Tools of the trade

I’m a writer and I’ve moved around from one word processor to another over the past five years. I was writing in OpenOffice on the mac, then moved to Google Drive which was great until I lost a full day’s work, *poof*, gone, never to be seen again.

So I moved over to Libreoffice on Ubuntu which worked for a while, and backed up rather clunkily to Google Drive again using a semi-functional plugin to the file browser. Never worked properly and I was always scared I’d lose work again.

Now I’m on Windows 10, I’ve moved everything to MS word and auto-backup to MS Onedrive. Which has worked fine until this week. Right now, OneDrive has disappeared and MS Word is beginning to crash on documents.

Friend Daniel has been trying to convince me to move over to eMacs, and I’ve always been dubious. I want to write not work through technical jiggery-pokery. And it’s not simple to install on Windows either.

Basically I need the following:

  • plain text files (no xml, no fartarsing around in archive files like MS Word, Apple Pages, etc)
  • Offline editing
  • Easy backup to offsite storage (I’d probably use something like git)
  • highlighting keywords (in this case they’d be customised by me, and would include character name, organizations, things like that)
  • glossary — probably linked to the keywords, so I can define things
  • export to PDF so I can submit work to an agent in the event I get off my arse, write the synopsis, and find someone willing to get the work published
  • Treeview to see files— this is really important as each chapter has distinct defined scenes; I need to be able to see the scenes in the chapters, and be able to rearrange easily.

Whatever tool I use, I want to minimise setup. I’m so close to finishing the book I can taste it; 10 years work is almost complete. So changing tools and farting around in configuration doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm.

Ok, so finally got emacs installed (if you can call it that; it’s basically a downloadable zip file which you extract and run a particular file) and it’s exactly what I was led to believe, old-school, bare-bones text editing. You open things in panels called “buffers”, so you can have a folder open in one, a sub-folder in another and what you want to edit in a third. But I made the mistake of clicking in the footer so all the buffers went away, which was sub-optimal.

I think emacs is going to be a slow process of learning which is why I think editors like Atom have the edge. I don’t think it can do everything that emacs does, but it does have a built in user interface. It’s an electron app , that is, javascript and html. However, Atom still has its fair share of command line jiggery-pokery which doesn’t make me a happy camper.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day.

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