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Messages - Dormouse [ switch to compact view ]

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Just starting early development for another project. Need to do it mobile. Prefer to use tables for this stage. Which brings me back to Evernote (advantage - quick to use pre-prepared templates) and OneNote (advantage - organisation).
Any form of plotting/structuring comes later. I can do the beginning on either with freehand writing, but like to use a corkboard or mindmap after that and wouldn't use either at that point.

This is a real world example of the issues above as I consider my options as I'm about to go into a new project (I usually have a number on the go at the same time, often at different stages). Early brainstorming & mapping out stage, which will move on to planning and organisation. Don't know complexity level yet, but it will be a single piece 50-100k in length; not heavily research based. I prefer visual, so that reduces options.

Lots of possibilities outside the programs listed above, but I'll try to stay within this list.
Considered OneNote. Some advantages (free drawing and can use text boxes as cards) - but I really don't get on with using text boxes for the writing & main narrative.
Evernote allows free drawing, and is OK (but no more) for writing and has no card equivalent.
Notezilla could be made to work for the brainstorming, but not the most natural workflow from a personal point of view. And not ideal for organising.
yWriter's storyboard is OK for organising, but I feel the brainstorming & early development needs to be done first.
The Scrivener beta corkboard would work. Colours aren't brilliant in HC setting.
DoogiPIM's noteboards are much more flexible. Many options for changing card colours (on a per card basis), cards can be individually resized and connecting lines/arrows can be drawn. Also has calendars & spreadsheets and links can be set up between them. That's pushing me to DoogiePIM for this stage.

I realise that I have already split the writing stage into two in my head, partly so that I don't feel tied to all-in-one all-platform solutions. There's the writing, and the test storage (ready for editing, exporting etc). I haven't decided if I will use WriteMonkey. DoogiePIM is fine for storage and my editing. That leaves mobile (Android/iOS) use. yWriter would avoid the need for cut & paste. So would RightNote using Evernote pages. DoogiePIM could be saved with its browser open to my SimpleNote or Evernote account, which would make cutting and pasting quite easy. I've not decided about this, but using DoogiePIM for all these stages feels like the simplest approach. Also using WriteMonkey if I think that works better (using it would lead me to write in longer sections I believe, because of text folding & the potential use of bookmarks).

If I do choose DoogiePIM for this, it also raises the question of whether I put the project into its own database, or whether I have everything in one. Undecided again.

Living Room / Re: Google being jerks in order to dominate the internet
« on: December 18, 2018, 11:55 AM »
Google seem to have acquired the Microsoft palybook

I'd checked on the elevation thing earlier. Seemed not to be maliciious, but also not necessary so I kept it blocked.

Individual differences. That's the point.
That's usually what it comes to in the end.  And assuming that your method is better than someone else's method is folly.  Just as different people learn in different fashions, different people process work in different fashions.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  Only with use do you tend to find out what's right for you.  Blindly following someone else's methodology is a good way to get frustrated quickly.
Agree completely.
My hope is that the review might give some people getting stuck ideas they may not otherwise have had. Or consider programs they might never have considered. And that those people might be outside the more common definitions of writers. There won't be a best program, or a worst. I will give ratings for different aspects, but they will be very (but hopefully not completely) subjective. although I hope there will be enough information for people to see where I'm coming from.

For myself the process so far has led to possible changes in workflow and programs. I had never really used WriteMonkey, yWriter or DoogiePIM before and I'd never considered using NoteZilla in the way I'm trialling now. I'm very pleased with that even if they don't stick.

My ergonomic needs are usually uppermost (and that could probably be true for most users, were they but aware of it) and before I use/trial a new app. I invariably head for the options panel for application settings  - for view/fonts/background colours, etc.
For example:
But that's for you. Makes no difference to me. Individual differences. That's the point.

(a) Yes, that was kinda the realisation that I was pushing you towards, without wishing to put it to you in a negative way.
(b) Ditto - that was kinda the realisation that I was pushing you towards, without wishing to put it to you in a negative way,
How very condescending of you.

Naturally I knew this at the beginning which is why I never attempted it.

