Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Few, Free, Nifty Programs

I tend to do all of my work on the computer, from brainstorming to the first draft to the outline, my correspondence, my research. True, I don't limit myself to Google (or Bing) since I have access to a number of academic databases.

I know, I know. I'm spoiled.

To tell the truth, sometimes I do need to get off my chair and reach for an actual book and leaf through the pages, either in a concerted search or at random, just to jump-start my muse.

But otherwise, I rely on free (freeware and opensource) software to do my work.

For word processing and other office-like work, I rely on OpenOffice.Org
Open Office. I can save documents in Word format and open them on just about any computer anywhere I need. From their website: 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.
I add to that a little dictionary and thesaurus that works from inside most word processing programs. On my computer, I can highlight a word in my OpenOffice document, click on the WordWeb icon in the taskbar, and get an instant definition and extensive synonym screen for that word.

Word Web

Word Web is also available in a for-pay, "Pro" version.

From their website:
WordWeb is a comprehensive one-click English thesaurus and dictionary for Windows. It can be used to look up words from almost any program, showing definitions, synonyms and related words. It includes pronunciations and usage examples, and has helpful spelling and sounds-like links.

Next, I like to keep track of word count, chapters, scenes per chapter, POV characters, and other structural elements with yWriter from SpaceJock Software. The creator of the program is a writer himself and yWriter continues to evolve as the creator refines it for his own needs. Big thanks for sharing it with us. Check out his sci-fi comedies while you visit his site!


From the website:
What is yWriter?
First, and most important, yWriter is FREE to download and use!

Second, and still rather important, it's a word processor which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. It does help you keep track of your work, leaving your mind free to create.

For Web browsing, I use Firefox

Is my browser of choice. For the occasional site that doesn't work in FF, I don't switch to Internet Explorer, but instead, I use a Firefox add-on that allows me to run pages in FF as it was Internet Explorer: IE Tab.

For my email needs, I use Thunderbird
I receive all my mail from my AoL account and from my web host in one place and I can keep track of my correspondence. The only thing I find awkward and haven't been able to solve so far is the interface with Yahoo! web mail. But since most of what goes to Yahoo is also forwarded to one of my other mail accounts, I'm OK.

One final cool thing to subscribe to: something I learned about from fellow writer Delilah Devlin. It's a site that will send you a "Giveaway of the Day", a program to download and install within a given period of time. Those are NOT freeware programs. They're full-featured, for-pay programs available to you for a short period. You get to read about them, and make up your mind whether you want to try them. Check it out here: Giveaway of the Day.


P.L. Parker said...

Always interested to find sites that make using the computer easier. For non-techy people like me, easier is always better.

P. L. Parker

Ingela F. Hyatt said...


I love your program choices...

After much frustration with both MS Word & WordPrefect, I decided to try OpenOffice and I LOVE it. It works great, the files are unbelievably small (my ms in Word is almost 2Mb, where as in OpenOffice, it's only 300kb). I also love the fact you can download add-ons like foreign language dictionaries. It's a great word processor for sure.

I'm just now trying out Thunderbird because I can't STAND Windows Mail (totally sucks!), especially since I have twenty email address and I don't want them all in one inbox! So far, I really like Thunderbird, but I'm still in "test drive" mode.

I did not know there was an add-on for FireFox so that webpages appear as they do in IE. Will definitely have to check that out.

Have Word Web on ALL my computers and love it.

And I will definitely have to check out yWriter...

Gee, your my kind of author... LOL

Thanks for posting this great article.

Ingela F. Hyatt

SFWriterMasha said...

P.L., that's why people like me like to take them for a ride. Mind you, if the learning curve is too steep, I won't spend hours and hours trying to figure out a program! The computer is supposed to serve me, not the other way around!

Ingela, you're my kind of writer, too! Playing with the computer while working on the computer, isn't that the best of both worlds?


Rebecca J. Clark said...

Hi there,
Thanks for the recommendations. I'm definitely going to try OpenOffice, although I'm really bummed that it won't write the book for me. That would save me so much time.


joanna aislinn said...

An excellent, succinct source of handy info to have :)

Thank you!
Joanna Aislinn
coming January 15, 2010
The Wild Rose Press