What software do you use to write your games?

edited January 2008 in Game Design Help
I was reading the Freeware/open source thing like InDesign? thread, and it got me wondering what software people used to write their games. What do you author the text in? What do you work with the graphics in? What do you lay it out in? What do you make the character sheets with? And so on.

My answers for Solipsist are that I wrote the text in Microsoft Word, and also did the basic layout of tables, headings and the like in word. Graphics were primarily drawn on paper, scanned, altered in Photoshop, and then saved as TIFF files. The character sheet has also been done in Photoshop, but this has been less than ideal (I hate Photoshop's vector tools with a passion). Layout will be done in InDesign, which will also be used to produce the PDF copies.

Many years ago I used to do my character sheets in Aldus' Superpaint (only for the Mac I think), which was both a vector and a bitmap graphics program at the same time. I didn't use it for Solipsist, even though I still have a copy and a computer that can run it, because it's support for bitmaps over 72dpi was very bad.

So what do you use?
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Comments

  • Here is my advice: if your text will be long, don't use a word processor. That is, not word, not openoffice, and so on. (and by long, I mean more than 10 pages)

    It sounds maybe counterintuitive, but those programs combine layout and text writing in a non very healthy way, IMO. If you are writing a lot well, that's mostly text. Get a powerful text editor (most of them are for programmers) and learn how to use it.

    More importantly, use a Source Control Management system, learn its concepts, and enjoy the perfect tracking of changes, merging of contributions from fellow authors, and so on.

    Better yet, there are free tools floating around: https://www.assembla.com

    Here you can sign up for free, and use either Trac+Subversion or Trac+mercurial.

    As for the formatting, if you write in reStructured Text you can generate alpha/beta and WIP versions pretty much on the fly, in HTML, LaTeX, PDF, whatever. And it will still look simply like well written, readable text. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReStructuredText

    When your text is complete, it will be trivial to paste/convert it in a more rich format...

    Now, these are probably very geeky suggestions, but yeah, I'm a sysadmin and programmer and technogeek, so sue me :)
    (besides, many of y'all are, too)
  • I write everything in Emacs, using reStructured Text or Markdown for formatting.

    As for graphics and layout, I've used something different for every game, which is a huge pain and stupid. I'm going to try real hard to use either Scribus or Wolfe from here on out.
  • edited January 2008
    For about 12 years I had been using FrameMaker, which is, hands-down, the best application for editing heavy-duty technical writing. Recently, first with Adobe's maddening decision not to carbonize Frame or release a port of Frame that would run under X-Windows on OSX (in fact to officially end-of-life Frame on the Mac entirely), and secondly with Apple's recent (and final) abandonment of the Classic subsystem on OSX, I have finally been cut off from FrameMaker unless I take heroic measures (i.e. run it under Sheepshaver or some other Classic Mac emulation package, or run it on a Solaris server and use my Mac as a display client).

    Accordingly, now I'm a bit adrift, but almost certainly will attempt to use Pages and/or InDesign as a replacement for projects going forward that involve layout (i.e. character sheets, reference pages, and the like).

    For simple text preparation, I use Emacs but am taking a very, very close look at Scrivener.

    At work, I use Word, and I can confirm that it does quite a decent job for preparing 50 page white papers and executive summaries. However, its layout abilities are maddeningly inconsistent, its table features frustrating, its header/footer management frustrating, its list and cross-reference creation cumbersome, its graphics handling pathetic, and the underlying engine itself seems rather fragile. All this from the "industry standard" tool.

    I look forward to the day when Cringely's prediction comes true, Apple buys Adobe, and re-writes and releases FrameMaker as a top-class word processing environment (which would not be as crazy as it might seem, given that a very solid version of Frame once existed for NeXTStep). I wonder if Apple still uses Frame to write all their documentation, or whether corporate fiat has moved everyone over to Pages at this point -- if the latter, then it's conceivable that Pages will get, over time, beefed up to the point where it supports the kinds of features that Frame made great (superb handling of long document composition, very good handling of page layout especially repetitive positional features, very good handling of graphics, and superb handling of cross-references and list generation).
  • I take a moment to share Viktor's pain regarding Frame. I cannot express how much I loved that program.

    I actually do my writing in Scrivener, which is a writing program. It's an odd class of software - it's not a word processor, and it's capabilities as such are minimal. Instead, it's designed from the ground up for novel writing, so it's all about places for clippings, references, research, notes, and keeping lots of different pieces of writing sorted according to your needs, with a full screen mode which is a lessing for easily distracted people like myself. It's fantastic, and would probably be even better if I were actually writing a novel.

    This is a robust area of software for OSX, since there are competing products like Avenir and Copywrite, but a staggeringly sparse one on the windows side (though pagefour seems cool). For those with a curioisty, the Scrivener folks keep an excellent page of links to the various products in this category.

