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Last post Author Topic: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)  (Read 1493 times)

Dormouse

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Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« on: May 14, 2018, 10:57 AM »
This is intended to be a comparative review for writers' software which looks at all the processes that may be involved in writing. Preferably a collaborative review incorporating suggestions, different perspectives and approaches. And other software;
So I regard this as an initial draft, which I will adapt and extend. I have designed a simple table which gives an overview of each piece of software; my original intention of going into much greater depth would have overwhelmed this thread, so I will do a mini-review for each program that seems interesting enough in this context. Having put in two tables, I think that just the tables overwhelm this post. I think that I will end up putting them all in their own 'mini-reviews' and just have a few overall conclusions & tables here, with links to those reviews.

The form of most programs for writing seems to be based on the same structure as Outliners & Notetakers many of which transmogrified into PIMs before their near extinction.

Despite the existence of these programs, most, it seems, still use Word - maybe because using what you are used to avoids a learning curve. It's not unreasonable for writing words down, functions well for editing, and can publish in a number of formats. But it covers no earlier stage of the writing process. And a review of writers' tools needs to cover the whole process of writing from the original idea in the writer's mind to the publication in the hands of the reader.

Stages
There are a number of stages shared by most types of writer.
  • Research and Collection - A collection of external references, files, documents to be used when writing
  • Own material - Potentially a range of things including ideas, observations, conversations overheard, nice phrases or wordings, incomplete compositions
  • Brainstorming and development of ideas - mostly a process of possibilities that firm up into a plan; different to own material because it is focussed on the project
  • Organisation - a detailed working up of the plan
  • Writing - the central and key stage. If this fails, all fails.
  • Revising and Editing - an iterative process that is likely to involve other people at some stages
  • Publication - formatting into  a final stage. Most likely a docx for a traditional publisher, a pdf for an academic work or a whole succession of different format for the independent.

Writing Tasks
For maximum use a review also needs to address the needs of all types of writers, not just Authors who might appear on a Literature syllabus (or the more modest writers resident in Grub Street). In fact, many people have to write as part of their work - students and academics, technical writers, bloggers, journalists and columnists, copywriters, novelists, playwrights, poets, lawyers, doctors, business people, politicians and speechwriters. So, in an effort to make the review fit for all needs, I will look at the software from the perspective of a reasonably comprehensive cross-section of the writing community (but not including mathematicians, programmers etc who use specialised editors).
  • A PhD student. I hope that this will cover the needs of students at all levels.
  • A senior professor with an active research programme. Their needs are very different to those of a student because most papers are written in collaboraton with others and they may be working in a number of different fields and over a very long time. Also writes book chapters.
  • A journalist with weekly columns and a blog.
  • A news reporter.
  • A writer of large scale, multi volume, huge world fantasy fiction. Publishes independently.
  • A writer of literary fiction - books, plays and screenplays. With traditional publisher.
  • A writer of travel books. Traditional publisher. Also does pieces for media whenever asked.
  • A professional who writes reports/business cases for use within and without their organisation with frequent presentations. Similar for business people, lawyers, doctors etc.

Personal Styles and Work Practices
Different writers also have different styles and work practices. Many successful are strongly attached both
to the details of their practice and the tools they use; they will have found that this helps then to 'get in the zone'. Just like sports people. The major difference is between planners and pantsers (who split into those who set off running until they reach an end, and those who set off running and then rest and look around before they continue), but there is also a difference between those who really prefer physical pen and paper and those who prefer digital, and the technologically adept versus those who like it kept simple. And then, those who write anywhere and everywhere and those only write in one place (and some writers work on one project at a time while others work on many).

Writers' Problems
Then there are the various blocks or problems that many, but not all, writers face. Primary amongst these appears to be Not Being Able to Start Writing or Procrastination. The whole edifice of NaNoWriMo appears to have been built on this problem. Software has a variety of ways of trying to help writers tackle this ranging from a distraction free screen, to targets and reminders, and exhortations

Initial Observations
Many old programs that have been without updates for the best part of a decade still work as designed. I feel that this is some sort of tribute to both Microsoft and their original programming.
I like tabs. I thought browsers had demonstrated how most people like tabs. I think they are the easiest way to navigate open documents. I regard OneNote as the best example (Notebook tabs on the left, Section tabs above and a hierarchy of Page tabs on the right), but have been surprised at how many programs stick to folder/document hierarchies and don't use tabs at all.


