with the writing part, and with a simple subversion server anyone can make changes and backup the stuff online, no hassle and with the benefits of multi-platform.
I really don't think many non-programmers know what subversion is. This functionality needs to be moved inside the writing software. There is version control in Scrivener, in the form of snapshots, but you have to remember to select everything to have everything saved in the snapshot, and of course you have to remember to make the snapshot in the first place before you do something you regret or want to get back to later. What I'm talking about is the fine-grained history of everything down to each and every paragraph. This way it's easy to go back through the history of your novel to the exact point where you started going off in the wrong direction, restore your text to that point and try again.

The ideal application would of course be multi-platform wherever there is a market for it, in other words Mac, Windows and hopefully LINUX.

What I'd like to see is some more cloud oriented writing. I want to make mind-maps, relationship charts. I want to have an auto-generated list of all the places my character appears, with customizable fields to suit my needs. I want the software to suggest things beyond spell-checking, automatically search for definitions and synonyms, or show me images in real time about what I'm writing (from the web or from a local folder)

I'd want for writing what google is for the internet, basically. I think that would be MUCH more of a selling point than draconian layout enforcement.
I want this too. But I want to pick and choose the functionality, and I don't want to even see the functionality I don't need. Which is why my ideal writing software has support for plug-ins, in fact should be almost entirely made out of plug-ins.

And I certainly don't want Draconian layout enforcement. But I also don't want writers to start doing formatting and layout when they should be writing. Write first, then if you have to and it really is your job, do the formatting and layout later.
 

elite

Senior Member
I really don't think many non-programmers know what subversion is. This functionality needs to be moved inside the writing software. There is version control in Scrivener, in the form of snapshots, but you have to remember to select everything to have everything saved in the snapshot, and of course you have to remember to make the snapshot in the first place before you do something you regret or want to get back to later. What I'm talking about is the fine-grained history of everything down to each and every paragraph. This way it's easy to go back through the history of your novel to the exact point where you started going off in the wrong direction, restore your text to that point and try again.

There is no need to develop something new for something that's essentially the same thing as subversion, git, or cvs. I would be more open to the idea if it made use of existing technologies. Your software could seamlessly connect with a subversion server, and point the users to friendly subversion repositories (or better, create the repository for them). This would serve to both advertise this wonderful technology, and make your product more open to standards.

As for Scrivener's snapshots, scrivener has gone a long way since version 1 (which was... bad), but it's still in it's early stages. Word has been in development for 16 years and it still has it's quirks. I'd rather have everything that scrivener offers than versioned backup, which all but a few users don't actively use anyways.

The ideal application would of course be multi-platform wherever there is a market for it, in other words Mac, Windows and hopefully LINUX.

I see your point, and I'd like to see a proper open source project for something like this. Since all the free alternatives are crap. But commercially speaking I see little room in the market for your product.


I want this too. But I want to pick and choose the functionality, and I don't want to even see the functionality I don't need. Which is why my ideal writing software has support for plug-ins, in fact should be almost entirely made out of plug-ins.

Well crafted user interfaces pack all the horse-power with minimal interference or annoyance. These are all features that can be implemented without adding clutter for the interface.

And I certainly don't want Draconian layout enforcement. But I also don't want writers to start doing formatting and layout when they should be writing. Write first, then if you have to and it really is your job, do the formatting and layout later.

This is merely a way to approach a problem, not necessarily the best. I like to define templates to create forms to define my characters and settings in ways I can easily review them, and not being flexible shrinks your audience. You shouldn't think about how your software will be misused, but how to make things easier for those who use it as intended. That's a standard UI design rule.

All in all I think you have good ideas, but your approach is suboptimal. You don't have substantially different features to make me switch to a brand new, untested product. Specially if it's commercial and not open source.

Well, that's as far as me goes. I write on a mac and for one I think twice about the software I use. On the OS X market there are tons of great writing apps out there, but on windows the only thing that's worth using is WriteMonkey and Word. Interestingly enough, this seems to be the one and only area where OS X has an edge over windows in diversity and quality apps.
 

kareman

Senior Member
This is what I'm worried about; that my ideal writing software is ideal only for me (in other words: it will never be made). I want software that treats text the way people think about/conceptualise/visualise text, and not the way computers treat text internally. Of course this is all very abstract and difficult to communicate, I definitely have more work to do here.
 

elite

Senior Member
This is what I'm worried about; that my ideal writing software is ideal only for me (in other words: it will never be made). I want software that treats text the way people think about/conceptualise/visualise text, and not the way computers treat text internally. Of course this is all very abstract and difficult to communicate, I definitely have more work to do here.

That is something very difficult to pull off. Everyone visualizes writing differently. I for example think of a messy cloud of ideas and then try to describe the stuff that goes inside my head. I think the problem's not in the writing part, but in the management of ideas. Think about it, if you could write a story as you would write object-oriented software, it would be much easier to sort things out.

