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Topics - Dormouse [ switch to compact view ]

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General Software Discussion / Privacy, Security and bookmarkers
« on: August 02, 2022, 05:13 AM »
I was reading a post on Obsidian Forum and picked up a casual reference to the Raindrop bookmarker/webclipper, and I started to wonder about privacy and security.

(Raindrop is based in Russia - I'm not sure how it's managing to take payments, given the sanctions, or make payments of its own. Apparently there are 3 servers across the world, presumably synchronised, but I don't know exaclty where.)

And I reflected how much our bookmarks and web history say about us as individuals and as a social collective. And wondered how exploitable that was.

We know that some states have laws requiring data surrender (China, Vietnam) and others have their own ways of doing the equivalent (Russia, Iran, North Korea), and most countries have a degree of capability (USA, UK; EU doesn't admit it). And that VPNs are of limited use (we can be identified with cookies, other programs present etc).

But also that some of these countries achieve significant influence on virtually everything by manipulating social media (Russia the biggest player here), hacking corporates (China) and ransomware (Russia, North Korea). The information available publicly suggests that western governments have a very poor handle on what is going on (viz the investigations into Russian manipulation of last US presidential election) and the companies themselves seeming little better (viz the uncertainty about the extent of bots in the Twitterverse).

I wondered how concerned people here were about these issues. It's a whole different league of concerns to the closed/open source obsession in some of the Obsidian crowd. It's certainly ramped up for me since I realised that an invasion of Taiwan was at quite a high level of probability, and further since the invasion of Ukraine. Food shortages this winter because of that invasion as well as fuel prices will only increase international instability. The totalitarian regimes will surely manipulate for crypto as a way of escaping the US' banking controls.

And for any who are concerned, what do you do about it? I'm careful about what info I put where, and keeping very personal data local. And having never having had accounts with any Meta service, let alone Tiktok. I'm not sure about the rest. I think I'm less individually vulnerable than most, but there's no way of avoiding societal vulnerability.

General Software Discussion / Web clipping
« on: July 24, 2022, 07:03 PM »
It's not been a priority for me, but I've not been completely happy with my web clippers for a while. The Tiago Forte emphasis on capture (him being a longtime Evernote user) made me look at it afresh. I'd already concluded that much of my web clipping fell into a selected/curated/unprocessed category and that I didn't need to bring most of them into my own formal note system. Historically Evernote was the web clipper I was happiest with.

But, like many other web clippers, it does not save images from web pages that require a password. That's a problem for me because I need the images (often articles make poor sense without them) and I visit many sites that require a password. I do have ways of dealing with it. I can do complete markdown downloads including images (although I don't usually want that). I can save the whole page in a number of ways. Vivaldi offers a range of options. There's OneNote too - it seems to have overcome the problem with images on password protected webpages (although I've thought that before with various programs, including Evernote and OneNote only to find out that the images themselves were not saved only the weblink). And I've just looked at Nimbus notes, which seemed to work.

So, I was just wondering which solutions were most popular here. Apart from the need to actually clip pages including images from any site I have open, password protected or not, my own preference is for quick, simple, multiplatform, webstored but easily downloaded. Ability to highlight, annotate and edit is desirable but only used sometimes, so not actually a requirement.

And some web clippers - like Pocket - just fail disgracefully acting as nothing better than a bookmark. Not even saving the text.
I realise the problem is that their bot visits the page independently and is refused entry, but that's no use to me if it has said that it has clipped the page. I need a process that captures the page while I have it open.

Nimbus is better, but it is far from perfect on all pages. Sometimes it appears to cutoff half way. I wonder if that is a size limit in the free version? But Evernote works on the page where Nimbus cuts off.

It feels as if I need to check the quality of the clip directly in tha app ost clipping before moving on.

Mini-Reviews by Members / Inspire Writer
« on: February 23, 2022, 08:43 PM »
Why have I never heard of Inspire Writer?
(I suppose another way of thinking about it, is 'how did I hear about it now?' and I'm not sure I can answer that either.

It's a minimalist wysiwygish markdown editor.
And I really mean minimalist. Minimalist in looks, minimalist in features and virtually no settings that can be tweaked. Though not minimalist in cost - it's not expensive but it is paid software whereas most markdown editors on Windows are free. $30 atm, same price as iA Writer.

Many similarities to iA Writer and Ulysses to my untutored eye as a non-Mac user who tried the iA Writer trial, but never felt any value in using it. It feels as if there's a macness about it. I like the dark theme (which is what I use) much better than the iA Writer theme which always felt to starkly black and contrasty. This one is remarkably similar in tone to my preferred theme on Obsidian (Obsidian Nord).

  • It has typewriter mode, but no focus mode apart from making the edit pane full screen.
  • It has import from docx, HTML. I didn't try HTML, but the docx imports never worked.
  • There's no ability to move files around, or headers around in the outline.
  • There's no folding on headings (and it accepts a #heading instead of requiring # heading).
  • There's no way to have more than one file open at a time that I could find - only one window, no tabs, only one pane.
  • Switching view modes is slow. Slower than any markdown editor or word processor I have used before. Usable, but noticeable.
  • The markdown syntax it has available is very limited. inspire-writer-in-dark-mode.png
  • But does have images, tables etc working simply enough
  • Only two themes (light and dark). I suppose the light theme is okay, but don't use them so can't compare. I do like the dark theme.

Looking at the above, it looks much more limited than all the free editors I, and most people, use.

So why would anyone consider paying money for it?

Well, it actually looks like a neat little editor for writers. It has the necessary features (bar underline and folding) but isn't weighed down by the tonnes of useless garbage most markdown editors smother themselves with. It looks nice and easy on the eye (though would benefit from a focus mode - FocusWriter would be a good implementation; maybe adding a sentence option). There are four predefined tags - Urgent, ToDo, Draft and Published - which points to writers being their target market.

And it does have useful features.