I shall consider the software (Windows only) in three categories:-

Specialist software for writers
    v3 beta of Scrivener (time limited) is freely downloadable from here.
    Click for Note
    This is much changed from v1 and it does not feel appropriate to construct a formal review table when features are still being activated etc.
    Usually I would feel happy to comment on the  basis of a 4th beta, BUT. Scrivener always had a learning curve, but my impression is that it has become much bigger in v3 and the whole thing now feels rather unwieldy. I really like L&L and found v1 OK and have been using each beta as it came out, but, at this point, I'm not sure how usable I will find v3, though I expect it to be much smoother. I will be leaving it now until the final version is out and then trying again. I assume it all works more elegantly on the Mac, but currently does not feel anything like as intuitive as some equally complex Windows only programs. IMHO.


    • Outline4D
    Atomic Scribbler (with SmartEdit add-on)
    Click for Table
    PriceAtomic Scribbler
    SmartEdit Add-on
    Free
    $67
    SummaryTraditional three pane outliner (tree on left, document in centre, and other things in right panerl - notes etc). Document pane has tabs for recently opened documents and the main ribbon has buttons for Document, Fragments and Research. Documents and Fragments are saved as docx/rtf/txt files in project folder, so can be edited by other programs and the program runs on a sqlite database.&nbsp
    Research and CollectionImports Word, RTF and Text files. 'Imported' PDFs, image files etc open in default program..
    Own MaterialYes, in Fragments tree.
    Brainstormingna.
    OrganisationOnly by using the tree.
    WritingYou can use a single view with only the document you are working on (and the tabs above). The ribbon can be minimised..
    Revising and EditingUses the SmartEdit add-on. Fairly simple, counting adverbs, repeated phrases, checking sentence length etc. I didn't see readability calculations.
    PublishingExports as Word, RTF or Text document.
    Anti-Distraction ToolsCan show just the main document view.
    Anti-Procrastination Toolsna.
    Writers' ToolsWord count, daily word count.
    Online & SharingOnce found, the documents can be edited by other programs. Otherwise none.
    Securityna.
    Major Plus PointsSimple  attractive interface
    Easy to understand
    Dark theme
    .
    Major Minus PointsSlower than I expected
    No mouse accessibility for some common functions (eg select all)
    .
    Things That Could Be ImprovedAccess to more mouse buttons or right clicks.
    Glitches and Problemsna.
    Who Would It Suit?A writer whose needs are simple and straightforward
    Says it is designed for fiction, but would suit any type of writing where the needs weren't too heavy or specific
    3,4,5,7,8
    Who Would It Not Suit?Anyone with more complex needs1,2,6

    • Page Four
    Writer's Cafe
    Click for Table
    Price.$40/£24
    SummaryDeveloped by a husband (programmer) and wife (novelist) team, Writer’s Cafe has many individual/idiosyncratic features mostly aimed at the development end of fiction writing. It is not intuitive and I had to read the manual to learn how to access many of them. Current version was launched in 2008 but there have been regular updates since then, the last in April 2017.
    It describes itself as a cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, Pi) “set of power tools for all fiction writers - to help fill the gap for freer, less structured story planning". In an interview in 2012, the novelist half of the developer team said “I tend to use it on an as and when I need it basis - I can plan out a whole novel with it, other times, it's is just a small sequence of events that I focus on”. “I don’t any other software on the planning/story development front.”

    The features include StoryLines (index cards allocated to story lines, to ease plotting), Journal, Notebook, Pinboard, Scrapbook (which includes a simple mindmapping area).

    Writer’s Cafe offers many features absent in other programs, but needs updating/rewriting with easier to access writing panes and improved formatting/export.
    .
    Research and CollectionCan be done through cut and paste into Journal, Notebook, Pinboard or Scrapbook.
    Own MaterialAs above.
    BrainstormingYes - using Scrapbook Collage or Pinboard .
    OrganisationUsing StoryLines.
    WritingThe content pane for the index cards has no limit.
    Revising and Editingna.
    PublishingExport as htm, txt, odt, htb or chm
    Anti-Distraction ToolsContent window can be full screen.
    Anti-Procrastination ToolsHas stopwatch/timer
    Many tools to help shift writers block, including  writing exercises and a little game.
    Not sure if these would actually help procrastinators.
    .
    Writers' ToolsSpellchecker.
    Online & Sharingna.
    Securityna.
    Major Plus PointsCreative development tools
    Tool separation means that story can be switched while still using same journal, notebook etc
    .
    Major Minus PointsVery steep learning curve.
    Looks a bit old and tired
    .
    Things That Could Be ImprovedWriting pane, formatting and export options
    General updating to make it more intuitive and flow better
    .
    Glitches and ProblemsMany functions take too many clicks to implement.
    Who Would It Suit?Fiction writers including playwrights and screenwriters3, 5, 6, 7
    Who Would It Not Suit?Most people would find it too complex1, 2, 4, 8

