August 2, 2012

My Favorite Writing Software is…

writing software

What writing software do you use?

Before I tell you about my greatest triumph as a writer, let me back up. True–this one without a doubt is my ultimate accomplishment. It was better than a handsome man in a white shirt standing in the rain. More exhilarating than running into Hannibal Lector in a dark alley after he’s eaten dinner. It made the dog wag his tale so hard, his entire backside shook. What is this amazing achievement?

Drum roll–finding a writing program that Does Everything.

I know. Hose me down with a Valium spray–it’s that titillating.

With a sigh, you ask, what is this great program? It couldn’t be MS Word. Word’s clunky, loads slowly, always telling you how you should write if only you were clever enough (as an old friend used to say–shoulding on you). You can’t find what you want what with everything crowded icon-to-icon on the ribbons, themselves so robust that they take up half your writing real estate (OK, I’m exaggerating, but so does Word when they declare themselves the perfect solution for writers). Who thought that was a good idea? And in my case (because I write non-fic with tables and images and lots of detailed formatting), I have constant nagging annoying problems with corrupt files.

So, you say needlessly, we’re not talking about MS Word. What about Open Office? For those of you unfamiliar with this free open-source word processing software, it’s full-featured, promoted as ‘the leading open-source office software suite for word processing’. It’s set up like Word, so would seem to avoid the learning curve required to use a new program, and is fully compatible with Word. I tried it, as a back-up for Word, but had too much trouble getting used to it. It’s like Word 5.0–several iterations ago in my questionable memory, so I had extreme difficulty finding tools. I do like that it’s free so I kept it installed. I have a terabyte hard drive, with a terabyte external drive and unlimited space in the cloud for saving data. Space is not a problem for me.

Well, there’s Google Docs–many are adopting that as their default word processor. But not me. It won’t convert files larger than 2MB and my WIPs are 8MB in Word doc format (22MB in RTF!).

You’re looking at me cross-eyed and your face has a splotch of red–your tell for anger. What about a simple text editor? In truth, lots of writers I know use that, but once more, it doesn’t work for me because of all my tables and images and formatting.

You slam the door on your way out.

My friend Yuvi has an opinion on this (as does my new efriend, Martin). He actually researched it (a man with too much time on his hands). He found that 59% of writers use Word. But, broken into geek and non-geek writers, less than 10% of geek writers use Word. What do these tech aficionados use? More than half use a simple text editor (see my comment above). The other half (well, 40%) use something other than Microsoft. What does Yuvi think I should try? He loves–really loves–Scrivener. I’ve heard of it (as well as MasterWriter, White Smoke, and a few others), so skimmed through their website. It looks nice, but to use it, I’d have to learn an entirely new software, and the problems it solves aren’t the ones I suffer from (keeping character sketches and background material instantly available).

Then again, I REALLY NEED to solve the constant Fear of Corrupted File problems I get with Word. It’s become the hitch in my getalong. Every writing day, I live in fear of my mss suddenly not working, so I save it as a Word file, an rtf file, and export to Open Office. At least between those three, if Word disassembled completely, I’d have enough to re-start.

So–drum roll again–what is that greatest triumph–that transcendent software that will work its magic, make my life easier, remove the worry of lost files and hours of work down the drain?

I haven’t found it yet. That ultimate triumph lurks in my future, stalking me, ready to pop out when I least expect it and most require it. Something to look forward to.

Umm, what’s your favorite writing software? Can I try it?


Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade, creator of two technology training books for middle school and three ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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