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DragonMaci
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I was thinking of making a word processor that caters mainly for authors, but also normal people. What features (that aren't in other word processors) would you like to see?

Are you familiar with Microsoft Word, or the free word processor in Open Office? What motivates you to want to write a word processor when either of these tools are extraordinarily powerful? Microsoft Word can also be extended via VBA macros or even compiled extensions.

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Are you familiar with Microsoft Word, or the free word processor in Open Office? What motivates you to want to write a word processor when either of these tools are extraordinarily powerful? Microsoft Word can also be extended via VBA macros or even compiled extensions.

He makes a good point. Would it not be easier to create say Openoffice plugins? A word processor is usually a task for big software development teams. I would wager even that Notepadd ++ etc have been coded by a fair number of people. How do you plan to gather this team? Or do you intend to do it yourself? I would not suggest doing this....

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Most such projects are motivated more by a desire to learn than by any market analysis or product idea. The latter comes from, say, working with a particular product and finding a few times when one says: I wish it had.. XYZ. If that's the motivation, I'd suggest you select a simpler, yet ambitious project. Need suggestions?

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I shouldnt criticise him for wanting to make only a word processor, I intend to release my own OS (though the first version may not be a huge change to the base source, which will probably be OpenSolaris). Compared to that, a word processor does not seem all that much really :wacko: .

However, I do still wonder whether you might be best off extending an existing OS. Although it is possible that no existing word processor is similar enough to what you are planning, and that it might be easier, and preferable for other reasons to start your own project.

I would certaintly like some suggestions as a student programmer. I relish a chance to practically apply my programming knowledge. After all, programming knowledge is pretty useless if you do not train yourself to apply that knowledge to problems.

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Yes, serious software developers must go beyond their school assignments. Also, reinventing the wheel is a fine -- perhaps necessary -- part of an education. The focus of such exercises should be: "what do I need to learn", rather than "what does the market need".

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I was thinking of making a word processor that caters mainly for authors, but also normal people.
An interesting way to phrase the distinction. How about a good speech interface (nice little weekend project)? Personally, I'd prefer a WP with better string-manipulation capabilities, but that might be sort of off the mark for the average author-type. Alternatively, how about something with better character-placement abilities (not at annoying as TeX but more powerful than Word).
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Are you familiar with Microsoft Word, or the free word processor in Open Office? What motivates you to want to write a word processor when either of these tools are extraordinarily powerful? Microsoft Word can also be extended via VBA macros or even compiled extensions.

Because the current crop of word processors do not entirely meet my authorial desires/needs. Even RoughDraft and WordTabs (the best for authors that I've found so far). I have managed to think of a few author specific features that the two you mentioned and the two I mentioned lack. Also your two are bloated I reckon. I want to make one that is less bloated.

He makes a good point. Would it not be easier to create say Openoffice plugins? A word processor is usually a task for big software development teams. I would wager even that Notepadd ++ etc have been coded by a fair number of people. How do you plan to gather this team? Or do you intend to do it yourself? I would not suggest doing this....

Not really. OpenOffice is bloated. I want to make something that is less bloated. I don't think a plugin could fix that. And my word processor will have a lot less features than Notepad++ and most other Word Processors, with the exception of those on the scale of RoughDraft and WordTabs, which are one man projects. Since my word processor is at the scale of those two, I think I can manage.

besides you made plans to make your own OS. That is way more of a team project. Are you going to get a team for PhoenixOS? If so how? Wouldn't doing that by yourself be less advisable?

An interesting way to phrase the distinction. How about a good speech interface (nice little weekend project)? Personally, I'd prefer a WP with better string-manipulation capabilities, but that might be sort of off the mark for the average author-type. Alternatively, how about something with better character-placement abilities (not at annoying as TeX but more powerful than Word).

Umm... I don't think a word processor needs a speech function... it seems a bit redundant... Also by author I meant book author so i don't think string manipulation is neccessary, just text based featues. As for character placement abilities... could you clarify what you mean...

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Umm... I don't think a word processor needs a speech function... it seems a bit redundant... Also by author I meant book author so i don't think string manipulation is neccessary, just text based featues. As for character placement abilities... could you clarify what you mean...
I assume you meant a literature type author. I think (some) authors do need a speech interface, so that the words flow more naturally by speaking them rather than whacking the keyboard. By character placement, I was referring to space between letters and position on the y-axis, which affects appearance. I guess the real question is, for an author, what's wrong with using Word? (Well, to be specific, what kind of "bloat" are you talking of?)
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I assume you meant a literature type author. I think (some) authors do need a speech interface, so that the words flow more naturally by speaking them rather than whacking the keyboard. By character placement, I was referring to space between letters and position on the y-axis, which affects appearance. I guess the real question is, for an author, what's wrong with using Word? (Well, to be specific, what kind of "bloat" are you talking of?)

