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December 15, 2008

Online Writing Tools

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Paul Glazowski recommends 35 online tools for writers. Me, I'm using Google Docs as my main word processor these days. It's a nothing-special writing tool in many ways, but it's responsive, its filing system is swell, and I do love being able to get at my writing from whatever computer I happen to be at. I've also tried and liked Zoho Writer and Adobe Buzzword -- but, since there's such a thing as juggling too many logins and passwords, I've settled on Google Docs instead.

As for the rest of Glazowski's tips, I can endorse Facebook (which I love), and Squarespace, which strikes me as really brilliant. If you want easy fun on the web -- commenting, linking, posting, etc -- Facebook is hard to beat. A visit to Facebook can be like a stop at the neighborhood bar, full of chance and casual interactions. And, recently, it hasn't just been the young 'uns who have been showing up on Facebook. The chances of a grownup finding old classmates, friends, and colleagues have in fact gotten pretty good.

(Wired thinks that people who are thinking of becoming bloggers ought to forget it and take to Twitter or Facebook instead. I'm with Wired on this. I think that Facebook offers 99% of what most people are hoping to get from blogging while demanding about a tenth the work and effort.)

If a complete website of your own is a goal, Squarespace is genius. Using drag-and-drop modules, you can create (and then revise to your heart's content) as elaborate a website as you could possibly want. It took me about an hour to become competent at using Squarespace, and within a couple of days I had myself a fun personal website that I continue to amuse myself with. Compare that to the effort involved in getting up to speed with HTML and/or Dreamweaver.



posted by Michael at December 15, 2008


Agree with everything here. It's amazing how many old friends of mine, and just people of my age (40) in general have signed up with Facebook in the past 6 months. For my high school class, it was literally me and one other dude for about 2 years.

Will check out Squarepace, although I fear sites like that will one day put me out of business! :)

Posted by: JV on December 15, 2008 2:49 AM

One of the wrong developments in software was the lumping together of three distinct processes in document creation and control: text editing, desktop publishing, and project management. Microsoft Word is a bloated monster because it tries to slam together in one program all three mega-functions. Problem: not only does this make the program unwieldy, it makes executives, managers, "content providers" aka writers, waste their time in endless formatting frustrations--leave that for the DTP!--and document versioning and support--leave that for the project management! The result: wasted time, money, disorganization, and an inferior final product.

Solution: simple text editor for composition. DTP software for making things pretty, something like Scrivener for proj management and overall control.

So Google Docs would actually be better if it were simpler, less like Word, and more like (can't remember the name!) the simple darkscreen Zen interface of (damn! blast!) that program that gives you a simple dark screen to type your content into...or as another example Scrivener Full Screen mode.

You'd be amazed at how a really stripped down interface for composition makes your writing flyyyy.

Posted by: PatrickH on December 15, 2008 10:55 AM

Spent the morning checking out Squarespace. Yikes! Really smart tool that allows anybody to create pretty robust sites. Don't go there, people! You want to take jobs away from American web designers and give them to robots!? :)

Posted by: JV on December 15, 2008 12:29 PM

Michael, Interesting that it has all come full circle. I first found 2Blowhards when you wrote a convincing post on how we shouldn't aspire to write books, but start a blog instead!

But how do we remain the society we are when we reduce our efforts from books to blogs to Twitter? Besides I think people really like personal blogs...they're not going anywhere for a while.

Posted by: Tim Price on December 15, 2008 1:09 PM

The main problem I have is not software. It's the internet. The frickin internet. Without the internet my writing would be so much better and everything would be more productive. I just read and read and fall into a reading abyss, and nothing is done. Sigh

Posted by: Sebastian Flyte on December 15, 2008 5:22 PM

Wow, I'd never heard of squarespace before. Will give it a try. I recommend Windows Live Writer which is a free desktop program that you can connect to any blog platform. It is easy to use and we at Teleread swear by it.

One thing about Google docs is that it has datestamps and versions. So you can rollback versions. That helps if you are documenting customer service calls or purchase information.

Posted by: Robert Nagle on December 18, 2008 3:08 PM

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