    -Rob D.
  • I find it intriguing that people use plain text editors to write their original text. I use text editors all the time in work (I am a programmer and web designer by trade), but it would never have occurred to me to use them for writing the text of a game.

    Why? Because to me layout and text are intertwined. I need a notion of headings, and what will be numbered paragraphs, or tables, or indented, to guide my writing, I can't just drop those things in later. At the same time I don't want to have to worry about the exact presentation of those (i.e setting up counters manually and the like) while I write. Words strikes me as a good halfway between those two camps, I can keep track of my document outline and heading structure at the same time as writing. Also I need the spellchecker so badly, and BBEdit just doesn't cut it :)

    (As for source control in my game writing, I wouldn't be so cruel to myself!)

    And there are also aesthetics. Writing text in a text editor is not a fun UI experience. Writing text in a word processor, is. I write lots of program code in text editors, and from time to time I might use them for notes, but never for multi-thousand word writing. For those of you that write your game text in text editors, how do you stand it?

    But great answers, keep 'em coming
  • Serif Page Plus. Supported by Paint Shop Pro and Adobe Acrobat 4. I write straight into DTP.
  • Posted By: HituroWriting text in a text editor is not a fun UI experience. Writing text in a word processor, is. I write lots of program code in text editors, and from time to time I might use them for notes, but never for multi-thousand word writing. For those of you that write your game text in text editors, how do you stand it?
    OMG could not disagree more. Seriously. Emacs is the best UI experience I get all day. You want a bad UI experience: Word defines it for me. It actively works against you, making the smart choice (styles) the hard choice. (Note: haven't used the new "ribbon" version of Word. Maybe it's magic and farts rainbows.)

    A good text editor (read: mine) is a clean, beautiful experience. This is what joy looks like:

    emacs
  • The fixed space font! It burns! ;)

    I use Word (with styles) for mine. I have a copy of InDesign 2 which I will probably use if I make something for sale.
  • I used to format as I wrote, but i found it was too easy to let myself not write and spend my time fiddling. Worse, it made the writing feel more done, so I was less willing to kill my babies, and that was a big problem for me. So now, even if I'm in a word processor, I use the bare minimum formatting until I'm actually done, then do layout as its own step.

    This is, obviously, not an issue that everyone will have, but for me, that separation is very important.

    -Rob D.
  • The only problem I'd worry about for a text editor (and, this from a guy who uses Notepad ALL THE TIME) is that special characters do not happen in most text editors.

    For example, smart quotes. Technically speaking, the quote mark and the apostrophe for most text editors are actually the typographic symbols for inches and feet. For most folks, that boils down to: Do your quotation marks and apostrophes actually curl or are they straight up and down. Look at the apostrophes in Clinton's example. They're straight up and down.

    Here's an example with two identical sentences. The first one is wrong; the second one is typographically correct:

    Here is a quote. "To be or not to be." It's Shakespeare's.

    “To be or not to be.” It’s Shakespeare’s.

    The same thing is true for em dashes, en dashes and a host of other special characters (for example, fractions, though they're pretty rare unless you work at a company that prints a lot of recipes and woodworking plans, ahem).

    Now, most good layout software fixes this problem, but it's a pesky-as-hell problem. And, since I'm a type snob, I fucking hate it when people don't realize this.

    Word fixes this problem automatically, unless you turn that feature off. InDesign does same.

    That said, I fucking hate Word too! It uses Styles like a fucking ebola virus.
  • I'm such a lazy establishment person when it comes to software- whcih probably explains why my books don't look all that great. Anyway, I use MS Word Premium and Adobe Pagemaker 7.0.

    Peace,

    -Troy
  • I'm using Scrivener as well, and before that CopyWrite - these are good for big projects with lots of notes, chapters etc. They also have a full screen monitor that blocks out everything else. For collaborative work I use a wiki.

    Smaller things: a text editor, mostly SubEthaEdit (also for my HTML and CSS thingies). I'm looking very closely at Emacs, though. Word is a pain in the neck, but that's all collegues and other "normal" people use - and they have no idea how to use it anyway. Templates, anyone? Styles? Hello?

    When in a hurry or I just doesn't want to think about layout, I shoot it to LaTex. Otherwise InDesign these days.

    I would never never never mix writing with layout. Never. Like on the web, if you keep tight shutters between layout and content, you're good.

    Per
  • Yes, learn to use styles, it will make your life so much easier.

    I don't have a problem with Word - I tech-edited too many books with it and know its multifarious quirks. Though for preference I tend to use Pages, Neo Office or Google Docs depending on mood for writing.
  • Posted By: Per FischerI would never never never mix writing with layout. Never. Like on the web, if you keep tight shutters between layout and content, you're good.
    See, now, I'm totally with you on the web design front. I am 'separation of style and content' all the way through, Everything I write, if I possibly can, is semantic markup passed through CSS and then loaded into templating systems.

