Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Writer Roundup: Microsoft Word

This week, I'm touching on something so ubiquitous in the modern writing world that it honestly didn't occur to me until now that I might want to do a feature on it. And, for once, my big, main selection isn't free. I, the master of frugality, am recommending that you pay for something out of your wordmonkey pittance of a salary. This week is word processors and for me, Microsoft Word is the alpha and the omega.

And it's not just because of my personal feelings. In general, if you intend to publish your work, it will probably, at one point, have to be in .doc format. It's just the way that the publishing industry works.

But aside from that Microsoft Word has been around for quite a while, and that's let it learn a few tricks. Aside from being a moderately simple word processor (Honestly, you don't normally touch 80% of the tools provided in the program.), it has Track Changes. Nowadays, most word processors have a Track Changes feature. This lets you (or someone else) make changes to a document without deleting the original, so that you, the author, can make a decision on how to change things, or whether you should change them at all.

Word's Track Changes feature is just better. I've tried many over the years, but Word's is the most user-friendly, the simplest, and the clearest. It may not seem like a big thing but, at least for this writer, a good, reliable Track Changes is very, very important. And Word also has a decent, though not perfect, spell check (I wouldn't trust the grammar checker a far as I could throw it, however… and given that it's just a string of ones and zeroes, that isn’t far.) and is very easy to use for basic formatting changes (Alignment, font size, italics, bold, et cetera.).

The biggest downside, of course, is the price. It's… steep. Not Photoshop steep, but steep for what amounts to an electronic sheet of paper. But I wouldn't switch to another program for a hundred bars of chocolate. And that, my friends, is saying something. I do love me some chocolate.

As always, there are alternatives. The big competitor is Scrivener. It's billed as a tool specifically for fiction writers. It includes planning and organizing tools for your notes, your plots, your chapters. All that good stuff. Personally, though? I can't stand Scrivener. A lot of my writer friends use it, and it works wonders for them. I just can't. It makes me want to throw things.

Another program that I recommend, despite my somewhat checkered past with it, is Open Office. And this one's actually free. It's designed to fill the void for people who can't get their hands on Microsoft Office for whatever reason, and it can actually save files in .doc format. However, I have had issues with it changing formatting when saving in a foreign file type like that. Putting whole paragraphs in all caps and such like that. I've also talked to a lot of people about that, and I seem to be the only one who ever had that issue. So take that as you will.

Aside from those big three, there are some interesting little processors scattered around, including Word's former competitor, Corel WordPerfect. You won't hear much about it anymore, but it still has a fairly faithful following. It's really not that much different from word, aside from having more control available for internal formatting and saving as a weird file type no publisher will touch. OmmWriter is one of a new school of word processors, designed for meditative writing and, theoretically, to help you enter the all important flow state. And another one I found and intend to play with is Q10. Perhaps that will, at long last, unseat Word as the crux of my writing. We'll see.

Any word processors you love that I missed? Let me know, and be sure to subscribe for more, and to see how my relationship with Q10 goes.


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