Writing Tools I Can’t Do Without
I recently wrote about the difficulties of blog writing using for the iPad, describing how almost impossible it is to produce a significant quantity of writing using the device.
But beyond the iPad, as a full-time a writer I have found that there are some essential tools that I absolutely could not do without when I’m working at my computer. First off, I‘m one of those writers who grew up doing the age of electric typewriters. Oh the horror of that time compared to now.
Though today’s young generation takes it for granted, the computer itself is a tool that would be very difficult for me to write without. I don’t think I’ve handwritten a page of text in the last ten years. I never look back on those bygone years of handwritten drafts, paper notebooks and the old Smith-Corona typerwriters. In fact I wish they had never existed. The computer is my savior.
So now for the other computer related tools that help me get jobs done:
The desktop blogging client, MarsEdit has been around for quite a while. I wish every piece of online writing I do could be done through MarsEdit. I mainly use it for all my WordPress blog posts, including MakeUseOf.com. MarsEdit makes it easy to write drafts, drop images, links and tags in posts, while providing a backup of my writing when it’s delivered to server side. I manage four different blogs using MarsEdit. Though application has crashed a few times, I’ve never lost an article in the process.
Typinator is one of many word expansion tools that no writer in his or her sane mind would write without. When I start to write an article about say a new piece of software, I create an abbreviation typically for new nouns that I’ll be typing over and over in the article. So for instance, if I writing about “MarsEdit,” I’d create an abbreviation for it, such “msd”, and when I type that those letters they change to “MarsEdit.” I have hundreds of abbreviations that I use a weekly basis with this program.
Because sometime I need to take quick photos for articles I’m writing, Eye-Fi Manger comes in handy because it wirelessly imports photos I have taken on my Canon Powershot G9 onto my computer. I don’t have to pull out the media card to import photos. This is also means I can take several shots and view them almost instantly on my computer to see if the image is what I want. The Eye-Fi Manager media card is a tad expensive, but it’s a great time saver.
I take tons of screen shots on computer, and screen capture applications like Jing and LittleSnapper, and Snapplr, make taking still and video screen shots a cinch. Jing is the best of the three because it includes annotation tools and it provides a free account for posting screen captures. LittleSnapper has similar features as Jing, but I find Jing easier easier and quicker to use.
Page and Word ‘07
When I have to pull out Apple’s Pages and Word ’07 to do extended pieces of writing, the Comment tool is a total life saver. I started using that tool more when writing my Essential Guide to Digital Photography. The tool is even more useful when you have an editor whom must allow to look over your shoulder so-to- speak as you complete drafts. I also make heavy use of the tracked changes features. It’s great way to revise drafts and not worry about losing the original or “deleted” text.
About six months ago, I started using a program called QuicKeys, which I can say cut down the tasks I perform on my computer by a third. I have an entire blog devoted to this and other automation programs. I’m not sure why more people don’t use automation programs, because if they did their time on the computer would indeed be shortened, or least more manageable. I use the program, along with Hazel, AppleScript, and Automator, to automate all the other applications I use on a regular basis, including MarsEdit, Safari, Photoshop CS3, Typinator, Mail, Firefox, etc. This program activates menu items based on rules I set up for it, thus saving me the time of performing redundant tasks.
Slife is a program that I recently started using because I want to better monitor how much time it’s taking me to get articles written. It’s difficult to set rates for my writing if I’m not keenly aware of how long it takes for me to get writing projects done.
Some people thought I bought the iPad because I just wanted the next trendy Apple product. Well, that’s for from it. In fact, if my old trusty PowerBook had not finally died out on me, I would probably waited to get the iPad. But now that I have it, it’s another tool that makes my life a lot easier as a writer. I constantly use it for reading blogs, PDFs, and e-books. And even though I don’t think it’s a great tool for long pieces of writing, I still think I should challenge myself to get out of my office at least once a week and go type in some coffee shop or bookstore somewhere. In fact, I should written this post on my iPad because it’s one that doesn’t require research, and using Apple‘s wireless keyboard would have made it easy to get the writing done. I would also add that the iPhone is a similar device that I use as a writer, but the iPad has been trumped it because it has a larger screen real estate.
There are several other handy tools I use that I might blog about later, but these are my essential ones. Without them, it would almost be liking typing in the age of Smith-Corona.
Image credit: Siomuzzz