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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

An application idea

Yes­ter­day I wrote that I have too many ideas. Ok, here's an­oth­er one:

A word pro­ces­sor for writ­er­s. And when I say writ­er­s, I mean nov­el­ist­s, tech­ni­cal book writ­er­s, script writ­er­s, play­wright­s...

Word is not very good for a writ­er. Open­Office is not good. KWord is prob­a­bly worse (be­cause of the em­pha­sis on page lay­out). LyX is prob­a­bly as good as it get­s, and it's not ex­act­ly per­fec­t.

A writ­er ac­tu­al­ly needs a sim­ple-ish word pro­ces­sor with a bunch of an­cil­lary gad­getry.

For ex­am­ple:

  • Statis­tic­s:

    • How many word­s/chars/­­­pages a day is he writ­ing

    • A live word/char counter

    • A live word fre­quen­­­cy mon­i­­­tor (put the cur­­­sor on a word and see how of­ten it's used)

    • Live counter of doc­u­­­men­t/chap­ter/­sec­­­tion/scene size.

  • Out­­lin­ing

    • Re­al live out­­­lin­ing. The kind where you drag stuff around and the text fol­lows.

    • An ed­itable ful­l-­­­text out­­­­­line view

  • Col­lab­o­ra­­tion

    • Mul­ti­­­ple ed­i­­­tors

    • Ver­­­sion­ing con­trol

  • Projects

    • Mul­ti­­­ple files per project

    • Link­ing files to places on the text in oth­­­er files

  • In­­dex cards

    • As­­­so­­­ci­at­ing in­­­dex cards to places on the text

    • Group­ing in­­­dex cards (for ex­am­­­ple, per char­ac­ter, or per lo­­­ca­­­tion)

    • Plac­ing them on a time­­­line or a sto­ry­board

  • Live The­saurus / Dic­­tio­­nary

    • Show de­f­i­ni­­­tions and al­ter­­­na­­­tives as the point­er cross­es a word.

    • One click re­­­place­­­ment

  • Styling

    • Per frag­­­men­t/­­­para­­­graph styles

    • Us­er de­fined

    • Pre­de­fined styles

There are a bazil­lion things he does not need, though, like de­tailed page lay­out­ing, or gram­mar check­ing.

It would be nice if it could lat­er be eas­i­ly im­port­ed (styled!) in­to some­thing like Scribus so a de­cent page lay­out could be done, but it does­n't need to be in the same app at al­l.

The text en­gines in Qt4 are good enough for all this app needs graph­i­cal­ly.

Re­struc­tured­Text is good enough to pro­vide a back­end, a parser, an ex­porter, a read­er, a trans­former, what­ev­er.

So there it is, an­oth­er idea I will most like­ly not im­ple­men­t. Some­one please run with it, you can prob­a­bly make it a rather ex­pen­sive GPL share­ware on Mac ;-)

Scott Wheeler / 2006-10-24 15:56:

One of the many not-even-alpha quality apps in my local CVS is just such an app from when I was on a big creative-writing kick a year ago or so.

It actually all started when I realized that I preferred writing in KMail over any word processor. I had line count, "draft" functionality, inline spell checking and easy to read wrapping.

I think a lot of the things that you listed are just there because they're things that you don't not need. In a creative-writing program you want to keep things minimal because the main goal of a writer is to keep writing -- your goal is a suped-up spiral-notebook. Things are presumably a bit different with non-fiction.

A constant word-count I suspect would distract me, though it'd be nice in a dialog. (Incidentally I found myself pasting stuff into KWord just for that.) Index cards, references and styling are also right out.

Sections and version control are important though. "Outlining" is just a matter of having your sections not filled in yet and having a way to list them.

The direction that I considered going was hooking things into a wiki backend for colaboration and version control. That would also make it possible to edit outside of the app. Bonus points if it could then generate and RDF stream of latest changes. As you mentioned, export of a finished work for layout and styling to a proper editor / layout tool is desirable, but if the formatting is minimal, RTF is probably suffecient.

So, yeah, this has also been on of the things in my never-going-to-happen queue. I think it is noteworthy that the work flows for fiction and non-fiction are rather different.

Anonymous / 2006-10-24 16:00:

Why do you need a whole new application? Would improving on the already existing programs (Koffice/Openoffice) not be in everybody's interest?

The developer doesn't have to start from scratch.
The user can have a more "professional" text processor, in one application

Roberto Alsina / 2006-10-24 16:11:

Why a whole new application? Because the end result is very different from a "regular" word processor.

Which, to be honest, I am not sure are the right UI for almost any sort of writing other than letters to be printed and mailed.

Thomas Zander / 2006-10-24 17:03:

I'd say that those goals overlap for a huge partition with KWords goals.
If you find these things exciting, please join us in the creation of KOffice2.

And if you actually wrote a book in KWord you'd see that there is little to no emphasis on page layouting. At least, thats what real authors told the KOffice crew :)

Aron Stansvik / 2006-10-24 17:59:

Very interesting and I've been thinking about something like this myself, as well as a DocBook editor in Qt.

However I agree with previous commentators that it's a huge overlap with a regular word processor, and that the future KOffice2 code should be used as much as possible.

Very good for translators of books too.


Roberto Alsina / 2006-10-24 18:03:

There is a huge problem for me in hacking Koffice. Or rather two.

1) I can't get my head around the code. That's surely a limit on my head, not the code :-)

2) It's C++. Which I am really tired of :-(

As for page layouting... if I open Kword, I see page layout everywhere. I am sure it can be hidden but by default it's far from the blank page that leads me to "just start writing"... It's **busy looking** maybe I feel forced to use all those shiny knobs and buttons, and I am distracted by the pretty lights :-)

But: it has those rules, it shows the margins, a gray area around the page, it has that weird tree-that-is-not-an-outline-and-I-don't-understand on the left, and about 45cm of toolbars.

Then again, I have never tried writing something long in kword, much less customaizing it to look the way I think it should. But I did try that on other word processors, and it was just frustrating.

Louis / 2006-10-25 15:39:

Maybe some easily-selectable views, like a Tech Writer view, a Novelist view, Layout view, etc., would be a good idea for KOffice 2.0? Allow for customizeable views?

Racchio / 2006-10-25 22:47:

Hi! Your idea is one of the cool apps I'm missing on Linux (I don't know about other OS's, since I don't use them). I've found something SIMILAR to what you're talking about wich is great for movie script writers and based on mozilla, as far as I know. It's called Celtx and you can get it here:

Unfortunately I'm searching for a more Comics Scripting oriented tool and I haven't find it yet! If you ever start a project...let me know! :)