Category Archives: 50 Free Things

Poor Writer, Sad Writer.

Look at them with their fancy apple products and their expensive apps, look at them writing away, producing masterpieces as they sip their thirteenth latte of the day in that cute boutique coffee shop that only makes coffee from cat shit, or something. Expensive cat shit….you don’t know. It sounds gross but hey if it’s expensive it must be amazing, right?

If only you had [AMAZING NAME BRAND PRODUCT WITH AMAZING NAME BRAND PRICE TAG] you too would be producing effortless prose, nuanced story lines, witty and wonderful characters.

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Happy Monday

And I’m back with the list of doom

We’ve hit Web Tools, and we’re starting with web editor Amaya.

From their site:  “Amaya is a Web editor, i.e. a tool used to create and update documents directly on the Web. Browsing features are seamlessly integrated with the editing and remote access features in a uniform environment. This follows the original vision of the Web as a space for collaboration and not just a one-way publishing medium.”

Release 10.0 is cross-platform – they have releases for Windows NT/2000/XP/vista, for Debian, Ubuntu,  Redhat, Mandrake, Suse and for Mac. The exe file for Windows is 7.2 mb.

Only I can’t get it to work in Ubuntu. Keeps giving me an error.

So that’s that.


One quick note before I get into the next app: We have now upgraded to Ubuntu 8.04 – Hardy Heron, and both sonar and ywriter gave no issues (unlike Gimp…grrr).

Today’s focus shifts to Helpful Tools on the list, and gives us Prompts.  Basically, it’s an on-line random prompt generator.

Exciting stuff. As far as my writing goes it’s not exactly helpful, although I can see it being something you might use if you felt the urge to blog and had nothing to say.

Oh my god, wait. I think I need to do just that. Never again will you be forced to scroll past wangsty posts of doom, when instead I could be writing about this:

I’m not giving this a rating of recommended/not recommended because although it’s not a serious tool it could be fun to use on those fallow blogging days. There do seem to be some other cool little things on the site aimed at teachers, so it might be worthwhile going and giving the place a squizz to see if any of the other widgets interest you.


Dear Diary

Today I killed an entire plot-thread before lunch.

The ‘novel’ is now only 200 pages long but, by god, is it better for it.

One wonderful thing about killing that thread is it also handily wiped out one page of minor revision notes. Neat.

Moving on to the list, and we’re on Organizational Tools now, the first of which is Sonar, another handy little app from Simon Haynes.

This one is a small programme to track your novel and short-story submissions. Clearly designed by a writer, I’d say it beats the crappy little excell spreadsheet I’ve been using by about a million points.

It’s small, simple and basic – all things I like in software. Sonar is 2.2 Mb, and can run off a memory stick.

It installed and opened perfectly using Wine in Ubuntu 7.10 – Gutsy Gibbon (I know I know, I promise I will be running Heron tomorrow) and the setup process was sweetly simple.

I think the market tracker is a handy little feature to store all that info you’ve ganked off duotrope, and it’s one of the things that set this apart from a plain old spreadsheet.

Nice one, another:



It’s been suggested that instead of just working my way straight down the list, I cycle through the different apps so that I don’t do post after post of word-processors. Good point.

Today I move onto reference tools, the first of which is JaLingo.

From their site: JaLingo is a free OS independent dictionary application.

It’s cross-platform, so that means Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Unfortunately for me, Synaptic Package Manager couldn’t find it, so I actually had to go look at the installation instructions (I’m very lazy, you see, this kind of thing saddens me)

The Windows file is 12Mb, and for Mac and Linux you have to dl and install Java 1.5.0_05 or later (18.8Mb) and then JaLingo (0.4Mb). Since you probably already have Java…

For all OS you have to then download the dictionaries you want. This is starting to feel like a lot of effort, I have to admit.

Their installation instructions didn’t work for me. I had to in the terminal, as root, go into the directory and run sudo java -jar jalingo-setup-0.6.0.jar (I’m running Ubuntu, so ignore me if you’re not)

Then I went to look at the lists of dictionaries to download. The first linked to a commercial dictionary, the rest of the links were pretty much useless to me. To be honest, I’m not overly impressed so far.

Ubuntu comes standard with a dictionary, so for me to go to all this effort in order to download a dictionary to buy, or search through a million and one hard-to-follow descriptions just seems pointless.

I’m betting there are simpler and better dictionary apps than this, so I’m giving up on them and saying



Yesterday I linked to this article and its 50 open source applications for writers. After a while, I decided it might be a good idea to test-drive them (the ones I can, of course) and tell the world what I thought.

*the world waits, breathless with anticipation.*

That gives me 50 days of useful blog-content. You should be free of word-count posts for a good two months. Unless I crack.

First up is yWriter.

Bslaveboy points out that this software is not strictly open source, as Simon writes and maintains the code himself, and the source code is not available for modification. (Simon Haynes, if you ever read this and I’ve got it wrong, please let me know).

The Slave also says that I should point out the small download size (3 mb) and the fact that you can run yWriter off of a USB stick. So yes, cool stuff, duly added.

yWriter was devoloped by author Simon Haynes and he lists the following features on his site:

Organise your novel using a ‘project’.
Add chapters to the project.
Add scenes, characters, items and locations.
Display the word count for every file in the project, along with a total.
Saves a log file every day, showing words per file and the total. (Tracks your progress)
Saves automatic backups at user-specified intervals.
Allows multiple scenes within chapters
Viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome fields for each scene.
Multiple characters per scene.
Storyboard view, a visual layout of your work.
Re-order scenes within chapters.
Drag and drop of chapters, scenes, characters, items and locations.
Automatic chapter renumbering.”

According to Simon, YWriter is designed for Windows, but should run fine under Wine. (I use Ubuntu, a very user-friendly Linux operating system so if yWriter doesn’t run, this will be a very short review)

The Start up wizard opens under Wine, no problem and I open a new project. The help file contents don’t open for me (sad face), you can however, set yWriter to work in a variety of different languages so that’s always nice if you’re writing in Swedish.

Luckily, I see Simon has a quickstart guide up on his site, which walks you through the basic principles. Always good for people like me, who need step-by-step instructions with pictures. I really suggest working through this as soon as you open yWriter for the first time. There is also a google group that has tutorials and FAQs.

Oooh, like the character sheet it brings up. I can think of a fair few (published) writers who could benefit from using this so that their character’s eyes don’t change from green to blue and back again. (Hey, I’m not immune – in the first draft of hob I think Jek’s eye and hair colour changes about three times. :P)

Here’s my very exciting character sheet for Irene.

I think this is a good tool for people who are meticulous about character and world-building consistency. (I should be, I know. I have to train myself. What better day to start?). I’m not much of an outliner, so I can’t see me using this for a first draft, but I do see how this would be a pretty good way for me to organise a second draft into a more cohesive whole.

It looks like yWriter can be as complicated or as simple a tool as you want it to be, and with things like chapter and scene selectors, a synopsis builder *a million writers hug Simon in relief*, and character and setting sheets, I think it makes for a good organisational tool for writers. It saves your work in .RTF, which is nice and standard so you should have no problem opening documents with Open Office or Word.

I’d say there is a lot here to learn, but once you’ve worked through one novel with it, that shouldn’t be a problem.

My little baby steps in the new project window.


Those of you who decide to give yWriter a bash, I’d be interested in hearing what you think.