When my writing pal KW Taylor recently asked for recommendations for a simple word processor, I ended up telling her about two bits of software that I’ve been using for quite some time: FocusWriter and Atlantis.
Atlantis is – and this is its one big drawback – Windows-only. I run it under WINE on Linux with few problems. Its strength for me (it’s got a ton of other bells, whistles, and other stuff, but manages to be a light word processor at the same time) is how well it handles documents of different types. It works best with RTF files, but can easily deal with Word formatted documents, HTML, and more. (It’s one weak point that I’ve run into is tables – which aren’t really supported in RTF anyway – but I’ve not updated in a bit and they may have gotten this licked.) And it exports clean as heck HTML (those of you who are rolling your own eBooks know why this is important). It also includes a built in ePub exporter, which is pretty serviceable (but suffers the same flaws any converter has). Atlantis is shareware, in active development, and only costs $35. I’ve been using this software for years.
FocusWriter is a lot newer, but is my standby for when I’m “just writing”. There’s a plethora of free “full screen” writing programs, but there’s a few things that make FocusWriter stand out for me.
1. It is cross platform (Win/OSX/Linux) and does not rely on Java.
2. It is configurable as heck.
3. It has a beautifully organized tabbar/document statistics/writing statistics bit that autohides.
4. It supports both plain text and RTF formats. (So you can have your italics and underlines.)
FocusWriter is donationware (though I strongly encourage you to donate!).
Currently, my workflow goes something like this:
1. “Just write” in FocusWriter.
2. Organize bits in Scrivener (if necessary, depending on the project).
3. Format in Atlantis or LibreOffice for final touches (headers/footers, etc).
Other software that’s come up:
I avoid MS Word whenever I can (it tends to insert a bunch of junk I don’t want or need in the document code). And as mentioned, I run Linux, so just getting the fracking thing to run properly is sometimes problematic. The only reason I still use it is for comments and tracked changes with other people who use Word.
I want to like AbiWord. I really do. However, it’s never really worked for me. The GUI annoys me (launching with the focus on the menu bar instead of the document, for example), it keeps saving in a format nobody else uses, and I’ve occasionally had problems with other programs reading the RTF formats it outputs. That said, I’ve heard from lots of people who use it exclusively and do just fine. Having my documents be program-agnostic (I only got rid of/converted the last WordPerfect5 documents from my youth a few years ago) is a real deal-breaker for me, but may not be for you.
I use Scrivener – but rarely for “just writing”. I think it’s invaluable for organizing projects – I used it for my thesis and several non-fiction works. That’s probably more about my distracto-boy nature; give me twiddly bits to twiddle, and I’ll mess with that instead of doing real work.
LibreOffice is my go-to for when I need a full Office suite. While it has its own … peculiarities… in UI choices it works rather well. Additionally, you can actually tear apart an ODT file and manually edit it if you have to.
Do you use another word processor? Any recommendations (or thoughts on the ones mentioned)?