I would love a word processor with speech recognition. I have been hunting for one, but I have yet to find one. It would make things so much easier. Sure, I would think it would be a challenging thing to program, and it would not be totally accurate, especially when it comes to people with weird speech patterns like mine, but I think it would thinks much faster. And I would think there a lot of good authors whom would rather dictate their stuff to their computer than type it all up. Some people just hate typing. I wonder if David Eddings is one of these people?

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I would love a word processor with speech recognition. I have been hunting for one, but I have yet to find one.

Are you referring to 100% accurate speech recognition or simply mostly accurate speech recognition? If you're searching for the former, you would be right, as none yet exist on the market. If you are reffering to the latter, good old MS Word has fairly accurate speech recognition, that I use every once and a while.

Edited by Myself
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Are you referring to 100% accurate speech recognition or simply mostly accurate speech recognition? If you're searching for the former, you would be right, as none yet exist on the market. If you are reffering to the latter, good old MS Word has fairly accurate speech recognition, that I use every once and a while.

I have heard that MS Word has less reliable speech recoginition...but then again maybe I have heard wrong. I have not tried it myself, nor do I intend to buy Word for a little while. Roughly how accurate is it would you say?

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I assume you meant a literature type author. I think (some) authors do need a speech interface, so that the words flow more naturally by speaking them rather than whacking the keyboard.

Make that just about anyone with dyslexia. In a way the problem of translating what you think and say and the way it makes it to the keyboard leads to alot of PEBCAK (problem exists between keyboard and chair) errors. You can be the most eloquent speaker and not be able to accurately convey your thoughts to the keyboard. Stephen J Cannel, the incredibly succesful producer speaks eloquently but his dyslexia is so bad that only 1 person, his personal assistant who he pays quite a bit, can effectively read what he typed.

Spell check only works so well with the problem. Otherwise what you type is going to read like the way President Bush sometimes is ridiculed for. Which I honestly say the guy is actually pretty smart IQ wise but his dyslexia causes him to misspeak. But I digress.

By character placement, I was referring to space between letters and position on the y-axis, which affects appearance. I guess the real question is, for an author, what's wrong with using Word? (Well, to be specific, what kind of "bloat" are you talking of?)

I am able to use TexEdit on my Mac and OpenWord or WordPerfect (Dos interface) to do just about all of my writing. Word has literally 100 features I don't need for every one I do. I'd be willing to bet that most people would be productive as they are right now with Word's most recent release as they would be with something only slightly better than WordPad.

And speech recognition is a holy grail of computing. I've been watching Dragon for a while and try it every year or so and still have yet to be impressed. We're still quite a way off of it replacing your secretary typing your dictation for you.

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I have heard that MS Word has less reliable speech recoginition...but then again maybe I have heard wrong. I have not tried it myself, nor do I intend to buy Word for a little while. Roughly how accurate is it would you say?

Well first you have to train your computer to recognize your voice and speech patterns, which means reading out loud for several hours. Then, if you invest in a good headset, and don't talk too fast, or slur your words, I would say that Word can probably get up to about 80% accurate. I personally think it's a waste of time, simply because it would take me longer to dictate a letter, rather than typing it. I also "think" better on paper. If that isn't the case for you, you may want to try it out - but only on the latest version of MS Word - it's substantially improved from say 2000. I assume you're on a Mac, as Windows systems come with word built in - so what do you use as a substitute word processor?

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Well first you have to train your computer to recognize your voice and speech patterns, which means reading out loud for several hours. Then, if you invest in a good headset, and don't talk too fast, or slur your words, I would say that Word can probably get up to about 80% accurate. I personally think it's a waste of time, simply because it would take me longer to dictate a letter, rather than typing it. I also "think" better on paper. If that isn't the case for you, you may want to try it out - but only on the latest version of MS Word - it's substantially improved from say 2000. I assume you're on a Mac, as Windows systems come with word built in - so what do you use as a substitute word processor?

Ahh, well you see I tend too talk a little fast, I would think a little too fast for Word to get right a fair bit of the time. And I am sure if you use programs like, um, I think it is called Dragon Speak Easy or something, you can get the speech recoginition in certain programs up to about 95%, or so they claim. I am not sure this works for Word, but I would think so.

I am actually on a Windows PC, but one I built myself, without Word. I tend to use Openoffice over Word, mainly because I have yet to invest in a copy of Word (although I will soon, its cheap enough).

