January 26, 2006

Writing tools and writing writing tools :p

It’s something that has bugged me for a while – there just aren’t good writing tools around. Sure, you have Word or any of the other garden variety word processing software out there. But are any of those really targeted at writers? How easy is it to move scenes around? Or to see where the passive sentences are? Or where the adverbs are?

Sure Word allows you to cut and paste and it has a grammar checker which (not too accurately at times) points out the passive sentences. But it really doesn’t go much further beyond that. Some time ago, I started writing a writer’s editor called Amanuensis just for this reason. It had a treeview where you could navigate your individual chapters/scenes easily and even move the chapters around by simply dragging a node on the treeview to the desired location. It had timers to time how much work you’d done in this particular session and a word counter to keep track of the actual number of words you’d written. I actually got started on my first novel using Amanuensis. Then I switched over to using Word and Mind Manager and Amanuensis development came to a grinding halt :p

However, even while using Word, I’ve been really bugged about the actual lack of good writing aids in Word. I have looked around for plugins and add-ons which might help but what there is, seems to be commercial and a bit overpriced. I’ve been thinking about writing a couple of simple tools – an adverb highlighter, a commonly overused word highlighter etc. – for a while now but never got around to it. At least, not till yesterday :) I finally decided to put some time towards getting a macro written and after a whole evening spent debugging the code, I had a working macro for highlighting adverbs. Of course, since the code simply highlights words ending in "ly" (this is how I’ve been doing it in Word till now – use Find/Replace to highlight all words ending in "ly") it ends up with quite a few false positives. So, I added an exclusion list and it all seemed to work fairly well. I have to change the code to include support for footers as well – it currently only works on the document body. And then, I intend to add highlighters for a few other word lists. Once it’s all done, I think I’ll release it so that others can benefit from it too :)

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Tags: Coding, Writing
Posted by Fahim at 7:23 am   Comments (0)