    WritewayPro
    Click for Table
    PriceFree since January 2017, due to retirement. Still requires registration. Free
    SummaryA 3 window (Composition, Characters, Research) program for novelists; all windows have own tree and can be on screen together. Composition mode has Storyboard view. .
    Research and Collection Can browse internet and files. Saving internet pages would require right click (Evernote, OneNote etc), screen capture or cut and paste..
    Own Material There's a section for future book ideas, but the structure of the program is built around a single novel so own material could simply be a section on the research tree..
    Brainstorming na.
    Organisation The Storyboard is helpful. Cards have a number of categories (plot, conflict, dialogue etc) that can give a more visual summary of the storyline. Allows the structure to be built before the writing..
    Writing Works OK, can be single pane..
    Reviewing and Editing Can save snapshots & make notes about potential future revisions.
    Lists words & frequency in document
    .
    Publishing Reasonable. Has some formatting & front/back pages, contents etc. Can export as RTF, PDF, HTML, doc, docx. There are draft, galley, manuscript and publish ready modes..
    Anti-distraction Tools Can view just the page that is being worked on; main toolbar can be hidden..
    Anti-procrastination Tools Shows % finished. Can see chart of work done each day..
    Writers Tools Word and Character count.
    Online & Sharing Has own browser that can be used to navigate the internet, so saving into other programs or internet storage should be possible..
    SecurityHas some password protection..
    Major Plus PointsCovers all the basics.
    Straightforward to use.
    Free
    .
    Major Minus Points Still needs registration
    No longer being developed or supported (development appears to have stopped 2012)
    .
    Points for Improvement..
    Glitches and ProblemsPotential problems with installation (see comments below)
    Some websites cause a js problem that freezes program
    .
    Who would it suit? Designed for novelists only. Would work for biographers, historians 5, 6
    Who would it NOT suit? Anyone with more mixed needs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8

    • yWriter
    • The Novel Factory
    • WriteItNow
    • Ginkgo
    • Dramatica Pro
    • Fade In
    • Liquid Story Binder
    WriteMonkey v3 (beta)
    Click for Table
    PriceMain program
    Extensions
    Free
    Donation
    SummaryA keyboard oriented text program for writers; does Markdown. Also versions for Linux & Mac. Possibly one of the best apps for the writing process. The version tested was the v3 Beta and so still a work in progress..
    Research and Collectionna.
    Own MaterialEasy to save snippets and other files.
    Brainstormingna.
    Organisationna.
    WritingA pure text typing program with text folding, bookmarks and jumps.
    Revising and Editingna.
    PublishingA range of options for exporting text.
    Anti-Distraction ToolsA virtually empty whole screen mode
    An range of soundloops (beach, birds, fire etc) to reduce distractions from noise
    .
    Anti-Procrastination ToolsStamina bar, goals, word per minute.
    Writers' Toolsword count.
    Online & Sharingna.
    Securityna.
    Major Plus PointsPure focus on text creation
    Text folding
    Good colour and dark themes
    Configurability
    Can be virtually completely controlled from the keyboard
    .
    Major Minus PointsNeed to configure to suit personal use
    Currently need to edit settings files (but this may change in a later version of the beta)Keyboard orientation (works with mouse, but obviously aimed at keyboard users)
    .
    Things That Could Be ImprovedA ribbon (with toggle) would make program more accessible to new & mouse users without impacting function for anyone else. I appreciate that this does not fit with design philosophy.
    Glitches and Problemsna (it is a beta - coding not yet complete).
    Who Would It Suit?Distractible keyboard-oriented writers who think purely in words.
    Who Would It Not Suit?Users who need visual cues
    Non technically minded users who wouldn't be comfortable editing a settings file
    .


