Best Writing Software Ever?

Before I began writing the prospectus for my dissertation, I decided that my current software wasn’t going to cut it. Like most colleagues I’ve spoken to, I used a variety of different programs to write in the past. This wasn’t really a problem since I am a Mac user, and multitasking is something that all Macs do well. The problem is that I would have an entire folder stuffed with a variety of PDFs, notes, links, images (if the project required a visual aid), mathematical formulae formatted in LaTeX, and not to mention the multiple iterations of Pages files. Although, through practice, I had become somewhat efficient using this “method,” I knew the enormity of my dissertation would require some forward thinking.

Thankfully, by luck I suppose, I stumbled on a wonderful piece of writing software called Scrivener.

more here - Best Writing Software Ever? – Michael J. Langlois.

Scrivener and Zotero

If you are doing a lot of writing (or hanging out with writers…) you may have come across Scrivener – a well, this is a bit hard to describe… sort of word processor for serious writing, especially long texts – like the ones that Word loves to play funny stuff like strange formatting with – or at least makes it seriously annoying to deal with (scroll through 100 pages… sure!).

Scrivener isn’t, of course, only for people writing long novels. It can actually be a pretty neat tool for academics, too. Especially if you are a bit like me, and like to forget what my next argument was going to be… Because Scrivener handles parts of a document more like a set of “cards”, which you can move around at will, it makes it easy to think through an outline of a chapter or even a paper, and then organise all the arguments before sitting down to write everything up – before rendering it into that final copy that will appear in the next masterpiece ready for the Journal of Superlative Academic Papers.

Scrivener also has a lot of other tools to make writing easier: From a split screen allowing you to quickly browse through research documents, like key articles, to productivity meters giving you target word counts and progress for sessions (for example, if you take part in #acrimo) or sections of you documents. BUT …as much as all of these things are useful and make it easy to write, Scrivener has one serious limitation for academics – and that is the lack of integration with referencing software like EndNote, Mendeley or Zotero. But that does’t mean you can’t use them or Scrivener – it just requires a bit of extra work. Depending on how you feel about Scrivener (especially as a useful substitute to something like Word) – you may think it is worth the extra effort.

I haven’t tried Scrivener with EndNote or Mendeley, but with Zotero there are two relatively easy ways to ensure you can work with Scrivener and Zotero and let Zotero format your references etc.

more here - Scrivener – and Zotero | Stephan Dahl.

Plain Text, Papers, Pandoc

Over the past few months, I’ve had several people ask me about the tools I use to put papers together. I maintain a page of resources somewhat grandiosely headed “Writing and Presenting Social Science”. Really it just makes public some configuration files and templates for my text editor and related tools. Things have changed a little recently—which led to people asking the questions—so I will try to lay out the current setup here. I will also try to avoid veering off into generalized noodling about the nature of writing or creativity. (That’s fine for Merlin.) This is mostly because although I am not a bad writer, I am an excellent procrastinator, and it is embarrassing to write about how to write papers when you could be actually writing papers. My excuse today is that I have a headcold.

So, first I will say a little bit about the general problem, and then I will tell you something specific: how to take the draft of a scholarly paper, typically including bibliographical references, figures, and the results of some data analysis, and turn it into nice-looking PDF and HTML output. The hopefully redeeming thing about this discussion is that it will help you use the various resources I make available for doing this. If you want to copy what I do, you should be able to. But I am not saying you ought to. Nor am I making any claim that what I do is right, rational, efficient, productive, or psychologically healthy. As in an earlier discussion of mine on this topic, my chief counterexample to taking anything here as advice about writing or productivity is my wife, who—as I type this—is seated opposite me at the dining room table, putting the final touches to a book written in Microsoft Word. I think MS Word is unpleasant to use for all kinds of reasons, and perhaps you agree. The fact remains she just used it to write a book that will be published later this year by Oxford University Press. On this side of the table, meanwhile, I have this blog post.

more here - Plain Text, Papers, Pandoc – Kieran Healy.