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I assume you meant a literature type author. I think (some) authors do need a speech interface, so that the words flow more naturally by speaking them rather than whacking the keyboard. By character placement, I was referring to space between letters and position on the y-axis, which affects appearance. I guess the real question is, for an author, what's wrong with using Word? (Well, to be specific, what kind of "bloat" are you talking of?)

More features than is necessary is what i mean by bloat.

And I don't see that there is anything wrong with the way Word and such do the things you mentioned.

Also I have already thought of several features that would be useful to authors that are missing from those programs.

Edited by DragonMaci
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  • 2 weeks later...
I was thinking of making a word processor that caters mainly for authors, but also normal people. What features (that aren't in other word processors) would you like to see?

I would like to see a good writing program that allowed a tree structure on the left showing scenes and sequences (series of scenes) that could be layed-out under chapter headings ( and perhaps Parts above that) and given their own names that don't (have to) show-up in the printout. There should also be the ability to have 3-5 alternate scenes, sequences, and chapters for each "piece" of writing.

There needs to be a way to distinguish turning-point scenes/sequences from simple story-lines. There also needs to be a way to show concurrency of action (when using a train-wreck [convergent story-lines] plot ) or dependency of action (when using a Hero's Journey or Coming of Age type story-line). All this organizational stuff needs to be visual (recognizable icons) and renamable (placeholder variables that the writer-user can rename for each project) with their base philosophy/syntax stored as a "seed" for all projects to grow from.

Obviously, seperate character and setting notes are nice, but most tree programs like TreePad Business Edition or Golden Section Notes makes this fairly simple to do as a seperate companion file for most writing projects.

Also readily apparent is the need to manipulate the treed-outline of a novel to easily throw scenes, sequences or chapters around.

Spell Checkers are definately necessary but grammer checkers are ridiculous and nearly pointless for stylistic fiction writers.

Basic Manuscript Formats right out of Writer's Digest or Writer's Market ought to be the ONLY standard, built-in "Styles" right down to page level and paragraph level for Short Stories and Novel Chapters to Screen Plays and Poetry submissions AND their shuold be an option to eliminate non-standard fonts (Courier New [or Courier Final Draft], Times New Roman, and [sometimes] Arial or Universal are [in most cases] the only fonts most publishers and agents are willing to even look at without throwing your submission from the slush pile to the trash can in one flick of the wrist). Standard formatting for cover sheets/title pages and submissions packaging (Cover Letter, Querry/Synopsis) also ought to be built-in.

I use MS-word, psiWord and Abi Word for the writing. Visio for some plotting (Timelines and sequencing), TreePad Business Edition for note-taking, research, character, setting, and background/backstory work -- all the stuff that only makes it into the novel by creative fusion in the writer's mind sifting out what's necessary for the reader from what was needed by the writer to make it all work.

Also: real VERSION CONTROL is absolutely necessary on long, complicated projects. One novel I've worked on has "developed"/grown into at least 7 uniquely different ways/styles of writing it (or parts of it: PoV shifts, character changes, time or setting shifts, action-reaction/recovery sequences, PoV "pops", even character intents and purposes have changed beyond mere descriptions or backstory) but keeping track of which files contain which evolutions is a nightmare in Word--basicly, just NOT possible. It would be nice to just hover your mouse cursor over a file's name in the directory and see a good paragraph's worth of description/summary about what that file is in terms of the writing in it just pop-up, rather than having to open a 70,000 to 115,000 word document and try to recognize the subtle and major variations by scanning through it all.

Well, that's my wishlist... so far.

Edited by WolvenWriter
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Ahh, well you see I tend too talk a little fast, I would think a little too fast for Word to get right a fair bit of the time. And I am sure if you use programs like, um, I think it is called Dragon Speak Easy or something, you can get the speech recoginition in certain programs up to about 95%, or so they claim. I am not sure this works for Word, but I would think so.

I am actually on a Windows PC, but one I built myself, without Word. I tend to use Openoffice over Word, mainly because I have yet to invest in a copy of Word (although I will soon, its cheap enough).

I've tried various speech-recognition programs (including the famed Dragon Naturally speaking) on variously powered platforms with various soundcards, CPUs, microphone configurations, etc. and have found that (so far) they really just don't work for a fiction writer.

