Useful Free Tool for Writers

I downloaded the trial version of Scrivener a couple of years ago, but at that point it all went completely over my head. So many people seem to love it so much that I downloaded it again recently, and after completing the tutorial realised that it isn’t all that complicated and quite a brilliant tool. I don’t think I’m going to keep it though, because it seems limited when it comes to inserting images for eBooks, and I quite like using Microsoft Word. When the new 2010 version arrives at the end of this month there will be a whole lot of useful new functions for us scribblers to use too, including having multiple browsers viewable on your desktop simultaneously. My favourite things on Scrivener are the corkboard and the ability to open two different documents at the same time. I already can, and do, open and work on two documents at the same time with Word though – very handy, and I use a simple but also very useful software called AllMyNotes. It’s a free download, so just click on the name if you want it. Go to the download page and select the free version.

It’s not specifically created for writers, but it serves me as my “corkboard” when I’m writing. All you do is create a folder for each project, and also for the private things on your computer that you want to be able to access quickly. Then you create separate notes within each folder for all the things you need. For instance, you could create one for links to any research material for your book elsewhere on your computer. You can insert tables, add pictures, or just type in the text that you want. Say you create a note for characters, another for timeline or locations and scenes, one for ideas, and another for your launch preparations, when that folder is open you get a corkboard effect and you can find what you’re looking for in seconds, rather than having to trawl around looking for and opening another document. (I’ve temporarily deleted my notes for the screenshot because this isn’t published yet, and I don’t want to be clouted for lobbing spoilers around) Click on images to enlarge for a better view.

Untitled

If you’d like to see if this will benefit your writing life, then install it and play around, and then just uninstall if you don’t like it. When you set up your first folders and notes, right click on each one to choose an icon for it, like the light bulb for ideas, or the book for the folder itself. You get to play around with the colours and backgrounds, and you can move them around by clicking and dragging. Drag the corresponding note into the folder. Sometimes I drop them in the wrong place, but that’s alright, just click and take them back to where they should be.

You can set up the amount of columns and rows in the tables, and also drag to adjust the width, so for your characters note you could have things like hair colour or species all in one spot side by side. I find this a fabulous help for my sci-fi/fantasy series, and list things like a particular alien’s looks, name, home planet, particular abilities and other things that are easy to forget, especially in a series. I have three separate outline notes for my full length books, one for the beginning, and others for the middle and end.

All My Notes

If you’re writing non-fiction, or even fiction that you have a lot of research notes for on your computer, make another note for that, and using the link feature it takes a second to hyperlink, and when you click on it, it opens the document straight away, without you chancing getting distracted while looking for it yourself. This is not something you’re going to have to invest lots of time learning how to use – you’ll get the basics immediately, and find more uses for it as you go along.

Obviously this is no replacement for a great writer specific programme like Scrivener, but not everyone fancies paying the forty odd dollars it costs, and in my case, I prefer total control, using Word for eBook creation, and All My Notes for my corkboard and everything else. It’s really easy to use, so if you sometimes find yourself wishing you could have all you need for writing your book right there at the click of a button, give it a try.

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20 thoughts on “Useful Free Tool for Writers”

  1. Confused! I thought this post was BY Jo Robinson, or so it seems to say. I have tried to master Scrivener five times and I mean doggedly read the manual, take the course, and although I fell in love with what everybody promises it does , small things like accessing symbols, foreign words etc take so much time I end up again going back to Word. So the idea of ALL MY NOTES as an alternative seems brilliant because it was the organisational aspect that I so need. Thanks a million. Will now download and experiment.

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    1. It is me Philippa. 😀 Did you manage a clean download? I’ve changed the link to the actual AllMyNotes site – you just have to click on the download page and select the free version. It’s better because it gives a nice overview of things you can do with it. I spent just about a whole day (taking notes too) having at Scrivener before I understood it, and it really is fabulous. I’m very tempted, but I don’t want to have to use two different processors, and I think that Word is perfect once you know how powerful it is. I’m with you – I’m only interested in the organisational bit really – the Word side by side docs and other bits are alright for me.

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      1. The download was easier than almost any encountered. I have created lots of folders ( all at present empty) but if you were to see my desktop and email ‘drawers’ you sure would understand why I need it!. Sorry about your recent dreadful experience, more than unsettling! Not sure I could live anywhere where one needs to lock a door, let alone live behind bars. Feel for you.

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        1. Excellent! It doesn’t take long to populate them as you zoom along. I reckon you and I have bulging email drawers in common too. 🙂 I would create word documents with research too, and then totally forget about them, until after publication when it was totally too late. I love this little programme because it gathers all my scattered bits. Thanks Philippa. It’s all a bit surreal. The forensics and CID people managed to crunch bits of fluorescent tube glass all around the house, and so far it’s meant tossing out a really nice carpet and spending way too much time on my knees with sticky tape. Definitely taking a more violent approach to self-protection now though.

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  2. I read about Scrivener and bought it through an offer for half the price. (App Sumo can come up with some Amazing stuff sometimes) but I still find it quite complicated, and I’ve been using Word for years. I did use it to write the last book in the trilogy but kept saving into a separate word document and did all the edits there. I must try the AllMyNotes because it sounds very useful. Thanks Jo!

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    1. If Scrivener had an easy way to insert quality photos for recipe books and so on, and a one step route to an easy ncx toc I’d be all over it. It really is a lovely place for a writer to play. I don’t want to write fiction in one place and the non-fiction in another, so I’ll stick to Word. What is App Sumo? I love AllMyNotes because you can turn it into anything you want to. I keep it open when scribbling, and then it literally takes seconds to zoom over to anything I’ve got stored on my computer research-wise. Hope you’re having a wonderful week! 🙂

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  3. Thanks for this Jo. It’s really helpful. I tried the free download of Scrivener but didn’t get on with it at all. I really needed someone with me who knew how to use it helping me. Then I might have understood.

    As it was I just didn’t have a clue of what to do. So I gave up. But this tool you’ve shared with us sounds interesting. I will give it a go. And like you say if I don’t get on with it, it doesn’t matter cos it’s free! 🙂

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    1. Pleasure Elaine! Scrivener really isn’t easy at all, although I think it must be really useful when you’ve used it a while. I don’t think it’s great for non-fiction with images, and I’m not keen on the importing and exporting bits either. This little freebie is quite powerful and quick, and doesn’t take too much time to get to know. Have fun playing with it. 🙂

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      1. Well I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s struggled with Scrivener! So many writers I know rave about it and I end up feeling like I’m missing out.

        Anyway I think for me in terms of whichever programme I use for my writing, simplicity is key.

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  4. I have both Scrivener and AllMyNotes. I prefer using AllMyNotes, because I use it for everything. Scrivener is a great too for pulling all together, but I love using MS Word with AllMyNotes.

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