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Last post Author Topic: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)  (Read 20998 times)

rgdot

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #100 on: December 15, 2018, 03:14 PM »
True, it is an aspiration and I believe a cut down version is ok, syncing events for example with note taking. For example Resources personally I wouldn't even want an online/sync/cloud anything for it. It is arguable that Messages and Vault can be handled better with a standalone for a smartphone.

IainB

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools - User Requirements Analysis
« Reply #101 on: December 16, 2018, 07:36 AM »
@Dormouse: Where you write:
...For maximum use a review also needs to address the needs of all types of writers ...
I couldn't agree more.   :Thmbsup:

As a longtime and keen writing tools user and PIM user, I have had my eye on this discussion thread since it started, and whilst I thought the list of the supposed candidate types of users was worth developing, I couldn't find where a URA (User Requirements Analysis) had been tentatively drawn up for that hypothetical population of users - though I suppose I could have simply missed it, of course.

A URA would usually be the project artefact where the explicit needs and priorities of that hypothesised population of potential user candidates was catalogued/defined in a pukka User Requirements document.
Essentially, a review of applications software for Writers Tools (or PIMs) would need to identify the criteria used to establish which specific user requirements were able to be met, and to what extent, by which applications software in the scope of the review. It would not be correct to call this the same thing as a comparison of features.
Experience indicates that failure to do this effectively will likely result in a now all-too-typical nebulous review of the sort that gets discussed at great length on sites such as OutLinerSoftware.com, for example (and DCF), ultimately apparently leading nowhere in particular.

Unless you are happy to tread down the same old path (which I wouldn't recommend), I would suggest some work be put in now to a collaborative effort (you mentioned collaboration earlier) to draft up a URA. There's an existing and relevant template here (overlapping CHS and PIM user requirements) that could be used, with some of the blanks already filled in, so please feel free to copy it and its method and invite us (i.e., any interested DCF denizens who may feel so inclined) to address specific parts in a collaborative manner.

Hope this helps or is of use.

Dormouse

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #102 on: December 16, 2018, 09:01 AM »
True, it is an aspiration and I believe a cut down version is ok, syncing events for example with note taking. For example Resources personally I wouldn't even want an online/sync/cloud anything for it. It is arguable that Messages and Vault can be handled better with a standalone for a smartphone.
I'd agree, but the developer has a lot of options about which way he'd want to take an Android version, so it's hard to know what it might do.

Dormouse

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #103 on: December 16, 2018, 09:52 AM »
I thought the list of the supposed candidate types of users was worth developing, I couldn't find where a URA (User Requirements Analysis) had been tentatively drawn up for that hypothetical population of users - though I suppose I could have simply missed it, of course.
I've not even considered it before. And, tbh, they're all pretty heterogenous groups.

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

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

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

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

IainB

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools - by the numbers.
« Reply #104 on: December 16, 2018, 04:09 PM »
@Dormouse:
Ahahaha, sorry to have wasted your time then. I shall go back to sleep now.
I guess what people might actually need to do and what sort of data types they would need to capture etc., aren't necessarily a concern from your perspective as they would be from mine. It's just the way I have been trained.
I am accustomed to "doing it by the numbers" and looking at a client organisation's fundamental business and user requirements and defining them before going into an RFT (Request for Tender) process to identify what vendors out there might have software that can meet those requirements.

Actually, I don't think I've ever done an "angels on a pin" count before, though, from experience, that could be a good analogy for the Information Engineering approach!   :D
I suppose I might have to do it if I did a project for a religious organisation (excepting the Scientologists, who I gather count "Thetans", or something).
No, the only things that count in my dull universe are (off of the top of me 'ead):
  • Business requirements (Business Case).
  • Budget.
  • Collect/define User Requirements.
  • Tender process:
          * Issue RFT.
          * Receive Tenders.
  • Study each tender to establish degree of fit between requirements and provider functionality that meets those requirements.
  • Assess the likely effect of using the software in the key workflow processes (including any necessary re-engineering) and on resource requirements and process timings, throughputs and efficiency.
  • Assess the extent to which quoted initial and operational costs of the new system are within budget allocation.

I never 'ad to bother me 'ead about such as them things wen I were a programmer an' the only things as I ad' ter count then were register values in binary an' octal ... no, life were a lot simpler then...    ;)
« Last Edit: December 17, 2018, 07:25 AM by IainB »

Dormouse

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #105 on: December 16, 2018, 06:21 PM »
I guess what people might actually need to do and what sort of data types they would need to capture etc., aren't necessarily a concern from your perspective as they would be from mine
...
  • Collect/define User Requirements.
It's not that they're not a concern, but simply that I believe that there is so much variability in need, and so many scenarios, that it's an impossible task. If you think it can be done, then it's well worth (you) having a go; I'm happy to add where I can.
An example of the variability is that my visual requirements have become an absolute requirement, but it's not the sort of thing that's likely to have been put on a list of needs for any generic group.