    But ... having said that, I am not sure I agree that it is true when writing other sorts of text. In a game, like any visual medium with fixed sizes pages, you care about the shape of sentences, the balance of headers, orphan sentences and the like, and that actively influences what I write as well. I couldn't leave it all till I got to the presentational stage (and lets face it, you can't really in CSS either, because you need to know which elements are going to need markup so that you can tag them).

    Actually of all the approaches here typing directly into the DTP software sounds nicest to me :) Maybe I should fork out for InDesign, it's a lot cheaper than my new TV for example :)

    Anyway, as before, great answers, keep 'em coming!
  • Matt, notepad is not a text editor :)

    Emacs, gVim, scintilla and similar are.

    Special characters missing? On the one hand, you are using a really bad text editor if you cannot input unicode characters, and on the other hand more than minimal formatting, style and fancy characters are probably something to be left for the pre-layout phase, unless you are completely sure your layout program can digest UTF-8 text correctly (which especially on windows is a nontrivial question).

    I'm amazed that a programmer (Hituro) would think using a text editor is worse than word... what editor do you program in? Some IDE like VisualC, Eclipse or Netbeans? In that case I feel your pain :)

    There's a reason if I did not mention them before.

    When writing in vim I can automatically format paragraphs (reflow text, etc), I get automatic indenting, syntax coloring (what's marked bold/italic in rest is actually bold/italic) and lots of nifty tricks. Also, I'm orders of magnitude faster when doing edit-y stuff like search and replace with complex patterns.

    Besides, if you write correct reST you get table of contents and chapter/paragraph numnbering for free, bulleted lists with auto-counting, and so on.

    Same thought goes for SCM: I can understand a non programmer cringe about it, but a coder? What's not to be liked? There are also nifty graphical programs to use the scms. And with a project system like Trac you can browse your text via web browser, see differences between arbitrary versions graphically, and maybe use some of the project management stuff like the milestones and ticketing system to keep organized (but that's probably overdoing it, unless it's a collaborative endeavor with contributors very far away).

    The kind of editor mentioned by Rob is probably the very best (I'd still use vim 'cause I'm a nerd for it): it lets you organize various resources, inspirational material, layout (as in text concepts layout), and so on.
  • I use Circus Ponies' Notebook for OS X.
  • I do a lot of my writing at work, so I use Word and have for quite some time. I will go you one better, I use -- gasp! -- MS Publisher for my layout (though I usually hire a freelancer who knows what they are doing unless it's a small project). I think I benefit from the fact that I've never tried these other types of programs, so I don't know what I am missing. That, combined with my now extensive experience with MS products, allows me to do exactly what I want to do 99% of the time.

    And, yes, the new Word is much, much more user-friendly. I'm a big fan of the update.
  • For GLASS:
    Pre-layout - MS Word, for portability between home and work. I use the "vanilla" Styles--rigorously, so Word doesn't propagate them (guys, just turn off the formatting toolbar, open the Style palette, change the Show filed to "Formatting in use" and you're golden!).
    Layout - Undecided. I would use FrameMaker, but I'm going to do most of the real layout work on my Linux laptop (my FM is Win, not willing to WINE it) and so I'll be working with either Scribus or OpenOffice (depending on how easy it is in Scribus to do conditional text).
    Artwork - GIMP.

    Note that I did the core system design writing in a way that minimized repetition and cross-reference. Now, I will be doing the "fill out" writing and examples and such within my layout program. I do this because I, too, like to see how the design in coming together while writing (purely for aesthetic joy--it doesn't keep me from fiddling format later or killing cows earlier).

    Aside: You can type special characters on Win machines by using Alt+NumPad sequences (hold down Alt key while typing a sequence of numbers on the NumPad, NOT on the number line above the alphabet keys). For instance:
    em dash: — Alt+0151
    en dash: – Alt+0150
    ellipses: … Alt+0133
    open/close double quotes: “” Alt+0147/0148
    singles: ‘’ Alt+0145/0146

    To find the ASCII code value (the number to type) just run Character Map (Start > Programs > Accessories, if installed) or check an online reference. Anyhow, long story short: in Win, yes, you can type commonly used special characters in any application (including online web forms, as I did above).
    David
  • I write in TextEdit, a very basic text editor for Macintosh. I basically write in XML. Each chapter has its own file.

    Then I import the XML into InDesign, flow the copy, and apply styles.

    Then I either take art supplied by artists (who may use a variety of tools, but it seems it always goes through Photoshop last) and import into InDesign. I usually end up creating some vector stuff on my own (the sidebars of FLFS, the play diagram of SoL), and for this I use Illustrator.