There's an option for live spellchecking in up to three languages (not that this is something I often turn on).
There are statistics for selection and whole document (characters, sentences, paragraphs, pages - though I'm not sure how the pages are calculated).
There's a comment syntax (++ for a line/section; %% for blocks)
There's a very nice set of export options - Ghost, Medium, WordPress (+ PDF & HTML) and especially .docx. I really like this one. It presents the option of exporting into a number of styles (Modern, Elegant, Formal etc), allows a preview, and then the options are to save, to put into clipboard or to open in a selected program - such as Word. So no need to create documents if that's not needed, which suits my Workflowy purposes ideally - though I still need to do my copying from Word itself to get the paragraphs I need - Enter appears to = New Paragraph; with Shift-Enter = New Line, but the 'paragraphs' are really markdown lines, and the new lines are soft line breaks.
Autosave is quite fast (at least in external files) and it has a regular backup schedule.

So all that's quite nice. And all of that is for files living in the file explorer, being shared with other editors. There are a few more features, for those files created in or imported to the Library. (I assume that the library is some type of database. Imported files stay where they are, there's just a new copy created in the library; the new copy is not synchronised with the original file.)

Possibly the most important of these is that the files in a Library folder can be moved around the sequence easily and that individual files can be selected for export using the usual Ctrl or Shift options, which makes it very easy to put together a long document/book for export to Word or PDF. These 'sheets' can also be split or merged as desired.
There's also a note/sticky note feature (only one per sheet) and session word counts (and goals).

Do I like it?

Yes I do. Despite the lack of folding, I can imagine using it as my main writing interface. The export options to Word are great. It's very simple; all the options it has are useful to me (most writers, I imagine) and there's nothing else getting in the way. For those that want them, the Scrivener like scene/chapter/book type options seem functional. It happily works as a normal markdown editor on external files as well as those in its database, though with slightly fewer features (I think its file explorer gives it an advantage over WriteMonkey 3 in this regard). I'm happy to buy it for my writing and happy to use the other editors for notes and anything that needs their more advanced capabilities.

I came across the following review, which specifically compares it to Ulysses, so I feel that my impression of macness is probably on the mark.

General Software Discussion / OPML single line problems with export
« on: December 29, 2021, 08:29 AM »
I have been developing a workflow that involves using OPML to move between markdown files and Dynalist/Workflowy, but I have hit a problem with exporting notes from both outliners. Paragraphs work perfectly, but single lines concatenate and sometimes produce a \ at the end. I have tried a number of converters including MarkText and Typora (which uses Pandoc), and the issues exist in each. The samples below are in Typora (Marktext has occasional issues where an extra line feed slips into the middle of a paragraph).

The simplest answer for me is to always use paragraph breaks. But I can't help wondering what is going on with line breaks and whether there is a simple, automated answer to the problem.
Screenshot in Workflowy.pngScreenshot in Workflowy.pngWorkflowy export in Typora.png

Typora and MarkText have Enter=New Paragraph as default. (Shift+Enter=New Line in same Paragraph).
Ditto word processors.

Many markdown editors, including Obsidian use Enter=New Line.

Which do you prefer?

General Software Discussion / Aeon Timeline 3 is launched
« on: September 29, 2021, 06:35 AM »
Aeon Timeline 3 is launched. A buy outright with optional update subscription pricing model.
I think it is much improved over v2.

This mini-review was triggered by two circumstances:
1. I have a project. It isn't exactly stuck, but does feel as if it would benefit from rethinking the structure. Which led to me thinking about how best to do it, which brought me on to 2.
2. I was mulling on a spreadsheet with cards instead of cells, wondered about the Storylines feature in Writer's Cafe, checked Anthemion's website, found there was a new version of Jutoh which included a similar looking StoryBoard feature, as well as an update to Writer's Cafe. Definitely looks a bit like a spreadsheet with cards.

And on investigation:
3. Although StoryBoard and Storylines look identical, the instructions suggest quite a lot of difference under the hood, so comparison needed.
4. And there are other approaches I could take, and other programs. So possibly a wider set of comparisons, so I know where best to turn in future when I need to address something structural.
5. And AeonTimeline 3 is on the horizon. Nice to know where that fits.
6. And worth checking for anything new.
7. And if I'm going to do it, I might as well write it down for future reference, in which case I might as well put it up as a mini-review.

And doing this systematically means:
8. I can learn and try out some of the programs in order to design, structure and write the review.
9. And then test it on my project.

I needed to decide a program for writing and storing the necessary research. The obvious choice for me was Obsidian. So I set up a new folder and made it a new vault nested inside the Scriptorium. Produces a contained space for all the work and research. To record progress, I made use of the Daily Notes feature for the first time. Most of the full writing packages such as Scrivener would have worked too - but none had advantages over Obsidian.
2. Thence to working out what to do. Brainstorming phase. I tried outlining in Obsidian, but found it unconvincing - outlines are designed to be sequential and this wasn't. But the chosen approach needed to aid developing the sequence. I felt a free-form corkboard would work - eg Scrivener's Corkboard, Writer's Cafe's Pinboard, or panes in Notezilla. I decided to try the Pinboard, not having used it previously. It was easy and perfectly functional.
   1. This produced three sections:
      1. Programs or alternative approaches
      2. Important issues and features to consider
      3. The tasks themselves - or Stages of Creation, Organisation or Reorganisation.
3. When away from the computer I needed to do something different. I tried a digital pen and paper with screenshot. That also worked easily and well, but would have been more cumbersome to shift entries around.

My original idea was to categorise the essential tasks and then to prepare a detailed comparison table of the important differences between all the options that came to mind. But I hit a wall of reluctance once I realised that this would mean spending time describing and recording options that I had already dismissed in my own mind.
So, I will simply give my personal perspective of each option up to the point where I stopped looking at it.

I'd missed the fact that Jutohhas been upgraded from 2 to 3, with relatively frequent updates recently. Haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but noticed that it seems to incorporate the storyboard design from Writer's Cafe. In the back of my mind I'm harbouring the question of whether it could be used as a simple converter between a variety of formats that I use, which could save me a tad of aggravation if it does.

I had thought that Writer's Cafe had stopped development but there were updates in 2019. I'd also somehow grown the idea that Harriet Smart (the writer wife of the developer of Jutoh and Writer's Cafe) had stopped writing, but that's not true either. It does look as if Jutoh is being positioned as the primary program though, incorporating some features from WC.

