As you know, I also edit the relatively new and doing-very-well-thank-you, Websites for writers [Note: Site no longer active]. It's what I've been calling an independent directory of online writing resources and it's jam-packed with useful, well, websites for writers. Probably my favouritest thing about it is the fact that almost all content so far has been user-generated. Writers have arrived at the site and took it upon themselves to recommend sites to other writers through the built-in submission form. And I love that.
What I didn't really think about though, when I set the site up, was how great it would be for me to learn about all these new writing resources. As editor-in-chief (as I like to refer to myself), I get to see everything that goes on the site, and it's been marvellous!
Hey, Mr Soft-ware
Over the last two months, Websites for writers has seen a number of submissions that have fallen under the 'Tools' category. For me, the most interesting of these are the various computer programs designed to make writers' lives easier, from bespoke word processors to storyboarding software for scriptwriters.
It seems to me that this type of software is a fairly untapped source for writers. Like me, your techno-pencil case probably consists primarily of Microsoft Word, or if you're down with the open-source crew, something like OpenOffice.
But maybe we're missing a trick. Is there a program out there that's ready and waiting to change the way you write forever? It's possible, and some of the alternatives are certainly worth experimenting with.
Five of the best
The following list of programs is taken from submissions to Websites for writers. For the record, I've previously used just two of them, Final Draft and Storymill, and some of them are free, others you need to buy. The detail here is taken from promotional material and provided for your reference (ie not as direct recommendations!).
Final Draft is the number-one selling application specifically designed for writing movie scripts, television episodics, and stageplays. It combines powerful word processing with professional script formatting in one self-contained, easy-to-use package. There is no need to learn about script formatting rules – Final Draft automatically paginates and formats your script to industry standards as you write.
StoryMill - Mac OS X only
The latest release in Mariner Software's long line of writing and creativity software. StoryMill introduces aspiring authors to multi-level writing methods of tracking characters, scenes, and locations, while professional writers will appreciate StoryMill's time-saving ability to oversee and manage the full creative process with Smart Views.
For fiction writers, StoryMill provides features like word frequency counting, a cliche meter, and a progress meter to help you meet your daily writing goal.
Celtx is the world's first all-in-one media pre-production software. It has everything you need to take your story from concept to production. Celtx replaces 'paper, pen & binder' pre-production with a digital approach that's more complete, simpler to work with, and easier to share.
Celtx helps you pre-produce all types of media - film, video, documentary, theater, machinima, comics, advertising, video games, music video, radio, podcasts, videocasts, and however else you choose to tell your story.
Scrivener - Mac and Windows
Scrivener is a word processor and project management tool created specifically for writers of long texts such as novels and research papers. It won’t try to tell you how to write – it just makes all the tools you have scattered around your desk available in one application.
yWriter - Windows only
[yWriter is] a word processor which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. It does help you keep track of your work, leaving your mind free to create.
Update 28 August 2009: I've just discovered this page which provides comprehensive information and makes my post almost entirely obsolete - you should check it out!