One odd thing happens when you're writing fiction out loud (think back to the way Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian, etc.) "wrote for the ear" speaking/yelling/acting as he typed, getting out of his chair and choreographing the sword fights around his office and out itn the yard, trying to remember it all and carry it back to the typewriter in his head... Most fiction writers when trying to write outloud "get into character" and even get excited in the fast action parts and all melo-dramatic in the slow, moody scenes. What happens is the voice inflections change and various fluctuations and nuances enter the voice... meanwhile the "trained" voice recognition software was trained to recognize a calm voice speaking as though it were reading something boring -- it has no ability to adjustt for character changes. It certainly does not recognize a change of speakers and make a new paragraph. It can't tell when you're narrating versus dialoging.... The best I've ever gotten out of Dragon Naturally Speaking when writing fiction was about a 22% "sort of" accuracy -- as no writer while writing out loud thinks or says: "End Quote. New Paragraph. Quote" or any of the other ridiculous "typing/formatting commands" that such tools tend to use. Though, perhaps, that might have some minor use for a stream-of-conscioiusness writer that doesn't use punction for speech, but would be pure idiocy for a writer working on an "as told" story within a story (requiring "nested 'punctuation'" around "all 'layers of speech.'")

Isacc Asimov tried to record his scenes on a tape player and have his wife type up the stuff. But she was disturbed by his "rantings" and "lunatic voice changes." She couldn't do it. Various hired assitants/secretaries couldn't do it, either. No one could figure out who was saying what to who or where any paragraph should be. Eventually he tried himself to listen to the recordings and he became agitated and disappointed in what he thought was supposed to have been good writing.

Recording has proven useful for notetaking. I keep a small digital recorder handy, especially when researching in libraries or museums and have been known to record passages from rare (either glass-cased or un-removable copies). I actually found and adapted a 16th century recipe from a French Inn that way, too.

SO... my point is this: Technology ain't there yet for the rantings of fiction writers caught-up in the throes of creativity or passionate visions. Even the voice play-back functions found in some scriptwriting software is down right annoying. Skip these concepts for now. Story and Novel writing is about getting the right words WRITTEN the right way in the right order that carries the visons, emotions and experiences of the characters into the readers hearts and minds. Other than the judicious use of alliteration and onomatopoeia it has nothing to do with sound, but has everything to do with the written word. Only some forms of technical writing really make use of the WAY the words are presented (or displayed)... story and novel writing -- even screenplays and stageplays -- follow rigid manuscript formatting rules (or they don't get published or even read by an agent's assistant or a publishing house's First Reader [who would summarize it and make recommendations to an Editor regarding marketability and audience reception/readership reaction]).

SO... stick to the basics of story development and forget the glittzy, glamorous techno-dweeb stuff, and give us writers a toolbox that actually helps get the written word written. Stick to helping writers create, write, organize and reorganize, rewrite, revise, and submit (and even track submissions, agreements and payments for) good works of the written word and you'll achieve a significant contribution to the humanities and the community of authors and writers.

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I would like to see a good writing program that allowed a tree structure on the left showing scenes and sequences (series of scenes) that could be layed-out under chapter headings ( and perhaps Parts above that) and given their own names that don't (have to) show-up in the printout. There should also be the ability to have 3-5 alternate scenes, sequences, and chapters for each "piece" of writing.

Good idea. I would love to have such a feature myself now that you mention it.

There needs to be a way to distinguish turning-point scenes/sequences from simple story-lines. There also needs to be a way to show concurrency of action (when using a train-wreck [convergent story-lines] plot ) or dependency of action (when using a Hero's Journey or Coming of Age type story-line). All this organizational stuff needs to be visual (recognizable icons) and renamable (placeholder variables that the writer-user can rename for each project) with their base philosophy/syntax stored as a "seed" for all projects to grow from.

Well I wouldn't say need, but I do think that would be a good idea.

Obviously, seperate character and setting notes are nice, but most tree programs like TreePad Business Edition or Golden Section Notes makes this fairly simple to do as a seperate companion file for most writing projects.

I intend to do a seperate utility suite that covers those and other notes.

Also readily apparent is the need to manipulate the treed-outline of a novel to easily throw scenes, sequences or chapters around.

Indeed.

Spell Checkers are definately necessary but grammer checkers are ridiculous and nearly pointless for stylistic fiction writers.

Well spell checkers are a given. ALL word processors have them. Of course not all text editors do.

Basic Manuscript Formats right out of Writer's Digest or Writer's Market ought to be the ONLY standard, built-in "Styles" right down to page level and paragraph level for Short Stories and Novel Chapters to Screen Plays and Poetry submissions AND their shuold be an option to eliminate non-standard fonts (Courier New [or Courier Final Draft], Times New Roman, and [sometimes] Arial or Universal are [in most cases] the only fonts most publishers and agents are willing to even look at without throwing your submission from the slush pile to the trash can in one flick of the wrist). Standard formatting for cover sheets/title pages and submissions packaging (Cover Letter, Querry/Synopsis) also ought to be built-in.

