Simple Tools For Writing Books

I was perusing the Ubuntu Forums awhile back and stumbled upon a couple of threads (one here and one here) discussing writing software for writers. At the time I was using the preinstalled LibreOffice and was quite happy with it. It could do everything I wanted including formatting and interior design. I ran into problems when I had to convert it to a PDF/X-1a for printing; something LibreOffice cannot do. I found I could not simply import it into my desktop publisher (Scribus). I ended up re-doing the entire interior.

As I look to start on a second writing project, I find myself wondering how to make things easier for myself. My problem with LibreOffice is that it does a lot of automatic formatting I don’t want. It gets in my way and becomes a nuisance. I suppose all this could be changed, but that’s a hassle as well, and all these things are obstacles when one is in the midst of a creative flow of thought.

I recently tried a couple of the suggestions from these threads, particularly for writing. PyRoom and FocusWriter both come highly recommended, although it appears PyRoom hasn’t been updated in awhile. They are full screen text editors, but since I often have several programs open at the same time for any given chapter, the full screen only doesn’t appeal to me. Ditto for BookWrite. LaTeX is a document preparation program that many folks seem to like, but it requires having to learn a mark-up language best suited for technical documents. I just want to keep things simple.

Since all my formatting is done with a DTP, all I need is a text editor with spell check! And that’s what I found, Gedit. Besides the spell checker it allows cut, copy, paste, and undo, redo.

I also learned about Zim, which is a text editor style desktop wiki, perfect for outlining and organizing sections, chapters, and ideas. Linking allows me to switch between pages easily, plus it will do basic formatting, which helps me organize ideas. I just read it even supports images!

So, for this next project I plan to do all the writing with Gedit and Zim, photo editing with Gimp, design and formatting with Scribus 1.4 (stable), and PDF prep with Scribus 1.5 (developmental but so far the only Linux friendly program that creates PDF/X-1a documents.) Simple, but that’s how I like it!

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4 Responses to Simple Tools For Writing Books

  1. Garrett says:

    Wow… “simple”! 🙂

    That’s a 5 tool suite. I’m wondering if with this surge in self-publishing, there might be a market for a cleaner process.

    I’m lucky in that I have been doing TDP/Authoring as my day job, so I have a powerful toolset (FrameMaker and Photoshop): two very expensive pieces of software.

    I can use MSWord and Gimp for much less, if pressed.

    With your level of complexity (non-fiction, lots of images/etc.) you need a lot more out of the tools you use. The results speak for themselves — your book was fantastic in content and in presentation!


    • Leigh says:

      Garrett, I’m slow to get around to replying, sorry!

      Interesting point about a market for better tools for self-publishing writers. I confess I’m still doing a lot of experimenting and will likely do a little more as I become aware of other tools.

      Of course mine have to be Linux compatible, which is a challenge. The one I thought I wouldn’t be able to get around was Adobe Distiller, which Lightning Source pretty much demanded for PDF preparation. My workaround was Scribus, which is also why I started with CreateSpace. CS is reputed to be easier to work with on that score. Now with LSI’s changes for indie author’s, I’ll just stick with CS and not worry about Adobe at all!

  2. Jeff says:

    It has been a long time since I’ve looked but I know DocBook was a big deal about 10 years ago. It was being driven by a single publisher (O’Reily) but haven’t seen it around anywhere.

    Best thing I saw was DocBook-Wiki which was a wiki specificically designed around publishing books (now defunct)

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