Why I love the writing tools I love
I write. I write every day. I write for a living and I write for fun. The tools I love allow me to do that quickly and easily, at least compared to the alternatives. I love some tools because they let me do difficult things more easily. More importantly, I love tools that let me do easy things easily. There are too many tools out there that don’t let me do that.
I love Grammarly
I do a lot of my writing straight on the web, and Grammarly catches my mistakes. I’ll admit it. I’m not a perfect writer, and having Grammarly in my pocket helps a lot. I highly recommend it for people who write on the web, and I’m not pushing you to buy the premium version. I just have the free version, and it does everything I want it to do.
I avoid FrameMaker
Framemaker is the Grandmother of all Technical Writing tools, and it is still in use today. Why do I avoid it? I avoid it because FrameMaker is built around the concept of creating huge technical manuals, primarily for print books. If you’re doing literally anything else, it is way too complicated and finicky to be worth your time. So, if for some reason I needed to create a big honking technical manual, I might consider using it again, but I don’t want to write big honking technical manuals anymore. Nobody reads them. More importantly, if I do need to do that for some reason, I want to use a tool that I can also use for other things.
I love Scrivener
If I was absolutely had to create a big honking technical manual today, I’d probably use Scrivener. It’s far easier to use and still lets you approach writing from a chapter by chapter perspective if that’s what you need. It doesn’t have the power that FrameMaker has when it comes to creating and publishing schematics and such, but it could do it if I needed it, and more importantly, it does the thing I really want to do.
I write books, but I write fiction and poetry, two types of books that Scrivener does extremely well. Not only does it let me write in chapters, but it provides me with a place for notes, a synopsis, and sections below for keeping track of characters, settings, and other things. I can create a whole world in a single project. More importantly, if I just needed to create a quick document, Scrivener could do that too. It is capable of being my only desktop writing tool. It isn’t, but if I was stuck using just one tool, I would strongly consider Scrivener.
I avoid Pages
If I’m working on the Mac, chances are I’m going to use Scrivener or another tool I’ll discuss later. Pages just never feels right to me. This may be because I started using it on my iPad, and it feels very clunky on the iPad. It’s more than I need or feel like I can use given the limitations of a tablet. I’ve tried it on the Mac, but that initial distaste still lingers. Once you start to dislike a program, it’s hard to turn that around, even if you switch platforms.
I love Drafts
When I do write on my iPad, or even on my iPhone, I use Drafts. Drafts is a quick and easy tool designed more for note-taking than in-depth writing. That’s fine with me because that’s usually what I’m going to use my iPhone or iPad for. The nice thing about Drafts is that it automatically opens to a new document when you start. The moment you want to start putting down your thoughts, it is ready to go. The other nice thing is that it knows what you’re using it for, so it offers you tons of options for sending and saving what you wrote. It’s ready to send it to anything from your reminders app, to your calendar, to Evernote, to DropBox, or even a Tweet.
I Love WordPress
I’ve been using WordPress for websites since it was in beta, and I stay loyal to it year after year. When it comes to building a website quickly and easily, WordPress is everything I’m looking for. I will admit that I stay old-school though. I don’t like the new blocks editor, so I still use the classic editor. It does everything I need without making things unnecessarily complicated.
I avoid Drupal
When it comes to building out websites, a lot of people swear by Drupal, but it just leaves me flat. I’ve used it before, and it is perfectly functional, but I feel like it has too many hoops for me to jump through just to put out content. If a site is complex, I can see using it, but even then, most companies I know have to bring in an Drupal expert to make it do what they want it to do.
I love Confluence
I suppose I have to love Confluence, I’ve migrated two companies off to other platforms specifically to use Confluence. Confluence is a wiki software platform. This is great if you are building out help systems and other customer-centric help. It is also good internally for collaboration. My company uses the cloud version for internal collaboration, and I am using the server version for our customer-facing documentation. My only complaint is that they are doing away with the server version, trying to push everyone to cloud. The cloud version is solid for internal use, but lacks a lot of the tools I use for our help site. Even worse, you can’t set the cloud version up on your own domain, which kills branding. Companies like to have their content on their site.
I avoid RoboHelp
In the old universe, RoboHelp was the premier tool for putting together online customer help. Times change though. It’s been about ten years since I used RoboHelp on a daily basis, and I haven’t missed it a bit. It commits the cardinal sin of making you jump through too many hoops just to publish content. I’ve revisited the tool a couple of times because people keep telling me they’ve made a lot of improvements but when I look at it, all I see is the same old clunky software. It feels like it is stuck in 2003.
I love Word
Microsoft Word gets a bad reputation among technical writers, but most of that lingers from when people were building books. Word was always terrible at long documents. The thing is, for everything else, it is solid. More importantly, everyone in every office I’ve worked in for 20 years can open a Word file. Also, it’s a tool I’ve mastered. I’ve been using it forever and so I just plain know what I’m doing in there. I even find myself using it to fix text from other tools that have gone awry. If all else fails with a file in another format, I can usually dump the text into Word and fix it up pretty quickly.
As I said at the beginning, I like tools that put as few obstacles between starting and finishing a project as possible. I want to create content, not arm-wrestle a supposedly powerful tool that makes me take five steps to do something that I can do elsewhere in one or two steps. What writ8ng tools do you love? Was I unfair to any of these tools? Let me know in the comments.