Word Processors for Writers – Be Careful of Your Tools

Now that The Phallus of AGILE is off for technical editing, I’ve had a bit of time to poke around seeking what’s new in Word Processing for Linux based authors. (Nobody, and I mean nobody uses Microsoft products.)

Many of my books have been written with various flavors of OpenOffice. First it was OO, before the great Oracle invasion. IBM Lotus Symphony after that, which IBM at least returned some of the code to the OO project. (That’s how we got the Navigator among other things.) LibreOffice sprang up, forking from OO after the evil Oracle empire consumed Sun systems. Before that I used WordPerfect under OS/2 (yes, it ran there).

I also used the best word processor ever created, Lotus Smart Suite. Recently the feature request/bug report filed with LibreOffice to more fully support the LWP file format as well as bring in tabbed documents has gained more followers. What really shocked me are the number of people piping up about having to install Lotus Smartsuite 98 under Windows 10. Yes, a large number of professional writers are still using this word processor for day to day production. Honestly, when I get home from this contract I’m going to give a go at installing it under the current version of Wine.

Writing is by necessity a lonely pursuit. Most writers find themselves at their most productive when they take a computer and go to a place where Internet connections are simply not possible. Just you, your notes and the word processor locked in mortal combat. Some go so far as to write the first draft with pen and paper. Why? The Internet is an evil time sucking vortex designed to turn your brain into goo aliens eat like caviar.

The Internet is evil for a writer

No matter how you defend the ability to look up a random though in the name of research, the reality is each little notification about mail or chat derails your progress. Even if you don’t answer it you see it and it desperately tries to pull your train off the tracks. The Internet is evil for a writer.

This is why I’m so shocked at all of the online only word processing “services” editors which run either within a browser or as their own app but cannot edit a local file. I’ve been in IT over 30 years. There is no way I’m going to trust my books to a cloud based service. Those hosting companies are all looking for people whose primary qualification is being “priced right.” If you think that is a very broad brush to paint them with, think again. Go read up on the approaching $700 million Equifax settlement caused by them hiring managers who were “priced right.” Even the best systems people cannot protect you from stupid greedy management.

Seriously, as a writer you throw your child under the Internet bus before it is even born?

Let me guess, you don’t make backup copies either, do you? If it is online only, how do you make a backup copy?

Professional Services

The real killer comes when you go searching for professional editing services. Microsoft Word is the absolute worst word processor to write a book with. This is especially true when you need to do the full book layout and create the PDF for printers. Sadly, most professional editors are editing as a side business. Their company computer came with Word so they need you to mangle your document into .doc or .docx format. That’s just joyous. Add another month to your project trying to un-mangle it when you get the file back.

Most commercial editing services want the entire file in a supported file format so they can run it through a tool counting words. They aren’t going to trust your word count, they want their own. Thankfully some professional editors have started using LibreOffice or at least some near 100% Open Document Format compliant word processor. The vast majority aren’t even close to compliant. It is sad, but true.

Before you think an online only word processor is great, look down the road to when your child is finally ready to take its first breath. Just how are you going to get it edited by professional editing services? Self Editing is a myth!

Why LibreOffice for word processor?

Why am I using LibreOffice instead of Lotus WordPro (part of Lotus Smartsuite)? Despite WordPro being virtually perfect for serious writers, most professional editors have no idea how to open or deal with an LWP file extension.

Be really careful when choosing your word processor. Many of those word processors people rave about will only actually have all of its features when working with its own proprietary file format like .doc and .docx. Oh, they will list many “supported” file formats but the fine print will state they can only import those or export to them, not actually let you edit using them.

Choose your word processor working backward from your distribution method, to your editing service. If you will only be distributing in EPUB then you need a word processor which can go take your document straight to EPUB unless you want to pay for that service too. (I do pay for it, but it’s a choice. I could do it. I just don’t care to do it.)

The real killer for me has been and will continue to be my editing services. I just logged onto ServiceScape while writing this post and have learned by two favorite editors, while still listed, are no longer taking projects. Man, they were great. No, ServiceScape is not where you go to “get a deal” on editing. That’s one area of the publishing world where cutting costs produces worthless product. That’s not to say every pricey editor or editing service is good. I’ve gotten a few stinkers on ServiceScape for second and third round editing. They thought they were good, but they were the only ones.

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