I've heard good things about the Scrivener fiction writing tool. It's one of these tools that tries to encapsulate everything you need for a complex writing project into one tool. I'm suspicious of that approach, but it has interesting features and there is a free beta right now, so I'm trying it.
Here's a link to the Windows beta page, which is what is new now. The Mac version has been out for a while.
I installed it this morning and had a look. It has a lot of nice features, I have to say.
- Built in templates for short stories and novels. It also has screenwriting and nonfiction; I'm just not interested in it for those as I have lots of tools for that stuff and that's my day job anyway.
- You basically write stuff as chunks of text...but every chunk has an
attached index card of comments/metadata that won't show up in print,
and you can view and manipulate the cards separately.
In general it seems a great tool for any project where you want to have a lot of notes and associate them with your final text.
- You have a treeview of all the stuff in your writing project.
- It supports PDF, RTF, XHTML, DOC, DOCX and LibreOffice/OpenOffice ODT outputs. Note that DOCX and ODT are XML outputs.
It works a lot like an xml toolchain, in that you are producing source
files that get compiled into final output. But it hides the
implementation and has a good GUI for it.
So the only complaint I could possibly make about it is that it's not
open source so I can't (presumably) hack at the guts of it. I think the
price when it is out is gonna be $40, too, which seems super reasonable.
The other thing I'd want is an XML output that semantically marks all the notes and metadata in a simple and easy to understand way. An output like that would allow you to post-process it with XML tools, so you could completely customize it. I wonder if they use XML under the covers or if everything is just in a database.
Not sure if I'll get around to trying an actual project in it before the
9/30 end of the beta. That would be the best test. I don't feel a
strong NEED for this thing though...but I would seriously consider it
for a novel. That, to me, is where it would shine: it would really help you manage multiple layers of story structure.
As several tools have offered recently, it has a full-screen editing mode too, for when you want to focus on churning out some prose.
It would be hard to lose: even if you decided later that you didn't like
it, it would be easy to get your data back out of it and into some