Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Awhile ago I decided I needed to move away from using Microsoft Word (which I had purchased) as my primary writing tool. My motivation for starting with Word (a program I've never really liked) was to maximize compatibility. It seemed to me at the time that nearly everyone has Word and if I wanted to share my writing in any way aside from published works I should stick with the most widely used editor available. This is how I justified purchasing the program and how I justified using it to write my entire first book.
My experience with Word broke down, however, when I started formatting my work to be published. I found that Word was not especially adept at the functions I appeared to need. I became frustrated with the program and lost faith in it as the best possible writing tool.
I also had a philosophical problem with using a pay-for program. I was espousing the ideals of open copyright and free ideas, yet my own content was locked up in a format not readily accessibly to anyone unwilling to pay for Word. Was it a major problem? No. But it did provide that little extra motivation I needed to search for something else.
I found what I was looking for in Open Office. Robust, capable and free, Open Office provided everything I needed philosophically and practically. Also, I found it easier to format my work for publishing with the writing program present in the suite. I abandoned Word straightaway and moved over to Open Office as my primary writing tool. I wrote my entire second book using Open Office Writer.
In the end, though, I ran into all of the problems I suspected I might when I initially chose Word all those years ago. The Open Office format is not as compatible as I would like. Although other people could download the software for free and use it, most were unwilling to do so. I personally found it difficult to use any platform other than Windows because of my dependence upon Open Office (despite having a portable installed on a USB drive).
My frustrations with Open Office were exacerbated by exterior circumstances (much like my frustrations with Word previously were). Because of work situations I found it difficult to ensure I always had the most current version of the document I wanted to work on with me. I began to find it exceedingly difficult to find any time to write in my day due to the logistical limitations of setting up a Windows machine (laptop or otherwise) on the fly. I started to become tempted by other, more nimble mobile platforms which seemed to offer more of the features I needed to make writing a feasible part of my fragmented life.
So, I started again looking for an alternative. I thought I found it in Google Wave, but then the service didn't achieve the success Google wanted for it and it was phased out. Afterward, I landed on Google Documents as the most accessible writing tool I could find to serve my needs.
Indeed, Google Documents is great. Perhaps its greatest feature is its platform independence. Though it lacks the publishing features I struggled over in the past, I've found that access trumps feature sets for everyday use. I can export my raw text from any editor and format it for publishing at my convenience. I can't always find time to write at my convenience.
So, I've migrated to Google Documents entirely and am preparing to write my third book using it. I can't help but wonder what factors will come into play next and send me looking for a new panacea writing tool to replace it once I am done.
So far, the only real deal breaker with Google Documents is the frustration of being unable to work when I go offline. How this might be mitigated is still being researched. Perhaps this will be the reason I eventually stop using it.
Alternatively, perhaps Google Documents really is the fix I was looking for. Perhaps this is where I will hang my hat and write as many more books as I can find opportunity to write. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

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