Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog)
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Tools for writers and editors

May 16, 2014

Tags: tools, productivity, timesavers, LiveScribe Echo Pen, Evernote, EndNote, Typinator, Dragon Naturally Speaking, Doodle, EventBrite, SignUp Genius, Scrivener, ifttt, Dragon Naturally Speaking

Updated 6-15-17, 5-26-15. Tools (some free) that writers and editors I know find useful: LiveScribe Echo Pen (and cheaper options), Evernote, EndNote, Typinator, Doodle, EventBrite, Scrivener (lots of features mentioned here), Audacity, Dropbox, AwayFind, ifttt, Dragon Naturally Speaking, I'll start with the most dazzling:

• .Our mouths fell open when Beryl Benderly demonstrated her LiveScribe Echo, it worked so beautifully. A genuinely helpful recorder-pen-and-special- paper combination for taking and reviewing notes from lectures and interviews, and, using those notes, to find a particular point in audio recording. Combines a microphone for recording audio, a speaker for playing back audio, and a camera in the tip of the ballpoint pen, which queues up with that point in audio. As you review your notes, tap one word from part of the interview you didn't catch and it plays back audio from that point. Watch/listen to this C/Net review. It is smart enough to know when you start a new page, but it is expensive.

There are 2 GB, 4 GB, 6 GB and 8GB SmartPens, and you must purchase special notebooks on which to write, plus cartridges that are smaller than usual (easy to lose so you must replace them more often); and you have to charge the device daily. If you tend to lose pens, this could be an expensive proposition. (Good gift for a college student.)

If you look at the comments on the various Livescribe pens on Amazon, you will find some low ratings and many unhappy customers among the happy ones, for reasons that seem to include: battery doesn't last and isn't replaceable; ink refillers are tiny and seem to dry up quickly; how-to manual is terrible and so is customer service; comfort of holding pen not ideal; the Livescribe Sky is better at syncing than the Echo; etc. (At least one journalist also runs a digital recorder, as backup, at the same time she uses the pen--and odd things can happen if you use your pen hand to do something else, like rub your nose.) Read those notes before deciding which pen to buy.

Alternatives to the LiveScribe SmartPen as note-taking devices include SoundNote (iPad's note-taking device), Notability, and AudioNote, a notepad and voice recorder you can download to your PC.

• Evernote (not to be confused with EndNote) allows you to gather and share project notes, images, story ideas, text, web clippings and so on. You can then search for them on your laptop, cell phone, smart phone, and other digital platforms. C.K. MacLeod has posted A 5-Minute Guide to Evernote

• EndNote (not to be confused with EverNote) , software for managing and formatting bibliographies, citations and references. The UNC library offers its students this helpful comparison of EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley, and Zotero

• Typinator (Ergonis) Use it to create a boilerplate paragraph you can paste into email messages, letters, scripts. (Thanks, Sam Greengard.)

• Doodle , an online scheduling tool for finding a date and time that works for many participants. Eliminates much of the headache and time previously consumed with a flood of emails. I use it often.

• EventBrite, a fairly robust way of selling tickets --to an event, a webinar, a seminar, etc.

• SignUp Genius

• Scrivener , an excellent organizing tool for writing novels and nonfiction. Lets you collect notes and backstory, fragments and large chunks of text, research, and images as one project.

You can import images or research files that sit next to your text (as reference material), eliminating the need to switch back and forth between windows.

You can lay out scenes or chapters as note cards, which you can move around on a "corkboard."

Other features: layout templates for novels, short stories, and screenplays; split-screen capability, so you can have notes or an outline etc. above and text below; and a full-screen feature that lets you cover up everything onscreen but the text (hiding distractions such as Facebook).

Can help you compile chapters into ebook formats, exporting your writing to .doc and .rtf formats, so you can move what you've written into MS Word.

Every time you close your project, it saves a backup; next time you open it, it opens where you left off. Go through the two-hour interactive tutorial to make best use of Scrivener.
For Mac users only, check out Storyist, a powerful story development tool for novelists and screenwriters. Particularly useful: How to Publish on Amazon with Storyist. See also:
• Scrivener: An Introduction to Scrivener (useful for both Macs and PCs)
• Scrivener: A Quick Review of How it Works and Some of its Coolest features. (YouTube, Karen Prince, 12-13-14)
• Scrivener For Dummies by Gwen Hernandez
• Retrieving a Backup File in Scrivener (C.K. MacLeod, Tech Tools for Writers)
• Scrivener: a Great Tool for Professional Bloggers (Sharon Hurley Hall, GetPaidToWriteOnline 5-2-14). And here is her review of Dragon Naturally Speaking, which she uses to dictate drafts and avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
• Writing: Scrivener as a Complete Blogging System (Thaddeus Hunt, 8-4-13)
• Using Scrivener For Blogging: The Ultimate How To Guide (Bryan Collins, Become a Writer Today)

• Three Things Scrivener Can Do You Probably Haven’t Thought Of (Jann Alexander's blog, Pairings, 1-22-17) Take dictation, find the words you overuse, and convert web pages into text.

• Audacity , free, easy-to-use, multilingual audio recording and editing software.

• Dropbox , for storing, backing up, and sharing files across devices and with other users (with a user name and password). Helpful for sharing photos and files too large to send by email.

• AwayFind . Get away from the clutter in your email, and let urgent email find you.

• PDF Creator. PDFCreator is a tool to create PDF files from nearly any Windows application: If you can print a document, you can use this tool--say you have a text that you want to send as a PDF instead of a Word file. See review on CNet, , where you can download the software.

• Multitasking your e-services with ifttt. This If-Then productivity software lets you double-task. For example, if you send an email, ifttt also saves it as a note in Evernote; if you tweet something, it saves the tweet in a tweet file. Here are some ifttt recipes

• Dragon Naturally Speaking. This dictation and voice recognition software comes in handy when you want to dictate and let the software type for you, but it has to be trained to your voice and speech patterns, which makes it less than ideal for automatically transcribing interviews (two or more voices). Still, it has improved greatly over the years. Some writers swear by it, but some haven't been able to make it work for them. See PC Magazine's review and be aware that there are many versions--12 is most current at this writing.

See also
• The best tools for writers and journalists (NextWeb)
• Nine Handy Online Tools for Writers
• Five Best Productivity Methods (Lifehacker)
Dropbox versus the world (J.J. McCorvey, Fast Company, 3-30-15). This is a company profile, but in passing it explains the principles of cloud storage, which can be mighty helpful.

Comments

  1. March 22, 2016 11:52 AM EDT
    Another tool to consider is the proofreading tool PerfectIt Pro (as C.K. MacLeod blogs about it), one part of which is Consistency Checker (a free proofreading tool).

    Editors: You may also want to consider a broad range of macro tools and editing software, simple programs that allow you, with one or two keystrokes, to automate tedious search-and-replace tasks and other mind-numbing copyediting chores.
    - PM