I am not having ANY built in styles. I intend to leave that sort of thing upto the user.

I use MS-word, psiWord and Abi Word for the writing. Visio for some plotting (Timelines and sequencing), TreePad Business Edition for note-taking, research, character, setting, and background/backstory work -- all the stuff that only makes it into the novel by creative fusion in the writer's mind sifting out what's necessary for the reader from what was needed by the writer to make it all work.

I think that RoughDraft followed closely by WordTabs are the best for authors. OpenOffice and AbiWord (in that order) are my nect favourites. I use no other word processors for my writing.

Also: real VERSION CONTROL is absolutely necessary on long, complicated projects. One novel I've worked on has "developed"/grown into at least 7 uniquely different ways/styles of writing it (or parts of it: PoV shifts, character changes, time or setting shifts, action-reaction/recovery sequences, PoV "pops", even character intents and purposes have changed beyond mere descriptions or backstory) but keeping track of which files contain which evolutions is a nightmare in Word--basicly, just NOT possible. It would be nice to just hover your mouse cursor over a file's name in the directory and see a good paragraph's worth of description/summary about what that file is in terms of the writing in it just pop-up, rather than having to open a 70,000 to 115,000 word document and try to recognize the subtle and major variations by scanning through it all.

That is also a good idea.

I like your ideas (except the style one) and think they shouldn't be too hard to implement, which I intend to do. So far your dieas are the best posted here. Thank you.

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  • 1 year later...
I like your ideas (except the style one) and think they shouldn't be too hard to implement, which I intend to do. So far your dieas are the best posted here. Thank you.

Hey DragonMaci,

Have you gotten anywhere with this? I was kind of hoping that you might have it for sale by now (or at least beta-testing)....

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As his best friend I can say that he has not gotten far with this, and that it will not be done for some time yet (how long that is I do not know) as he has had many other things to do. However I do know that as soon as he gets other very important things done that he will be focusing more on this project and i will remind him to keep people updated when he can....and I will share as much information as I have that I have permission to being a [as of now anyway] more regular forum user than he currently is.

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...but keeping track of which files contain which evolutions is a nightmare in Word--basicly, just NOT possible. It would be nice to just hover your mouse cursor over a file's name in the directory and see a good paragraph's worth of description/summary about what that file is in terms of the writing in it just pop-up, rather than having to open a 70,000 to 115,000 word document and try to recognize the subtle and major variations by scanning through it all...

scr1.png

scr2.png

Change the folder view to "details" and add the "Comments" column and you can see the description right there. You can also display the subject, keywords, etc right in the folder view for easy finding. You can then sort the directory by the category of your choosing to make the finding even easier.

I didn't read any replies after this one, so if someone already brought this up, I apologize.

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I was thinking of making a word processor that caters mainly for authors, but also normal people. What features (that aren't in other word processors) would you like to see?

You should include an animated paper clip that tries to guess what you want to do by making wildly inaccurate assumptions!

Now for a legitimate idea: I'm not a writer but I think a way of grouping a block of text like a <div>* would be useful, especially if you could drag it around the document to put it where you like. Maybe you could assign some attributes to it like a label, when it fits in the time line, or where it is set. Perhaps adding some customizable highlighting to the block of text so you can mark it for future reference would help.

If you have ever customized a Google homepage, that's sort of what I'm talking about. I think being able to sort specific scenes by dragging them around the document would be a good feature. You could even fit that into the tree idea - the labels of the <div>s represented on another interface where they could be organized.

*A <div> tag from HTML is the best way I could think to describe it. I prepared an example that can be viewed from the following link:

http://palcisko.com/divexample.html

You can't drag and drop since I don't know AJAX, but that hopefully helps to illustrate my point.

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According to some estimates, there are 30 million lines of code in Mac Office. Let's assume that Word is 1/4 of that or 7.5 million. According to numerous studies, the average programmer writes about 300 lines of code per month (in terms of total development time).

Let's assume you wanted to reproduce just 1/10 the of the functionality of Microsoft Word. At 750,000 lines of code, that should take you just 208 years.

Keep in mind that Microsoft Office Mac was written by the best programmers in the industry with 20+ years of experience - a novice would require many more iterations to get things right. Also, Microsoft has a huge organization to support their developers.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist
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As a side node, Windows Vista has about 60m LOC. That would take 16,667 years for a single developer to write. Vista took about 4 years to write, which suggests that Microsoft has about 15-20K developers working on Vista, when you account for the 3-4x group complexity multiplier.

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