There are lots of options in free software for writers and this is just a start. Here, I’ve highlighted some that rival the commercial versions. Whether you are doing a newsletter, magazine, brochure, or novel, there is software that can help.
Win/Mac When I first saw this software, I couldn’t believe it was open source. It rivals the best of the best commercial software and will create a PDF that is professional commercial grade. Use it to create magazines, illustrated how-to books, travel books, brochures, textbooks, children’s books, and the list goes on.
There is a complete online manual with a section for newbies to help you get started. It rivals programs like Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress so be prepared to stretch your brain cells a bit if you have never used a commercial publishing program.
Although there is a fairly steep learning curve, there are lots of tutorials and a large community of users ready to help.
Get Scribus here!
Update: This is now hosted on tuxfamily.org. Downloads are available for Linux, Windows and Mac.
If you need help organizing your characters, timeline, and chapters and want help managing all the ideas that are swirling in your head before you get a chance to jot them down in a draft, then you may want to have a look at this software. The developer refers to it as a ‘dynamic mind map’.
If you are a visual person, seeing the characters and where they are at any given time can make constructing your novel or short story much easier and solve continuity issues before they begin. The trouble with this is that it could be so much fun planning that there is very little writing being done.
It’s good software for planners and planning your bestseller is essential. Most commercially successful books are written to formula. It is easy to use and there is no huge learning curve involved. The biggest challenge you will have is to stop playing and get busy writing.
Don’t you just love generous developers? Most writers are avid readers so I was thrilled to find Calibre (Win/Mac), another open source and very easy to use program for not only converting your writing to formats for eReaders but for organizing and converting files for output to your own device. It organizes your library, adds missing metadata by searching the Internet for you, allows editing of tags, downloads news from RSS feeds, and then converts it all for whatever reader you are using.
Rather than go into a lengthy description of all the incredible things this program does, here is a video from the developer. It’s the perfect tour of this elegant little program.
Caution: When converting PDFs, make sure any vector graphics have been changed to image formats like .jpg otherwise the image will be dropped in the conversion.
Calibre in Motion
Calibre also does an excellent job of converting your Windows doc files to both MOBI and EPUB formats and many swear by it.
Another open source program that I like even better is Sigil. It allows you to edit your EPUB which Calibre does not. You can also apply CSS directly and find formatting problems before you publish. To publish on Amazon, you can convert your EPUB to MOBI using the Kindle Previewer and find any errors before the public sees your book. If code scares you and you don’t have a technical bone in your body, hire someone to do it for you. Yes, I’m available! This should get you started on your way to publishing your novels, business books, manuals, and just about anything else. Cost to you? Just an idea and some hard work.
Looking for quick tools to help you edit? Find some here!