Current favorite writing apps

by Robert Daeley

I tend to go through phases when it comes to the programs I do my writing in. Everything from bloated word processors to the geekiest of text editors will at one point or another have me in its throes.

What I’ve found recently is that as my writing life is fragmenting into a myriad of different projects, my writing toolbox has grown to encompass several different programs at the same time. Unconsciously at first, now on purpose, I’ve begun using several individual applications as distinct writing “areas,” where before I would likely have been using only one or two apps.

For example, I've contracted my use of favorite journaling program Journler by Philip Dow from being a catch-all repository for blogging, fiction, research, and personal journal to “just” the personal journal.

Journler has blog-editing capabilities in its current version 2.0.2, but I had some difficulties getting some of my more specialized site configurations to work (Drupal, especially); I eventually got the blog authoring app MarsEdit to work.

As I mentioned here recently, MarsEdit was handed over from Brent Simmons at Ranchero to Daniel Jalkut at Red Sweater. I’m looking forward to seeing what advancements Daniel makes, but for the time being MarsEdit has become my blogging environment, from which I post to ten different sites. Version 2.5 of Journler is in beta, tentatively scheduled to be released mid-March and promising a host of great improvements, so I might revisit this arrangement soon.

Simple writing isn’t the only necessity for me — research and “knowledgebase building” is another activity where a specialized application like Gus Mueller’s VoodooPad becomes invaluable. The ease with which a wiki can enable accumulating and cross-relating of info is awesome, whether it’s for administrative procedures at work or as a mini-encyclopedia for my latest fictional world. Powerful stuff.

The super-popular TextMate by Allan Odgaard has become my great all-around coding environment, for everything from HTML to Python. And thanks to the “Edit in TextMate” addition, I can pull text from just about any Cocoa app and edit it in TextMate.

Mere outlines in OmniOutliner is the least I can create — organizing and brainstorming is what I love doing in this program. And I can’t wait to check out the upcoming productivity app OmniFocus.

I haven’t purchased one yet, but there are a couple of apps I’m trying out for writing fiction — so far, I’m enjoying Scrivener more, but Avenir is still making my decision difficult.

GUI Phase

This is definitely a GUI phase I’m going through. I’ve spent time in CLI phases, with pretty much everything going through Vim.

What I’m finding rather amusing about all these programs is a tendency for at least some of them to move toward a common set of features and technologies. Wiki-like links. Smart folders. Full screen modes. Tabs sprouting everywhere, even in Vim!

But given this, why shouldn’t I keep it all in one application? Wouldn’t that be more efficient?

Efficiency

Well, efficiency isn’t always the most important thing, especially with all this computing power at my fingertips. Taking that old-school limitation away, why not run six apps instead of one?

The way I’m operating now is almost like the Contexts from Getting Things Done — having discrete repositories for different kinds of writing helps me to focus.

What I won’t say is that this is the best way to operate for me, forever and ever. I’m sure in six months or a year, I’ll be in some new phase, maybe doing all my “writing” via podcast. ;)


9 Comments

scott
2007-03-03 18:56:09
Substitute "thrall" for "throes" in first paragraph.
Tom
2007-03-03 21:53:34
Unfortunately I feel like I need to pare down the number of different writing apps I use, but each one has it's own unique features that make me keep them around.


BBEdit, Aptana - Managing my web site and churning out quick HTML code.
Omnioutliner
NeoOffice - I wrote my last book with this and am migrating my teaching materials into it from Appleworks and Pages. Version 2 is quite snappy on my G4 Powerbook. Invaluable for opening all of those MS Office docs everyone insists on sending to me. (I send PDFs unless otherwise required.)
MacJournal - Great for those personal thoughts.
Pages/Keynote/etc. - I'm not using them much, but I'm interested in their progress with each new version. (Plus, I get the education discount so it doesn't cost me an arm and a leg to try them out.)


On the CLI side, I fall back to vi/vim. My muscle memory is mapped to this editor from way back. (I will, however, point out simpler, mode-less editors to my students as necessary, such as nano and mcedit.)


Pete
2007-03-04 07:09:37
I'll probably take a look at Journler, but as an Englishman it is important to find a word processing program that can spell 'colour' properly.
John Davis
2007-03-04 07:42:58
What's wrong with TextEdit? It loads quickly and does most of what I need. When I need complex formatting, I shift over to Pages, but TextEdit does it pretty well.


Yours sincerely,


John Davis

Grant Jacobs
2007-03-04 12:34:22
While not a writing program in the sense of typing stuff in, Nisus Thesaurus is excellent and free.


Like Pete, programs that can't spell "The Queen's English", or at least the common man's version of it, gets to me... this applies to New Zealanders, Australians; basically all of the former British Commonwealth. Its a big market to "overlook"!

pugilist
2007-03-04 19:48:33
as an academic i'm always trying to find the best way to write my papers...i've been trying Scrivener for brainstorming/creating and then Mellel for final layout and adding of references.
Philip Dow
2007-03-05 04:27:59
Hi Robert, just a heads up. Although the upcoming Journler 2.5 includes more fixes and features than you shake a stick at, it does not include improved blogging support. You've made the right decision to use MarsEdit for blogging. At some point I'm going to take a crack at the blogging apis via an improved plug-in framework, but it will be a few versions.


I do think you'll be happy with the 2.5 changes though. All manner of good stuff here.


-Phil, Journler Developer

matt
2007-03-05 09:28:39
time for some more horn tooting. Those of you who are already hardwired to use vi might want to check out viAllOver, http://www.dabble.org/viallover/. viAllOver makes cocoa text fields behave more like vi. a new release is coming soon i've still got a few things to work out yet. some of the new commands include, '/', 'u', '.', 't', 'T', 'f', 'F', 'J', visual mode, and improved 'w'. with any luck i'll have the new release up in the next few weeks.
matt
2007-03-05 09:31:43
time for some more horn tooting. Those of you who are already hardwired to use vi might want to check out viAllOver, http://www.dabble.org/viallover/. viAllOver makes cocoa text fields behave more like vi. a new release is coming soon i've still got a few things to work out yet. some of the new commands include, '/', 'u', '.', 't', 'T', 'f', 'F', 'J', visual mode, and improved 'w'. with any luck i'll have the new release up in the next few weeks.