Writing

Building a Writing Environment with Notebooks, RightNote and Scrivener

As we hit the end of the year, I think I have all my writing tools sorted out. I’ve been going out trying all sorts of different things, but I think I have it locked down now. As it stands I’ll be using Notebooks for Windows, RightNote and Scrivener.

Most of the writing I do will start life in Notebooks. It’s a simple but very effective text editor that gives me a hierarchy to organize my topics, but doesn’t get bogged down with formatting and styles. When I’m trying to put an idea together there’s no point in worrying about how it looks, that is the final step. It also gives me the ability to work across platforms – Windows, Mac and iPad. Notebooks is also a great way to take notes on the iPad and then sync them up to the desktop where I can expand and refine them.

More complicated, multi-part or sensitive documents will be handled in RightNote. This gives me access to the formatting tools of Word, spreadsheets of Excel and note taking with security like OneNote. Of course it’s costs a fraction of the Office price, takes a fraction of the hard drive space and doesn’t come with thousands of features I will never touch.

Document storage and archive will be done in Scrivener. It has a great editor and will be used for research documents and multi-part documents. It will also show me everything I’ve written for the year and will help put together longer fiction pieces I have in mind. Like the other tools, it has great organization features and put a clear focus on writing, not formatting. Almost all of my writing is published to the web so formatting within the editor is pointless. And if I need to do post-production, I would prefer to use something like PagePlus which is actually designed for desktop publishing.

On the surface it may seem like I’ve made things more complicated, but I think I’ve streamlined the writing process. In most cases I will only use one of the tools. Rough ideas will be handled in Notebooks so I can write, read and edit at home, at work and on my tablet. From there, most files will be imported into Scrivener so they can be grouped together. This will make it easy to post blog articles since I don’t have to worry about formatting and embedded characters.

If I have a rough idea that turns into something bigger, it will go into Scrivener so I can see how the parts fit together and then generate the proper output. However, in all cases, since these apps support a hierarchy, I’ll know what I’ve worked on and can see the topics at a glance rather than having to search through folders and open multiple files to try and find the thing I want.

I believe this is going to be a much simpler process and will keep me organized and focused.

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Getting the hang of Scrivener

Now that I’ve completed the tutorial for Scrivener, I’m starting to get the hang of how this application works. In some ways it’s like OneNote as well as AllMyNotes Organizer and RightNote. In fact, it seems to pull in bits and pieces from a lot of familiar apps. In simple terms, there is a tree/folder structure and an editor. And unlike other tools, like Word for example, the focus is on writing, not formatting. That’s one thing I really like, there’s not some over powering, all encompassing, ever intrusive ribbon of formatting and view options that just gets in the way.

The first order of business was to build a structure and import some old writing into it. That was actually quite easy now that my articles have been copied out of OneNote and turned into .TXT files. That was actually done with the help of Notebooks for Windows.

Since these are all older works, my goal was to basically archive them in one place where they could be easily organized and referenced. So far, that’s working quite well. Moving forward, I already have another Scrivener project put together for 2016 with folders related to particular topics. While this is actually quite neat, In many respects, this isn’t really the right way to use Scrivener. Sure, it can be used as a document warehouse, and there’s no reason not to, but it’s really meant for writing longer documents such as putting together lengthy pieces of fiction and non-fiction like books or manuals. For the moment, I’m just trying to organize what I already have and use it as a Binder for the future.

And while I’m not writing a book, at least not at the moment, I can see exactly why people turn to Scrivener. It really does move in the direction of writing small pieces and then “compiling” the finished product. I’m going to practice writing blog articles and when I’m comfortable enough, I do have another, much larger writing project in the works. Some friends and I are working on fiction pieces for Shroud of the Avatar. I can already see how Scrivener will help organize, sort and build the final product.

I also plan to use Scrivener for the “free writing” I do on a regular basis. These are ideas, observations and snippets for later projects that I toy with through the day. I do a lot of writing just for fun and it will be nice to hold them all in one place organized mostly by the month they were written in. Since I can add labels, it will make ideas easier to find so I can expand on them later.

I don’t know if Scrivener will be my daily editor of choice, at least not yet. I have both the Windows and Mac versions so it’s certainly possible, but some of the day to day tasks might actually fall to Notebooks for Mac. It’s just an editor, plain and simple. It has a folder structure, but, at least the way I use it, I just start writing without worrying about where it might fit, or even if it does fit, into the overall structure of what I was previously working on. Sometimes I just get an idea and want to run with it without thinking too far ahead. Those ideas could then be imported or synched into Scrivener and I can go from there.

Once thing I have noticed, and this is simply a result of the development time, there are quite a few differences between Scrivener for Mac and Windows with Mac clearly having the most features. The basics are all still there, but some of the finer tuning doesn’t exist on the Windows side yet. I prefer the editor in the Mac version.

However, I’m really starting to take a shine to Scrivener. It’s taken me awhile to make a commitment to using it, but I can see why writers ditch Word and switch over.

Another benefit will be I can go back and compile everything I’ve written on the whole or on a certain subject to see what topics I covered and how much content it was. I’m always curious as to what really goes into a blog over the course of a year.

So yes, my plan of moving away from OneNote is in full swing.

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Posts by Pico – A quick review of the blog editing tool

I’ve worked with Posts for a little while now, enough to form an opinion of how it works. And overall it’s a pretty nice little program that has a lot of features going for it. With a couple of simple feature fixes, it could rise to the top of the blog editing software pile and hold it’s own against the likes of Blogsy and Poster.

Here are several of the features I really like:

The thumbnail view of articles is pretty nice. The titles show up in large print like a slew of newspaper headlines.

It supports multiple blogs both from WordPress and Blogger.

You can edit and post comments from within Posts itself.

The editor is very efficient. You can use formatting such as H1, Blockquote or Pre tags. You can insert links, indent, add images, select the publicating date, set the Category and Tags as well as jump into the HTML editor to fine tune the formatting.

You have control over inserted images such as the size, Alt Text, Tooltip and how it wraps around the text. In essence you get the same control as you would expect from something like Windows Live Writer.

Now, no program is without flaws and Posts has just a few:

The ability to picks tags needs to be improved. You can’t start typing and then select from the list of matches. You have to scroll through the entire index.

The HTML editor seems to add a lot of extra spacing to the output. How that would show up when actually published I don’t know, but there was too much spacing between paragraphs.

The editor doesn’t have a quick way to set text as a List. I wanted to set the text above to be a bulleted listed without using the HTML tags.

The comment font is almost too small to be readable. The same editor used for articles would be an improvement.

The main editor doesn’t seem to use the same autocorrect features that you would see in most other apps. Or is that because of the wireless keyboard?

The main editor doesn’t scroll when you reach the very bottom of the screen. You have to tap it to see the last line of text you’re writing.

Overall, I think Posts is a very good blogging tool and in fact this article was written with it on my iPad using the wireless keyboard. Hopefully the price won’t return to the $9.99 as that is just too damn high for a blogging tool, especially when other tools are coming in at $4. Also, considering some of the functionality that could be improved, it would be wise to keep the price in line with other apps. At $9.99 you’re in the same league as Pages and the two apps done even come close to each other in refinement and functionality.

That being said, for the Free pricetag I paid I believe I will be using this blogging tool more and more. I hope to see more updates from the author and look forward to an improved feature set. Anyone else grab this tool during the price drop? What do you think of it? Anyone able to make comparisons between Post, Blogsy and Poster?

Check out more screenshots and information on the Pico Developer Site

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