This never used to be a problem. I was aware that some programs wouldn't include images in a pasted page, but the Evernote web clipper worked reliably. That's no longer the case - the web clipper can take ages before I can see what it's done and often gets stuck on sites requiring a login. Quick, easy and reliable it isn't. (Might be a browser issue I suppose but I need something to work whatever browser I'm using. I usually use Vivaldi. Retested - the Evernote web clipper worked in Chrome Canary this once at least, but copy/paste had same results as Vivaldi.)

So, I try Simplified View-Select All-Copy. That works in Gmail and Evernote and Dropbox Paper, but not in most note or document programs which skip the images. Markdown editors don't work, but neither does Joplin or Textmaker. Or Word or Docs.
Is there something I'm not doing correctly? Evernote works, which is good, but it's already multi-stage I'd rather avoid the extra steps involved in exporting it.

Living Room / Windows as a tablet OS
« on: March 29, 2020, 09:22 AM »
Over the years I've switched between phone/PC and then. phone/PC/laptop. Tablets were added to the mix; I never used my iPads much, but did use my Samsung Note tablet a lot until it started playing up after a few years ,at the same time as I was transitioning to mostly using Windows tablet/laptops instead of desktops (one Surface book; one Toshiba convertible). To an extent that has worked: it is useful to use Windows programs on a tablet. But only when needs must. It doesn't work easily or elegantly, so I mostly use them as a workstation. Partly i think the OS doesn't lend itself well to tablet use, though it tries and neither are the apps optimised for tablet use. The Android versions of the same programs often work much better on tablets, though usually with restricted functionality. So back to increased Android tablet use. It's not a major change in my workflow just change in the hardware I spend most time with.

Partly my switch is about eyesight changes and monitors. I really really like big busy monitors, but the brightness overwhelms me now after a few hours even though I've tweaked all my settings and limited the programs I use to ones that suit me best. Phones and tablets are much easier. I can imagine myself ending up with Android tablets/phones and Linux PCs (with Windows and/or WINE installed). Windows updates are uniquely disruptive and I seem to lose my theme setting every other day.

General Software Discussion / Asutype alternatives?
« on: November 05, 2019, 06:37 AM »
I wondered whether anyone can suggest alternatives to Asutype. I've not seen it mentioned here much (though it was in app103's notification bar in 2015). Seems not to have been updated since then.

I'm mainly looking for correcting simple typos rather than spell checkers or text expanders. For example letter reversal (tseting), letter moved to adjacent word (walk th edog).

I tried Phraseexpress, but it didn't seem to work.
I've tried Asutype and it works on single words but doesn't seem to catch when the space bar is hit too soon (th edog). And it's commercial and doesn't seem to be actively updated.

I don't really want to try all the phrase expander, autocorrection programs out there, but it feels that one of them must surely do this.


Because of the issues mentioned in recent topics. OneNote changing; Surfulator expiring; Evernote ???ing. And everything always changing or disappearing. I'd seen a number of strange folks switching to Markdown and keeping everything in plain text notes, and I'm starting to think they may not be so strange.

I want to control what stuff is local and what is on the net. I want to control access. I want to be able to use my stuff on Linux, Android, iOS. Maybe even Mac. I want to be able to work on all my devices. I don't want my workflows constantly disrupted by software updates or bugs. I  might, if I'm very very lucky, want to retrieve it in 40 years time. At some point I may not have the capacity to change; I hope that point hasn't arrived yet, but now is a better bet than next year.

So it seems to me that I could, maybe, work quite well with files, plain text or not. Names including a date stamp. I'd need a powerful text search ability, preferably with the ability to a batch adding or changing of text (Powergrep?, Textpipe?). I might also need a file renamer to add the date/time stamp so each file name is unique. I'm not sure about tagging; text tags inside the file would be less vulnerable. If I wanted to use another program to work on some of the files, I could just copy it in.

I was also wondering whether it was worth seeing what a zettelkasten methodology might to for my workflows, and to some extent that triggered my thinking about the switch above.

    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.

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
    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.
    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.
    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
    Who Would It Not Suit?Anyone with more complex needs1,2,6

    • Page Four
    Writer's Cafe
    Click for Table
    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.
    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

    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.
    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
    yWriter 6
    Click for Table
    PriceWindows or Linux
       (Optional registration - Gold)
       (Optional registration - Silver)
        both levels of registration are really donations
    SummaryyWriter is a clean, functional writing program with not an ounce of unnecessary fat or muscle. The developer is also an active novelist who uses the program - "yWriter already does everything I need, but people keep asking for new features ... yWriter is already good enough for a working novelist. After that, some of the features start to get a little ... exotic". Cross platform (Windows, Linux, Android, iOS). Text based; there's little to support writers who work visually.
    It covers the organisation and writing stages only; it will export into epub/kindle etc, but I think formatting is limited (though I've not tested it out yet); accommodates easy import, export, reimport. Many features to support organisation and feedback. Designed for novelists but language file is easily edited to allow repurposing.
    Project based, with organisation into Chapters and Scenes with panels for characters, locations and items. Writing is in a pop out window.The scenes can be edited in an external RTF editor and analysed in an editing program.
    Research and Collectionna.
    Own MaterialWould have to put it in separate 'chapter' or Project.
    OrganisationChapters and Scenes. Storyboard with Story Lines tracking characters..
    WritingPop out window. Text background can be set to dark with light text..
    Revising and EditingMany feedback features to aid revision. Has tags. Limited number of features for editing but can easily be edited in external edit program. Frequently used words and counts words ending ly etc etc.
    PublishingExports to rtf, HTML, LaTex,ebook and obfuscated NaNoWriMo.
    Anti-Distraction ToolsWriting in pop out window.
    Anti-Procrastination ToolsWord count and target.
    Always shows number of words done today and main panel shows total in project and each chapter.
    Writers' ToolsSpell checker. Easy to track characters, locations and items through scenes. Ratings for scenes (eg Tension etc).
    Online & SharingAndroid and iOS versions. Works with Dropbox and Google Drive..
    SecurityCan be password 'protected' - but RTFs can be read without needing that and no encryption..
    Major Plus PointsVery functional. All features are useful.
    Can be used by pantsers or planners.
    Active Google Discussion group
    Major Minus PointsNo dark theme - I would have found it very hard to use if my vision was the same as last year..
    Things That Could Be ImprovedWould benefit from ability to do tables and images in editor.
    Glitches and ProblemsNone noticed.
    Who Would It Suit?Novelists3, 5, 6, 7
    Who Would It Not Suit?Frequent users of tables and images
    Anyone who needs research or brainstorming integrated. Could be used by everyone except 8 if they were happy with external brainstorming/creation and research tools
    1, 2, 4, 8

