The following are brief reviews of Microsoft Word and Google Docs – they are brief because I felt kind of stupid typing up a longer review of a piece of software everyone has been using since they were six. There wasn’t much to say once I realized I sounded like a dork when I got on about how you can run a find and replace function with relative ease. OH and did you know you can track changes and leave comment notes for yourself? See? Aren’t you glad I spared you?
If you use one or both of these when you write, tell us what you think in the comments and any fancy tricks you might have up your sleeves on making these pieces of software work harder for you.
Software: Microsoft Word
Cost: Free if it is already on your computer, buying new varies
Have I used this software to write? Yes, all the time, but it is not my primary novel writing software
- Simple to use
- Already on most computers
- Compatible on any Windows computer with Word installed
- Comes equipped with familiar formatting tools
- Great change tracking features
- Most novel writing software exports to Word
- Not likely to crash or corrupt your files
- Compatible with Google Docs
- Not intended specifically for writing novels or scripts so lacks specialized tools
- Can only keep one long document with no easy way to combine a bunch of smaller documents
- Has the weird ribbon set up that I’ve never gotten used to. Stupid Vista.
- Isn’t sleek or sexy like other writing software programs. While reliable, Word’s not very hip, is he?
In the novel writing software world, Microsoft Word is equivalent to warm milk when you can’t sleep. It is familiar and simple so getting started is no problem. A flash drive of documents can be taken from a work computer, to a laptop, to a desktop, to the public library and can be used no matter what Windows computer you’re sitting at. It is the software every other software models itself after in terms of word processing features. It’s really the Grandad of word processors, even if it didn’t come first. But no one dreams of becoming WordPerfect when they grow up, now do they?
I personally like to keep all of my chapters in separate files, but using Word for this isn’t very convenient since I’d have to combine them all manually later. Side-by-side comparison of different versions of a draft isn’t very handy either. Basically, Word is the powerhouse of word processing software, but it isn’t very specialized in any one thing so you won’t get any useful outlining tools, line note tools, or any other bell and whistle other writing software might have. To supplement its shortcomings, I’ve used Excel to do outlining and I can’t complain.
While Word’s formatting can be buggy sometimes, the program itself isn’t. You are not likely to discover corrupted files and Word isn’t likely to crash unexpectedly.
All in all this is the perfect program for writing anything in. You don’t need the bells and whistles of other novel writing software, Word will strive to meet all your needs, ever time, and will feel quite bad if it can’t.
Other Things to Consider: Use Word to start writing right now. Don’t wait until you pick the perfect software because any software worth its weight will be compatible with Word. As soon as you make a choice you can import your Word document into your new software. –Do-Not-Wait-To-Start-Writing-
If you don’t have Word on your computer but want something comparable, OpenOffice.org is an open source office suite that is free and exactly like the Microsoft Office suite. I’ve used OpenOffice before as well when my last desktop computer was too stingy to come with Office.
Software: Google Docs
Trial Download Available: No download needed
Have I used this software to write? Yes, but not to write novel length work
- It “Goes anywhere you go” and is not computer dependant.
- Your work is backed up and not saved on a gadget that might crash, break, dropped in a toilet, or end up stolen.
- Works exactly like Word.
- Is compatible with Word and can be imported to or exported from.
- Google has a lot of nifty little programs you can use in conjunction.
- It is easy to share your work with Beta readers if they are Google users.
- You must sign up an account with Google, which is a pain if you don’t otherwise use Google products.
- Very few features.
- Very few formatting options.
- Can be accidentally shared with the public.(Not very easily though)
- The site can be a little slow sometimes.
- The files are stored off site so you do not control the machines they are saved on.
I’ve used Google Docs for lots of projects, but never to write a novel. I’m too paranoid to save my novel out on a server somewhere far, far away. Also, Google Docs is a little bit too Word Lite for me. You’ve got your basic formatting options, but none of the other features that can make Word so much more powerful. I’ve had some formatting issues with moving documents to Google Docs and from Google Docs and that makes me nervous.
That being said, for other projects, Google Docs is damn handy. I like that I can start a document at home and work on it during lunch at work without fussing with a flash drive. And Google has applications to blow your mind. They have everything and I wouldn’t be surprised if they create more tools for writers in the coming years. I like the cutting edge, out of the box application creation. But as of right now, I wouldn’t write my novel on it. I need more features than Docs provides.
Other Things to Consider: Use it to back up your novel. The backup copy would be format-lite, but who cares if your house catches on fire or someone steals your laptop and your purse containing your flash drive. Also, if your Beta readers use Google, Google Docs is a good way to share your draft with them and accept comments from them. But then, so is email.
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