I think the problem is that it's very difficult to conceptualize the mess inside our heads. And for that I think what is needed is as many ways to put your ideas on paper as possible, and yet allow integration of all these forms of conceptualization. A wiki, for example, is an excellent way to manage information, and that is the one thing I miss from writing software. Scrivener provides features that get close to this behavior, but it's not even near the level of clicking a term and suddenly having all the info on it at the tip of your fingers.
 

kareman

Senior Member
Now having software visualise the mess in our heads, that would indeed be impossible. What I'm talking about is having the software treat the text we have already written the same way we visualise it. That may or may not be possible. What I need to find out is if there is any common ground as to how most writers think about and visualise their texts.
 

garza

Senior Member
All you need for writing is a good text editor. They are available for free for all operating systems.
 

JosephB

Senior Member
Speak for yourself. I make my living using certain applications. I have my favorites and my own working methods, but I wouldn't presume to tell anyone, "all you need is this."
 

elite

Senior Member
artists have photoshop and corel. Engineers have autocad. Why can't a writer have their life made easier?
 
B

Baron

artists have photoshop and corel. Engineers have autocad. Why can't a writer have their life made easier?

Those who show in galleries still use traditional methods. I still apply oil or acrylics paint to canvas, there's no computer program that can do the job. Photoshop has replaced the dark room for photography to a large extent but I still tend to set up shots and get the lighting so that I rarely use it. Corel and similar programs are aimed at designers not fine artists.

I managed to produce good work with just the typewriter and a bottle of Tipp-Ex when I first started writing. All that the computer has done for me is to dispense with the need for the Tipp-Ex.
 

JosephB

Senior Member
artists have photoshop and corel. Engineers have autocad. Why can't a writer have their life made easier?

Maybe you mean graphic artists or more accurately graphic designers. Graphic artist is kind of an obsolete term. I use Photoshop, not Corel -- Illustrator which is similar but a more powerful and widely accepted application. Of course, fine artists use those applications too.

I think there's a need for an application that makes it easier to manage large documents. One that allows you to organize by chapter or sub-sections, to select them with some sort of top-level navigation or navigate to pre-selected tags, and perhaps easily merge multiple documents. There's an add-on to Word that I'm looking at that does that. I'm going to try the demo when I get a chance.

Can you write a novel in Word? Sure you can -- but that doesn't mean there isn't a need for something that makes it easier. Of course, you can do it with a typewriter -- or parchment and a quill pen too, if that's all you've got.
 
B

Baron

Maybe you mean graphic artists or more accurately graphic designers. Graphic artist is kind of an obsolete term. I use Photoshop, not Corel -- Illustrator which is similar but a more powerful and widely accepted application. Of course, fine artists use those applications too.

I think there's a need for an application that makes it easier to manage large documents. One that allows you to organize by chapter or sub-sections, to select them with some sort of top-level navigation or navigate to pre-selected tags, and perhaps easily merge multiple documents. There's an add-on to Word that I'm looking at that does that. I'm going to try the demo when I get a chance.

Can you write a novel in Word? Sure you can -- but that doesn't mean there isn't a need for something that makes it easier. Of course, you can do it with a typewriter -- or parchment and a quill pen too, if that's all you've got.

A slab of stone, a hammer and a chisel?

This might give you what you're looking for, Joe. It's free and a few people have recommended it but, as I said, I don't feel the need for anything like this.

http://www.storyhack.com/2009/12/07/freeware-outliner-for-authors-texttree-1-3/
 

elite

Senior Member
Those who show in galleries still use traditional methods. I still apply oil or acrylics paint to canvas, there's no computer program that can do the job. Photoshop has replaced the dark room for photography to a large extent but I still tend to set up shots and get the lighting so that I rarely use it. Corel and similar programs are aimed at designers not fine artists.

Digital artists don't show in galleries because it's an entirely different kind of media, and crafting a physical work of art is an entirely different process. However, I consider digital pictures a work of art and self expression regardless. Just because it's not hand-crafted doesn't mean it's not art.

I managed to produce good work with just the typewriter and a bottle of Tipp-Ex when I first started writing. All that the computer has done for me is to dispense with the need for the Tipp-Ex.

No doubt you can, in the same way I can write software with notepad. There is a reason why I don't do that, though, and it forces me to focus more on the code than on what the program does to begin with.

Same thing to writing. I believe writing can be streamlined a lot more than what it is now, and made a lot easier to the future generations. So many people fail to get their ideas on paper simply because writing is so awfully demanding both on mentality and patience. And I see no reason to not give software a chance to make your life easier. If it doesn't work for you, that's fine, but many would benefit regardless.
 

JosephB

Senior Member
A slab of stone, a hammer and a chisel?

This might give you what you're looking for, Joe. It's free and a few people have recommended it but, as I said, I don't feel the need for anything like this.