    • The Novel Factory
    • WriteItNow
    Click for Table
    PriceWindows & OSX$59.95
    SummaryProject based, it is a pretty and intuitive, 2 pane system with a rigidly sequenced tree on the left. The tabs on the right mirror the tree: Overview Content (Front, Chapters, Back), Characters, Events, Locations, Props + Notes, Ideas, Charts, References and Submissions. Huge number of features. Very good Quick Start guide (40+ pages) and Manual (300+ pages). Support is responsive.

    Clearly it is a system designed for fiction (but would also be fine for biography or history). It does a lot of hand-holding for the using the program, for creation and for writing.

    While it is possible to dive in and start writing, the benefits of the program need a lot of information to be entered on characters, locations etc etc. This can be done at the beginning (ideal for a procrastinating plotter), as the writing is done, or after a large chunk of writing. Only when a lot of information is entered can the charts for relationships, timelines etc be fully used.

    The overhead is increased by things having to be done in a set way, which may not be the most efficient. Eg pictures have to be put into the character fields by selecting through a file explorer (and the images take a while to show in it); characters can't be added when working with the relationships chart (which could otherwise function as a form of brainstorming). I find it faster to paste from browsers or other programs. There are very few levels in the hierarchy (eg 1 level for characters; content is just chapters and scenes); couldn't imagine managing LOTR with this. And some limitations: no tables or images in the scene editor. Can be a lot of mouse activity switching between windows.

    The system for managing characters, events etc is actually pretty good (and options can usually be added), but the overall design means that it will be most effective with a limited cast and simple relationships. But, to be fair, this is what most fiction writers write.
    Research and CollectionCan add file or web links in notes.
    Own MaterialCan be added as ideas or notes..
    BrainstormingHas idea, character and name generators! Prompts!
    The charts may be helpful.
    OrganisationStoryboard, Events Timelines, Relationship charts.
    WritingPop  out window; colours can be set to suit.
    Thesaurus, dictionary
    Revising and EditingWord count, word frequency, readability,
    Cliches, repeated words/phrases, padding
    PublishingSome formatting.
    Export to EPub, PDF, Doc, HTML, RTF, txt
    Anti-Distraction ToolsPop out windows;
    Quite a busy environment otherwise
    Anti-Procrastination ToolsCan set time & word targets.
    Writers' ToolsWord count, word count for section, version comparison
    Easy to track characters etc through scenes
    Online & Sharingna.
    Major Plus PointsEasy learning curve. Manual.
    Lots of options for recording and developing plot details
    Major Minus PointsDoesn't feel fast; could be a good thing if it enforces adequate plotting.
    No trial.
    Things That Could Be ImprovedDark theming is incomplete.
    More layers in the tree.
    Glitches and ProblemsOccasional white panels when trying to work dark.
    Who Would It Suit?New fiction writers. People who prefer guidance with IT. Compulsively detailed plotters. 5, 6
    Who Would It Not Suit?Most non-fiction writers.
    Writers who do short pieces.
    Pantsers (unless they like to track detailed plotlines later)
    1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8

    • Dramatica Pro
    • Fade In
    • Liquid Story Binder
    WriteMonkey v3 (beta)
    Click for Table
    PriceMain program
    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.
    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.
    Major Plus PointsPure focus on text creation
    Text folding
    Good colour and dark themes
    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).
      Click for Table
      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
      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
      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

      • EssentialPIM
      • RightNote
      Click for Table
      PriceFree version
      Standard Version
      Professional Version
      SummaryReview is for Professional version (has Evernote sync and Journal).
      RightNote  is a database (in SQLite) that has the traditional hierarchy tree outline on the left with a pane on the right. The Editor is entirely adequate but has few extras for writers. There is a full screen mode, and the side panels can be hidden, but it takes a few clicks to operate. Has spreadsheet mode. Tabs for different open documents.
      The program is really all about the outline and the ability to integrate with Evernote. It is particularly good at web or screen clips but less good at managing documents (can be imported into database but then viewed in external program; doogiePIM automatically offered OCR for PDF, RightNote doesn't do it except through Evernote) although it will import files and folders as links or attachments. Many tree tools including hoist, panel for folders/tags which make it much easier to manage a large database. Can send notes to other programs (OneNote, Ultra Recall in my case).
      Easy to use initially, the many features present quite a steep learning curve.
      It is perfectly easy to write in the editor, in a multilayer outline, and export in docx, HTML, rtf format etc, but no reason to choose to do so in this program unless you were using the information stored in the database.
      Actively maintained and supported.
      Research and CollectionThe program can import (or link) files, folders etc into the database and can also manage Evernote notes and clips. This makes it a very versatile PIM for working on web material and other documents..
      Own MaterialCan be save in separate Notebook or folder. Has a Journal option..
      OrganisationMultiple outlining options.
      WritingWord processor is good.
      Revising and EditingVaried highlighting.
      PublishingExport to webpage, docx, doc, RTF, txt, HTML.
      Anti-Distraction ToolsFull screen mode.
      Anti-Procrastination Toolsnone.
      Writers' ToolsWord count and spell checker.
      Online & SharingPortable. Sync with Evernote.
      SecurityCan encrypt (128-bit) database or selected notes.
      Major Plus PointsEvernote links
      Information storage
      Major Minus PointsLimited tools for writers.
      Things That Could Be ImprovedAll symbols are not easy to identify in dark mode.
      Glitches and ProblemsError message once in virtually empty new database (program able to continue).
      Who Would It Suit?Writers who use research, especially web research
      Could be a useful research supplement to programs lacking in this area.
      3, 4, 7
      Who Would It Not Suit?Writers who want a program to support creative development.
      Writers who want a simple and straightforward program.
      Researchers whose research needs are primarily oriented to books, journal articles and citations.
      1, 2, 5, 6, 8

