Fully Integrating Scrivener into my writing flow

I mostly do two forms of writing: short, 1000-word columns for Massively, and anything required for school. School is either as simple as an essay, or as complicated as a heavily formatted document.

I’ve been struggling with fully using Scrivener for a while. When I bought the program, it seemed great for long bodies of work like books, short stories, etc.. With none of the stuff I write these days being that long, Scrivener seemed doomed to sit in the neglected pile. Which is too bad, because there are a lot of features I like in it. Its full-screen view is amazing, for instance.

There were two big hassles: since the columns end up on the web, creating a Scrivener project for of them seemed silly. School often has rigid formatting guidelines, and I was afraid I’d be spending as much time reformatting the exported Scrivener document as I would have spent just doing the damn thing in Word.

I had a perfect storm of light-bulbs going off in my head. Instead of creating a separate Scrivener document for every column and essay, why not create a Weblogsinc and School project, and then use Scrivener’s multi-document tree structure to write each column. When I’m done, just delete the file but keep the project. Same thing for the essays. My print clients will also get their own Scrivener file. It’d probably make sense to just have one Scrivener file for ALL my articles and columns, but it’s easier for me to focus this way.

It’s worked well so far. I’ve come to the realization I’m never, ever, going to get rid of Word and I’m ok with it. Unlike some Mac people, I’m not that anti-Microsoft and I actually kinda like Word 2008. My big beef is the damn thing takes too long to load and most of my instructors still can’t accept docx formats yet.

Which got me to thinking about Pages 08. The big strike against it has been the fact that it saves everything in .pages formats, and I need to export it to a .doc file to hand it off. Kinda like I have to do with Word 2008, now that you think of it.

The amount of stuff I need to do heavy formatting in is negligible. The Online Documentation class that just wrapped had heavy formatting needs with some tables, but the Modern Middle East class just requires single-spaced Times. Even though I prefer using Cambria these days, I set up a Scrivener Compile Draft setting to export or print it in Times. Scrivener sorta integrates with Endnote, so if I need to cite something I can run it through Endnote and get the bibliography done.

Reader Request: Using EndNote with Pages 08

We at the compound were amazed when a comment popped into our moderation queue with an actual question, and not telling me how I can make my male member larger. So, we have our first Reader Request: How to use Endnote with Pages 08. I originally posted this in the Pages discussion forum on Apple’s website. I cleaned it up and added some screenshots for clarity as well as incorporated some comments by other posters.

Continue reading “Reader Request: Using EndNote with Pages 08”

Thinking of going web-based for writing

I recently got an iPhone which starts to eliminate the need for me to carry around a laptop, but more on that later. I love my Macbook and OS X in general, but lugging seven pounds of laptop around with me for little gain is more pain than it’s worth. I’ve been living a daydream of writing on the train for several years, but it’s rarely come to fruition. There’s two main reasons for this: I tend to fall asleep on the train ride in more often than not, and the train ride home is often too crowded to break out the laptop.

So, I’ve been hauling around this dead weight for the times I feel like writing at lunch. I’m starting to think that web-based tools will work just as well for most of the stuff I’m working. The advantages are pretty obvious: At work and home, I’m connected to the Internet so therefore I have access to my stuff. The MBTA is in the process of rolling out WiFi onto the trains–I guess they figure since the trains are always late, maybe we can get some work done on them–so once that happens, if the stars align and I feel like writing I can still get to my docs.

The downsides are also pretty obvious, in that I need to be connected to the Internet. I’m not sure how time-sensitive the stuff I’ll be working on is, though. Google Docs is pretty good but it lacks proper formatting. Anything for school, where I’m adhering to academic standards will need to be done in Word.

I’m going to be giving ScriptFrenzy a try — the NaNoWriMo of Scripts, where you have a month to do 100 pages. Scripped.com has a nice little on-line script tool, but I’m a little suspect of its apparent PDF only export.

I’ll let you know how I make out.

Microsoft Releases Office 2008 Prices: Panic and Confusion Engulfs World

Yesterday Microsoft announced the pricing for Office 2008, due out January 15th. The prices are as follows:

$150 gets you the Home and Student Package which at least gives you Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It *may* come with Entourage but it will not allow you to connect to an Exchange server.

$400 gets you the Home and Student Package plus the ability to connect to an Exchange server in a SKU called Office 2008 Professional.

$500 gets you all of the above plus some fancy media organizing package no one knows jack shit about right now. My feeling is this will come in handy for people who make media-heavy presentations. Like Steve Jobs.

Naturally, this got the Internets going on Microsoft releasing too many confusing SKUs when one will do. I don’t see that in this case. The Home edition is for people who need more out of a suite than iWork provides. For roughly double the price you get about three times the features. Yes, yes, I know some of you are perfectly happy with Text Edit. $150 for a package that gives you close-enough-for-government-work-guaranteed compatibility with Office users is a good deal.

The $400 version is really a $250 tax on being a corporation and needing to connect to an Exchange server. I find this reasonable, especially since volume pricing drives the price down quite a bit anyway. What’s that, you say? The poor college kid that needs to connect to the campus Exchange server has to shell out all that extra cash? Um, no. You see the “real” student price for Office 2004 is actually less than the Apple Education price for iWork. Through my University I can get Office 2004 Student for $68, and the Pro version for $80. Assuming those prices are inline with the 2008 pricing, college students can get Office 2008 Professional for about $80.