Your project scope would seem to be infeasible for that reason.
the optimal approach to analysis and study of it would have been to break it down group by group - which you are apparently not intending doing.
Of course, I'm not intending to do it - though I didn't want to stop you trying.
If I thought it would be productive I would have done it.
By the time you break it down to groups small enough to analyse, you end up with something that is useful to virtually no-one. That's fine for work you are commissioned to do, where the commissioners provide the boundaries, but not for something that might help an undefined writer casually browsing the net.
though "workflow" probably needs definition - e.g., (say) "a process that does XYZ and is at CMM Level 3 or higher would be feasible for URA."
It's only an internet post, I thought normal English was more appropriate.

The study of the ergonomic needs of users of video screen output and who have vision/perception difficulties (visually impaired or of different visual ability) - and even for different psychological disorders -  has identified/built a wealth of knowledge and understanding and user requirements standards relevant to the ergonomic needs of some generic groups. This knowledge is sometimes of crucial importance to the proper design efficiency and effectiveness of mission-critical systems in the fields of computer operations rooms, graphics design workstations, on-board military and aviation systems, military war-rooms and aviation control applications, for example, but since (I think) the days of CDC's Plato software it has also been applied with very good results to programmed learning systems, particularly children's (e.g., such as the one's my now 8 y/o son uses online through his primary school).

The trouble is that system developers who have not been involved in developing such systems have rarely received any training in the use of applied ergonomics in systems design, so most commercial software developers are relatively ignorant (don't have the foggiest idea) and thus oblivious to the wide potential need for such knowledge and feasibility of application of same.
You might like to think that, but you are wrong.
Such 'knowledge' as has been acquired is limited and frequently hits exceptions in the real world.

The trigger for me in starting this review was the irritation from years of reading reviews evaluating software, usually only a few at a time, by comparing feature lists &etc, but never finding these reviews helpful for my own use. There were either assumptions about the type of writing being done, or about the writing workflow, and they never looked at alternative ways of achieving the same end or how they interacted with the parts of the workflow outwith the functions of the software being examined. I've tried to highlight some alternative approaches and writing roles that are usually ignored. But this makes it huge and, in my view, necessarily broadbrush.

I have a lot of experience of a wide range of writing roles, and a lot of knowledge about how different writers tackle their writing tasks; this review seemed a good way of leveraging it.
I suspect that you are not the target market.

no work flowing is quite common
Time to take a turn around the block?
-cranioscopical (December 16, 2018, 09:02 PM)

I guess what people might actually need to do and what sort of data types they would need to capture etc., aren't necessarily a concern from your perspective as they would be from mine
  • Collect/define User Requirements.
It's not that they're not a concern, but simply that I believe that there is so much variability in need, and so many scenarios, that it's an impossible task. If you think it can be done, then it's well worth (you) having a go; I'm happy to add where I can.
An example of the variability is that my visual requirements have become an absolute requirement, but it's not the sort of thing that's likely to have been put on a list of needs for any generic group.

  • Assess the likely effect of using the software in the key workflow processes
I also agree the importance of this, but again writer workflows are just so variable - although no work flowing is quite common.

I thought the list of the supposed candidate types of users was worth developing, I couldn't find where a URA (User Requirements Analysis) had been tentatively drawn up for that hypothetical population of users - though I suppose I could have simply missed it, of course.
I've not even considered it before. And, tbh, they're all pretty heterogenous groups.

Experience indicates that failure to do this effectively will likely result in a now all-too-typical nebulous review of the sort that gets discussed at great length on sites such as, for example (and DCF), ultimately apparently leading nowhere in particular.
I hope it doesn't encourage 'angels on a pinhead' discussions of that type. I think my approach has been far too wide (many very different programs; many very different usages) and broadbrush for that to be likely.

I would suggest some work be put in now to a collaborative effort (you mentioned collaboration earlier) to draft up a URA.
I'd be very happy for someone to do that.
Personally, I suspect that there are far too many variables for it to be practical and too many differences in personal preferences and workflows to achieve precision.

My own interest is far more in ecosystems and workflows, rather than the programs themselves.
Across a wide range of typical usages (those I have chosen being where I have some personal experience; there are other usages that I don't have experience of). This was triggered because of irritation that most reviews I have seen fail to consider this angle or use only one perspective - usually academic or fiction writing.
Workflows are usually not considered at all.