      Click for Table
      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

      Card based systems
      The underlying advantage of card based systems is that they encourage a bottom-up, write_what_you_are_thinking_about_at_the_time approach. This is how a lot of writers think, but the traditional top-down, hierarchical approach may discourage it (though all allow it, and the systems with card views make it easy to do too).
      • Gingko
      Click for Table
      Although Gingko describes itself as a sideways tree with the root on the left, with each note being able to branch up, down and right.
      However, there are many ways in which it can be used, and these are really only limited by the export options which are a) for any note+its children or b) for any column.

      This means that it can mimic the fiction writing systems above. Column 1 could be characters, 2 locations etc. Notes can be copied and pasted, so a template note can be set at the top of a column. The following columns can be the outline/chapters and then a series of scenes.

      Alternatively, for a 'whodunit', the story root can be the final scene resolution and the branches to the right can be the various strands that lead to dead ends or that final resolution. Time would then go from right to left and the final sequence in the right hand column would reflect the order in which the scenes would appear in the book.

      Or the columns could be fairly random with small sub-trees.
      The way it works and looks encourages people to write a section at the time it is in their mind, wherever it might fit in the overall structure of their work. Academic and business writers are used to doing this because the sections are usually fairly clearly defined and information and ideas will usually come in sections. Fictions writers less so, even though many will work through scenes in their mind well before they reach their place in the narrative, and indeed pivotal scenes are often imagined like this and intervening may simply be the (unimportant) journey from A to B. Rather like Mozart who apparently only wrote the arias, overture and other interesting bits, leaving others to fill in the rest; the same system as Renaissance artists: Gingko encourages this without unfortunately providing anyone to do the filling in.

      Very flexible.

      Priceweb default

      desktop default
      $12 per month
      SummaryThis review is of the desktop version which is still in development (I wouldn't use a web only program), but comments also apply to the web version. A note based tree system. All the notes are arranged in columns; each column is easily scrolled with the mouse wheel. A new file starts with a single card on the left which can develop a tree by going up, down or to the right
      and so on. Cards can be rearranged later including shifting to any column to the left.

      Text based (JSON, MarkDown) with keyboard shortcuts for all commands.
      Research and Collectionna.
      Own MaterialPut anywhere or in separate file.
      OrganisationNotes and sub-trees can be moved anywhere.
      WritingStraightforward. Very fast for keyboard user to create extra cards.
      Revising and Editingna.
      PublishingExport trees or columns to docx, txt, JSON.
      Anti-Distraction ToolsNone but impact of other notes is small. .
      Anti-Procrastination Toolsna.
      Writers' ToolsNone.
      Online & SharingHas web version. Can move files between web and desktop..
      Major Plus PointsFast for keyboard only users.
      Non-intimidating interface makes it easy for people just to write what is in their mind anywhere.
      Major Minus PointsSomewhat irksome for mouse users.
      Writers need word count.
      Things That Could Be ImprovedControl of column width.
      Ability to return a text full card to default small size.
      Colour cards.
      Easy way to insert images.
      Better mouse controls (right click menu).
      Glitches and Problemsna - still early in development.
      Who Would It Suit?Keyboard users.
      Worth trying for people with writers block
      Potentially 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
      Who Would It Not Suit?People who like to outline separately.
      People who work visually.
      Anyone who wants all necessary features in one program.
      Heavy mouse users.
      Potentially 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

      • Googe Keep, Docs, Drive + PaperPile
      • NoteZilla

      Click for Table
      It may seem very odd to include NoteZilla, a sticky note utility, in a review of writers' tools.
      BUT the program has many functions which make it very capable.
      Firstly, notes:-
      • Can be rolled up or down
      • Be any colour
      • Have many patterns
      • Have one of a number of transparency levels
      • Can be hidden or on top
      • Have a very able RTF editor in which images and tables can be pasted (and the tables then work)
      • Have spell checker, word and character count
      • Be resized
      • Be attached to desktop, a window or memoboard
      • Contain file and/or folder links
      • Have tags
      • Be encrypted

      And there is the Notes Browser, which can contain any number of memoboards arranged as a hierarchical outline, which makes it easy to manage a very large number of notes.  And a group of selected notes can be exported as a single HTML or txt document. This suggests number of ways in which NoteZilla can be used as a tool for writing:-
      • For writing directly into a note
      • For brainstorming events/characters in the plot by rearranging the sequence and relationships on the screen
      • Using separate memoboards for Characters, Locations etc it would be easy to have the relevant characters etc on screen when plotting or writing scenes
      • Other notes can be used as file links for research

      The different colours, ability to use images etc would make this a very visual way of working. The program can be used for brainstorming, research, organising as well as writing which gives the option of using it right through to the revising/editing stage or just for research, organising etc using another program for the writing.
      Very mouse friendly, and the notes could be organised in a similar way to Gingko, except with more colour.

      PriceFirst year
      Subsequent years
      SummaryWindows sicky note app with subscription to NoteZilla web + free apps for Android & iOS; portable version available.