    Outliners/Notetakers/PIMs  (most specialist tools are of this type, but there are many others with similar functionality that do not advertise themselves as aimed at writers).
      doogePIM
      Click for Table
      Price.$69/£49
      SummaryThis is a full multi-function PIM that has all the functions of a traditional outliner++++.
      Documents, Journal, Noteboard, Scratchpad, File Explorer, Task List, Browser, Email, Calendar, Planner, Spreadsheet, Vault.
      There is a Tabs/History ribbon (L/R) for open pages, a section ribbon next to it and a tree to the left of the document pane. The document pane can be used in a separate window, and a number of separate windows can be open at once.
      Portable, regular updates, responsive developer
      .
      Research and CollectionHas file explorer & screen capture
      PDF and document text and images can be inserted into documents, journal or noteboard
      .
      Own MaterialCan be saved in Journal.
      BrainstormingNotes on noteboard can be freely moved, coloured and linking lines can be inserted.
      OrganisationTree & outline
      Noteboard
      Planners
      .
      WritingOutline tree with full function word processor
      Also Journal, Noteboard & planner
      .
      Revising and EditingCan insert textbox comments in documents and colour selected text using colour bar
      Readability stats: Lexical density, Gunning-Fog, Flesch-Kincaid, Reading Ease
      .
      PublishingLimited to exporting documents on at a time (txt, rtf, docx) but developer has promised multiple documents very soon.
      Anti-Distraction ToolsDocument pane can be in separate window with ribbons turned off.
      Anti-Procrastination ToolsChimes (visual and auditory) can be set to strike every 15 minutes.
      Writers' ToolsWord, character and zentence count
      Word frequency
      .
      Online & SharingAndroid client is in works
      Browser can be used to cut/paste/export to web
      .
      SecurityDatabase can be encrypted
      Also has file or folder encryption or zipping
      .
      Major Plus PointsVery functional Document Editor
      Journal
      Very flexible planning with Noteboard
      Hyperlinks between items in different sections
      .
      Major Minus PointsMultiple document export needs to be implemented.
      Things That Could Be Improved..
      Glitches and Problemsreported bugs tend to be squished quickly.
      Who Would It Suit?Could be ideal for writer who publishes independently (including website & blog, conventions, accounts etc) and would prefer to manage all tehir writing related activity within one program.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8
      Who Would It Not Suit?Playwrights/Screenwriters - no formatting
      Anyone who would be overwhelmed by the number of functions available; I don't find it a problem as I find it easy to ignore what I don't use
      7

      • RightNote
      Simplenote
      Click for Table
      Price.
      Free
      SummaryA very simple, text only, non-hierarchical note system (with tags)
      Code is Open Source since 2016
      .
      Research and Collection Would have to cut and paste
      Own Material Observations and snippets could be noted anywhere
      .
      Brainstorming na .
      Organisation na .
      Writing Yes, simple and distraction free
      .
      Reviewing and Editing na .
      Publishing No formatting possible
      .
      Anti-distraction Tools Very simple interface
      .
      Anti-procrastination Tools na .
      Writers Tools Word and Character count
      .
      Online & Sharing Automatic sync. Hosted on Google Cloud
      .
      Security Encrypted in transit but not on servers. No encryption available for individual notes
      .
      Major Plus PointsExcellent dark theme
      Multi platfrom (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, web)
      Automatic synchronisation. Collaboration possible.
      Markdown enabled.
      .
      Major Minus Points I've no idea how they make money
      Limited encryption

      .
      Points for Improvement . .
      Glitches and Problems . .
      Who would it suit? Anyone who wants a quick and easy way to make text notes anywhere, accessible from all devices. Could add that capability to a Windows only program 1,3, 4, 6, 7

      Who would it NOT suit? Anyone who wants to keep their notes local and secure 2, 5, 8


      • TreeDBNotes
      • Ultra Recall

      Other Software.
      • OneNote
      • Evernote
      • Googe Keep, Docs, Drive + PaperPile
      • NoteZilla

      Publishing/Editing Tools
      • ProWritingAid
      • SmartEdit
      • Jutoh

      Other Tools
      • AeonTimeline



      Spoiler

      Tabs impact on user perception
      Single Vs Multi use programs
      Learning and unlearning curves and individual differences

      [th].[/th]
      [th]Research[/th]
      [th]Own Materials[/th]
      [th]Brainstorm[/th]
      [th]Organisation[/th]
      [th]Writing[/th]
      [th]Revising[/th]
      [th]Publishing[/th]
      Scrivener




      WritersPossible workflowsTransitionsChallenges
      1
      2
      3
      4
      5
      6
      7
      8












      [/list][/list]
      « Last Edit: Today at 04:25 AM by Dormouse »

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #1 on: May 15, 2018, 07:52 PM »
      Added table for WritewayPro. Will probably add a mini-review for this one once I have done all the tables here.
      Still getting used to writing BBCode.
      « Last Edit: May 18, 2018, 05:15 PM by Dormouse »

      tomos

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #2 on: May 16, 2018, 05:16 AM »
      This is really great Dormouse! Thanks for the input, looking forward to further updates.