    My current printer simply takes PDFs instead of packaged files (which I actually prefer), so I export to PDF from InDesign for them. I also do a separate PDF export, with much lower downsampling settings for art, hyperlinked bookmarks, page thumbnails and all that, and that becomes the PDF version of the book.
  • Google docs for sheer portability. And the search is good for getting through the numerous versions and revisions in my folder.

    Yeah, I know about the spacing and line issues. I usually drop everything to bland text before I do any kind of formatting anyway. I used the free version of PagePlus to set and lay out Sci-Fi-Spi and inSite, my freebie games.
  • Here's the thing about seeing your text in layout as you write, coming from an out-of-work editor: it's a bad, bad habit that you should get the hell away from. It masks problems. Thing is, if you write your copy well, it will be clear, readable, and comprehensible even in ass-basic text with no formatting outside of carriage returns. Contrariwise, if your copy is not clear, readable, and comprehensible in ass-basic text with carriage returns, your copy has problems. Nice pretty layout may mitigate those problems, but it cannot solve them. The only thing that can solve them is copyediting, which you may not be as willing to do (like Rob) if it's already in pretty layout and fits on the page so well. Worse, you may not even see the problems in the copy if your eye is following all the layout cues.

    In short:
    Bad Copy + Good Layout = Good Looking But Hard to Read Pages
    Good Copy + Bad Layout = Adequate Looking, Easy to Read Pages (yes, adequate looking even with bad layout)
    Good Copy + Good Layout = A Pleasure to Read
  • Whenever I'm writing something, I like to start with a basic concept in something like Tomboy Notes (for Linux)
    http://www.gnome.org/projects/tomboy/ -- it basically is like a wiki combined with a text editor.

    There's like a thousand different text editors to choose from for Linux. Sometimes I use Openoffice.org. Sometimes I'll use gedit, Whatever I use, I don't like things that add things like carriage return characters at the ends of lines and other things like that. I like full on text, not a formatted text if I copy/paste it. That's annoying.

    The layout programs for linux pretty much suck, but one can make scribus or Openoffice.org work in a pinch. You can produce pdfs good enough for lulu.com but not professional stuff.
  • I use "textedit" which is not actually a text editor, but a bare-bones not-much-layout word processor / note pad application.

    I usually write one file for each section of the game.

    yrs--
    --Ben
  • edited January 2008
    *deleted as I have remedied my ignorance*
  • I'm growing more fond of Google Docs lately, though as a preliminary tool for my "draft zeroes" at the moment.

    I like that it:
    * Lets me share crap with others easily
    * Doesn't require me to have a thumb drive on me
    * Lets me edit anywhere

    I like that it doesn't:
    * Autocorrect
    * Have a plethora of formatting options
    * Lets me use my mouse to do stuff
    * Tempt me to play with layout

    The big minus for me:
    * Requires an active internet connection (my router is old and goes down far too often)

    I do get caught in some early-on-formatting hangups, things I'm working to rid myself of. When I get to "serious game writing" rather than just fleshing out notes that might look like a draft, I won't be doing it in Google.
  • Recently I've been writing in TextEdit (and Word in RTF format) and then doing layout in InDesign (and using all its OpenType shinola).

    I used to write in LaTeX using Alpha and BBEdit on older Macs, then TeXShop under Mac OS X. On PC I used WinEdt and I still do from time to time if battering some text out.

    I've been persuaded back to typing directly into InDesign for finishing work, or short pieces though, after reading about Schott's Original Miscellanies and Almanacs.
  • I use Mead Composition notebooks and whatever pen is available. Yup. I do everything longhand first. I'm not talking about the brainstorming. I write everything to near completion in a notebook, and then I type it in Word, then into InDesign. When my husband and I ran a 'zine I did the same thing (except we used Quark and the Mac Text editor), and when I was in college and nursing school I also did about 80% of my text on pen and paper first then moved it all to Excel or Word.

    I'm thinking about getting one of those digital notepads if I can find a suitable one that is Mac-compatible.
  • edited January 2008
    Posted By: renatoram
    I'm amazed that a programmer (Hituro) would think using a text editor is worse than word... what editor do you program in? Some IDE like VisualC, Eclipse or Netbeans? In that case I feel your pain :)
    .
    I am forced to use Zend Studio at work, and the less said about that monstrosity the better! At home I use an OSX version of BBEdit, which I love, and which has good Regex tools.

    But I still wouldn't write lots of text in it. No spellchecker is a big one for me, and to be honest I've not had a single instance of game writing where I've wanted source control or regex find and replace. Maybe that will change on a future project though, so it's great to know what others do.
    Josh Bachelor RobyThing is, if you write your copy well, it will be clear, readable, and comprehensible even in ass-basic text with no formatting outside of carriage returns. Contrariwise, if your copy is not clear, readable, and comprehensible in ass-basic text with carriage returns, your copy has problems.
    I note with interest that you used italics in that paragraph to make a point :) This would be exactly why I don't agree. Formatting is part of the content and the writing. Text presented in a numbered list is not the same as text out of it. Text in a header is not read the same as text which is not. This is the key to semantic formatting that people always seem to forget, that the semantic markup is a key part of the text, it has to be presented that way.

