Just Another Writing Book – Chapter 2 – Tools – Continued

The Old Fashioned Way courtesy Wikimedia Foundation
The Old Fashioned Way courtesy Wikimedia Foundation

My apologies for the delay. I’ve been somewhat distracted by the start of spring. Yes, our snow is finally melting 🙂

This is my dogs, in the backyard one week ago.

Rose and Kleo enjoying the snow, April 7/2014
Rose and Kleo enjoying the snow, April 7/2014

They were having a great time!

Back to writing…

Minimalist Word Processors

Minimalist word processors come in two types, the basic type like WordPad, TextEdit, and Bean, and specialty programs that do things like block your internet access while you are writing. What type is best for you, you’ll have to determine.

WordPad for Microsoft Windows

WordPad is a replacement for Microsoft Write. It was introduced as part of Windows 95. It has a big advantage, as it is installed as a part of Windows, at no extra cost. It has a huge disadvantage in that it doesn’t include SpellCheck or Thesaurus. It requires very little in the way of system resource to run, making it a good, if limited choice on older hardware.

TextEdit for Mac OSX

Like WordPad, TextEdit comes with the operating system at no extra cost. Unlike WordPad, it has SpellCheck, using the operating system’s built in SpellCheck feature. It also requires very little in system resources to run, and is a good if limited choice.


Whether AbiWord should be part of this list is debatable. While it takes very little in system resources to run, it has a large feature set. It now runs on Linux, Microsoft Windows, ReactOS, Solaris, AmigaOS 4.0 (through its Cygnix X11 engine), MeeGo (on the Nokia N9 smartphone), QNX and other operating systems, which allows you mobility if you wish to switch computer types. It has grammar and spell checking, making it a huge improvement over WordPad and TextEdit.


Bean is a ‘lean and mean’ word processor for Mac OSX. It has a reasonable feature set, and requires very little in the way of system resources to run.


While Bean was designed as ‘lean and mean’ FocusWriter was designed specifically for writers. It is available for Linux, Mac OSX, and Windows.


WriteRoom promises ‘distraction free writing’ for Mac OSX.


DarkRoom is a ‘WriteRoom Clone” for Microsoft Windows.

Google Docs

This is a rather interesting application. While technically it is an online app, if you have Chrome installed as your web browser, you can work offline. I’m writing a collaboration with another writer using Google Docs. While in some ways I find it clumsy, it is free…


All of the above are minimalist, and there are dozens of programs that I haven’t listed. At the end of the next section I’m going to provide a series of links that you might find useful.

One warning: There are so many options you can waste weeks if not months trying things, and not get any writing done.

Think about it.

Specialist Writing Software

This section is fun. I didn’t include WriteRoom and DarkRoom as part of this, because why they are written for writers, they don’t have any writer specific features. All of these programs do, but…

They all have different features. What you pick is going to depend on what is available for your computer, and what requirements you have.

At one point I had the Wikimedia software installed on my Mac as a note taking device. It worked, but was a bit clumsy. What I’m saying is that you might want to consider using several packages. I use EverNote a lot. It’s a great place for keeping notes, especially for something complex, like the Canadian Space Navy novels I’ve been gathering information on for the last three years. Yes, the story (and the technology involved) is that complex.

So, let’s start off with something that has my favourite price – free!


The programmer who wrote YWriter did so because he couldn’t find anything that would do what he wanted. Now Simon Hayes is giving it away. It runs on Windows, and some versions of Linux. I’ve never seen it running, as I do all of my writing on a Mac.


On the YWriter download page, you’ll see a banner that suggests Scrivener for Max OSX users. Scrivener has a really nice Character and Places database, which is really helpful when you can’t remember Rose’s cousin’s friend’s name. Disclosure – I use Scrivener for some things. Scrivener can output ePub files.


StoryMill is another Mac OSX program. It has most of the same features as Scrivener, and the interface looks the same. I has a marginal preference for Scrivener, but the last StoryMill update fixed my earlier complaints about it.


Like YWriter, it is Windows only. I’ve never seen it running, so I can’t tell you about it, but a demo is available.

Writer’s Cafe

Writer’s Cafe is available for Linux, Mac OSX, and Windows. While similar to the other programs listed, it’s got some interesting differences. There is a demo available, which I downloaded, and took a quick look at, and it seems like it has some interesting options.

Pro Writing Aid

This is an online application. I dislike online applications, because they assume that you always have internet access, and sometimes when travelling you don’t. Still it might suit you, so give it a try.

IBooks Author

Available for Mac OSX only, it has one huge problem. There are restrictions on how you can use it. I almost didn’t list it because of that. Basically you can only sell things through the Apple Store, or give them away. Since Amazon is the biggest market, that limits your sales. It’s free however. Read the EULA carefully before touching this program.


This is an oddity. It’s essentially diary software. It works well for what it does, and will allow you to upload your diary to Blogger and WordPress. I’m mentioning it specifically because I sold a story to the Sha’Daa Facets anthology, which was written as a series of diary entries, and I really should have used this for it, since I bought a copy…


Exactly where you decide to go if you decide on using specialized software is up to you. There are programs specifically for screenwriting, programs for technical writing, packages, for just about every option you can think of.

The programs listed above each have advantages, and disadvantages. There are lots of programs that I skipped, in a lot of cases because I just don’t know they exist. Others I know of, but no too little about to comment.

Here are some additional links you might find useful.

2014 Best Creative Writing Software Comparisons and Reviews

Literature and Late Links

Novel Writing Software: the tools you really need

Writer’s Digest Writing Software

Again, there’s probably a thousand links I missed. There’s a lot available, and I’ve been trying to list some of the more common options based on my discussions with other writers.

In the end how you write doesn’t matter. What matters is that you write.


Wayne Borean

Monday April 14, 2014



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