Freeware Outliner for Authors: TextTree 1.3

That looks interesting. Thanks. I'll check it out. Although I'm not too crazy about apps that aren't really supported in any way.

The Word add-on intrigues me, because unlike all the other writing apps, you still get to use all the features you're used to.
 
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JosephB

Senior Member
I believe writing can be streamlined a lot more than what it is now, and made a lot easier to the future generations. So many people fail to get their ideas on paper simply because writing is so awfully demanding both on mentality and patience. And I see no reason to not give software a chance to make your life easier. If it doesn't work for you, that's fine, but many would benefit regardless.

I don't really buy that. Writing a novel with a word processing application can be a little cumbersome -- but I can't imagine that would be enough to deter anyone who really wants to write a novel. It's going to be demanding regardless. Just maybe a little less so if you have an application that helps you keep things organized. At best, I think we're talking mostly about convenience and saving a little time -- just making it a little easier. If people "fail" or give up because they can't write a novel in Word, then I can't imagine that their hearts were really in it in the first place.
 
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elite

Senior Member
I don't really buy that. Writing a novel with a word processing application can be a little cumbersome -- but I can't imagine that would be enough to deter anyone who really wants to write a novel. It's going to be demanding regardless. Just maybe a little less so if you have an application that helps you keep things organized. At best, I think we're talking mostly about convenience and saving a little time -- just making it a little easier. If people "fail" or give up because they can't write a novel in Word, then I can't imagine that their hearts were really in it in the first place.

You don't buy it because you are thinking in terms of what's currently offered.

Programmers had to make software by writing zeroes or ones, and it goes without saying that stuff like word and excel where beyond imagination. Then came hexadecimal codes, which made things a lot easier and suddenly we had assembly, which allowed us to write instructions in human language for the first time. Today's software is the product of using programming languages that are closer than ever to our way of describing real word objects and it does it in a language that is very human friendly. What was the evolution, the technology, or our way to express it?

This is a pretty extreme case, but you can see this being applied in all fields. Technology is simply meant to assist you as you do your job, nothing else.

Thing is that there hasn't been a "breakthrough" in writing software. There are word processors, but they hardly assist you in the biggest part of writing, getting the stuff out of your head with ease. That is because with current technology, making a true writing assistant is too difficult and expensive. You'd really have to be a programmer to understand what I mean, because with programming I have my software remembering things for me, giving me options, suggestions. I press a key and suddenly the computer shows me all my available options for the next word I'm going to write, and as I type, those options narrow down to the ones I want. My programming software give me pointers, tells me what I can use, allows me to instantly check what tools I can use, and points out errors so systematically that I only have to focus on one thing, programming.

And what is a programming language? a language. It's a heavily simplified version of English that computers can understand. If you could do the same with writing, the quality and quantity of literature we would get as a result would increase exponentially. This is something that's not available now. Word won't tell you contradicted a plot point you wrote 50 pages ago, or that you left things unexplained. But there is the potential, because it's been done in a much smaller scale for thirty-five years.

In a nutshell, imagine an editor and a proofreader evaluating your work in real time, and pointing out problems with your writing, plot, and character development. This can be done, just not now.
 
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Leyline

Honoured/Sadly Missed
WF Veterans
I've decided that from now on, I'm just going to make up stuff in my head, and never write it down. That way it's always perfect.
 

JosephB

Senior Member
Word won't tell you contradicted a plot point you wrote 50 pages ago, or that you left things unexplained. But there is the potential, because it's been done in a much smaller scale for thirty-five years.

So you’re saying there are all these brilliant authors out there who have thrown up their hands in defeat and walked away from a novel because it’s too hard for them to catch their own plot inconsistencies or recognize a fuzzy plot line. They need software to do it for them.

I’m still not buying it. The thing is, for people with any sort of writing talent, all it takes is extra effort to catch those things. So I seriously doubt that anyone who really wants to write a novel would be deterred because there isn’t software available that will do the work for them.

In a nutshell, imagine an editor and a proofreader evaluating your work in real time, and pointing out problems with your writing, plot, and character development. This can be done, just not now.

I can imagine it and it may well be possible – some day. But at the point where any knucklehead with a vague story idea (that is if the computer doesn’t suggest those too) can knock out a readable novel, and if I'm still alive, I probably won't be interested in doing it. Would you?

I think your design and art software analogy is more accurate. The most advanced software can’t tell you that your design looks like crap. Design software makes it easier, faster, more efficient than in the days of marker renderings and typesetting -- but it doesn't make up for lack of design talent. Maybe it will someday – but then we won’t need designers. I think my job is safe for now though.
 
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B

Baron

I've decided that from now on, I'm just going to make up stuff in my head, and never write it down. That way it's always perfect.

If this starts a trend then the publishing industry is really in trouble.
 
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