      Very visual, very colourful. See above.
      Research and CollectionCan link to files and folders; can cut and past into notes.
      Own MaterialCan set up memoboard for Notes, Ideas, Observations or Journal (all notes are dated).
      BrainstormingNotes can be coloured, tagged, have images and moved around the screen. Could have a display of relationships, or put characters in locations, and move them through events. .
      OrganisationEasy to organise or reorganise.
      WritingEasy to write in a note (which can be any size)..
      Revising and Editingna.
      PublishingGroups of notes can be exported as single document to HTML or txt.
      Anti-Distraction ToolsNotes not needed can be hidden or rolled up.
      Anti-Procrastination ToolsNotes can be set up as timed reminders.
      Writers' ToolsWord and character count, spell checker.
      Online & SharingCan send individual notes to a contact.
      There are Android, iOS and web versions.
      Sync seems to work well
      SecurityIndividual notes are easily encrypted (using one master password).
      Major Plus Points Very visual and flexible; good for creative development and providing information while writing..
      Major Minus PointsOnly OK for writing and not suitable for revising, editing and further.
      Things That Could Be ImprovedAbility to manually choose sequence of notes for export
      Grouped export to include images and tables (though knowing they will be stripped out may have advantages in use)
      Glitches and ProblemsSometimes a small flicker on typing.
      Who Would It Suit?Visually oriented users. Mouse users.
      Potentially 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
      Who Would It Not Suit?Keyboard oriented users (though there are keyboard shortcuts)Potentially 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


      Other Software.
      • OneNote
      • Evernote

      Publishing/Editing Tools
      • ProWritingAid
      • SmartEdit
      • Jutoh

      Other Tools
      • AeonTimeline

      Provisonal interim conclusions

      Given the hiatus, my initial pass through a wide range of programs has clearly stumbled to a halt. Over the next week or so, I will go through the programs that I have already used and allocate scores in the different categories.  Over time (ie slowly) I will add more programs - in particular, a Word Processor group (though I may be slightly biased in that I dislike them all for outlining), Scrivener (once the new version is out), the Google & Paperpile system, and OneNote/Evernote.

      My first, and major, conclusion is one I knew before I started which is that everyone should use the programs that they like best and are most comfortable using. Providing they meet current needs; hopefully the review indicates some needs that won't be met and alternatives to consider if that is the case.

      I have some interim conclusions for my own use. I have a wide variety of currently active projects at different stages: well into double figures in number. With some changes of detail I have, at one time or another, past experience of all the types of work listed above, usually in conjunction with other roles. My visual issues mean that I need programs that can be adjusted to suit me. I like visual methods of organisation and editing and analysing text. I work on PCs, but also on Android, and iOS less often. I have always written happily enough on anything that has come to hand - PCs, mainframes, phones, tablets, scraps of paper, old fashioned typewriters &etc and have used a huge number of programs. I use a multi-monitor array (3 atm - all large - 2 always on) and when I am using sources or reminders, I prefer to have them visible. My experience is that the actual first draft writing stage is the least sensitive part of the process and the parts before and after that are the most. I generally prefer database type solutions to files and folders, although I see  advantages to both.

      My new favourite method of having the necessary information in front of me is to use NoteZilla. Partly because it is very visual and partly because everything is websynced and instantly accessible on any device. It does require some cutting and pasting as I prefer to have everything in a project database, the greater speed and flexibility in use more than compensates for the extra step. It can also be used as a very flexible corkboard for planning. Using this means that the core writing program does not need this functionality.

      My favourite program for the writing stage is now WriteMonkey 3. I can easily get the colours to suit me, I can work on lots of bits at a time and it works well with really long documents. The text folding is a superb aid to in-process mulling which avoids all the scanning up and down (or across parts) that is usually needed. It is, for me, clearly the best program for some work, but I'm not sure whether its advantages make it worth using an extra program in most projects - although it would enable the use of other programs which have a deficient writing module. But Windows only, so mobile use would need cutting and pasting into something else.

      Another program I like writing in is DoogiePIM. (which I'm using for this post). Immense flexibility for organising documents (I have this in a Journal folder). Many other features, but in reality it is just that I like it. The one concern I have about using it for major projects is that it is such a huge program with so many functions. that I worry about committing everything to it. With its predecessors, it has been going for a long time so it should all be OK, and I can use different databases anyway,, but still, I worry. It does very occasionally produce an error message; easy to deal with - just close and reopen.. but still. Again only Windows and requiring another program for mobile use; does have an integrated web browser which could obviate this need.

      The other program that I am trying in personal use is yWriter. This is the program that I would recommend first to anyone looking for a program for writing. Multi-platform. Colours adjustable. Has the usual range of features & tools, writing pane is fine. But ... I like flexibility and tend to complexity; I want extra layers of notes and resources; I want to store snippets that I've parked.. so for some projects I would want a database as well. Designed for novel writing and using it to write a science book would be awkward. Would probably suit the majority of fiction writers very well and has the advantage of very low cost (nil - option for donations).

      The one area where I have no sense of direction is in the central repository/database of all project related information. Contenders include RightNote, OneNote, DoogiePIM and Scrivener. Using files and folders is another option. I need to make an initial decision soon, because the project I'm trying in yWriter is already hitting its limits (my fault, I just want more classes of information than the majority of writers).
      Further thoughts: I don't need anything from the web, so no advantage from OneNote or RightNote/Evernote and Scrivener isn't ready. DoogiePIM would do fine, but this seems an opportunity to try the files & folder approach, which I will do first.

      As can be seen, these are personal interim and tentative conclusions. I am moving from option appraisal to longer term trials.


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

      [th]Own Materials[/th]

      WritersPossible workflowsTransitionsChallenges


      I noticed that there was a large proportion of writing related programs as giveaways in the fundraiser.

      I thought that I might be able to do a comparative review if that was something that might be useful.  I have read many reviews on writer sites, few of which have ever told me anything I wanted to know. Many of which stuck to 'programs for "Writers"' rather than including other programs that can be purposed for similar functionality (or examined how to set up similar functionality using a combination of other programs).

      I have a surprising number of such programs (even ignoring those that I have forgotten or that faded away on their own). I can think of a number of categories:-
      • Typing/Writing space/Word processor - eg Write!
      • Database product that combines the above with the resources for a project and tools to help planning - eg Writer's Cafe, Atomic Scribbler.
      • Software to help guide revision/edit - eg ProWritingAid, SmartEdit
      • Software that prepares ebooks for sale on the major web platforms - eg Jutoh
      I have a lot of experience with the first two, some with the third (I have ProWritingAid) and none with the fourth (yet). Also don't have a Mac, which might be needed to do justice to the fourth, since it wouldn't make sense to ignore Vellum.