    Now I could be persuaded that plain text with SGML tags in it is as good as WYSIWYG text :) But text with no markup, no.

    Maybe that's just me though.
  • Hituro, SGML is clunky and ugly to write and look at when writing your text. On the other hand reST is very lightweight and reflects the way you'd format your text anyway if (for example) making a very long post on usenet or in an email (yes, I assume emails are text only)

    So, you would write *just like this* to use emphasis (standard usenet, btw, rendered as italics). Or maybe you would want to **really stress your point** (rendered as bold).

    And, just by underlining your chapter/paragraph titles (with = or -) you get instant layout and table of content... yeah, I like rest: the markup it's there, but is mostly invisible...

    Oh, btw, I just discovered an extention for firefox that will let you edit a textarea with whatever external editor you prefer... I hooked it to gvim right away :)
    (it's called "It's all text!")
  • For the first part (writting) I use Word. I concern myself more with content (at that point) than with looks. Once I edit, polish, correct, adapt and get some feedback on the text, I then escalate to InDesign.

    I usually design the layout, copy-paste the text, add images, charts, tables and the like, and then do some minor editing to acomodate the text to the format...

    Speaking of format... My opinion is that both format and content are important. It is as in talking. You don't just speak in a monotone, featureless form. You stress your words, tone and rhythm in order to enhance the communication. Of course, that is not to say that just "embelishing" your words would actually give them some content... I'm just saying one should complement the other.
  • Posted By: HituroJosh Bachelor RobyThing is, if you write your copy well, it will be clear, readable, and comprehensible even in ass-basic text with no formatting outside of carriage returns. Contrariwise, if your copy is not clear, readable, and comprehensible in ass-basic text with carriage returns, your copy has problems.
    I note with interest that you used italics in that paragraph to make a point :)
    He could have just has easily done "_your copy has problems_." That sort of markup is handy in the "hey, this is important" area without touching on "hey, this is what important stuff should look like." Refer back to Clinton's example.
  • Posted By: Ryan MacklinHe could have just has easily done "_your copy has problems_." That sort of markup is handy in the "hey, this is important" area without touching on "hey, this is what important stuff should look like."Refer back to Clinton's example.
    Umm, not wanting to derail anything, and certainly not wanting to get into a fight, there is no difference in using _ or * or actual italic or whatever other markup you want to use, it's still markup. His point, I thought, was that markup of any sort was a hindrance to good writing.
  • The most important tool for my editing is not the editor (vim) or the markup (restructuredText, just like Clinton), but the file management engine behind that. I use a versioning system, much less to roll back between versions, but to have backups on different computers and to be able to write a paragraph and have it in a good, safe place to boot.

    I did in fact roll back only two or three times over my 295 revisions of my current project, but a lot of these changes have been working in editorial work by others as well as restructuring the text.

    At the moment, I can produce the html, pdf and openoffice output from a single source of text, without employing anything else than a simple command line of "make clean html a4 odt". I spent a lot of time tweaking the PDF generation, but my LaTeX mojo wasn't sufficient to make it fly the way I want it to; thus InDesign or Scribus will be used on the finalized text.

    image
  • Okay, so reStructuredText looks very cool, but the markup for tables looks awful. Having just heard of and found some sources on reST, are there any intelligent text editors for it, that help me quickly format and change around tables in reST? Otherwise that looks like a deal breaker for me and my current project.

    I'm using WinXP Pro if that narrows my choices. My preferred text editor is HomeSite, but I'm always keen to try new ones.

    Oh, and for the record, I usually start scribbling in Notepad, and then take it into MS Word. Haven't experiemented much with InDesign yet unfortunately.
  • Hey Hituro, Ryan, the passage would make perfect sense without any markup, which was the point. That I used markup to further emphasize a portion in no way obliviates the fact that the text was clear beforehand.
  • edited January 2008
    Harald,

    I'm asking publicly, because others may be interested: how are you creating an ODT file from reStructuredText? One of my problems with RST is that it doesn't seem to be actively developed, so I can't get new and updated output formats.

    (Um, nevermind. I must be tired. I figured out that docutils comes with an ODT outputter.)
  • Clinton: heh, docutils is the official documentation system of python, I would have been very surprised if there was no odt filter :)

    Yoki: yes, tables look pretty bad. The only mitigating fact is that in advanced text editors (vim, emacs, others) for example you can select, cut and paste by column or vertical block. So formatting the tables will be easier. But yeah, if your text is heavy on tables that could well be a dealbreaker. If on the other hand your text has only a few big complex tables, I'd consider putting them in external files (csv, ods, xls, whatever) and linking them.
  • OK, I'll be honest - I have never heard of a 95% of the stuff being mentioned here.
    Can someone explain to me what is actually wrong with using Word for banging out your text?

