What is the Perfect Writing Environment?

by Micah Dubinko

Related link: http://dubinko.info/writing/xforms/

It's hard to find much information on tools that authors use, especially technical book authors. Here's one data point,

  • Paper is my first resource. I outline the whole book and individual chapters on regular blue line paper. Illustrations too begin their life on paper.

  • Zoot: I keep all kinds of electronic notes and Web clippings in a program called Zoot. I really like the ability to instanly search through scads of information.

  • SoftQuad XMetaL is one of the most useful pieces of software I've ever used. With the help of some DocBook lite CSS from Steve Muench, I was off and running.

  • Linux ...but Windows XP, which came with my notebook computer, just wasn't cutting it. Or rather, with far too many crashes and other annoying behaviors. So out it went. New computers these days don't come with OS installation media, which makes dual booting rather difficult, so...

  • Win4Lin from Netraverse provides a complete Windows environment inside a...window. It's quite breathtaking to see your first Blue Screen Of Death that goes away with a click on the window close button.

  • Wireless 802.11: like having a spare office.

That's what I'm going with. I'd love to compare notes, so freel free to Talk Back. -m

What writing tools do you use? Drop a note here to compare.


2002-08-02 09:43:41
Open Source Alternates
Zoot was a new one on me, but I find I can best keep track of my gigabytes of notes using the Rememberance Agent from http://rhodes.www.media.mit.edu/people/rhodes/RA .. it only works with Emacs, but that's because only emacs provides the sorts of hooks you need to integrate pre-emptive search into your WP.

An almost alternative to SoftMeTaL might be the XXE processor -- I haven't given it a huge trial because I was lacking the CSS for Docbook: Can you post a URL for that? Like many un-wealthy writers, I find that Emacs psgml-mode may be ugly and clutter the page with (colour-coded) SGML tags, but it does the job, lets me use spellcheck or grammar filters or whatever else I like, it lets me fold in Rememberance Agent, ... and it's OUR software, something we can own and control, and not where have our years of back pages held at the mercy of SoftQuad or some other vendor.

2002-08-02 13:21:12
DocBook lite stylesheet
Here's the stylesheet I'm using:


If anyone has improvements, send 'em along. And if you know of any DocBook editor applications not listed at http://www.docbook.org/wiki/moin.cgi/DocBookAuthoringTools
please update that page (it's world writable)