Welcome to guest writer, Malcolm Davison who provides a round-up of some Mac software packages that freelancers will find useful. Malcolm is offering readers of Freelance Factfile a discount on his online web writing training. Details are at the end of this post.
The Mac has become the computer of choice among creative agency staff and freelancers. The ease of use and reliability are legendary.
Freelancers especially are being frugal with their spending on software these days. And just how many versions of Microsoft Word do you really need, after all? But there are many other packages that have appeared on the scene that just concentrate on a single job and do it very well. They also don’t make too big a dent in the office budget. Let’s look at a few of them:
At $99 a year these days, MobileMe is not such good value as it used to be. Its function is to keep emails, diary appointments, contact lists, files, synced between your computers and perhaps your iPhone or iPad. The service also provides a private or public photo gallery area and a ‘cloud computing’ file backup area. MobileMe will even host your website and give you half a dozen extra email addresses.
Yojimbo is a great application to store anything important in a safe place. It has a powerful search built in. I don’t know how I managed without it before!
It keeps a record of passwords, software serial numbers, your favourite URLs, notes on how to do an occasional task on a piece of software, important client notes, articles and lots more – and they can even be kept secure with a password.
Yojimbo also works in conjunction with Apple’s MobileMe so anything you update or store is automatically synced between your office computer and laptop. So you can also sync almost anything else – pdfs, Excel sheets, Powerpoint files, Word files, etc.
This is a phenomenal automatic backup system built into the Mac’s operating system. Time Machine saves hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for everything older than a month. File recovery is very easy – and you can preview versions before selecting the one you need.
I have so much confidence in Time Machine that I am happy to alter a web page stored on my office computer without creating a copy of it first – as I can always go back to the original on Time Machine (and there’s always the live one on my ISP’s server). The software is free – so all you need is a large backup hard drive.
If you write books or film scripts, Scrivener is a popular word processing and text handling package. It’s easy to move chunks of text around. You can keep notes on characters, research information on separate pages, move chapters around – and finally export as a single document. It will store documents including text, images, pdf, audio, video and web pages. There is also a cork board to keep reminders. It costs £30.
You can drag and drop folders, images, applications or URLs into VoodooPad. At $19.95 it’s cheap and does most of what Scrivener does.
I created my web writing elearning course using OmniOutliner, again for the Mac ($69.95 for Pro version). This is a powerful outline word processor. Pages can be created, closed up and dragged around. You can export your material to Scrivener.
Tinderbox (again it’s like Scrivener) lets you create linked chunks of text, and creates a virtual noticeboard of clickable articles. In addition, though, it allows you to create a visual mindmap. But at $249 it’s very expensive. It’s powerful and is used by novelists and scriptwriters.
Author Michael Bywater gathers his notes from Tinderbox into Scrivener and then writes using Mellel (a word processor) before dispatching pdf documents to his publisher.
One final bit of software that is just mind-blowing is Bookends (for Mac and costs $99). It was designed originally as a Mac competitor to EndNote – created for academics who need to add annotations to their learned works. But, in my view, it’s much better than EndNote.
I use it mostly for genealogy – but also for other projects which involve the handling, storing and access to masses of text. I wish it had been around when I was researching and writing a corporate history a few years back.
How do you use it? If a book contains some text I want to store and refer to, firstly I use Bookends to link to the British Library (or Library of Congress, Amazon, Google Scholar and many more) and find the book reference. The annotation is then imported to Bookends and stored as metadata.
With newspaper articles or web pages, you will have to enter this metadata manually (although a headline is all you may need). Then the text from the book I need to refer to is then typed / OCR scanned / or cut and pasted into a Note area alongside its metadata. You can also store pdfs, images and other files alongside to support it.
With say 100 chunks of research now stored – they appear as a list of lines showing the titles. Type in a place name or date, or other keywords into the search box and Bookends presents a subset of the documents that contain that keyword or phrase. It’s rather like using Google. So it’s a powerful and easily searched text database.
If you now click on one of the documents in the list, the keyword you searched on is now shown in red within the document in the Notes page. The system also generates a tag cloud of the most common words found in one or several documents. These can be clicked on to select those documents containing that word.
When you have written your article – and I use Apple’s brilliant Pages for this - you can conclude the article with a list of annotations of the selected publications you have referred to. Word is more fully integrated with Bookends though.
I have tried all the software I have listed, but I no longer use Scrivener, Voodoo Pad or Tinderbox – all the others get very regular use.
www.writingfortheweb.co.uk - web training for corporate communicators
www.writingfortheweb.co.uk/elearning – online web writing training
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