Jottings on science, religion, technology, pop culture and faith from the Antipodes.

Digital Technology, Research, Teaching/Education

Writing Tools

Writing is not my default method for communication. I used to dread the start of the school terms because of the obligatory ‘write about what you did in the holidays’ essay. Words do not go onto paper easily for me. As Hemingway said, ‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’

I’d rather diagram material, make lists, use maps, write programming code, and speak to people than write. However, over the years I’ve had to write quite a bit – various theses and dissertations, essays and articles, web pages, reports, letters and so on. Indeed, my writing is what I’m evaluated on in my occupation. It’s not easy for me, so along the years I’ve tried various tools and tricks to make it easier for me.

Word processors made it a little easier to write – I used VIEW on a borrowed BBC micro for a while, as well as a word processor on an Apple II, WordStar and WordPerfect under DOS, and then later when I got a Macintosh I used MacWrite, and for my MSc thesis I imported a copy of Nisus to use for that. I found ACTA on the Mac a helpful way to organize and plan writing, and I’ve used used MS Word in its various forms on Mac, DOS and Windows. My favourite version of Word was Mac Word 5.0 – it was quick, unencumbered by ‘features’ and was reasonably stable. It ran well on an old Powerbook 150 which was my writing tool of choice while doing my BD.

I’ve used other writing tools to assist – EndNote for bibliographic management, Inspiration for a bit, whiteboards, various bits of note-taking software, and my favourite keyboard for writing – the Microsoft Internet Keyboard Pro. These have all helped with the writing process, as have various approaches to breaking up writing projects, but writing is still hard work.

In the last few months I’ve inherited an old iPad and keyboard which I’ll be doing some writing on, and I’ve been looking around for software to that will help me with that. So here’s a few of what I’ve found useful in the process:

In the end I’ve end up installing a variety of things to try out but it looks like the core ones are going to be iaWriter for just blasting text out, Pages for the odd 1-2 pages of formatted text, Office2 HD for when I’m working on MS Word documents with comments and track-changes, and the Google Drive app (for Google Docs and HTML).

However, all of these might all disappear (or at least be used less frequently) from the iPad when the iPad version of Scrivener comes out. I’ve barely touched the surface of the Mac version of the app (or the PC version) but it’s broken my writer’s block on a number of projects, can integrate (after a fashion) with EndNote, and allows me to organize my documents and resources exactly how I like.

Writing is hard work, but the Scrivener software is the best thing I’ve found so far for how I work, and then I use Word etc. to make any minor changes etc. if required.

The Scrivener Facebook page is good for getting ideas on how to use it, and I was intrigued to see this idea there – How to Use Scrivener to Organise Your Bible Study | ChurchMag.

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