You'll have noticed that my interim personal selections cover one small slice of a total workflow and that I've not yet commented on which usages I think they would suit. And that programs like NoteZilla and WriteMonkey would have very few ticks on a requirements matrix. I anticipate filling in a complete personal Stage/Usage matrix over a lot of time (what looks good to start with often doesn't feel like that with substantial longer term use). I'd like to do it faster but I'm waiting on using the programs for real world tasks.

True, it is an aspiration and I believe a cut down version is ok, syncing events for example with note taking. For example Resources personally I wouldn't even want an online/sync/cloud anything for it. It is arguable that Messages and Vault can be handled better with a standalone for a smartphone.
I'd agree, but the developer has a lot of options about which way he'd want to take an Android version, so it's hard to know what it might do.

DoogiePIM will have an Android client at some stage, it has been promised by the developer
Which would be great, but it's quite a longstanding aspiration. And such a huge program that it would surely have to be a very cut down version on Android.

I've added my provisional interim conclusions to the original post.

I can see that when I have finished, I am going to have to tidy up the formatting.

General Software Discussion / Re: High Contrast setting & programs
« on: December 10, 2018, 02:19 PM »
My problems improved for a while, but have deteriorated again.
I'm always affected by an area of bright light (eg window & monitor) when everywhere else is darker and by variations in light levels. So no single solution works because I need to change settings when the light gets brighter or darker or when there's a bright light source.

I switched away from HC because there were too many exceptions that gave me problems and there were other solutions to explore. The HC extension in Chrome is helpful and settings can be switched instantly. I thoroughly explored available themes & colours in all the apps I used. I used WindowBlinds to put system stuff into a dark theme (for me, darkish colours are easier on the eye than black). I use colour filters on monitors and have a range of colour filtering glasses; filters can help, but also degrade acuity meaning there is always a tradeoff. I vary monitor brightness.

But this was never working properly and I have been constantly tweaking. It has really got in the way of getting back to my mini-review of writing apps.
On this I recently re-examined RightNote. Its ability to sync with other platforms & the web depends on Evernote. This only works with Evernote type pages. And these, it seems, can only show black text on a white background. Other page types are easily adjusted. I ought to report it, but, since none of the issues I raised to make it a more useful program for writing have appeared in any of updates, it didn't feel like a productive way forward.

So I've switched back to using global HC; basically thinking that it gives me the most stable foundation to work from. I don't know why images can't be excepted from its colour reversal. It's annoying for them all to be in the wrong colour and makes icons hard to recognise. I've increased the taskbar setting to help (I have always operated with small icons because my acuity is good). This solves the RightNote problem. Am now busy resetting all themes and default background and text colours. I still use the filters (sometimes on, sometimes off) and glasses (ditto) and vary monitor brightness.

Somewhat annoyed that my health interrupted my review, although to be fair I might have been too busy with other things to have started if the issues hadn't been there. I will resume soon.

I have started to collect and organise all my writing projects and there might be some interest in which programs I have started to use.

First is doogiePIM. For bits and pieces, organising, notes, ideas etc. Mostly because it does quite a lot and is comfortable (for me) to use. The big disadvantage is that it is Windows only, which rules out my using it for major projects.

Next is NoteZilla. Totally unexpected, but liberating in my use of other programs. Works well on iOS and Android but the advantages only really come into play on a large multi monitor system. I can display all the source notes I'm using exactly where they are most helpful. This means that I don't need equivalent functionality in the program I'm writing in. Can also be used as a corkboard. Am starting to use it on all projects where it has a use.

yWriter. I'm using this for the biggest of my current projects. Very simple but functional program but has the advantage of working on iOS and Android too. Using this forces me to using an outside program for spreadsheet planning though. Also slightly concerned by the developing file variations (yw5, yw6, yw7) since I can see this being a source of problems.

Rightnote & Evernote combination. I think I might use this for a more complex collection of works, but am slightly put off by fact that I don't find it writing friendly. There have been a number of updates since I was in touch with developer, but they haven't improved any of the features that impact my use. Also the use on multiple platforms requires that all the writing has to be in Evernote format, which is limiting.

WriteMonkey for short to medium projects that aren't organisation heavy.

I'm still likely to use the Google system with PaperPile for more academic writing.

