Speaking of “writing toolkits”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2006/07/07/enhancing-that-toolkit/ I know I always appreciate it when writers share the tools they use in their writing, so let me lay out my toolkit and let you pick and choose what tools, if any, you’d like to add to your own set:
*Fiction Writing Tools*
- Word Processing Software – when I have to, I use Microsoft Word to write my stories. However, my preference leans toward a couple of open source ((For the uninitiated, open source means that the software is free. It also means that the software is open to anyone and everyone to modify and upgrade, so open source software is constantly under new and better development, with new features coming out almost every day.)) packages that do everything Word does, just without the cost (and often with a lot less hassle). One package that I use is “OpenOffice”:http://www.openoffice.org/. It’s a powerful package that does everything that the Microsoft Office suite does – and in some ways it does them better. OpenOffice is also now available as a “portable application”:http://portableapps.com/apps/office/suites/portable_openoffice. ((Portable applications require no installation on a computer, as they are intended to be run directly from a flash drive.)) I have also found “Portable AbiWord”:http://portableapps.com/apps/office/word_processors/portable_abiword to be very useful, since I often don’t need anything more than a lightweight word processor.
- Dictionary/Thesaurus – This next resource may not be readily available to everyone. I upgraded my “Palm Pilot”:http://www.palm.com/us/ about a year ago, moving from the M100 to the Tungsten T5 (which apparently Palm already doesn’t produce anymore). With the newer Palms comes a memory card slot, so I quickly purchased the “Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Franklin Thesaurus Card”:http://store.palm.com/sm-merriam-websters-collegiate-dictionary-eleventh-edition-expansion-card–pi-1392481.html. This tool has been invaluable since it easily and compactly places a full dictionary and thesaurus right at my fingertips. If that doesn’t work for you, though, “dictionary.com”:http://dictionary.reference.com and “thesaurus.com”:http://thesaurus.reference.com work just great. I’ve used these references innumerable times over the past several months.
And I think that’s actually it for my primary fiction writing tools at the moment. I’m sure I’ll add more as I go along.
*Blog Writing Tools*
Now when it comes to writing for my blog, I have several different tools.
- The Platform – I’ve been a huge fan of “WordPress”:http://wordpress.org since I discovered this past November. I’d been looking for something with WordPress’s power and flexibility, so I was almost euphoric when I found it. I already had my own hosting service, so it was no trouble at all to upload and install the software. And upgrades have been totally painless. As a platform for public writing, WordPress is first-rate. ((If you don’t have or can’t afford to purchase a hosting package, then “WordPress.com”:http://wordpress.com is probably the way to go.))
- File Uploads – For getting files to my server (images, PHP files, etc.), “Portable FileZilla”:http://portableapps.com/apps/internet/ftp/portable_filezilla is the way to go. Again, open source and portable, as well as exceptionally easy to use.
- Trackback – One of the powerhouse utilities that I absolutely love about a lot of blogs these days is the ability to send trackbacks and notify other bloggers that you wrote something about one of their articles. WordPress can automatically contact sites and post the trackback, but sometimes things go a little wrong and the trackback doesn’t take. Enter “Wizbang Standalone Trackback Pinger”:http://www.aylwardfamily.com/content/tbping.asp. Just fill out the form, submit, and if the result shows a ‘0’, you’re golden. Trackback sent. It’s a beautiful thing.
- DarkRoom – I’ve just “discovered”:http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/wordpress/?p=2256 a full-screen editor called “DarkRoom”:http://they.misled.us/dark-room for those sessions when all you want to do is quickly pound out text without getting distracted by things on your computer screen. I haven’t had a chance to fiddle with it yet, but it looks promising.
Those are the big ones. I have a handful of other, more situation-specific tools that I use from time to time, but since they tend to be more for geeks and less for practical, everyday use, I’ll save them for the honorable mentions list another time.
What tools do you use on a daily basis for your writing? Extra credit is given if it’s an open source application.
*Update:* I’ve tried DarkRoom, and I really, really like it. Give it a whirl. I think you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll get done.