      So I'm probably better qualified to do the second category than the others.
      Initial thoughts about the programs I would cover include Scrivener, Writer's Cafe, Outline 4D, doogiePIM, OneNote, Evernote. Not sure about LiquidStoryBinder (2011) or TreeDBNotes (2015) although they are both still being sold. Have PageFour, but not Atomic Scribbler. Also have a lot of others. Happy to co-operate with anyone else who is interested.

      PS I was very late to know about the fundraising  :( - my email address was out of date. Now DC seems to recognise 2 of my current addresses, which must be good  ;D

      PPS My initial idea about doing this came when I realised that doogie|PIM had many of the 'specialist' functions of writing apps such as Scrivener.

      General Software Discussion / Notetaking software
      « on: November 30, 2017, 07:05 PM »
      The great and glorious notetaking software thread seems to have petered out in early 2014 after years of active comment.
      Is it because there's no interest in this category any more (a lot of programs/vendors have certainly vanished)?
      Or that everyone has ended up on a few dominant programs (OneNote, Evernote ...)?
      Or has the fundamental structure been repackaged into more specialist use (Scrivener)? Towards the end many vendors seemed to be frantically chasing a redefinition as personal information databases.

      My preferences haven't changed much, and I still use notetaking software. The big thing that has changed for me is the absolute requirement for multiplatform use. My favourite programs never provided that, so I no longer use them. So almost purely OneNote, Evernote, Simplenote and Keep now. And Simplenote is fading out as I use OneNote more.

      General Software Discussion / High Contrast setting & programs
      « on: June 04, 2017, 05:02 PM »
      I've recently developed what I hope is a temporary visual difficulty when using computers.
      I have ended up trying the High Contrast setting on Windows, and the equivalent on Android & iOS (reverse colours). It has had the much welcomed, apparently usual, effect of improving the legibility of text and reducing eye strain.
      I am much struck however by two things:
      • It is an extraordinarily crude, and not especially effective, way of tackling the problem. Photos are very very strange.
      • Many programs can't be set up to work properly with HC set. Some simply don't work. Some are illegible in parts. Some insist on glaring large white spaces at me, when dark is what I need; it's even worse because everything else is now dark.

      I'm now having to go through each program and app to see if it works well enough in this mode and if looks good and easy to use. Some are very good, some are very poor and most are considerably worse. It's clearly not something that most programmers check out. I don't really see why all programs can't have available themes with dark backgrounds and light text; can't be that hard to do, can it?.

      I'll probably stick to HC going forward since it is easier on the eye anyway, and I will have got used to it and switched to using the programs that work best with it.

      I have a Samsung Note tablet I very much like and use a lot. Use the pen a lot. The only other tablets that use the same technology are the Surface Pro and the latest iPad. When I eventually have to replace my Samsung, I have wondered whether the Surface Pro of the time would be a reasonable alternative. If it also replaced my laptop, it would only be twice the price overall and might offer more convenience in programs - though I have serious doubts about the size which seems unwieldy to use and distinctly not portable. I assume I'd need one of the more powerful models for this use but any comments on this would also be welcome.

      After through Iain's OneNote insights thread recently, I again reviewed my usage of these programs. Didn't want to clutter his thread with my personal issues, so starting my own.

      I have never been much helped by the comparisons on the net because they always seem to be written by people who use one and have a limited insight into the other; compounded by not being familiar with their functionality on all the platforms I use. I've never been expert on either program, which is why I'm happy to learn more, every now and again. But I have used both from soon after they launched (sometimes more and sometimes less) and I have always used both rather one only (have Office365 and Evernote Premium).

      Evernote for clipping, speed and similarities across platforms; visually intuitive and works well without organisation. OneNote for stuff that requires more organisation, or more functionality, and where speed isn't an issue, though often irritated by quirks and omissions; but it does seem to be getting much more corporate love recently with some emphasis on other platforms.

      I also have been frequently  discomfited by the moving boundaries of the entry boxes - not at all controllable on Android - but impressed with the idea of using tables as containers which I think I will find very useful. I still don't find it clipping as well as Evernote, or working so fast, and still seems cumbersome for random and unsorted notes, but I can see myself using it much more. If only...

      .. it's tagging was more functional. So ironic.  :-[ I can remember being one of those who protested when Evernote dumped hierarchical folders and shifted to tags. But now I really appreciate the value of tagging as a system and OneNote's isn't good enough. And  hierarchical folders aren't the same thing. So, with that insight, I've been thinking of moving heavily to a system organised around a tagging hierarchy for everything; still keeping folder setup as it is now.  No problem on Evernote and I can use the same system on OneNote, so far as it is able. And hopefully the same for files using Tagspaces - though I've not used it before and it may fail woefully in practice. Doing that on Dropbox and Google Drive should give me access on all platforms. I certainly won't be organising more than a small amount of stuff in this way, but I can see it helping a lot with many projects, and smooth my use of multiple platforms.

      Living Room / Cross-platform apps?
      « on: September 21, 2013, 05:55 AM »
      Over the years, I've been gradually moving towards looking for cross-platform applications. Originally, it was to provide me with security and a continued familiarity of use when I saw that I might not be on Windows forever and wanted the option to just switch to Linux. Then with PDAs/smartphones: Palm, Windows Mobile, finally settling on Android because it is open (and cheaper).

      But recently I was costing up a possible new business venture and realised that the high-tech solution will work out cheaper (and easier) than the alternative - but the software only works on iPads. So that will be another system to become familiar with and finds apps for. Definitely too much for me to want to cope with and so I really, really want cross-platform usage and easy synchronisation. And for them to work well on large monitors, tablets (7" & 10"), and smartphones.

      I already have multiple cloud storage accounts (not trusting any of them,I make sure that everything slightly important is backed up on to at least 2 as well as a number of local drives). I use Gmail and Google Calendar (mostly through local clients). I have been making more and more use of Evernote.

      I'm not sure if there is any percentage in me using cloud based office apps rather than just saving docs into a cloud account, but can see there are attractions in an Office365 subscription for business use if I have to do iPad too. I'd also look at Google of course; use it a bit already, but not really got into it as I've mostly been happy doing these things on my desktop.

