A Few Tools to Help You With Writing

A Few Tools to Help You With Writing

Pen and Paper

I don’t know. I still can’t get away from my Moleskine and a pen to carry around with me. I can write everything in it from errands I have to article ideas. I only use my phone when something I have to do has a specific date. I can write faster than I can type with two thumbs and I would rather catch the ideas as fast as they come.

Google Chrome

I figured I would have to make up for what I said the other day about Chrome. Chrome is damn nice if need a browsing environment that is minimal. I miss minimal at times. Like right now, as I write this post. It is now what I write in and keep uncomplicated.

Sometimes I don’t need all add-ons hanging off of my browser telling me PageRank, Alexa Rank, debugging the page and alerting me about everything from the latest updates from 200 people I follow on Twitter to new mail in Gmail.

And sometimes it just takes to long to move a browser that loaded with addons. Chrome is fast, the fastest browser I have installed on my laptop. And I have Flock, FireFox 3, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer. I have been trying to time it. Click the icon and the browser and home page loads in about a second. This will probably never be possible for my installations of Flock or Firefox. You can count the time in minutes. Safari and Opera are fast but not this fast. And when I click the Chrome icon when Windows is loading, it’s there just as fast.

And Chrome is a Google Gears machine. So I put the bookmarks to my Wordpress blogs, link to my Zoho account and MindMeister account on the toolbar. This means I can use these accounts whether I have an internet connection or not. It’s like having multiple programs loading instantly, at the click of a button. It also does this for Remember the Milk which has me considering switching from BackPack which doesn’t support Gears.

Until Chrome and Google Gears, I had been slowly switching back to desktop apps after using web apps for a while and just not finding them as fast as desktop apps. Google Gears effectively created a hybrid, apps that run everywhere and with Android coming, it will be truly everywhere.

So minimal + Gears + faster than any program known to man = another browser I use for a specific task. I have used multiple browsers for a while. I like everything I need visible and that is all. But I do so many things online one browser really couldn’t handle it. Now I’m with Flock, Firefox and Chrome. Chrome took Safari’s place for being the fast one.

Zoho or Google Docs

I just logged in Zoho so I would have more details to write in this section and realized it does a lot of things, even has a scheduler with a to do list. But as far as I know, only the word processor works with Google Gears, but that is good enough for me.

As I wrote this, I switched to Google Docs for documents. One, more people use it and I can share things more easily. Two, I was having real formatting issues with Zoho.

Writer: the internet typewriter

I wrote this post on Writer. I had been using Dark Room and highly recommend it. I still have it on my taskbar because there have been times I don’t have an internet connection. But when I realized how fast Chrome was, I found Writer. I only wish Chrome had a full screen mode, so I could fully block out the rest of the screen.

You can sign up for an account and have Writer save your text files. You can also send what you have written via email, post it to a blog and download it as a PDF file, which looked really nice. Other than that, it’s a word processor that is green letters on a black background that blocks out all the rest of your screen,

Formatting, linking to references, and adding pictures are best done later or they could become a chance to do busy work instead of write.

Auto-Hide the Taskbar

If you get distracted easily, like I do, but still can’t resist leaving your email software open while you write, hide your taskbar, so at least you can trick yourself into not being distracted.

Big Huge Thesaurus

The more you write, the better you get at it. But it seems, the more you notice what is wrong with it. I know there are words I use over and over when something new would at least put a stop to the monotony.

Blog Post Idea Generator

Hit the button and 5 ideas show up. Pick from those or keep hitting the button until something you like comes up. You can also contribute your own ideas. Not for your niche blog? Push it a little. Flex your writing muscles and make a topic fit your niche blog. Or just use it as an exercise to get your mind going.


Need to plan a series or are you going to write a more complex post. Give MindMeister a try. You can build a whole mind map by typing and hit enter or tab. Map out the ideas for your articles and posts quickly and then you can add notes and links to each node on your mind map to flesh them out.

Remember the Milk

As I was writing this, I got more familiar with Remember The Milk and I think I may be using it from now on. I created a list called “Article Ideas” that I can add possible blog post headlines to quickly through a bookmarklet whenever I feel like it.


But backpack still has some feature’s I like for research and collaboration, so I am keeping that one too.

Silence and a Closed Door

This won’t always happen but it helps. This is my first post after maintaining radio silence for most of the weekend. I only checked sites that had to do with the articles I had written. I only checked email once a day. And I turned off Google Talk. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

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Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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