      Still getting used to writing BBCode.
      for tables especially I find it can get confusing.

      For longer posts I sometimes use BBCeditor from fenixproductions here on dc. It does have some drawbacks compared to writing directly in-forum, but has the advantage of saving content offline, and editing at your leisure. Note I havent used it for tables.

      Someone here made a script years back that converted a csv file to a bbcode table, but I think for smaller tables it's probably easier to work directly with bbc.
      Tom

      Tuxman

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #3 on: May 16, 2018, 04:22 PM »
      Suggestion:
      Add WriteMonkey.

      http://writemonkey.com/

      It may deserve its own category.

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #4 on: May 18, 2018, 04:17 AM »
      For longer posts I sometimes use BBCeditor from fenixproductions here on dc. It does have some drawbacks compared to writing directly in-forum, but has the advantage of saving content offline, and editing at your leisure. Note I havent used it for tables.
      Thanks; this is the first offline one I've got to work at all.
      The problem I have with table is that the sequence the code uses, is not the same sequence produced by my thoughts. I've been using one of the online forms - most recently this which allows me to enter the cells directly in wysiwyg form (originally written in a WP/note editor). But then corrections get stuck and I tend to end up doing those by hand. Not found a solution to putting in a full stop where I really want a blank cell; not needed on some forums, but is here.

      The fenix editor doesn't do the wysiwyg, so would be a struggle with tables, but I'll certainly use it for all other longer posts. Found it!  ;D  Thank you again
      « Last Edit: May 18, 2018, 04:25 AM by Dormouse »

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #5 on: May 18, 2018, 04:20 AM »
      Suggestion:
      Add WriteMonkey.

      http://writemonkey.com/

      It may deserve its own category.
      Will do  :)

      wraith808

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #6 on: May 18, 2018, 11:26 AM »
      I think of writemonkey more as a strict editing tool rather than a writer's tool.  I use it alongside my writing tools- I love the distraction free writing, and the ability to play music while you're there.  But managing projects and such, I find that it falls flat.


      And on another note, your continued posting in this thread reminds me that I need to get on the stick and write my own LOL.

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #7 on: May 18, 2018, 02:57 PM »
      But managing projects and such, I find that it falls flat.
      Project management is coming in the next release of the v3 beta

      wraith808

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #8 on: May 18, 2018, 04:32 PM »
      But managing projects and such, I find that it falls flat.
      Project management is coming in the next release of the v3 beta

      That's welcome to hear.

      Ath

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #9 on: May 19, 2018, 03:41 AM »
      Tried installing WriteWayPro on Windows 10 1803, and although installation seemed to go well, 2 ocx files where not registered correctly (most likely caused by the 'old' installer used), so WriteWayPro wouldn't start.
      I fixed this following these steps:
      • Open a Command prompt in 'Run as Administrator' mode
      • change to the SysWOW64 directory: CD ..\SysWOW64
      • register the 2 components by entering these commands:
      regsvr32 Codejock.Controls.v13.4.0.ocx
      regsvr32 MSCHRT20.OCX
      • Close the command prompt: exit
      • WriteWayPro should now should start as expected :)

      Edit:
      After the above exercise I tried to register the product to have the free Pro version, but that has been unsuccessful so far, stating the error message "Unable to connect to the WriteWay website, please try later.". I suspect that another ocx isn't correctly registered, or not working as expected on Win10 (1803), but it cal also be due to a website issue. (I (re)registered all ocx's in the SysWOW64 directory using regsvr32 but still no cigar)
      After reading the "WriteWay FAQs and Issues Support document", it seems that the Compatibility mode needs to be set to XP mode, and Run as Administrator, but that also hasn't solved this issue yet.
      The registration page in the screenshot on the site looks different from what I'm seeing (mine doesn't have the First Name/Last Name fields, but I used the code shown there), so there may be a different cause altogether. I'll just wait and see what happens until after it expires...
      If all else fails I'll e-mail 'm for support.

      On a related note: The YouTube showcase and instruction videos (including the WriteWayPro page) also seem to have vanished, only alternative videos can be found.

      Guess this are the side-effects of using a no longer actively supported product...

