Friday, January 22, 2016

3 Software Tools for the New Year

Today I'm wrapping up our series on people/places/tools that help our writing by sharing three software tools I like to use. I don't have a poem today, but at the end of this post, I've provided a link to this week's Poetry Friday roundup.

1. Scrivener 

Some time ago, I mentioned that I was giving Scrivener a try. Some call Scrivener (from Literature & Latte) a word-processing program, but it's so much more--it's a powerful software tool for drafting, editing, and organizing all types of writing, including fiction, nonfiction, scriptwriting, and poetry/song lyrics. After taking advantage of their very generous 30-day free trial (which counts only actual days of use and not calendar days), I went ahead and bought a copy. Scrivener has many terrific features, but my two favorites are the Outliner mode and the Corkboard. Here's a snapshot of a sample corkboard from the Scrivener website.

Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies (Wiley & Sons), shares what she thinks are Scrivener's Top Ten Features here. She includes the ability to set and track writing targets on her list, and I definitely agree!

If, like me, you're on a tight budget, before purchasing, be sure to do a Google search for discounts on the regular price, which is currently $40 for the Windows version. You can often find a deal. For example, Literature & Latte often sponsors a special on Scrivener in conjunction with NaNoWriMo.

2. Timesheet Time Tracker 

I've kept logs of my time spent on writing-related tasks for years, usually recording the data in a table in a Microsoft Word doc. For some of my freelance assignments, I put the data into an Excel spreadsheet that allows me to total the time automatically. With the new year, I decided I'd like an app that would not only allow me to track my time but also give me statistics on the percentage of time I spent per day/week/month on different activities. I researched my options by reading online articles on the best free time-logging apps (like this piece) and online reviews, and then tested a few of the recommended apps. I'm currently using Timesheet Time Tracker by Florian Rauscha. I found it easy to learn and use. I especially like that you can color-code both projects and tags. Here's a sample screenshot from their Google Play page:

Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with the Timesheet app, but the labels on the statistics charts are sometimes difficult to read, even on a 5" smartphone screen. I'm thinking an app that I can also use on my Windows PC may be better, so I've just downloaded Toggl to give it a try. (I read about it in this article.) Do any of you readers have a time-tracking app to recommend?

3. Habitbull 

While downloading new phone apps, I searched for one that might help me track some goals I've set for the new year and came across Habitbull. You can use it not only to record whether or not you meet a goal, but also to specify the number of times you do something or, if you're a writer, the number of words written in a day. I like that Habitbull includes the option to set reminders. And it lets you color-code, too! Here's a screenshot I found posted in this article on how to use it. (Note: the article is from 2014, so the instructions might not all apply to the current version.) 

How about you, Readers? Do you have any software tools you can recommend to improve our writing productivity?

Here are links to the other posts in this series, in case you missed them:

Esther started by telling us about Shaun Levin’s My Writing Life.
April shared a great 49-second video tip that's part of a series from UCLA Extension Writer's Program.
Bobbi wrote about mentors and inspirational writers.
April gave us a writing workout tied to the video tips she'd mentioned in her previous post.
JoAnn posted about the "pep talk" she received from reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic.
And Carla discussed some of her research tools.

Although Esther will blog about something new on Monday, I'll be back on Wednesday, 1/27, with a Wednesday Writing Workout that follows-up on today's post.

Don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at A Teaching Life.

Happy writing!


Patricia Toht said...

Thank you for the tips on these tools, Carmela. I've used Scrivener for one project, but I know I haven't maximized my use of its features. As for the other two, I may give them a try. Happy writing in 2016!

Linda B said...

I've heard of Scrivener, but not those other apps, Carmela. I'll check them out, & try to catch up on some of the other posts. I have read April's posts, & love the writing tips. Thanks very much!

Caroline McAlister said...

Oh man! I am so old school! I keep little notebooks and write first drafts by hand. I also have a real old school cork board. Trying to figure out computer programs just gets me aggravated.

Violet N. said...

I love Scrivener for organizing poetry. I especially like the keyword function which lets me pull up poems by form, subject, publicity
Etc. Good suggestion!

Carmela Martino said...

Patti and Linda, do let me know if you try the other apps.
Caroline, there's nothing wrong with "old school." Part of the reason I like Scrivener is because my handwriting has gotten so bad that I have trouble reading my own note cards!

Carmela Martino said...

Violet, I've never used Scrivener for poetry. Glad to know it works well for you. I've read online of all sorts of creative uses for Scrivener, including as a manuscript submission tracker, , and a book reading log, .

April Halprin Wayland said...

Carmela~ thanks for nudging me back to Scrivener, which I began using to organize a verse novel, then let get dusty as my mom declined. New year! New opportunities to fire up the engine!

Richard C. Lambert said...

It can actually help you in a range of different ways. Let’s look at some of the biggest and best benefits that using the right software can offertask tracking software