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The Writer's Toolkit, Part 2

May 10, 2008
In The Writer's Toolkit, Part One we discussed voice recognition software and web hosting in your arsenal of handy tools. Today we'll explore software for project organization (a must if you're a visual person who needs to see something to get their head around it), free toys to help you edit your manuscript in a smoother fashion and design programs for your creative side.

Project Organization

Are you someone who does better with a visual map or chart in front of you? Me too. I found this cool software that let's you create visual charts with notes, attachments and even website attachments. It's called Mindjet.

You can download a free 21-day trial to see if you like it and the tutorials walk you through how to use most of the features. I recently used it to map out a new project and it worked like a charm.

Microsoft Word Toys

If you're editing drafts of your latest 1,000 page novel and would love to be able to have a split screen to go back and forth between drafts, here's the best thing since, well, Windows. It's freeware from Microsoft for XP that allows you to have two, three or four desktops.

It's called Virtual Desktop and lets you split your screen into as many as 4 separate screens at a time. I usually only use 2 at a time but you can keep opening screens and they'll lie atop each other.

Go to Microsoft's website and look on the right side of the page for the Virtual Desktop download.

After you've downloaded the freeware, find a blank space on your XP toolbar [the one at the bottom of your screen where all your startup icons are], right click to find tools, click that and look for Desktop Manager. Click that and you should be set. There's also a read file for these toys that will guide you through the quick setup.

This should avoid the expense of two monitors or another video card.

Design programs

If you decide that you want to design and produce some freebies (like take away cards for your next novel or bookmarks) when you make personal appearances, you'll want to have a design program that gives you some flexibility.

You can opt for the Adobe Creative Suite but it's pricey at over $1,300. I like working with Microsoft Publisher because it gives me the tools I need and it's pretty easy to use.

You don't want to do any design or creative with graphics or photos in a program like Word because, in my opinion, it's not stable enough. Placing pictures or graphics where you want them to be and having them stay where you put them is difficult even though the makers of Word suggest that it can be used as a design program.

You can buy Publisher on its own and it's about $150 or so. You might even find some sales out there or get it on eBay. It's standard on XP Pro and you may already have it installed but have never used it.


As a writer, you need to have an arsenal loaded with helpful tools that makes your job easier. Check out some of the tools I've listed above and drop me an e-mail if you find something you think is worthwhile.

(Originally published on the Writing Etc. website from Filbert Publishing and reprinted with permission of the author, Victoria Rosendahl).
About the Author
Victoria Rosendahl has published one adult mystery and has begun the Kathy & Martha Mystery Series with the first installment, Bitter Tastes. Check out Bitter Tastes for ideas on how to build a kid friendly web site and feel free to e-mail her at info@vbrosendahl.com.
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