While I’ve switched a lot of my general word usage to Pages, I’ll be getting this day one. I’ll be damn glad I can get the student price on it though. Do I *look* like I’m crazy enough to spend $400 just so I can connect to the Exchange server at work?

Guild Wars and MMO review cycles

I wrapped the *Guild Wars: Eye of the North* review this weekend. While I can’t comment on what’s in the review it did make me think about MMO reviews in general.

I wrapped the *Guild Wars: Eye of the North* review this weekend. While I can’t comment on what’s in the review it did make me think about MMO reviews in general.

MMOs are a huge time sink—it’s in their nature and I don’t have a problem with that. The goal is too keep you playing, even a non-subscription game like *Guild Wars*. Finishing a review, though, gives me an odd form of closure; when I’m done with the review, I’m done with the game. *LOTRO*? Loved it. Only logged in once or twice after the review. Same thing with *Auto Assault*. When I wrapped the *Burning Crusade* review it was a few months before I logged into *WoW*—and was a combination of it running on my MacBook, an awesome guild, and the ability to get something done in an hour or so.

The industry is either shoving games out the door so fast you can’t think straight or they aren’t putting any out. It is not unusual for me to have reviews stacked up like planes at O’Hare National. January had *Burning Crusade* and *Vanguard* back-to-back and *LOTRO* wasn’t far behind. Usually when I do 2-3 MMO reviews in a row, I get burned out on them for a bit and by the time the urge strikes to play one again, well, heck, there’s another one that needs to be reviewed. So, as much as I loved the game during the review, the cycle the dictates I’m likely to not to do much with it afterwards. Even though I live in the world of Fun Tax Deductions keeping a lot of subscriptions going isn’t feasible (yay for companies that comp press!).

*Guild Wars* has always straddled that line. It’s free and, thus, well clear of the Anger Spouse With More Fees issue. But, it’s hit the Closure rule where I finish the review but make a note that I need to finish up a few things when the urge strikes—clear off some side quests, etc.. Which is where I’m at now. I’ve beaten *EotN*, but there’s a bunch of content I didn’t see. There’s bits from the older chapters I haven’t seen either. I’d like to think I’ll follow up in a month or so and cross them off my list. Since one of the driving forces on playing old games is if it’s something I’ll need for a future review, and *EotN* is the last of the *Guild Wars* line, I doubt I will. Besides, *Tabula Rasa* ships in a month…

Going back to school

I went to back to school last week part-time for technical communications with two writing-related courses on the agenda: Tech Writing (intensive) and College English Workshop. For the English class, I have two main semester-long duties: writing a 10-page research paper, and writing about 400 words/week in a journal. Blogs count, so I’m using this opportunity to blog more.

The research paper topic is going to be on how the show 24 has affected American’s opinion on torture. For a long time it seems American’s have viewed themselves as being the “good guys” and the “good guys” don’t torture people—that’s the “bad guys” job. Since Jack Bauer, the lead character in 24, routinely tortures people because he doesn’t have the time to ask them nicely and the show receives both high ratings and critical acclaim, I’m curious how American’s view torture against the context of the show.

The hardest part is going to be finding sources. I need at least seven sources, and I’ve found some decent ones: an article in which Justice Scalia is quoted as saying that Bauer would never be prosecuted and that extreme times call for extreme measures. I’ve found articles in which Pentagon and West Point officials have visited the producers telling them to lighten up a tad since apparently military people are using Jack Bauer as a training manual. Those are soft sources and I need to find some harder ones, which means I’ll need to nail down the topic and thesis into something I can find academic sources on, which may prove difficult for something entertainment-based.

I’m looking forward to this; the last time I had to write a research paper was almost 20 years ago. Since I’ve been writing professionally for a while, I do not doubt my ability to do the work, but I’m curious how the standards for academic writing differ from writing for publication. When writing for publication, I’ve found the criteria seems to go: 1) on-time, 2) doesn’t take up too much of my editor’s time, and 3) good. I expect academia standards are a tad different, but I actually wouldn’t be surprised if they were that much different: “Hmm, looks like Mr. Crump handed in his assignment on time. That’s a bonus. Looks like I won’t need go through five red pens marking this one up, either, and whaddya know, it’s actually fairly decent.” But I have a nagging feeling it’s going to be much different.

Update to Word Processors

I checked out NeoOffice and while they claim it’s a lot faster on loading, it still feels like it loads slower than Word via Rosetta. Plus the interface is still ugly, and I’m not happy with how it does commenting (you need to mouseover the highlighted text). So that’s out of the running still.

For my personal writing, I checked out Scrivener (http://www.literatureandlatte.com) and it looks like a fine, but complicated app. One feature I do enjoy is the notecards, where you can storyboard out an idea and change the order of the cards–very similar to how you’d do it with real 3×5 cards.

In the end, it looks like I’m sticking with Word for a while. I forgot Omni Outliner came with my Macbook and an initial tour of its features and ease-of-use was impressive, so I’ll give it a shot outlining story I’m working on.