      Edit 2:
      After installing WriteWayPro in a virtual WinXP SP3 instance, the installation issues didn't appear there, but the application registration issue persists, so that's most likely a website related issue.
      « Last Edit: May 19, 2018, 07:03 AM by Ath, Reason: Typo fixed »

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #10 on: May 19, 2018, 10:45 AM »
      Tried installing WriteWayPro on Windows 10 1803, and although installation seemed to go well, 2 ocx files where not registered correctly
      I fixed this :


      Edit:
      After the above exercise I tried to register the product to have the free Pro version, but that has been unsuccessful so far,

      On a related note: The YouTube showcase and instruction videos (including the WriteWayPro page) also seem to have vanished, only alternative videos can be found.

      Guess this are the side-effects of using a no longer actively supported product...

      Edit 2:
      After installing WriteWayPro in a virtual WinXP SP3 instance, the installation issues didn't appear there, but the application registration issue persists, so that's most likely a website related issue.

      Thanks. This is all far more than I would have been able to do.
      I simply installed in XP compatibility and it worked. And registered. I'm also on 1803 (though the last update was after WriteWayPro installation).

      I'll add a note to the table above and will put in the detail in the full review. Assuming I still do one, if installation/registration is a general problem.

      I will admit that my sequence of SimpleNote then WriteWayPro was mostly about warming up my methodology. But the working version is better than I had anticipated.

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #11 on: May 19, 2018, 11:36 AM »
      Added a WriteMonkey table. Will do a full review once the final version is released.

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #12 on: May 20, 2018, 04:12 AM »
      I think of writemonkey more as a strict editing tool rather than a writer's tool.  I use it alongside my writing tools- I love the distraction free writing, and the ability to play music while you're there.  But managing projects and such, I find that it falls flat.
      I think this is one of the key issues. I had considered putting some text editors into the mix, but excluded them in the end because a 'text editor' is now just another way of saying 'code writer' - they all have special commands to manage code, which isn't what I'm trying to look at here. OTOH may (all?) have text folding and I have never understood why that is better for writing code (just a form of specialised writing) but not needed for writing other text. I put SimpleNote in as a simple text equivalent with internet access; I don't rule out adding others.

      Since my focus of interest is the writer's ecosystem, I'm potentially interested in software for any part of the system. Scrivener is designed to do it all, other programs may need to co-operate to achieve the same end; that may be better or worse. I've started out on this journey, but I have no idea where I will end up

      dr_andus

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #13 on: May 20, 2018, 06:18 AM »
      I think of writemonkey more as a strict editing tool rather than a writer's tool.  I use it alongside my writing tools- I love the distraction free writing, and the ability to play music while you're there.  But managing projects and such, I find that it falls flat.

      Calling WriteMonkey an "editing tool" rather than a "writer's tool" is an unusual characterisation. You seem to be using the term "editing" in an idiosyncratic way.

      To me WriteMonkey is very much a "writer's tool", as it focuses on one of the most important aspects of writing: the act of writing itself.

      Once I'd written my text in WriteMonkey, then I might take it to MS Word or some other word processor to edit it, format it, and typeset it.

      But even you say that you use WM for writing primarily, so maybe by "editing" you mean 'writing'.

      As for lack of project management capability (presumably of writing projects), I don't see that as an absolute requirement for a writing software. I also have Scrivener, which has all the bells and whistles, but I find it too distracting and much prefer to do my writing in WriteMonkey.

      P.S. What I'm trying to say is that there are myriad other task and project management tools out there that can be used to manage a writing project, so they don't necessarily need to be built into specialist writing software.



      dr_andus

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #14 on: May 20, 2018, 06:31 AM »
      @Dormouse

      You have a number of software on that list that have not been updated for a very long time and have probably been abandoned (even if their owners are still using them as cashcows), so I wonder if it might be worthwhile to add a "last updated" note to them, or split them into "actively developed" and "no longer developed." 

      wraith808

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #15 on: May 20, 2018, 09:21 AM »

      I think of writemonkey more as a strict editing tool rather than a writer's tool.  I use it alongside my writing tools- I love the distraction free writing, and the ability to play music while you're there.  But managing projects and such, I find that it falls flat.

      Calling WriteMonkey an "editing tool" rather than a "writer's tool" is an unusual characterisation. You seem to be using the term "editing" in an idiosyncratic way.

      To me WriteMonkey is very much a "writer's tool", as it focuses on one of the most important aspects of writing: the act of writing itself.

      Once I'd written my text in WriteMonkey, then I might take it to MS Word or some other word processor to edit it, format it, and typeset it.

      But even you say that you use WM for writing primarily, so maybe by "editing" you mean 'writing'.

