In order to write you need something to write with, write? Er–right? You don’t have to use anything new or fancy; there’s nothing wrong with pen-and-paper, a typewriter, or Notepad. Still, if you have access to the latest technological accessories, you may as well take advantage of them! Here are some of the handy utilities that I use:
Evernote is a great online note-taking service (especially now that they have their cross-platform line-break formatting fixed!). The basic service is free, providing you with a rich-text editor to create notes and organize them by tags or ‘notebook’ folders. You can use it straight from a web browser, or (better yet) download the dedicated application for your computer, phone, and/or tablet, and have access to your updated notes wherever you can get to the internet (and still be able to view what’s on the device where you can’t). When an idea pops into my head while I’m away from the computer, I’ll take a note on my iPhod/iPad, then pull it up later on the PC when writing. Simple and convenient. It also has a variety of plugins to other services, if you’re feeling adventurous.
There are a lot of “cloud-storage” solutions out there these days, but I find Dropbox to be the most streamlined. It’s more of a synchronizing service than an online storage receptacle, which is what makes it so great. You install it on your computer, and it creates a ‘Dropbox’ folder in your user profile (or you can put it anywhere else you want). Then, you just put your writing folder inside that, and use it like normal. Install it on any other computers you normally use, and it will mirror that folder among them – make a change to your draft on one, and it will be made on the rest. Download the phone/tablet application to view your files on-the-go, or access your files from the Dropbox website on computers you don’t typically use. You can even view older versions of the files there that you’ve overwritten. It’s portability, backup, and version-tracking all in one! Like Evernote, the basic service is free, starting you off with 2GB of wiggle-room – more than enough for bookwork. Great stuff. (Psst – though if you sign up with that link you’ll score us both an extra 1/2 GB of space!)
Pretty self-explanatory. A dictionary is always good to have on hand, to check nuance or find a synonym. Dictionary.com has some nice phone/tablet applications as well, which are as free as the website.
As far as the actual writing goes, I use Microsoft Office (i.e., Word 2010). It’s sort of not free. It is, however, the de facto standard, and most people seem to have access to it for one reason or another. If you don’t, Open Office is a pretty popular and plenty functional no-cost alternative, Pages (for you Mac users) is only $20, or if you want to keep things simple, you could always consolidate and just use Evernote for everything! Anyway, say what you will about Microsoft on the whole, but I find Office to be a pretty dang competent product. Like many people, I’ve used it for decades in both a personal and professional capacity, and there’s something to be said about its ubiquity and ease-of-use coupled with the granular control it gives you over your documents.
So, that’s the general software that gets me through the day! Maybe you’ve found some other helpful programs?
Next time, we’ll take a look at the day-to-day writing process. Until then, bene scribete.