Archives for May 2011

A Week On OpenOffice

So here it is, Friday. I have been working away for a week in OpenOffice Writer and I have had some time to assess the impact.  I have written and revised my work quite happily and so far I am not missing Scrivener too much. This surprises me. It really does. I have written my last 5 books in Scrivener and have really enjoyed doing so.

My only real conclusion is that modern word-processors are catching up with the Scrivener features I like in exactly the same was other operating systems are catching up with and even surpassing OSX. Yeah– I know that’s a huge claim to make in a throwaway line– I’ll get back to it at a future date.

There are some things I miss, the Target word count and the Session word count features but that is about it. I am really enjoying the freedom to use just about any machine I own in the knowledge that I can finish what I start on any of them.

As Cory Doctorow pointed out in his Guardian article, there is just not very much dramatic about switching to Linux. The same can be said for OpenOffice. I would not want to have to deal with .docx files in it on a regular basis but for my needs it works just fine. Indeed it fills me with an odd nostalgia. Looking at it is like looking at the old pre-Ribbon Word and for me this is a good thing. I wrote 15 novels in Word and nothing but Word and God alone only knows how much gaming stuff.

I also managed to write a blog post every day this week while getting my writing work done. Given the fact that I used to consider a couple of blog posts a year good going, I am pleased with myself.

Working in Ubuntu

I  went out to the cafe today carrying my Acer TravelMate 8371 running Ubuntu 10.10. I opened my present manuscript from Dropbox and I began work immediately and I did not stop writing until I had done 1500 words. I was very pleased with myself and very happy with the Ubuntu writing environment.

Of course, when I came home, I had a setback. I opened up Dropbox in Windows 7 on my desktop replacement and looked at what I had written. I decided that I did not like the way Open Office Writer handled chapters and scenes. It does not allow you to fold the lower headings into the higher headings in Navigator. Libre Office does so I decided to uninstall OpenOffice and installed Libre Office. Unfortunately, uninstalling OpenOffice also corrupted my Microsoft Office installation. I did not know that you were supposed to use the uninstall that comes with the program so I uninstalled it from the control panel. If you ever need to uninstall OpenOffice do yourself a favour and don’t do this if you also have Microsoft Office installed. I wasted half an hour repairing my Microsoft Office installation.

Once this was done, I got back to work and happily finished my daily ration.  I am starting to like this setup.

Scrivener to Writer

This morning I compiled The Angel of Fire, my work in progress, in Scrivener, saved it as an RTF file and transferred it to OpenOffice with the intention of completing it there.

I’m still trying to get to the bottom of what my reasons were since I love Scrivener. I’ll try and list them in order – that is the order they come to me – probably not the order of importance.

I have become very enthusiastic about Ubuntu recently even as I am becoming less fond of the increasingly control freak attitudes displayed by Apple. I find myself increasingly attracted to the idea of open source software. There are lots of reasons for this and this is not the place to go into them. That will probably be the subject of a blog on another day.

I work on a number of computers and I move around a lot while I am working. I often pick up a laptop and take it with me to a cafe and sometimes, in these summer days, to a park. There are times when my MacBook Pro does not have its battery charged or is on a very low charge and I need to pick up something else like my Acer TravelMate or my eeePC netbook. Both the Acer TravelMate and my netbook have matte screens which I can use outdoors sitting in the park. Under similar circumstances, my MacBook Pro screen is just a mirror.

Neither of these computers which use either Windows or Ubuntu Linux are capable of using Scrivener. (There is a Scrivener Beta for both operating systems but I do not wish to risk contracted and deadlined work using beta software.)

That does not quite explain everything though. I could easily enough take either of those computers and write a couple of scenes in OpenOffice and then transfer those scenes into Scrivener when I get home. It’s something I have done in the past. Instead, I chose to do something different and, actually a bit more complicated to organise. I would like to think there was some method to my madness in doing so.

Partially it has something to do with hierarchy. I don’t want my MacBook Pro to be the only computer that I can get my work done on. I want all of my machines be equally useful. That sounds strange but bear with me. If anything goes wrong with my MacBook Pro, I can immediately pick up my work on any of my other computers. I don’t need to wait for the MacBook Pro to be repaired or replaced. I like the idea of being able to work on any machine that I have on hand.

I am comfortable with the switch in a way I would not have been a few years ago because both Microsoft Word 2010 and the latest versions of OpenOffice Writer can do something that only Scrivener used to be able to do. In fact they can do the thing that I find most useful in Scrivener.

These days either of these two fine wordprocessors let you drag-and-drop scenes around and place them in new positions in the Navigation Pane of your draft. I discovered this when I was working on the Tyrion and Teclis trilogy. It also turned out that I did the majority of my editing on that trilogy (including a lot of shifting scenes around) in Microsoft Word.

So why not use Microsoft Word, I hear you ask?

It is only really possible to use the Navigation Pane this way in Microsoft Word 2010. It does not work in any of the versions of Microsoft Word available for the MacBook.  Microsoft Word is not available for Linux at all. OpenOffice Writer is available on all three platforms therefore I have gone with that. That fact that Open Office is open source and also free is just icing on the cake.

Writers Tools for OpenOffice Writer duplicates some of the functionality of Scrivener. For example Writers Tools allows you to create zipped backups of the manuscript you’re working on in multiple formats. It can save these automatically into Dropbox. Also, with a touch of a button, you can e-mail yourself a copy of the manuscript you’re working on.

Probably the final reason that I have shifted over to using OpenOffice Writer is that the book I am working on at present simply do not need the full power of Scrivener. I am writing a novel that is a relatively straightforward first person narrative told from the point of view of an Imperial Guard soldier in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. This storyline does not have multiple points of view and it is told in chronological order. I am comfortable using OpenOffice Writer rather than Scrivener because I don’t feel I’m missing anything by not using Scrivener.

I have gone on at length about this because it actually surprised me that I did this today. It’s not that I have gone off Scrivener. I will most likely go back to using it before I finish writing this book, particularly if the Linux version is proven stable. On the other hand, this is an interesting experiment with many advantages.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.


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Game of Thrones

Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones went very well. The cast is superb and the look wonderful. I felt some of the speeches, which work really well in the book, were perhaps overlong for TV but that is a minor glitch. Kudos to all involved in this. I am impressed.