Sunday, November 24, 2013

Writing Software.

Tree Sheets

Despite the title, this month's free software choices are not simply for writers. But they are worth mentioning because they can potentially save money and time. I admit being prone to play with new gadgets and ideas. My time savers can soon become time wasters, if I'm not careful. So when I read the recent reviews for Tree Sheets--another planning/ list making/to do tool, I was skeptical. Nothing the matter with my "to do" lists in Word, I decided. But I couldn't resist taking a look--and I love it.

It took a little time reading through the interactive manual which teaches you the system as you go. Even using it in its simplest form, I have found it fun to use, it saves me time and I am whipping through my lists of work to be done much faster than I would normally. This, I suspect, is because it is more than a list maker. It allows me to plan as I go and so speeds the writing process.

To do list with Tree Sheets

You can create grids of any size. The squares expand to  fit text and you can insert new grids inside the squares, add photos, and organize your ideas in an order to suit you. I find it far more flexible and faster to use than Excel or other spreadsheets and think it will be excellent for planning not only daily tasks but also book outlines.

It creates a tree-like mind mapping structure for your thoughts.
You can download it from the site above or from sites like Softpedia or Cnet.

Office Solutions

For writers disillusioned with the ubiquitous Microsoft Office, there are several free office suites constantly updating and improving and coming closer and closer to challenging the MS programs.

Open Office has had recent upgrades and the newer Libre Office is well worth looking at. Both are compatible with and can save docs in Word formats. Libre Office, I believe, may work better with the Word Track Changes function beloved by e-book editors. I have downloaded it, like the new templates for its presentations, and joy of joys, it is not clashing with anything else on my computer.

Worth a look especially if money is tight. 

Create an Online Comic

This might be another way to plan a book or picture book. Comix I/O is an online cartoon generator which is a great way to get to grips with learning html -- very useful to know when it comes to building your own websites.

It looks a bit daunting but try Geek Gurl Diaries #17 on You Tube, a quick six minute video on how to do it. I'll add my comic clips once I've practiced a bit more lol

My browser settings are not compatible with the editor feature but I can work around by copying the html into Notepad, changing the text there and then saving the new version with the html suffix--i.e. I save as mycomic.html in the new title box. Remember to keep a .txt version too to be able to change the text again.

Any problems, let me know.

But please leave the links to your creations in the comments below and share your opinions on any low-cost or no-cost software you find particularly useful.

 Anne Duguid is a freelance content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and she tries to pass on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers 


  1. Annie, great list of freebies. I've used Open Office in the past and loved it. Haven't used it in a while, but would definitely give it another try if the occasion arises. I have so much trouble with Word's Track Changes. I hadn't heard of Libre - might be worth looking into that.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Karen,
      yes Libre Office comes from, I think, a splinter development group who left the Open Office folks to go their own way. I have not used it consistently but it runs smoothly with the rest of my software while Open Office for some reason was sticky and slow. It has also been updated though and I certainly like having lots of choice as I probably won't be updating my MS Office suite any time soon.

  2. Tree sheets and the online comic creator look like so much fun, and I'm already a big fan of Open Office. I'm going to have to have a play.

    1. WARNING--comic creator is bad for your planned productivity. lol
      I spent far too long playing with it last night and this morning...
      But I do like Tree Sheets. Hope you enjoy it, Maggie

  3. Quite interesting. I'm seeing a need for some kind of tracking to keep track of character names, ages, and characteristics.

    1. Heidi, I think you could make it work for that--it's very versatile. Something like the Access database would perhaps be good too and Libre Office has one called Base. You can use a wizard to create the table if you haven't used databases much before and there is one called contacts which also has a notes section so you could use that for the characteristics.
      I'm still using the index cards in a shoebox, lol and I did once meet a very successful crime writer who produced sheet after sheet of mind-mapped A3 paper to track her characters...

  4. Great post! I am going to share this one with others.

  5. Very interesting set of options. I am saving this post and will give it a go. Thanks

    1. Hi Linda, thanks for that. If the comic creator works for you, it will be fun. Otherwise it's a bit of a brain stretch to work out the code :-( Let me know!

  6. Very interesting set of options. I am saving this post and will give it a go. Thanks

  7. Annie, thank you for an intriguing list of new "stuff". I love it. I can see some potential for promos using the comic creator, as well as a potential time-guzzler! :-) The other two look good as well. I'm going to look at them all.

  8. Hi, David, Glad you like the post.


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