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

cranioscopical

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #106 on: December 16, 2018, 09:02 PM »
no work flowing is quite common
Time to take a turn around the block?

Dormouse

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #107 on: December 17, 2018, 07:09 AM »
no work flowing is quite common
Time to take a turn around the block?
-cranioscopical (December 16, 2018, 09:02 PM)
;D

IainB

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #108 on: December 17, 2018, 10:09 AM »
(a) On Collect/define User Requirements:
  • It's not that they're not a concern, but simply that I believe that there is so much variability in need, and so many scenarios, that it's an impossible task.

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

(a) Yes, that was kinda the realisation that I was pushing you towards, without wishing to put it to you in a negative way.
Your project scope would seem to be infeasible for that reason.
I would also suggest that there's no "believe" about it. From experience, a brief analysis of the candidate groups and likely business processes would indicate whether the combined task of analysing respective group workflows (processes) and making a URA to an adequate level of granularity for each group was feasible. You have an elephant there, and the optimal approach to analysis and study of it would have been to break it down group by group - which you are apparently not intending doing.
 
(b) Ditto - that was kinda the realisation that I was pushing you towards, without wishing to put it to you in a negative way, though "workflow" probably needs definition - e.g., (say) "a process that does XYZ and is at CMM Level 3 or higher would be feasible for URA."
Again, your project scope would seem to be infeasible for that reason.
Again, you have an elephant there, and the optimal approach to analysis and study of it would have been to break it down group by group - which you are apparently not intending doing.

On ergonomics (human visual perception), you write:
  • An example of the variability is that my visual requirements have become an absolute requirement, but it's not the sort of thing that's likely to have been put on a list of needs for any generic group.
I suspect that you couldn't be further from the truth. The study of the ergonomic needs of users of video screen output and who have vision/perception difficulties (visually impaired or of different visual ability) - and even for different psychological disorders -  has identified/built a wealth of knowledge and understanding and user requirements standards relevant to the ergonomic needs of some generic groups. This knowledge is sometimes of crucial importance to the proper design efficiency and effectiveness of mission-critical systems in the fields of computer operations rooms, graphics design workstations, on-board military and aviation systems, military war-rooms and aviation control applications, for example, but since (I think) the days of CDC's Plato software it has also been applied with very good results to programmed learning systems, particularly children's (e.g., such as the one's my now 8 y/o son uses online through his primary school).

The trouble is that system developers who have not been involved in developing such systems have rarely received any training in the use of applied ergonomics in systems design, so most commercial software developers are relatively ignorant (don't have the foggiest idea) and thus oblivious to the wide potential need for such knowledge and feasibility of application of same.

Your response: "An example of the variability is that my visual requirements have become an absolute requirement, but it's not the sort of thing that's likely to have been put on a list of needs for any generic group."
 - is thus a pretty typical mis-perception of this nature, probably largely due to the availability heuristic.

My ergonomic needs are usually uppermost (and that could probably be true for most users, were they but aware of it) and before I use/trial a new app. I invariably head for the options panel for application settings  - for view/fonts/background colours, etc.
For example:
« Last Edit: December 17, 2018, 10:39 AM by IainB »

Dormouse

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #109 on: December 17, 2018, 10:53 AM »
(a) Yes, that was kinda the realisation that I was pushing you towards, without wishing to put it to you in a negative way.
...
(b) Ditto - that was kinda the realisation that I was pushing you towards, without wishing to put it to you in a negative way,
How very condescending of you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dormouse

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #110 on: December 17, 2018, 10:56 AM »
My ergonomic needs are usually uppermost (and that could probably be true for most users, were they but aware of it) and before I use/trial a new app. I invariably head for the options panel for application settings  - for view/fonts/background colours, etc.
For example:
But that's for you. Makes no difference to me. Individual differences. That's the point.

wraith808

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #111 on: December 17, 2018, 11:42 AM »
My ergonomic needs are usually uppermost (and that could probably be true for most users, were they but aware of it) and before I use/trial a new app. I invariably head for the options panel for application settings  - for view/fonts/background colours, etc.
For example:
But that's for you. Makes no difference to me. Individual differences. That's the point.


