When writing for publication it’s important to be aware of various computer programs that will support your efforts. Here is a list of several programs, each with its own unique features and benefits.
Microsoft Word is the venerable standard, used by probably 99% of writers worldwide. (Seldom do we receive a manuscript on author-me.com that isn’t in the doc or docx format. Of course, a writer can originate in another program and save in this format.)
From a writer’s point of view, Microsoft Word is excellent for text and permits complex and helpful provisions for notes and tracking of changes by an editor or a group of readers. It provides the ability to link documents to web pages and handles graphics in a basic (but sometimes inexact way). Styles are helpful. Not so good is Word’s inability to evenly space words in full justification and its ghastly attempt to produce html-coded web pages.
Adobe InDesign provides a far more professional ability to do spacing and to set precise graphic and graphic treatments. However, with Adobe’s cancellation of support for their writer-friendly program PageMaker in 2007, Adobe has left normal writers behind. Sadly, in recent years Adobe favors higher-end users (who have more money to spare) and seems to have abandoned the rest of us.
Help and Manual is a little-known program ostensibly meant for writing help manuals for software. This program has the potential to do much more, however, and is unique in providing excellent integration with web design (html and xhtml) and transparently permits users to convert documents to website, eBook, and ePub formats, permitting on-line changes to all formats from the same source file. In doing this, it goes beyond the export formats usually offered by writing programs.
Final Draft Screenplay is a specialized program for writers hoping to have a screenplay considered for an award or actual production. The program helps writers use the standard formats required for such submissions. However, please note that other considerations will be important and it’s best to check with the Writers Guild of America for further ideas.
Scrivener is a more recent entrant in this area. This clever program isn’t needed if you can simply write your novel or essay from beginning to end. However, recognizing that most writing consists of “chunks” that can be moved, and massaged, Scrivener permits a writer to store, display and retrieve sections and references as if they were cards on a giant “corkboard”. Further, going beyond the very basic outline features in Word, Scrivener joins a history of great outlining programs from Apple and helps writers who are willing to use outlines to organize their thoughts (and, incidentally, to seek balance in the emphasis given to various sections of a manuscript). This program also rivals others in its ability to export a manuscript in a wide variety of formats.
When it comes to writing, choice of a computer program is not the basis of success. However, for those who realize that writing can be a drag, there’s special admiration for programs can help with motivation, planning, and finishing our work.