      As for lack of project management capability (presumably of writing projects), I don't see that as an absolute requirement for a writing software. I also have Scrivener, which has all the bells and whistles, but I find it too distracting and much prefer to do my writing in WriteMonkey.

      P.S. What I'm trying to say is that there are myriad other task and project management tools out there that can be used to manage a writing project, so they don't necessarily need to be built into specialist writing software.




      Perhaps I should have expanded, but I think that the rest of that statement puts into perspective what I mean by 'editing tool'.  Not like something like smartedit or prowritingaid, but a text editor, so I don't find it an unusual characterization, because that's what it is.  But as I said... I think.  And in my experience, I think that the project management is a task that for writing professionally, I've found that I need integrated.  I have to do several self referential checks within the software, so when I'm not just writing a self-contained work, which I've never had the opportunity to do since I've started doing it professionally, being able to easily reference the other work within that project is something that I need.  Not in an external tool, but right there.  This might not be the same for all, but for me, that's what I think and I need.  Which is the way that all of us reference these things, I think- even the creators in many cases.   A plain text editor won't cut it for me in most cases.

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #16 on: May 20, 2018, 11:34 AM »
      in my experience, I think that the project management is a task that for writing professionally, I've found that I need integrated.  I have to do several self referential checks within the software, so when I'm not just writing a self-contained work, which I've never had the opportunity to do since I've started doing it professionally, being able to easily reference the other work within that project is something that I need. 
      There are many advantages of integrated.
      And many advantages of separate.
      Which is best depends on personal preference and circumstances.
      I'm hoping that this review, when completed, will help people consider the optioons available without having to try everything out themselves.

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #17 on: May 20, 2018, 11:43 AM »
      You have a number of software on that list that have not been updated for a very long time and have probably been abandoned (even if their owners are still using them as cashcows), so I wonder if it might be worthwhile to add a "last updated" note to them, or split them into "actively developed" and "no longer developed." 
      True.
      I think I have put the information into each table; and it will be a part of the full reviews when I do them.
      I'm reluctant to get too heavily into this. The amount of 'development' varies hugely, even if it is 'active'.
      Abandoned programs can be perfectly functional; and old programs can be better than new ones.
      Programs still being developed can vanish suddenly or not be worth updating if the OS changes.
      I don't think Outline4D has been actively developed for the best part of a decade or so; the developers did do what was needed to make sure it would function in W10; they still sell it, and support users, and there's nothing else like it.

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #18 on: May 20, 2018, 11:49 AM »
      I've been thinking about the best way to post full reviews (when I do them).

      My first idea was that I would simply add them to this thread.
      I then realised that even the tables were swamping the 'comparative' bit of the review, and thought that I would do the reviews as separate mini-reviews with a link from this thread.
      And now, having discovered how to utilise the spoiler mechanism, I think I could just add them to the first post hidden in a 'spoiler'.

      I think that separate reviews would be better for finding and discussion, but integrated in a spoiler would be better for reading. Happy to consider all views.

      cranioscopical

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #19 on: May 20, 2018, 12:13 PM »
      integrated in a spoiler
      Seems a good compromise  :Thmbsup:

      wraith808

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #20 on: May 20, 2018, 02:38 PM »
      There are many advantages of integrated.
      And many advantages of separate.

      It would be nice to state these.  I apparently stepped on some toes stating it in such a plain way, and such was not my intent.  I've just never seen where other than writing in a dedicated fashion as a text editor that a separate one is useful in doing serious writing on a project.

      I personally haven't experienced any advantages of a separate project manager to keep track of your work and have it in front of you.  And I've tried, so I'd like to see that use case set forth to truly evaluate it.  I've noticed that in most cases where it's not there, there is a separate add on or advancement (like writemonkey's) to add in project management.  I use notepad++ without, but then again, I don't open projects in it.

      dr_andus

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #21 on: May 20, 2018, 05:31 PM »
      Perhaps I should have expanded, but I think that the rest of that statement puts into perspective what I mean by 'editing tool'.  Not like something like smartedit or prowritingaid, but a text editor, so I don't find it an unusual characterization, because that's what it is.

      OK, it was a terminological misunderstanding then on my part. I get what happened now. You were comparing WriteMonkey to the 'text editor' category of software, with which people on this forum would be more familiar with.

      I was reading it as a "non-programmer" (and as an academic writer), so to me 'editing' in the context of writing software meant 'changing and improving the content' of a piece of writing (e.g. what a journal editor does) or formatting and typesetting a manuscript, rather than manipulation of text as data.