    I'm not being flippant here - I'm honestly eager to know the practical issues!

    Neil
  • Word has a horrible record for mangling and utterly destroying the files you are working on, for example (this *might* have changed in recent versions, but I use it very rarely).

    It uses a binary format, which means that it cannot be (easily) version controlled. It has an internal kinda revisioning function, but I find it ugly and pretty broken in itself.

    It knows better than you: the automatic features of word irk me to no end.

    Bulleted and numbered lists tend to break in interesting ways.

    The file format is horribly heavy: for 10 pages it can do. For 300 pages it will become veeerry slow (and the file size will skyrocket). And if you break your stuff in multiple files (which is a sensible thing) I don't think there is a master document feature to organize it (it's there in OpenOffice, though... but I never really tested it).

    But most importantly, if you are good with a smart text editor (vim, emacs, others) you can quickly do lots of tricks that in word are either impossible or clunky, and generally will require you to fish around for menus.

    Also, as others have said Word encourages you to fiddle with margins, layout, styles an so on very early in the process, and that can be bad for your text :)

    That's from the top of my head.

    Btw, I can perfectly understand that really learning to use a text editor is a pretty tough challenge, so I'd advise to take a look to Abiword, too. It runs everywhere, does 90% of what word does (that's useful), and is orders of magnitude lighter.

    Or, search an alternative to Scrivener if you are not on OSX and/or you don't want to shell out money: I found more than one yesterday, just googling around. It combines simple text editing with tools to organize your snippets of text, images, even sounds, and so on.

    Celtx has been designed for movie/theatre scripts, but really, that's not different from writing a game or a scenario.
    yWriter4: is for novel writing. Same reasoning applies, really.
  • I use OpenOffice with the Page Layout function turned off while I'm writing. Once I'm done with a section, I convert to page layout and begin adding artwork, special headers, and select fonts. Once that's done, I begin to go through the whole document and start adjusting line proportion and kerning to get a smooth layout.

    I use GIMP for all of my image manipulations.
  • I wondered when someone would post that they did the whole thing in Word :)

    I used to print games for my own use, often 300+ things in hardback (I used my local University thesis binding service) and I laid them all out in word, and honestly they were fine. Sure some of the graphical options were a little poor, but the games looked fine, the tables were easy (and there were lots of them) and everything was fine. Now I think I'd want a little more layout control than that now (mostly to do with styles for headers and whether they could have graphical backgrounds), but it still works fine.

    renatoram Word did use to have a Master Document feature for linking and organising chapter files into bigger books, but it seems to have vanished from newer versions. I know it was there back in version 5 (on the Mac), but not in 2000 as I remember. Maybe it's come back in a newer version, I'm not sure.
  • I use composition books & pens for the actual design work. Then, once I'm satisfied with what I've got, I type everything out in Word.

  • edited January 2008
    Posted By: vodkashok
    Can someone explain to me what is actually wrong with using Word for banging out your text?
    Please excuse this long post -- it is a bit of a screed -- but you did ask, so...

    Word is not designed well for technical writing. It is designed to write 20-50 page white papers and executive summaries. And over the years, Microsoft's focus-group approach to design has accreted it with features to the point where the access to those features does not match well with their importance.

    As one in-depth example, for technical writing, effective use of formatting styles is essential.

    Styles means defining the format for a text element in a catalog, being able to quickly and smoothly apply that style in the text, and then being able to quickly and smoothly adjust that style after the fact (even to the point of "passing it" between documents). With very few exceptions, Word's access to these vital features is at least two or three steps more cumbersome than it needs to be. What is worse, there have always been hidden inconsistencies in their implementation that vary with platform, so a writer is forced to re-learn where the pits are whenever they switch from version to version or platform to platform.

    For an example: suppose you define a Base style for Headings, so that all heading styles will inherit a certain characteristic. Then you decide that your Section Headings really need to be in 12pt. Then you decide that you don't want your Section Heads to be any larger than the size defined in the Base style. In MS Word 2004/Mac, the only way you can effectively say "just use the default point size" is to know what it is and manually set it to that value.

    For another example. Say you define a template file and styles including Heading styles (and you did use all of Word's default "hidden" Heading style names, right? But that's a whole other example) and you want those Headings to have no more or less indent than the standard Base text style so that all headings are flush left. Every time you base a new document on that style (in MS Word 2004/Mac), Word automatically resets the indent for all your heading styles to 0.08". See above example for how you can't fix that by simply adjusting the base style. You have to go into every style definition for every heading that you use and reset that indent to 0".

