Further thoughts on using Word for Desktop Publishing: Text Boxes and more

Further thoughts on using Word for Desktop Publishing: Text Boxes

Back in April 2014 I penned a few lines on using Word as a desktop publishing tool. On the whole it works, but, as I noted then, it does have serious limitations.

I mentioned in that article that it was impossible to use automated cross-referencing between text boxes. Since then I have discovered something even worse. You can generate a table of contents from the headings of articles inside text boxes. (See 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Word: Table of Contents if you don’t know how to create a table of contents.) However, as I discovered, that leads one into  false sense of security.

The table of contents created from text box headings works perfectly, i.e. you can click on an entry and it will take you straight to it, just as it’s meant to. However, save the document as a PDF, i.e. readable in Adobe Acrobat Reader and not so easily editable, and you find tw things.

First, the table of contents looks just great, the same as it does in the Word document.

Second, it doesn’t work. Unfortunately, when you click on an entry in the Table of Contents, the program seems to look for the file on your computer. 

Of course, I discovered this after I’d sent the newsletter I created to several thousand people!

Does converting the text boxes to something called “frames” serve you any better? That’s the subject of a forthcoming post.


The point of pointless writing

What’s the point of doing exercise or yoga? The answer is, usually, to keep yourself generally fit and toned up. Unless you’re preparing for an athletic event, there is no specific or direct point to any of it.

I think we need to keep our “writing muscles” toned up as well. Given that a writer is, by definition, someone who writes (as opposed to someone who just reads or thinks about writing), it’s important to keep writing even when you have nothing in particular to write about.

To that purpose, I have started writing again at my My Writes blog. These are posts about random subjects as they occur to me, and their purpose is mainly to keep myself writing just for pleasure, and, hopefully, to provide some mild entertainment for others.

My latest article there, No accounting for taste…, is about my gift of a jar of – well, you can read it for yourself!


What do you do to keep your “writing muscles” honed?


People in a station

I love the attempts being made all around England to make stations more attractive.

I came across this artwork in Birmingham New Street recently. I don’t know if it really counts as “artwork”, especially as it is probably designed to encourage people to go shopping (Birmingham seems to be a shoppers’ paradise: I counted at least 4 different malls).

People in a station: is it art?But it certainly brightened the place up in the midst of all the building works going on. (They’re laying down tram lines, so over the next few years Birmingham should be an even nicer place in which to travel.)

I think one could use the picture as a creative writing prompt. Like who are these people, and do they know each other? You could write a story centred on just one of them.

Where does technology come into all this? The photo was taken on my phone. It’s not bad, is it? Who needs to carry around a proper camera all the time, “just in case”?


Using Scrivener for blogging

A short while ago I published an article called 5 reasons for using Scrivener for writing books. Well, a week or so later I have discovered more about using the program. As usual, I am learning on a need-to-know basis.  I realise that this could lead to a lot of wasted time, but the other side of the coin is that I don’t know what I need to know until I need to know it, and so ploughing through the manual or the tutorial could be an even bigger waste of time. Bear in mind that the manual is 540 pages long, and the tutorial takes two hours, and you will see what I mean.

Fortunately, the program is reasonably intuitive in parts, and there is a good help forum.

I wondered: could Scrivener be used to write blog articles?

So, I tried writing a blog post with it. In fact, the article about Scrivener (cited above) was structured using Scrivener.

Having experimented, there are, I think, two advantages in using Scrivener for blog post writing:

First, it is very easy to structure your argument using the virtual index cards.

Second, you can change the order of points very easily by moving the index cards around.

Third, the titles of the index cards can become the headings in the article if you like. I took them out because I felt the article was too short to warrant having sub-headings.

Unfortunately, Scrivener is not an unequivocal success in the blogging sphere:

First, it inserts extra formatting in the form of indents in the first line of each paragraph. This is not an insurmountable problem, and in the total scheme of things it isn’t that important. However, I don’t like the indents. Perhaps there is  way of changing the settings such that the indents are not inserted by default, but I haven’t looked yet.

Second, I like having the convenience of using Zemanta to suggest articles for further reading. Again, this isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s not ideal.

As it happens, both of these disadvantages could be dispensed with fairly easily by compiling the finished document as a web page, ie HTML format, and then copying and pasting that into my preferred blog editor, which happens to be Windows LiveWriter. I would then be able to quickly get rid of the paragraph indents, and Zemanta would automatically kick in so I would reap the benefits of using that plug-in.

You might be thinking that that seems like an awful lot of bother to go to, when I could just use LiveWriter  in the first place – and you would be right. However, that would be true only for my standard, short, articles, which tend to be around 500 words or so long. The advantages listed earlier of using Scrivener for blog-writing would become apparent immediately.

So, my conclusion is that when it comes to using Scrivener for blogging, it’s a great program to use for long, essay-type blog posts, but not very useful for typical short blog articles.

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5 reasons for using Scrivener for writing books

scrivener corkboardI have given up using Word for writing books. I may have given up on it for writing articles too. I have decided to move over to Scrivener instead.

First, Scrivener is a purpose-built application for writers, unlike Word, which is a general, all-purpose, word processor. That in itself would not be enough to make me want to change, but it was certainly enough to make me sit up and pay attention.

The document structure is sgown on the left, while the central screen shows the virtual index cardsSecond, I have found that when working on long documents in which I am not sure of the final order of sections, Word is pretty unwieldy. Yes, I make use of the outline view, but if the document is really long it is not an easy tool to use. For a long time now I have been looking for an application that enables you to write on what I would call “virtual index cards”. Although I have found such programs, there has usually been a problem with them, such as not being able to format the index cards very well, or not having access to other useful word processor functions such as spell-checking. Scrivener has an index card view (called the Corkboard) and spell-checking etc too.

Third, Scrivener makes it easy to not only see the structure of your document, but to rearrange it too. The structure is shown on the left-hand side of the screen. If you show the Corkboard view, then rearranging the order of the index cards changes the order of the sections of the document.

Fourth, If you already have a document, eg in Word, you can import it into Scrivener and have it automatically split into separate index cards, ie documents. I haven’t found a way of automatically making these into folders, which I think would be quite useful (I have been using the folders as chapter headings), but I can live with that.

Finally, Scrivener lets you compile your finished document into ordinary word-processor formats such as RTF (Rich Text Format) and Word, PDF, print and, perhaps most useful of all, all the popular ebook formats.

I still have a lot to learn about Scrivener. I tried working my way through the handy two hour interactive tutorial supplied with the program, but being no good at learning in that sort of way I decided to start on some projects instead. So, I am learning as I am going along, and looking things up as I need to.

One last word: this article was written in Scrivener and exported as HTML. Not bad as a first attempt, though I am not conbvinced I am ready to stop using my usualy blog editors just yet.


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