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #22 on: May 20, 2018, 06:30 PM »
      I apparently stepped on some toes ...  I've just never seen where other than writing in a dedicated fashion as a text editor that a separate one is useful in doing serious writing on a project.

      I personally haven't experienced any advantages of a separate project manager to keep track of your work and have it in front of you.
      Not my toes.

      The usual argument is that separate means that you can have best of class in every role and integrated means that everything should work well together.

      Most writers it seems use Word (SmartEdit sales are predominantly for the Word plug-in rather than Atomic Scribbler). When I was looking for comments on one of the bits of software, I found some comments on a writers' site saying that their ideal is Word and a pile of (paper) notepads and that anything else is unnecessary. And when I had to do reports where all the base material was in (very large) paper files, I could actually do the writing in any program with text. And I suspect that doing NaNoWriMo or NiaD genuinely from scratch is probably easier in WriteMonkey than Scrivener.

      Equally, most writers looking for programs for writing want something comprehensive. They want research, versions etc incorporated. They don't want to be switching environments all the time. And it is a huge advantage to have everything you need immediately available every time you open the program up.

      But what do we mean by comprehensive or integrated? Many of the programs we are looking at here are project centred. The research etc is all about a single project. That's fine for a novelist with one (or two) novels on the go, but that starts to become restrictive for someone who has five different writing streams. And if a single project is sufficient, can the programs do what is needed? Screen capture, contain PDFs and documents, OCR (all things which have given me problems on occasion)? And are they suitable for editing and final publishing (I notice that a lot of Mac Scrivener users say they have switched to Vellum for this because Scrivener isn't as good)?

      I don't know that I can comment on the advantages of a separate project manager without knowing the precise use you have in mind. If there is an integrated program that does it well for you, then it seems unlikely that a separate program will have any advantages.

      For myself, I'm not sure where I am. I can see that I could happily write a book in Scrivener (or equivalent). But then what about everything else? Maybe have multiple instances open. But are there things Scrivener doesn't do so well? I do know that using fewer programs than I do would probably be more productive. I could probably write a short story most effectively in WriteMonkey (apart from the keyboard orientation) or a text editor.

      I also know that most writers benefit from having a relatively stable routine which includes the programs they use. This makes it much easier to focus on the work. Actually true for most people, whatever they do.

      wraith808

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #23 on: May 20, 2018, 09:39 PM »
      I don't know that I can comment on the advantages of a separate project manager without knowing the precise use you have in mind. If there is an integrated program that does it well for you, then it seems unlikely that a separate program will have any advantages.

      When I say project manager, I mean something that manages the files in a document, if you don't want to have a monolithic document.  It also makes it easier for proofing.  I did a 1500 word submission for one project, and still broke it up into multiple files- one for each scene in the document.  Having to have one long document is very hard to work with in my experience.  Not sure if most feel the same way.  And having to deal with each of those documents separately is a pain also.  I'd rather have one interface where I can go from document to document in the same session.  It's the reason that I don't use vanilla word.  After my add-in stopped working in the latest version of Word (http://writingoutliner.com/), I tried to manage the documents in there, and Word lost a lot of work.  If I'd been more patient, perhaps it would have come back.  But I waited for 30 minutes, and it was still hung.  And it did it several times.  I found more lift in editing in chunks in Markdown, outputting to one HTML or PDF document, then pasting it into Word for the final formatting.  And then there's the problem of formats... my client decided to have us submit over google docs, and google docs added in extra spaces, and completely messed up Word formatting, when it states that it imports Word documents.  Now I'm just rambling. 

      But yeah, having something that has references to all of the documents that make up a larger document that can be opened and edited independently has become key to me, since I started writing semi-professionally.

      Dormouse

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      Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
      « Reply #24 on: May 21, 2018, 02:59 AM »
      I did a 1500 word submission for one project, and still broke it up into multiple files- one for each scene in the document.  Having to have one long document is very hard to work with in my experience.

      I'd rather have one interface where I can go from document to document in the same session.

      And then there's the problem of formats... my client decided to have us submit over google docs, and google docs added in extra spaces, and completely messed up Word formatting, when it states that it imports Word documents.   

      But yeah, having something that has references to all of the documents that make up a larger document that can be opened and edited independently has become key to me, since I started writing semi-professionally.
      OneNote
      Available in nearly all corporates that use Word.

      I would definitely advise separating writing from formatting/publishing.
      Know how the word counts work, and tweak at the end if necessary.
      Always seems more intuitive to do it as you go through, but there's acres of pain when there's a glitch. I do feel for you. Been there many times.