    For another example, we could talk about how in-elegant it is to (a) apply styles, (b) remove style application, or (c) edit styles in the interface.

    By contrast, FrameMaker's implementation of styles is much more elegant. Access to any style can be gained quickly and easily from the keyboard as long as you know the name of the style you want (CTRL-9 plus the start of the paragraph style's name to apply it to the paragraph currently containing the cursor). Access to modifying any style can be gained quickly and easily from the keyboard (CTRL-M to open the Paragraph Style Designer). You have much better granular control on how style updates apply to your existing document (do you want to update all paragraphs with Style X, or only this paragraph, or only paragraphs that applied Style X without customizing it in the document?).

    Nearly every feature essential to writing is implemented with the same access-complexity in Word as all the ancillary features that you hardly ever use, unless you make it your business to write executive summaries or white papers.

    The real answer to the question "Why? Can't you just do it in Word?" is "Yes, you can." Just the same as, if you're a single man who commutes five miles to work downtown every day, living in apartment, with reasonable public transport outside your front door, you can buy and use an SUV. And that SUV will get you around. But every single day it presents you with small niggly inefficiencies that you either notice as annoyances and sigh about, or eventually they drive you made -- it's hard to find parking and when you do, your truck doesn't quite fit; it's expensive to buy gas; the apartment parking spots are built for small compact cars, and you always risk getting your SUV dinged on either side, unless you take the extra wide spot next to the dumpster, but then you have to put up with the stench, and remember not to park there on Tuesday nights because the big dump truck comes before you get up Wednesday morning, and that's how you had to pay hundreds of dollars to fix your last big paint problem. Not to mention all the cool, pretty women that work in that hip book store next door to your office who now look at you with loathing every time you come in because one of them saw you parking your Escalade...

    So, yes, Word will (given enough horse-whipping and patience) do most of what you want it to do, but it will make you sweat and work more than you should have to. And some things it just won't do.

    (For example, if you want 24pts to appear before a header style when it's in the normal flow of text, but not when that header appears at the top of a page, well, I'll leave that thorny problem as an exercise for the reader...)

    By contrast, FrameMaker was purpose built to handle long, complex, technical documents and do it efficiently. Nearly every single feature of importance in Frame is accessible from the keyboard (and I'm sure that Clinton can regale you with similar tails of efficiency about Emacs or Vi). And, for those coming from anything remotely close to an Emacs world, they will happily notice that the keybindings in FrameMaker are alarmingly close to Emacs keybindings which are alarmingly close to the default keybindings in OSX's default text editing controls. For things like "go to end of line", "go to start of line", "go up a line", "go down a line", etc, etc, etc.

    Word provides a fairly rich set of keybindings itself, but most of them demand that you take your hands away from the standard row of keys. Emacs' modeless keybindings, or VI's modal keybindings, are much, much more efficient. And as for all those features that demand that you use the UI because they don't have keybindings out of the box...

    I've said enough, I think, for you to get the idea.
  • Posted By: renatoramWord has a horrible record for mangling and utterly destroying the files you are working on, for example (this *might* have changed in recent versions, but I use it very rarely).
    ...
    It uses a binary format, which means that it cannot be (easily) version controlled. It has an internal kinda revisioning function, but I find it ugly and pretty broken in itself.
    ...
    The file format is horribly heavy: for 10 pages it can do. For 300 pages it will become veeerry slow (and the file size will skyrocket). And if you break your stuff in multiple files (which is a sensible thing) I don't think there is a master document feature to organize it (it's there in OpenOffice, though... but I never really tested it).
    This goes hand in hand with one of Word's most dangerous and notorious "features".

    Word has a setting called "Fast Saves". When you turn this feature on, Word changes the way it writes information into your document's file; instead of re-saving out your entire file every time you save, from scratch, Word saves out only a set of "deltas" or "changes" (I believe). This makes the actual save time to disk much faster. It also grows the size of your file eventually out of all proportion, especially if you're the kind of person who (a) has automatic saving turned on as a precaution, and (b) tends to make lots of little tweaks and adjustments to get things "just right". It also makes it harder and harder for Word to manipulate the internal structure of your file, vastly increases the chance that your file will become mysteriously corrupted, or that Word will simply fall over and die.

