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Really Useful Links for Writers: All About Technology

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Paul FitzSimons

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If this week I sound like I’m repeating myself, it’s probably because – for the most part anyway – I am. It’s because I’m talking computery-stuff, specifically how it might help us writer-types. Christmas is only 6 sleeps away and with the hope that there’ll be a new laptop or iPad under your tree, I figured I’d go through some of the accessories and software you can add to make your writing life easier and a bit more fun.

The most important software to have on our computer is, of course, the word processor – we’re probably all pretty familiar with these. MS Word is the most popular and with good reason, it’s been around in one guise or another for twenty years and is the best developed package to have. It’s not cheap though – the bargain basement ‘Home and Student’ version is €120 – so it is a great relief to know that there are free – and just as feature-packed and user-friendly – alternatives out there.  In fact, Investintech.com was able to come up with ten free alternatives to MS Word, which it goes through in some detail.

If you’re a writer for stage, screen or radio, simply having Word or one of its alternatives might not be enough. As I mentioned a few weeks back when I was talking about writing movies, one of the most important aspects of any script is its correct and professional formatting. So if you’re writing, or are planning to write, a script, the best option is to get your hands on some scriptwriting software. I mentioned Final Draft last time but it’s not the only choice.

Celtx is the most well-known free alternative, it’s not quite as slick as FD and takes a bit more getting used to (it did for me anyway) but works brilliantly once you get into it.

You can also use the scriptbuddy.com website to write your script. This is web-based software which of course means you need to be connected to the net to use it. But it also means that don’t need to download anything on to your computer – handy if you’re short on disk space.

And if you do want to use MS Word for your scriptwriting, you can do that by simply creating or adding templates. On the Animation World Network website, Jeffrey Scott guides us through the process of creating our own script template for Word.

My software discovery of 2012 was Scrivener but I rather fell out of love with it this year.  Having held it at arm’s length for quite some time, I eventually dove in and found a brilliant program, ideal for building a novel from the ground up. It’s cleverly designed , offering us a project ‘binder’, which has sections for plot development, characters, research notes and, of course, your chapters. It’s also very intuitive – once I had committed myself to it, was up and running in a few minutes. I wouldn’t necessarily go about moving an existing book into it (as in moving chapters from Word, chapter outlines from Excel etc) but if you’re starting a new project, it’s definitely the one to use. And it’s only around forty quid as well, a bargain.

Unfortunately, the slowness of the Scrivener’s mammies-and-daddies to bring out an iPad version had been a source of continuous mild-annoyance for me. What I like about  writing is that, thanks ever-evolving technology (ok, or a notebook-and-pen, you Luddites), writing can be done anywhere. but if I spend the significant time developing my novel on Scrivener on my big-heavy-PC at home, I can then only work on it on that same big-heavy-PC, not up-a-mountain, rafting-down-the-Mississippi or drinking-latte-in-a-posh-coffee-shop.

That said, Scrivener still has a lot going for it. At literatureandlatte.com, they go through all of Scrivener’s features and show why you probably will be using it. and hopefully we’ll see the iPad app in 2014.

And if you do plan to do some writing on a spanking new iPad over the Christmas (come on Santy, be nice to the poor writers), I would definitely recommend the DocumentsToGo app. It has a feature-packed word-processor and can do most of the important stuff that Word does (Text formatting, Find-and-Replace and the all-important Word-count). It also works seamlessly with cloud-storage services like Dropbox. As apps go, the cost is above-average at €10 but compared to Word, it’s a steal.

And to go with your novel-writing app, there’s the accessory every iPad-using writer must have – the Bluetooth keyboard. This essentially turns your tablet into a laptop but, in fact, adds very little weight. And it means you can whip out your iPad in the aforementioned posh cafe and do a bit of writing in style and comfort.

Some of the well-known brands offer these keyboards but, in this writer’s opinion, they’re exorbitantly priced. I’d recommend having a look at Ebay (do a search for IPad keyboard), where even a cursory glance will show you a variety of keyboards with an array of design and price options. I recently bought one, which was a leather(?) case and integrated keyboard for around €15.00, and it was delivered in about three weeks.

Over on CNet.com, Scott Stein goes through some of the iPad keyboards on the market.

And that’s all folks, for today and for this year. Hope my musings over the last few months have been of some use (or least some entertainment). Have a good Christmas etc. and talk to y’all again in 2014.

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” –  Gloria Steinem.

It Doesn’t Have to be Microsoft.

Investintech.com’s list of alternatives to MS Word.

http://www.investintech.com/articles/tenwordalternatives/

…or Final Draft.

Celtx is the most popular free scriptwriting program.

https://www.celtx.com/index.html

Be my buddy.

Or you can use this web-based software to write your movie.

http://www.scriptbuddy.com/

But Word has its uses too, I suppose.

Jeffrey Scott’s advice on creating scriptwriting templates.

http://www.awn.com/blogs/screenwriting-jeffrey-scott/how-turn-microsoft-word-terrific-screenwriting-program

You’ll never look back.

LiteratureAndLatte.com’s rundown of the features of Scrivener.

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

Turning your iPad into a lean-mean-writing-machine…the software.

DocumentsToGo is the word-processor to have on your iPad.

https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/documents-to-go-office-suite/id317117961?mt=8

…and the hardware.

Scott Stein fills us in on the options when it comes to ‘keyboarding’ our iPads.

http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-31747_7-20091329-243/keyboarding-your-ipad-best-keyboard-cases/

But Don’t Forget The Bay.

You can find unbranded (but just as high quality) iPad keyboards on eBay.

http://www.ebay.ie/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=m570&_nkw=ipad+keyboard

About the author

(c) Paul FitzSimons

Paul FitzSimons is a screenwriter and novelist and has written the novel ‘Burning Matches’ and a number of scripts for film and TV. He has worked as a storyline writer on RTE’s ‘Fair City’. His short stories are published in ‘Who Brought The Biscuits’ by The Naas Harbour Writers. Paul likes crime thrillers, good coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate. He doesn’t like country-and-western music or people who don’t indicate on roundabouts.

Paul also runs the Script Editing service Paul | The | Editor.

paulfitzsimons.com

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