Can you imagine having to write 500 page novels on a typewriter? The romantic notion is dreamy and horrifying at the same time. We’ve come a long way from the days of the printing press and hopefully made some evolutionary progress in the meantime. Today our lives center around computers, and there are hundreds of great apps out there for writers, journalists, bloggers and every typer in between.
Ah, good old Merriam has arrived for mobile. Last week, Merriam Webster released its free dictionary app featuring Voice Search. Along with voice search, the free app offers more than 225,000 definitions from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and 300,000 synonyms and antonyms from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus. Additional features include the popular Word of the Day, example sentences, audio pronunciations, and recent look-up history. It is an essential app for any writer. Download it here. (Free)
If you are a poet (part time or full time) B-Rhymes will be your new best friend. The app is a dictionary for finding near rhymes — words that almost, but don’t quite rhyme — which are also known as ‘false rhymes’ or ‘off rhymes’ or ‘slant rhymes.’ Here are just a few of the words that kind of rhyme with Internet: Ethernet, Gingerbread, Intersex, Intercept, Cornett, Cornet, Burgonet, Turtleneck, Falconet, Watershed, Loggerhead, Somerset, Floret, Hammerhead, Interbred, Interject, Intersect, Letterhead, Kitchenette, Hibernate, Perplex, Intellect, Featherbed, Amulet, Fishnet, Safteynet, Quartet, etc. Awesome right? Download it here. (Free)
Words with Friends
Need a break from the grind (cause you can’t find a rhyme)? Words with Friends is a game for word lovers. It is essentially mobile scrabble and allows you to play with your friends, and play with people who aren’t your friends. I’m not the only addict out there. Words with Friends has over a quarter of a million fans on its Facebook page. Download it here for the iPhone and iPad only. (Free w/ ads; $.99 w/out) And if you want to start a game, leave your username in the comments and Boyd*Robot will ping you!
Voice to text technology has had a long, bumpy road. I remember seeing a demo of the technology at IBM in the mid-90s, and now 15 years later we’re finally seeing headway with apps like Dragon Dictation. The app features voice to text transcriptions that can be sent as texts, e-mail or can be used to update your status on Twitter and Facebook. If the app is slightly off, it offers an easy editing tool with a list of suggested words and a voice command correction interface. Enjoy big red buttons and remember what your mother told you: speak clearly and uh-nunc-i-ate. The app eequires a WiFi or 3G/EDGE connection on the iPhone and iPad. Download it here. (Free)
On the Web
“We are all at the mercy of our wild monkey minds. Incessantly swinging from branch to branch.”
This year, OmmWriter released its latest version, “Dāna,” but little had been updated from the already sweet app. With pop-ups, multiple tabs and instant messages all vying for our attention, we’ve sadly served ourselves with attention deficit disorder on a platter. OmmWriter is a zen attempt to recapture our ability to concentrate. “If you are a scriptwriter, blogger, journalist, copywriter, poet or just someone who enjoys writing” OmmWriter says, “Welcome back to concentrating.” See a video of the app in action here.
Yesterday, I wrote about Figment, a free platform where anyone can share their writing, connect with readers and discover new stories by young authors. The site was created by two writers (one current and one former) for The New Yorker so you know it has to be high brow. One of the most intriguing parts about Figment are its forums. They are filled with advice that you’d normally have to pay NYU’s creative writing school thousands of dollars for like trendspotting, myth busting, information about writing classes and publishing help. So if you can’t make it to the underground speakeasy in the East Village tonight for the collaborative poetry jam, Figment might be worth checking out.
Web + Mobile
WordPress is simple, easy to use web software that writers can use to create a beautiful website (such as this one) or an informal blog. It is in fact, the Internet’s largest blogging platform with over 10 million blogs and 25 million users. As they like to say, “WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.” The software is built by hundreds of community volunteers and offers thousands of plugins and themes. It’s hands down the best app to start your own blog or website with. R.I.P. old school CMS.
Did you just lose your YA mystery novel because your hard drive crashed? Hard drives are so passé. It’s all about the cloud, as they say. Google Docs, part of Google’s cloud-based office suite offered document editing capabilities on both iOS and Android devices this year, including the iPad. So forget your flash drive and don’t worry about toting your computer around everywhere. You can work on your novel from any coffee shop in the world or make last minute updates right in your mobile web browser. Other developments this year have included real-time collaborative editing, a new drawing editor, automatic spelling corrections, improved sharing optionsand drag-and-drop file uploads. Google Docs also made our recent list of top apps for productivity: If you use multiple computers and want to keep your documents synchronized across them all, Google Docs remains the easiest, most readily usable solution out there.
Evernote is a cloud-based note keeping platform that launched a number of improvements this year. In August, Evernote updated its Windows desktop app with a number of back-end improvements as well as one key new feature: taking notes with you laptop’s webcam. In mid-December Evernote for Mac 2.0 came officially out of Beta, featuring notebook sharing and notebook stacks. Evernote also launched its own third party ‘App Store’ called Trunk, highlighting the wide range of add-ons available for Evernote including mapping, voice transcription and PDF annotation tools. On mobile, it works in a pinch on the iPhone and the iPad app is beautiful and crisp. This app also made our recent list of top apps for productivity. Runner’s Up? Simplenote.
Did I mention how much I love my Kindle? I do. I really, really do. According to Jeff Bezos, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon is selling, it sells 143 Kindle eBooks. And Amazon is now making it easier than ever for writers to self-publish on Amazon’s Digital Text Platform. Books sold through the Kindle store participate in the 70% royalty program and are available for purchase on Kindle devices and Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, PC, Mac, Blackberry, and Android-based devices. With DTP, you can self-publish books in English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian and specify pricing in US Dollars and Pounds Sterling. Essentially, the web platform allows anyone to upload ebooks from Word docs to the Amazon Kindle reader sales program, for free, in less than one hour. Amazon also offers a Kindle program to allow anyone to read a Kindle ebook via the web.
If you’re feeling old school, check out CafePress. While not really an app, per se, CafePress is a great, cost-effective service for writers to self-publish their manuscripts in print. Authors can choose from binding types, size and whether they want to publish the color in black and white or color. The pricing is based on the number of pages in your book plus the type of binding you wish to offer. For example, the base price for a 100-page perfect-bound book would be $10.00, and you set the retail price. Base prices are the same for all book sizes.
Lastly, while I couldn’t fit it in this list, I highly reccomend the Shakespeare app for the iPhone and iPad. It’s a free app, download it here, and enjoy everything Shakespeare ever wrote (41 plays, 154 sonnets and 6 poems, including doubtful works) in the palm of your hand.
What other great apps for writers do you love? And if you’re a writer and don’t have a favorite app, what functions would your dream app have?