    If you must use Word for any serious work, please ensure that you never use this feature. It has caused much more grief than it has ever prevented.
  • Which of the options mentioned are free? Or are all the good text editors only available commercially?
  • Posted By: HituroI wondered when someone would post that they did the whole thing in Word :)
    I have written 200+ page documents in Word, and I know folks who do it here as a matter of course. Word was never really designed to handle documents of this size. The key with Word is always to limit the use of features to only those that you absolutely need, and to learn where all the pitfalls and potholes are. If you're writing (for example) a simple manuscript or thesis (I say simple only from formatting requirements), then Word can probably handle such a task without significant difficulty. However, the process of actually doing the writing would be more efficient and faster using other tools. Anecdotally, I'm about 25 to 50 percent faster using Frame than I am using Word, and I have a "power user" understanding of both applications. But the actual efficiency figure depends highly on the content I'm writing. If all I'm doing is entering text with minimal formatting (i.e. a manuscript), I'm only marginally more efficient in Frame (or Emacs, or another Emacs-style-keybinding environment) because the keybindings to support text editing are more efficient.
    Now I think I'd want a little more layout control than that now (mostly to do with styles for headers and whether they could have graphical backgrounds), but it still works fine.
    Sure, it works, but there are other options that do a better job and more efficiently, many of them for much less expense or headache.

    Word did use to have a Master Document feature for linking and organising chapter files into bigger books, but it seems to have vanished from newer versions. I know it was there back in version 5 (on the Mac), but not in 2000 as I remember. Maybe it's come back in a newer version, I'm not sure.
    It's still there (as of Mac Word 2004), but it's not nearly as visibly accessible, which is probably a good thing. Master Documents and Sub-Documents, when I last really exercise them, were (in fact) a very useful and powerful tool. I also remember them being very fragile and highly idiosyncractic. You had to learn exactly the right way to go about doing things, and stick to that way, or you were in for problems of nightmarish proportion.
  • Posted By: viktor_haagWord is not designed well for technical writing. It is designed to write 20-50 page white papers and executive summaries. And over the years, Microsoft's focus-group approach to design has accreted it with features to the point where the access to those features does not match well with their importance.
    Which rather leads one to ask, are games technical writing? I am not convinced they are in all cases. Moreover my latest game *is* 20-50 pages, not 300. That is not knocking the criticism of word, but wondering if this is more a case that Word is wrong for many other things you do, and so you naturally avoid it for writing game text too, as opposed to be word being wrong for writing game text.

    As one in-depth example, for technical writing, effective use of formatting styles is essential
    For an example: suppose you define a Base style for Headings, so that all heading styles will inherit a certain characteristic. Then you decide that your Section Headings really need to be in 12pt.Thenyou decide that you don't want your Section Heads to be any larger than the size defined in the Base style. In MS Word 2004/Mac, the only way you can effectively say "just use the default point size" is toknow what it is and manually set it to that value.
    But ... but ... that's using Word as a DTP package, not using word to write text :) Eric was asking "What's wrong with using word to bang out your text" and I think that question pre-supposes you won't be using it for layout too, in which case this doesn't matter so much (my own contention that "layout does matter while writing" aside)
  • Or, if you use that feature take the time to reopen the file from OpenOffice Writer and re-save it, even if in the very same .doc format.

    OO normally saves word files that are from half to a tenth of the size...
  • Posted By: Paul T.Which of the options mentioned are free? Or are all the good text editors only available commercially?
    Emacs is free-as-in-speech on nearly any platform you're likely to be using. Vi is also freely available on many platforms, especially if your platform comes with a decent shell and suite of utilities. I'm not sure if there's a free, convenient, version of Vi for Windows.

    Most of the Macintosh editor and word-processor options are not free, but they are inexpensive. For example, a full version of Nisus Writer Pro costs you 80 dollars if you buy it over the 'net, 90 dollars if you want physical media. Nisus Writer Express (it's leaner kid brother) is half that cost. Scribus (the open source layout package) is open-source.

    Scrivener (which I think is the editor-for-writers that I and others meant when we said Scribus, above) is 40 dollars.

    Mellel, an excellent word processor for academic writing and general purpose word-processing, especially if you're using non-Latin-1 text encodings, is 50 dollars for a download, and 65 for a physical media package.

    Pages comes in a package with Numbers and Keynote (iWork) for 80 dollars.

    By contrast, the non-educational version of MS Office costs 400 dollars or 240 for an upgrade if you need the version with Exchange Server support (i.e. office environment), or 150 dollars for the home edition (which also comes without the Automator workflow stuff they package in the standard edition).

    The ironic thing about the proliferation of options available on the Macintosh is that I actually think that, over its lifetime, MS Word on the Mac has been a superior option to the Windows version from a usability point of view. This was not true for a stretch of time, but it was in Word's original incarnation when it first went GUI on Windows (I still have friends who remain very, very bitter about when they were forced off of a DOS version of Word), and it has been so for the last few years (since Office.X on the Mac). And yet the options available at lower prices on non-Windows platforms also generally tends to be richer and better, as far as I can determine.
  • Posted By: Paul T.Which of the options mentioned are free? Or are all the good text editors only available commercially?
    Most are free, except for the big DTP suites and Word.

    These are all free:
    OpenOffice
    vim
    EmacsW32 (for windows)
    Celtx
    Scribus
    Serif Plus

    ....and so on :)
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