Category Archives: Writing Tools

Google Earth Pro: Also A Tool For Fiction Writers

You may (or may not have) heard that Google now gives away their professional version of Google Earth:

You don’t even have to fill out the form. Just download, install, and sign in with your email address and the password GEPFREE

This is a great tool for fiction writers who want to explore the setting of a scene in a place that you may not have visited in a while (or have never visited). The Pro version includes street view, but here’s where it’s a plus: the street view pictures are very high resolution. Example below…

The Tree I Grew Up In

That’s the tree I grew up in, in front of the house that burned down a week before my dad died. There was quite an elaborate tree house in that tree back in the 1970’s. The resolution of this photo is 24 megapixels, the same as if I’d snapped the picture with my very own DSLR.

While I no longer believe Google is going by it’s “Don’t be evil” mantra, at least they’re still giving us some pretty cool tools.

You can’t use Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium for professional use?


Supposedly, according to Ed Bott’s ZDNet article (linked here), this wording is included in the license for Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium:

The service/software may not be used for commercial, non-profit, or revenue-generating activities.

Does that mean that if you’re a professional writer, and you sell the things that you write, you can’t use this version of Microsoft Word?

Remember, this includes the license for Microsoft’s nifty new iPad version of Word that everyone is so excited about. I know many writers who want to use their iPads for novel writing, or editing (especially editing — it’s brilliant for proofreading a manuscript)

In the real world, Microsoft is not going to know or care if you’ve written or edited your novel on their “not for revenue-generating activities” version of Word, so this is a non-issue. It just makes you kind of scratch your head and wonder at the convoluted nonsense that Microsoft lawyers jam into their licensing agreements.

If you’re paranoid about it, then use the perfectly good Pages word processor that comes free with your iPad.

Personally, I’m still waiting eagerly for Scrivener to come out on iPad.

Office Mobile for iOS Devices

For one thing, I have no idea how this was released and I didn’t hear about it. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.

But another thing … wow. I didn’t expect it to be so freaking lame. You can’t buy it, like you can any other perfectly good MS Office compatible app, you have to purchase a subscription to it.

A subscription?! For what? The Microsoft Office logo? I have three apps that work perfectly to edit Office documents on iOS devices, and my favorite one is actually produced by Apple and only cost $9.99 per app … forever.

No thank you, Microsoft, you’re simply proving your time is over. You just don’t get it. You’re like the publishing industry that is trying to force the industry back into the little box you used to control.

Still, for any die hard Microsoft fans out here (which, if you are, you probably already know about this, and probably already have a subscription [LOL, I accidentally typed prescription. Twice. Freudian slip?]) here’s where you can go download your fix:

Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers for iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (5th generation), iPad (3rd generation), iPad Wi-Fi + 4G, iPad (4th generation), iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (4th generation), iPad mini and iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular on the iTunes App Store.

Your Guide to Scrivener

scrivener_coverI’ve mentioned Scrivener here at least three times:

So you can tell I’m a big fan of this software. It’s about as simple as a complex piece of software can be — the beauty of it being that you don’t have to know how to use every single feature in order to use it. You can just open it and start typing, and slowly learn the features as you go.

That’s how I did it.

Despite there being great manuals, numerous “how-to” videos, and a great wiki, there was still room for a very quick, simple, guide to jump start you into the most useful features you might otherwise have missed. Like I have. Many times.

Here’s that guide, and it’s free: YOUR GUIDE TO SCRIVENER: THE ULTIMATE TOOL FOR WRITERS. Nicole Dioniso does a great job stepping you through the features that you didn’t know you need until you discover they exist. And these aren’t just wonky features you might use once every 7 years, either.

Have I mentioned Scrivener is awesome?

Scrivener is awesome. And so is this guide.

Writing on the iPad

If you touch type, and you want to do any serious writing on the iPad, you need a keyboard. There are numerous Bluetooth keyboards out there made specifically for the iPad, most in the $50 to $100 range, some of them even quite nice. But if you already have a camera connector kit for the iPad, then you can skip the expensive keyboard and just use a USB keyboard. You can even use a wireless USB keyboard, as I demonstrate in this video…

They keyboard I’m demonstrating, I picked up at Target for $10.

Microsoft Office for Mac 2011

I caught this interesting tidbit from this morning:

“The long-running collaboration between Apple and Microsoft — one of the oddest pairings in Silicon Valley — represents something of a technological detente between warring camps. Engineers from both companies regularly huddle so that Microsoft can create Macintosh versions of its popular productivity suite, Office, the latest version of which is considered the best ever.”

I have to second this endorsement. While I know some people despise Office since the big change with version 2007, I like it, and I really like Word 2010.

But I really, really like Word 2011 for the Mac, and I love PowerPoint 2011 for the Mac.

Too bad I can’t use the 2011 PowerPoint at work.

Also, having stated my affection for the Mac version of Word, it hasn’t pulled me away from using Scrivener 2.0 for my book length manuscript writing.

Scrivener 2

I’ve wanted a Mac for years. Just a week or so ago everything came together, the planets aligned, and a MacBook I really wanted came out in my price range while I actually had the money to buy it. But that’s not what this is about. I’m writing this to sing the praises of Scrivener 2 for the Mac.

Scrivener is the perfect writing system for novelists.

I’ve been eyeing it for years but of course couldn’t use it because my computers were all Microsoft Windows based. Ironic that just when I finally get a Mac, and now can finally get and use Scrivener, they came out with a version for Windows as well.

Had I not already tried the Mac version, I would have loved the Windows version — even if it is still a bit buggy (it’s a Beta, so that’s to be expected). But the Mac version is more advanced and has more features, and at this point at least, blows the Windows version away.

What Scrivener does, the value it adds, is that it keep track of all the little details you need to gather, create, and remember from your first sentence all the way through typing THE END at the bottom. In that respect its much like using Microsoft OneNote alongside Word, but after a lot of customization. You could in fact duplicate this functionality to some extent using those two Microsoft products.

But you see, Scrivener doesn’t end there. All these features are already integrated and ready for you to tweak to your own working style (it never locks you into any pre-defined writing method — you do it your way, the way with which you’re comfortable). But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Scrivener can also help you create an outline and synopsis while you’re writing, bit by bit, rearranging itself as you rearrange your text. Or visa-versa, you can rearrange your outline and it will rearrange your text.

But that’s not all! (I feel like I’m pitching a Ronco product on late night TV.) While you’re actually writing, when you don’t want to be distracted by all these otherwise awesome features, you click a button and BOOM it’s just you and your page.

At this point it’s pure word processor, with only the features you need to put those words onto paper. Or, um, screen.

(In a Ronco voice) But wait! There’s more!

AFTER you’ve completed your manuscript, after it’s helped you all the way through the struggle of first, second, third drafts, the fun is not over. With a few simple clicks it will format your entire manuscript in whatever way you want — it includes (but you’re not locked into) pre-defined industry standard formatting. So click, click, BOOM, and you have a suddenly formatted professional-looking manuscript ready to be printed, or saved to one of many formats — including RTF, PDF, or Word.

But wait! THERE’S MORE! If you’re into the new wave of publishing and have no interest in going the traditional route, this will also format and save your manuscript as an eBook completely ready and formatted for the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and many other eBook readers. Click, click, BOOM, you’re e-published!

Even after all this, I’ve just scratched the surface. Scrivener 2 also has features to help you write plays, screenplays, articles, and other types of manuscripts. Oh, and it has a character name generator too. How cools is that?

So how much is all this, then? $400?

No. $45. That’s right, all this for only $45.

Find out all the latest about Scrivener for both Mac and Windows over at