      Are there other apps that people would recommend?
      Local storage is vital, not just stuff kept in the cloud; I don't have access to the internet all the time.

      I can see it could be a big change for me as I will probably have to commit to a change in my working practices, rather than just using stuff that seems best at the time.

      General Software Discussion / web clipping
      « on: June 05, 2011, 07:10 AM »
      I'm just wondering what people are using for web clipping at the moment.
      I've noticed that a number of my previous addons/extensions have stopped working with the latest versions of various browsers (eg ie & FF have broken a few).
      Ultra Recall still works on FF5 but not ie9, Chrome or Opera; of course, it does work in its own browser too;
      Evernote works in everything except FF5 (I assume they will update fairly soon as they seem the most active in updating);
      OneNote works in ie & Chrome, but not FF5 or Opera.

      I use Evernote for bits and pieces. Really useful, especially with the web access & mobile apps, but not for heavy duty work.
      So at the moment, that leaves me having to use the browser that suits the prog I want to clip to (& can't rely on that always working in the future).
      And neither Ultra Recall nor OneNote work in Opera, which is my favourite browser; I am used to that, of course, so I have got used to the inconvenience.
      Sometimes I just use Clipmate or Snagit & organise later.

      But it all leaves me wondering whether there is a better way.

      Living Room / Karen Kenworthy RIP
      « on: April 25, 2011, 06:42 PM »
      I was very sad to hear of the death of Karen Kenworthy ( earlier this month.

      Living Room / Approaches to computer builds
      « on: June 04, 2010, 09:10 PM »
      Having reached the point where I feel I need to build/rebuild a computer for my own use, I reread Superboyac's thread for any ideas & info I might pinch and it struck me how many different approaches there are to the task. My needs/situation are very similar to his, though I do a fair bit of image stuff. Neither of us need gaming rigs and neither of us change computers often. In recent years, my approach has mostly been to go cheap on the basis that I don't need to pay more in most areas and I will only pay more for things I think I specifically need.

      This time I mostly need more speed. I nearly always have lots of apps open and my current computer (only bought as an emergency stopgap 4 years ago, when I didn't have time to fix what was my primary computer - still haven't found time to do it) is getting bogged down. Partly that's because it needs stripping back down & having everything reinstalled (well, on the things I  am still using); I always used to reinstall Windows every 3 years or so anyway, though I've not found it so necessary recently. So that means lots more RAM (the current 2GB tends to be 90%+ used most of the time + the same amount of paging). I have a naive belief that this sort of usage will benefit from as many cores as I can get (not that I'm clear that there is really much evidence for that; and it might well be the number of threads that matters more - and Intel beats AMD clearly there). Image processing benefits from multicores & lots of RAM anyway, especially with increasing file sizes. And moving stuff around will benefit from usb3 & sata3.

      So that leads me to AMD (cheap & good for IG) new chipset mobo & the slow 6 core CPU (I'll take my chance that a fast 4 core would have been more productive for me). 8GB RAM (in 4GB sticks so I can double up later if I need). I can always add a graphics card later if needed. I'll try the integrated sound - and if I don't like it, I can go back to my old relatively high end sound card; will be nice to get my speakers working again.

      I'll probably put them into a very old full tower I have (I can always change it later if I don't like it). I'll start by using HDDs, DVDs & floppy drives I already have (I know there's no need to use floppies, but it is nice to be able to read floppies I might come across). I'll also test the system with a PSU I already have before doing anything else; though I know I will get a new one when I make my mind up which to get. I will also need a new HDD for the OS drive to get the best startup speed; don't like raptors, so am thinking of trying a SSD - but might wait to see what the price of one with sata3 is. I'll keep my monitors, input devices etc. Will install W7 (bought my copy last year & haven't touched it yet).

      So, a very cheapskate & piecemeal approach. Reluctantly buying some of the latest stuff because I believe (probably mistakenly) that I'll get a productivity gain with the new features. The full build will probably spread over a few months & I'll keep it to Linux until I've got it all together. And then I'll add the software (gradually), keeping both computers in use, and then really cut back on the progs on my current computer and/or reformat it and start installing from scratch there too. As I've found in the past, having a spare available can be critical if you have work/deadlines that must be done/met.

      Living Room / CanSecWest- Iphone, Safari, ie, Firefox hacked
      « on: March 25, 2010, 05:45 AM »
      Day One hacks at CanSecWest

      As promised, the iPhone did get hacked, along with the usual suspects.

      Nice to see one of the successful hackers uses Opera for their own browsing  :)

      I have all the versions of Word. And OO. And TextMaker.
      I use TreeDBNotes (& similar) for most things, but am always looking out for a better file editor.

      Noticed that this was coming up.
      Read Zaine's review. But this is newish version (31st March)
      Thought I would look at it.

      Inserted table.
      Looked for controls to edit table (ie add/subtract rows and columns).
      None on right click.
      None on menu.
      None on toolbar.
      No mention in Help.

      Maybe it is there in front of me and I just can't see it.

      Uninstalled anyway.

      Circle Dock / Major impact on Graphics Speed.
      « on: April 23, 2009, 07:28 PM »
      I was testing the ViewingDale (RPG mapping/VTT) application and found that I could not run it despite having a system that should have had no problems (Radeon/Dual Core/plenty of RAM). ViewingDale uses OpenGL and the graphics card.

      On using the ViewingDale Test application, I found that I was running at 4 frames a second rather than the hundreds it should have been at.
      Updated drivers etc, and then started looking at individual processes using the ViewingDale Test App to see what differences were made when I suspended or unloaded various processes.
      Exiting CircleDock moved me up to approx 300 frames a second.

      I do have a lot of icons on the dock (c100 give or take), but certainly wasn't expecting it to be having this effect. Haven't noticed any effect on other progs, but there must be some. May be to do with .net (I have the most recent version), or the Radeon or drivers, or something else in the background. I'm reluctant to go without CD most of the time, but I'll certainly be looking out for any possible impact on graphics.

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