That's usually what it comes to in the end.  And assuming that your method is better than someone else's method is folly.  Just as different people learn in different fashions, different people process work in different fashions.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  Only with use do you tend to find out what's right for you.  Blindly following someone else's methodology is a good way to get frustrated quickly.

IainB

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #112 on: December 17, 2018, 05:11 PM »
@Dormouse:
...The trigger for me in starting this review was the irritation from years of reading reviews evaluating software, usually only a few at a time, by comparing feature lists &etc, but never finding these reviews helpful for my own use. ...
Yes, that seems to mirror my experience also.
Which is kinda why I wrote:
Experience indicates that failure to do this [URA] effectively will likely result in a now all-too-typical nebulous review of the sort that gets discussed at great length on sites such as OutLinerSoftware.com, for example (and DCF), ultimately apparently leading nowhere in particular.
However, I feel that I have already had at least some value from this discussion thread as it has prompted me to trial doogiePIM (out of curiosity), which I don't recall ever having come across before - or maybe I had done and had forgotten about it, though its name is not very forgettable.

Dormouse

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #113 on: December 17, 2018, 05:41 PM »
Individual differences. That's the point.
That's usually what it comes to in the end.  And assuming that your method is better than someone else's method is folly.  Just as different people learn in different fashions, different people process work in different fashions.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  Only with use do you tend to find out what's right for you.  Blindly following someone else's methodology is a good way to get frustrated quickly.
Agree completely.
My hope is that the review might give some people getting stuck ideas they may not otherwise have had. Or consider programs they might never have considered. And that those people might be outside the more common definitions of writers. There won't be a best program, or a worst. I will give ratings for different aspects, but they will be very (but hopefully not completely) subjective. although I hope there will be enough information for people to see where I'm coming from.

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

ital2

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #114 on: December 21, 2018, 06:41 AM »
E.g. for RightNote: "Organisation: Multiple outlining options", and then, not so good for creative writing.

There a catch: You should not get to conclusions without mentioning the technical details which get you there.

For example, RN is one of those db-based 2-pane outliners which do NOT offer item / sub-tree cloning ("live" duplication, i.e. not copying, but replicating them to other branches); such critera are very important / decisive, so not mentioning them in part invalidates such, should I say "comparisons"?

Then, the "discussion" in this thread has become meandrous, as far as I'm concerned, but I'm ready to admit that even the original purpose of this thread would have been an impossible one, "writers' tools" being too much of a scope, since it would include any sorts of adjacent tools, too, whilst there's obviously not enough room left for the core applications, and even there, the core concepts ain't that much individualized.

(I've said it on the outliner forum recently, any text's striving, texts beyond say 1-page, and even that's debatable, should be for its optimized construction, that paradigm implying, of course, that in due course of optimizing construction, lacks in topic development should become evident, and should be handled, too.)

But whatever, the core problem with such tools is the fact that most characterists in them are implemented in a resolutely "me-too"-fashion, not taking account of writers' needs, so...

I'm not going to steal my, and yours, time, by dissecting, e.g., an application like "Final Draft", but you see, even the name of the "game", the application's name, indicates that it has never been devised for intermediate stages of writing, but in order to stay "competitive", they add all sorts of crap to it, making believe possible users that they could do construction work, too, with that application, which of course isn't true but to a really imagination-crippling degree, and as for quite another kind of writing, it's appalling of course that some application as UltraRecall isn't able to let you replace some term, "book"-wide, project-wide, sub-tree-wide, let alone file-wide, with some other.

And that's not even speaking of above-mentioned RN and other applications which are me-too from a to z.

Thus, any imaginable "comparison" is an elude in frustration, but that's not a reason for leaving out core criteria to begin with, I'd say.

Dormouse

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #115 on: December 23, 2018, 06:33 PM »
This is a real world example of the issues above as I consider my options as I'm about to go into a new project (I usually have a number on the go at the same time, often at different stages). Early brainstorming & mapping out stage, which will move on to planning and organisation. Don't know complexity level yet, but it will be a single piece 50-100k in length; not heavily research based. I prefer visual, so that reduces options.

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

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

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

Dormouse

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Re: Comparative Review of Writers' Tools (INITIAL DRAFT)
« Reply #116 on: December 26, 2018, 07:01 AM »
Just starting early development for another project. Need to do it mobile. Prefer to use tables for this stage. Which brings me back to Evernote (advantage - quick to use pre-prepared templates) and OneNote (advantage - organisation).
Any form of plotting/structuring comes later. I can do the beginning on either with freehand writing, but like to use a corkboard or mindmap after that and wouldn't use either at that point.