Am investigating Atlantis & Jarte for extra rtf editing.

I am feeling the attractions of Gingko for out of sequence writing.

I seem to have abandoned OneNote. Again.
I'm also feeling no love for the more complex and complete writing programs such as Scrivener et al. The complexity feels that they will reduce productivity without any compensating advantage.

I assumed data capture (screen, web page or file - especially the first two); hadn't considered the other option. But you are right, the question was all about constructing the manuscript.

a) Is my logic sound?  And what can you add?
-Steven Avery (July 22, 2018, 11:12 AM)
Most of these things are choices, and there are many programs that can do the equivalent.

I'd say that for these purposes, the ability to publish to book formats was irrelevant. You are likely to need a book design stage or program to get the pictures, footnotes and endnotes set out as you want.

Picture capture might be better done in a separate program. Shouldn't be difficult to get a workflow that is as efficient as having it in program.

b) If it is sound what are some of the RightNote alternatives and how do they compare?
-Steven Avery (July 22, 2018, 11:12 AM)

Rightnote will do this. So will OneNote. I'm sure that you will prefer one to the other.

Personally, because so much of what you describe is about capturing and organising a variety of data, I think that a strong database program would be the best option. The writing itself is secondary, and could even be done in a separate program. In addition to Rightnote and OneNote, most of the old options will work perfectly well (Ultra Recall, TreeDBNotes, etc); so would doogiePIM, except that you might find the range of extra functions distracting.
I'm not sure how easy you would find it to stay on top of the various drafts, edits etc with this workflow though: you'd probably need to specify them separately in the side panel.

Sorry for gap in responding. Interrupted by a few health issues. All dealt with now and seem to be recovering well. Might take a little while for me to catch up on where I was.

I've been thinking about whether there are alternative workflows that don't include spreadsheets.
There aren't alternatives that perform the same function, although most writers won't bother to check and will just try to keep it in mind.
The story lines don't cut it, Aeon Timeline has has a different function.
Needs easy hide & unhide (excludes doogiePIM spreadsheet), but most spreadsheets are probably fine (I've checked RightNote, Excel, Google).
Doesn't change any conclusions, as it is as easy to do in an external program as in a linked one.

True. But it's aimed at online help or user manuals (small market, corporate bias). May well be very competitive in that field (that's why I didn't say it was expensive). But for more general use, where it has a good range of normal features, it's feature list looks OK but nothing special. Better value in $ than € or £, but $598 is still way above most general writing programs. So may be a good choice if you already have it, but hardly enticing otherwise. Of course I don't write user manuals.

PS I have a lifetime subscription to ProWritingAid, and it was very cheap in comparison.

my 2 Cents when it belongs to Writing "Help and Manual" is great authoring Software
I don't know it at all, but looking at its features, I can see that you might be right.
But the price! ... is .. er.. very corporate; a lot of writers think it too much of a stretch to pay $40 for Scrivener.

I've been thinking about whther there are alternative workflows that don't include spreadsheets. The programs with storylines can use those instead, but I've not thought of another working alternative other than word processor tables, which are really a cutdown version.

The reason is keeping track of what I think of as the 'pulses'. Stuff that is there in the background, but may not often impact the narrative.
In LotR there are unsen actions by the protagonists - the party members, Sauron, Saruman - going on all the time. But there's also the ticking away of the Third Age with the Elves leaving and Sauron and ordinary men rising with the Fourth Age depending on who won - but the Elves would have left either way.
And in the Siege of Malta I mentioned in the book tread, there weere the threads of the direct actors (the commanders on both sides; different locations) and the events, but there were also other beats - the Spanish commander weighing up the possibility of reinforcements, the overall political position of the Templars, the Sultan in Constantinople, the machinations of the French, Venetians and others; and then slower beats around the Turk's thrust into Europe; and even slower with the development of oceanic trade/travel unravelling  the importance of the Mediterranean and the entrepot of Venice and the Turks. The last is only mentioned a little in passing but is a fundamental part of the context. And mentioned frequently in the narrative, but without a beat, is the extensive practice of raids, piracy and enslavement which was still increasing: and because there is no beat the references consitute a source of incoherent noise and detract from rather than add to understanding.A further beat is the impact of the reformation and counter-reformation, but this is ignored and has no imapct on the narrative, although it could be argued to be an important consituent of the context.

