Writing blog articles, e-books, white papers, and even emails take a considerable amount of time and effort. Working through this blog entry, I am employing various tools that make my life easier, and I find that each app I have discovered empowers me as a writer, making the time I spend efficient and my stress managed.
Many inexpensive and free computer apps are designed with writers in mind, but putting together the ultimate collection might feel daunting. Although I use a MacBook Pro, many apps have PC versions as well. Below, I share the tools, links, and descriptions, and if you feel technology-savy deficient, take on one at a time in building your set.
- Dropbox - if you're not using it already, Dropbox is a cloud tool that integrates with many other apps, providing useful icons for toolbars and menus to quickly save documents. The design is seamless, and allows you to create public folders so that you can collaborate on projects when necessary.While other cloud systems serve well, I find Dropbox the easiest to use.
- Evernote - this is a free app used to quickly store most types of information, with many supporting apps, allowing you to save notes, webpages, images, documents, and almost anything might need. When writing, this proves useful to save necessary bits and pieces that you can quickly access and use, and the folder system makes organizing easy. Notes automatically sync to the cloud, and if you have auxiliary devices, there are apps that allow you to use Evernote, providing access to notes made across your devices. You can also draft everything from articles to novels.
- Wunderlist - one difficult job for writers is to order and monitor tasks throughout the week. The beauty of Wunderlist is that it syncs to the cloud, allows you to prioritize, and plans items chronologically. The folder system allows you to organize tasks for many different projects.
- SimpleMind - you might be familiar with mind maps, the method of graphically planning out projects using visual elements such as shapes, lines, colors, borders, etc. They work similar to an outline, but are more visual in nature and easy to manipulate, with nodes or cells. Simple mind aids in generating, planning, and creating projects.
- Flycut - if you use a Mac computer, one of the flaws is the absense of an easy to use copy and paste clipboard. Flycut is a free app that works much like the clipboard in Windows. It functions smoothly, and places an icon in the upper menu to provide easy access. I have tried many other copy and paste apps for the Mac, and none compare to Flycut. The only drawback to this app is that it does not save to the cloud, and therefore, when you shut down, you lose the current clipboard.
- TextExpander - I love this tool which works much like a copy and paste tool, but the items are permanently stored, and they have triggers that allow you to quickly and automatically insert the saved data. TextExpander syncs seamlessly with DropBox, preserves text and formatting, and allows you to generate the key strokes that trigger each phrase, email address, code, paragraph, and page. The examples from TextExpander demonstrate that creating a trigger is as easy as repeating the first letter, so when you type "eemail," the program makes a cute bubble noise and inserts the email address while deleting the trigger. For repetitive tasks and pieces of information that are used frequently, this app is a real timesaver.
- Dragon Dictate - if you are willing to spend a bit of money ($199), this dictation app really speeds up the time you spend typing and writing. While it has a few flaws, Dragon Dictate is much more versatile and useful than the dictation systems provided by both Mac and PC. You can prevent problems with carpal tunnel down the road while increasing productivity.
- IAWriter - often, you need a simple, clutter free space to get your ideas down on the page. This app works great because IAWriter only has basic features, focusing you on words and language without the distractions that might interrupt the process. The app has what is called the "focus" feature, which grays out all text except for the sentence you are writing, forcing you to center on the moment without reading either ahead or behind. Much time is wasted in writing when you reread past sections, distracting you from the task at hand. IAWriter saves to the cloud as well.
- Scrivener - when you have a large writing task, oftentimes you need more features than provided with the apps above. Scrivener costs a bit ($49), but is a complete writing tool ideal for lengthy, complex documents. Scrivener also has a tool that allows you to gray your whole monitor so you focus on the page. You can collect research, webpages, and notes which you can integrate with the writing. Scrivener helps you to organize with a smooth folder system. The app creates notecard summaries, attaching them to sections such as chapters. Scriviner contains almost everything you need to write, and when used with the resources above, the document almost writes itself.
- Vitamin-R - this is an app that facilitates productivity by providing a timer that tells you when you to write and when to take a break, helping you to keep track your time on a project. If you happen to be a procrastinator or someone who is fraught with distractions, this is an essential and simple tool.
These tools can revolutionize the way you write, making you more productive and efficient, allowing you to focus more on your writing and less on auxiliary tasks.