Taking full advantage of Scrivener’s power for short writing

Recently, I’ve been writing shorter pieces and have developed a new workflow in Scrivener. At the beginning of a writing session, I work on the text which I’m prepared to write (i.e. I have all the references and ideas fleshed out in an outline). At a certain point though, I lose power with writing and find myself searching for references or outlining ideas.

A workflow I’ve developed to deal with this dip in energy is to use the rest of my writing time to start organizing Research in my scrivener file. (The research tab is always there but I never knew quite what to do with it). This way, when I return to writing the next day, the document is downhill-parked and I can hit the ground running by using Scrivener’s multi-scrivening view to slowly but surely turn my raw research into text.

more here - Taking full advantage of Scrivener’s power for short writing: Streamlining research and writing | Academic workflows on Mac.

One more reason to use Scrivener for thesis writing

In addition to the  five reasons to write your thesis in Scrivener there is at least one more: Scrivener provides a possibility of seeing and editing concurrently several snippets of texts. It’s invaluable if you want to align several distant parts of your thesis (e.g. Aims, Discussion and Conclusions):

via One more reason to use Scrivener for thesis writing | Academic workflows on Mac.

5 reasons to write your thesis in Scrivener

Writing a thesis is painful. And it should be. But the pain should rest in wrestling with ideas and data not with software. Scrivener takes the pain out of the software side and ensures that your attention is always in the right place.

more here - 5 reasons to write your thesis in Scrivener | Academic workflows on Mac.

Research Papers and Gourmet Cooking

Dear researchers and writers,

As you embark on your research paper for me, I’d like to offer a few thoughts and suggestions.Research can be incredibly fascinating, and it’s something I’ve much enjoyed since beginning high school debate, way back in the fall of 1982. Yes, the glory days—the days of Reagan, Rush, and Blade Runner. Indeed, research can open up entirely new worlds to you; I could only compare it to reading chapter books for the first time and entering the sub-created realms of the best authors. It many ways, though, it proves itself more fulfilling than reading the work of another. You hunt, find, and revel in the words of another, placing each piece of evidence into a larger puzzle, a puzzle that you ultimately build and solve. Research, when done well, increases your knowledge, your wisdom, and your vocabulary, and it gives you a certain gravitas in all areas of your life, professional and otherwise.

more here - Research Papers and Gourmet Cooking- The Imaginative Conservative.

Historian’s Macroscope- how we’re organizing things

We are all fans of Scrivener, too, for the way it allows the bits and pieces to be moved around, annotated, rejected, resurrected and so on. Two of us are windows folks, the other a Mac. We initially tried using Scrivener and Github, as a way of managing version control over time and to provide access to the latest version simultaneously. This worked fine, for about three days, until I detached the head.

via Historian’s Macroscope- how we’re organizing things | Electric Archaeology.

Academic writing workflow for geeks

At this point in my geek-evolution, I have managed to use just about every widget and tool around. Most of them I’ve concluded are like having a baby rattle on a pram. Ultimately you’re occupied, even happy, but someone is pushing you from A to B.

Now when it comes to creating a workflow for writing, it’s actually quite hard if you’ve been bashing the rattle as long as I have. Which tools to choose, which to ditch. So many choices, so many things I tried and abandoned. Worse still, so many things I used in a basic way, avoiding filling out the details. Live in the pram means wasting crazy amounts of time procrastinating, experimenting and avoiding commitment. A decade of using this stuff requires some degree of conscious remedial effort to get out the pram and walk around again.

more here - Academic writing workflow for geeks | Playable.

Creativity through collaboration

I’ve used a range of software packages (beyond the obvious) over the last few years. I might review some of them if anyone is interested in anything specific so this is just a list for now.

Scrivener - http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

NVivo - http://www.qsrinternational.com/#tab_you

Transanna - http://www.transana.org/

Audacity - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audacity

Selfcontrol - http://visitsteve.com/made/selfcontrol/

Scrivener is extremely interesting and I’ll publish a blog post on that at some point soon.

It is a tool for writing large documents (play, book… thesis). It works well for people who need to navigate a lot of materials and keep them stored in one place. Considering the price in particular I would urge anyone writing a thesis to think seriously about using it. Actually, I picked this up from observing how music postgrads and post-docs in our department work.

via Creativity through collaboration: Software for Research.