It is easy to see how this is important in any work that proceeds with time, from the past, through the present and into the future. But it is just as important in other works that have many intertwined threads. Even if only a few are being examined then the others are part of the context for that. The only types of work where it has no use is where there is no narrative, and the work will be read in sections (eg reference books).

Ideally, it would be a corkboard, with storylines/timelines fixed below, but I don't know of anything like that.

As a pseudo-card based systems I would consider Protopage.  It is much more than a Start Page.  And is becoming my central organizer.
-Steven Avery (June 22, 2018, 05:36 PM)
I can see how a journalist or blogger might use Protopage or Linoit, but I'm not sure otherwise how it fits into a writing workflow. Since I'm also personally not looking at cloud programs (variable connectivity), so maybe you could explain how you see it working?

I've now put in a card based systems section. Gingko, NoteZilla. Google grouping ... Keep.

PNotes .net version always is always an alternative to Notezilla, although the robust NotesBrowser in NZ might be one plus, where each program has 10 plusses and minusses.
-Steven Avery (June 22, 2018, 05:36 PM)
There will be many alternatives to NoteZilla which can be used and some may be better. I was using it as an example of how a sticky note program can be useed in a process by addding a very flexible corkboard alternative and a flexible ability to put onscreen info that you are referring to in the current writing. Only functions as a limited and particular part of a workflow and wouldn't suit everyone. The key to its working is the browser control panel: if that's good enough any sticky note program should work.

The other card systems (Gingko, Keep) are very different. Gingko as a pure writing system and Keep as a part of an integrated workflow.

Living Room / Re: What books are you reading?
« on: June 17, 2018, 08:52 PM »
Like Gulliver's Travels, it is all held together by a fast paced adventure, in this case a romp with characters that zing like a James Bond movie. Structured like The Magnificent Seven or the Dirty Dozen (and maybe even a deliberate reference to the Seven's appropriation of a Japanese original), the adventures are pure D&D (as is the totting up).

The economics described are those of Rome (late Republic/early Empire) or maybe Spanish conquest (the economics is more Roman, the social consequences more Spanish). Explicit social comment, but seems more aimed at the isms in D&D/RPG than contemporary society. I suspect that the author has already overstretched his economic expertise and that Book Two, which I haven't read yet, will have more of the social commentary than economics. If it has either, because they can be ignored as the story and characters hold up on their own.

Living Room / Re: What books are you reading?
« on: June 17, 2018, 06:03 PM »
I have just finished Orconomics: A Satire by J. Zachary Pike.


It's an exploration of the economics required for D&D to exist in the form it does. Alludes to the financial crisis, and is probably slightly more enjoyable if you have some understanding of economics and finance but it is at a very simple level and not needed to enjoy the story at all.
Describes itself as a 'satire' but it isn't really; certainly not a viciously derisive satire in the Swiftian tradition and far more of a light persiflage full of warmth and fun.
Something that I think would be enjoyed by many RPG players.

I find that it has poor ergonomics for active use with the mouse. Keyboard shortcuts can be set to please, but the right-click menu is very limited meaning that many common operations require going to the menu.
However, the developer seems responsive and I'm hopeful that this will be addressed.
I'm likely to switch quite a lot of stuff to Evernote/RightNote and workflow will be easier if these are improved.

Progress on looking at the rest of the programs has slightly stalled.
Mind still slightly fuddled by prospect of using NoteZilla for multiple floating notes/prompts/info when writing. I'm setting one project up for this now. Cross platform is a huge advantage for me here, even if the notes on other platforms aren't as full. If this works effectively, it will change my needs in writing related programs as I won't need them to carry so much information or do as much prompting.

Also keep finding myself drawn back to using WriteMonkey. Not sure why, though I do like the folding; maybe I just like the colours I set up  :-[. It also suggests alternative workflows, since quite a lot of programs are happy saving in rtf format and that means that they can all be working on the same file. If NoteZilla is doing hte heavy prompt/info lifting, then there are many workflow options here.

The RightNote/doogiePIM/Evernote/OneNote options are quiet different since they hold everything in a database and would therefore be used for different projects or different stages in a workflow.

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