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Free Software for Writers
Melaine Ryther

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, so the saying goes, but writers who know their way around the Web are offered something even better: free software.

Presented here is a collection of freeware that can help make you a more organized and productive writer. At the very least, trying out the programs will keep you at your keyboard a little longer. And your wallet will be no worse off than before.

First things first. If you don't already have an unzipping utility (a program that opens compressed files - those that typically end with .zip or .sit), here's a good one to try out. (And it's free, of course.) You'll need it, or something similar, to open most of the other programs listed.

CoffeeCup Zip Wizard

Here are a few other technical tips to keep in mind before you begin:

-- Create a folder on your hard drive just for downloads (e.g., C:\Downloads).

-- If you have virus software, run it on downloaded programs before installing them. Chances are the programs aren't infected, but why worry if you don't have to?

-- Delete the zipped file after installation. You no longer need it and it takes up valuable disk space.

You're now ready to explore the freeware frontier. Just remember to come back-- there's nothing out there that will make your deadlines disappear.

OpenOffice - This complete office suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet, drawing program, database, HTML editor, multimedia presentation program, and much more. Completely compatible with Microsoft Office, and Mac-friendly as well.

TreePad - Store your notes, text, e-mails, pictures, and other bits of information in this highly-lauded free-form database. TreePad Lite is the free version.

Vizual Einstein ME - Organize your book, screenplay or article with this feature-rich information manager.

KeyNote - Flexible, multi-featured tabbed notebook that will keep your writing projects (or anything else, for that matter) in order and on track.

Yeah Write - Write a book, keep a journal, dash off a memo or just about anything else with this visually unique word processor. The shareware version is free.

Rough Draft - Designed specifically for writers, this simple little word processor has three modes - normal, screenplay, and stage/radio play - for easy formatting. Also has a side panel for notes or quick access to files.

Action Outline Lite - Bring order to your articles and stories with this free-form organizer/outliner. Lets you arrange text data in a hierarchical structure, edit your entries easily, and change their order to your liking.

Avery Wizard for Word - This handy little add-on to MS Word will let you create and print individual labels or entire sheets. Works as well with generic labels as with the Avery brand.

PhraseExpress - Add your favorite phrases-- addresses, greetings, signatures, and so on-- to any Windows program easily. Use either keyboard shortcuts or a phrase menu located in the taskbar to insert the words of your choice.

The Literary Machine - Use this unique "mind mapping" program to organize random thoughts and snippets of information. Once in the database, the software will then "link" words and concepts together. Highly customizable. Great for creative writers.

Scholar's Aid 2000 Lite - This research companion manages bibliographical data collected from books, articles, websites, etc., and generates references in predefined or user-defined formats. Library Aid will then transfer the references automatically to documents in a word processor. Extremely useful for writers of long, scholarly pieces and/or books.

Writer's Database - Keep track of where you send your work with this manuscript submission software. See at a glance which works are outstanding, which are still waiting to be sent, and which ones have come back. Build a database of proven and potential publishers.

StickIt - This indispensable utility creates virtual sticky notes that you can place anywhere on your desktop. You can even customize the color!

WebReaper - This offline browser enables you to download web pages to your hard drive so you can view them at your convenience, or save them permanently.

Eclipse Crossword - Add a theme-related crossword puzzle to a children's article or make a stand-alone puzzle with this crossword generator.

Word Search Factory Lite - Enhance your children's article with the kind of puzzle every kid (and editor) loves.

With all this new software to test out, who has time for lunch anyway?

When she's not downloading software, Melaine Ryther writes articles, short fiction, essays, and poetry. Her work has been published in a variety of print and online publications, including The Writer, Columbia, Mother Earth News, and Boys' Life. She lives in eastern Washington State with her husband and three young children.



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