Category Archives: Software

My Writer’s Toolbox—Re-Tooled

Every now and then I reevaluate the apps and programs I’ve been using to write. The perfect suite would be one that I could use on all of my devices: my iPad and iPhone running (as of this writing) iOS 11, and my laptop PC running Windows. Add into that mix the fact that when my wife and I write something together, she’s on her iPad Pro and writing with Apple’s Pages.

For her, it’s easy: whatever she writes will sync automagically across all of her devices. For me, it’s another story.

The Previous Solution

It was something I cobbled together, based on the fact that Pages wasn’t available on my PC—which is where I do the bulk of my writing and editing. Since Pages will export to MS Word format, and LibreOffice will read and write MS Office files, it was a simple matter of Stacey exporting her efforts in .docx format and sending them as attachments in emails. I could then either edit them and send them back to her, or append them to the master document.

All of this was before the Cloud. After the Cloud, we used DropBox and iCloud instead of emails.

The Better Solution

Recent changes to Pages have made things even easier: I can now log into my iCloud account via my Windows browser, and use the on-line version of Pages to write and edit! My edits are saved, and both Stacey and I have access to them no matter which device we’re on.

It’s a Fact of Life

You’d think that after using computers since the early ‘80s, and having worked as both an educator and a service engineer, I would have learned my lesson: go big! But no. Which means that when it came time for me to make the jump from an Android phone to my new iPhone 6s Plus, I’d have maxed out the options. Nope. Just the basic 16 Gb memory.

Which means that I rely on the Cloud even more than before. Still, the iPhone X is almost here, but $1000 is a lot of money to spend. Would I be better off keeping what I have now and upgrade my iPad Mini to an iPad Pro? If I did that, I might not even need to use my laptop for writing anymore.

Decisions, decisions…

My Current Writer’s Toolbox

Three devices:

  • iPhone
  • iPad Mini
  • Lenovo laptop PC

Software:

  • Apple’s Pages (a free download)
  • LibreOffice Writer (also free)
  • Scrivener (free evaluation copy)
  • iCloud from Apple
  • Dropbox (because there’s no such thing as having too many backups. This is in addition to my daily automagic backup to my external hard drive.)

What About You?

Do you deal with different platforms and incompatibilities? If so, do you have a system that works for you? Let me know—I’m always open to suggestions.

Thanks!
Robyn Jane

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An Experiment in Technology

I’ve recently been wondering about the effects that different writing tools have on the act of writing. I’ve always been curious about this, and in the mid 1980s I even wrote a college thesis on the subject. I had created a questionnaire for my fellow students to see what, if any, effect that then-brand-new technology called word processing had on their writing.

Today, some 30 years later, I’ve reprised the question: is my writing any different on my laptop, my iPad, or my iPhone?

My writing instrument of choice is my laptop computer. It has a large screen, but what I like the most about it is the ability to switch quickly to a dictionary or a thesaurus when I need to, and the ability to Google® any subject I like.

My iPhone and iPad are both handy when I get an idea when I’m away from my computer. I can jot down a note, idea, or whatever and have it available when I get home again. I will admit that I prefer the iPad to the iPhone.

(I’ll list all of my writing software on the Writing Software page.)

Robyn Jane

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10 Surprising Benefits You’ll Get From Keeping a Journal

I stole today’s title from The Huffington Post. Over the years, I’ve had any number of therapists tell me I should be keeping a journal, but none of them have been able to explain just why I should be doing it. Consequently, I’ve always told myself, :Hey! I write stories and I blog. Isn’t that good enough?”

But this morning I cam across the article I reference above in the Huffington Post. It gives a pretty good layman’s explanation of some of the benefits associated with regular journaling. I thought I’d share them with you as background to thus post about the great journaling app I discovered the other day.

Day One is a simple journaling app for the MacOS and iOS platforms. But don’t mistake “simple” for “bare bones.” With Day One, I can write my journal entry and have it keep track of where I was and what the weather was like when I wrote a given entry. I can add photos from my camera roll, or I can take pictures from inside the app. I can also add maps and tags.

I can honestly say that this is the first journaling software I’ve ever used that suits my needs. So much so, in fact, that I went ahead and spent the $5 it cost to buy my own copy. I also took advantage of the apps “Reminder” feature to remind me at a particular time every day that I need to add a new entry for that day.

I’ve also created two journals: the standard one that comes with the app is for my daily entries, and I’ve added a TRAVEL journal to document my train trip across the USA.

So far, I’ve only found three (very minor) drawbacks to the app—if you want to consider them drawbacks—it’s only available for Mac, iPhone, and iPad (no android or PC version), and while the previous version was capable of posting your entries to a web site, they haven’t yet added that capability to the latest version (2.01). The publisher says it’s because they redesigned the app from the ground up for version 2.0, and still have more coding to do so they can incorporate the web connection.

The third drawback is that Version 2.0 doesn’t sync with iCloud or DropBox. It does, however sync across all your devices. So if iCloud and/or DropBox syncing is important to you, the publishers recommend using the previous version.

Day One 1

My experience with the app has me convinced that for me, at least, it is the best journaling app available.

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Microsoft OneNote, Redux

Okay, I admit it: I’m a program hoarder. Back in the CP/M heyday, I had over a hundred disks with software on them. To be fair, these were only 390Kb disks, but still. In the end, I donated them to my local public library.

But I still look for new, different, and exciting software. The programs I like best are useful, elegant, do the job I need them to do and do it well, and best of all, are free.

OneTastic

Since my previous post about OneNote, I’ve been researching ways to use it. I’m definitely an information junkie, especially when it comes to using a newly-discovered tech tool like OneNote. So I Googled “OneNote tutorials,” and discovered a nifty little add-on called OneTastic. If you use OneNote, or even if you think you might use it someday (and what are you waiting for? It’s free! Stop right now and go get it!), you need OneTastic.

Why? Because it’s free! Duh! Okay, let me be serious for a minute. OneTastic is like putting OneNote on steroids. Seriously. It greatly enhances OneNote to the point where I find myself using it more than I use my beloved Evernote.

Omer Atay is a developer on the OneNote team, and he created OneTastic in his free time. Here’s what the official Microsoft OneNote development team’s blog says about it:

Onetastic [is] an add-in to enhance OneNote functionality with a set of built-in features and an extensible macro processor that allows you to download and modify macros and add new ones yourself.

Here’s a brief list of some of the things OneTastic can do for you:

  • Automate routines tasks with macros.
  • View your OneNote pages in a calendar view.
  • Crop or rotate your images and printouts or select and copy text from them.
  • Customize styles in OneNote just like you can do so in Microsoft Word.
  • Access your favorite pages from a menu or pin shortcuts to them on your desktop.

In short, OneTastic elevates OneNote to a whole new level of usefulness and productivity. And while I stay believe that it will never replace Evernote—at least not for me—the three products—Evernote, OneNote, and OneTastic—together form a complete set of information-gathering, organizing, and managing that can’t be beat.

Besides, I’m so impressed with OneNote and OneTastic that I’ve created an entire Pinterest category for them!

Want more information? Watch the recording of a Webinar held last year by Microsoft.

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