Creative alternatives to Word

While Microsoft Word lumbers along, there’s some interesting and genuinely creative word processors out there.

We’re not talking about direct rivals to Microsoft Office 2013 like OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Kingsoft Office Free, Google Docs, iWork or earlier versions of Office.  Instead we’ll look at software that takes a very different approach to putting words on the screen or can work as a supplement to Word.

Scrivener

Free trial – Windows / Mac $40

Writing long documents isn’t often as simple as starting on Page One and typing away. More likely you’re working on different parts of the project, collecting notes, typing snippets or rearranging chapters.

Scrivener is designed to help people make sense of what can be a chaotic process.

In some ways it’s a mix of OneNote or Evernote with elements of Word such as the Navigation Pane and Outline view.

Gotta love the domain name: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/

Hemingway

Free online.  $6.99 Windows/Mac

The Hemingway app is a better English grammar checker.  It’s certainly better than the one in Microsoft Word which hasn’t been updated for many years/versions.

It works online in your web browser or there’s a desktop version that works offline.

Hemingway checks for sentences that are hard to read, excess adverbs, complex phrases and the dreaded passive voice.  It’s all color coded and counted with an overall readability score.

You can change the text in the editor and the checks will be updated (hopefully highlights disappear) as you edit.

Import/export is limited to .txt and Markdown format.  Most people would paste into Hemingway and copy the edited text out when finished.  Unfortunately, basic formatting like bold and italic don’t survive a pass through Hemingway.  Crucially, hyperlinks are also lost.  All that means you can’t easily ‘round trip’ between a standard word-processor and Hemingway.

Despite these limitations, Hemingway is a fantastic tool for professional writers.  For anyone (like your correspondent) who is ‘grammar impaired’ it’s a godsend.

Write or Die

Free online or $20 for Windows/Mac/Linux

This is one for any writer who finds it hard to focus on typing.  It’s a mix of punishments and rewards to keep you typing and not diverted by email, news site or cat video.

The most famous feature is ‘Kamikaze mode’. If you stop typing for too long, Write or Die will start removing what you’ve typed (only vowels in the latest version).

But there’s also rewards for continued work and stimulus to make you keep working.  Write or Die also has typing stats like ‘Words per minute’ and word counts.

Script Writing

Microsoft has ‘Screenplay’ template for Word available for many years. Search for ‘Screenplay’ from the File | New dialog in recent versions of Word or go to their Office Templates site.

But that template only provides a basic outline, not the power features that theater, film, TV writers need.  Screenplays and other scripts have specific formatting requirements that must be used.  There’s also need for specialist reports like Character Breakdown (list of roles and what scenes they are in) or Location Lists (a list of locations/sets with the scenes and characters).

Some of the script production alternatives are: