Tech Tuesday: NaNoWriMo

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Yesterday I wrote about my personal experience competing in NaNoWriMo, Today I thought I would take a look at the different technology I used to try to reach 50,000 words. My first year I had a personal notebook that I wrote on quite successfully. In the years since my laptop died and I haven’t replaced really replaced it. So instead I’ve tried a few different technologies for writing my novel. One year I had hopped to write on my Motorola Milestone, I thought with its slide out keyboard it would be perfect. It wasn’t. So this year I was thrilled when through some opportunities at home and work I started November we access to a Laptop and a Tablet to write my novel. So I thought I’d break this post into two parts, first I will compare the Hardware and then I will compare the different software I used.

Hardware

The Laptop I have been using is an Acer Aspire A5 with a touch screen, running Windows 10 technical preview (It was the only computer in the house I could find to install the Technical Preview). It’s a nice laptop and I find myself missing the touch screen when I’m not using it. The tablet is a Note 10.1, basically my phone blown up to tablet size. It has a Bluetooth keyboard case so that I’m not typing using the on screen keyboard.

Each device had its strengths and weaknesses. The keyboard on the laptop was superior and it worked better on my lap, but it did mean I needed to carry a backpack instead of just my small shoulder bag. While the tablet was nice and light and was much easier to carry around, it was more restrictive. I couldn’t only run one, or if they supported it two apps at once. It was also quicker to start working on the tablet. From pulling out of my bag to typing was usually under a minute on the tablet and could take as much as 5 for the laptop.

When I had it with me the laptop was almost always were I worked, it’s just that by the end of it I wasn’t bringing my laptop with me anymore. The moment of truth for me cam about a third of the way through the month, there was a writing event after hours at a Chapters / Indigo store. In a moment of excitement to try the latest build of Windows 10 I started installing without thinking how long it could take. It took hours and when it was time to go it wasn’t finished. So I was forced to head out with just the tablet. That was the first time I relied on it alone and it was a great success. That was one of my most productive evening writing and it was the beginning of the end of caring the laptop around with me.

Software

The one piece of software that I probably used the most was OneNote. It’s where I kept notes, outlines and any thought I didn’t want to forget. To be fair I use it for work note, personal notes and just doodling. It’s on every platform I use and syncs very reliably, I can’t imagine not using it.

As for the writing of my novel itself, on Windows the choice was obvious, though it didn’t stop me from investigating several options, though none of them stuck. I was struck by the power and capabilities of Scrivener, but it seemed to complicated to learn in the middle of NaNoWriMo. So I stuck with the obvious choice, MS Word. I have an office 365 subscription so I can use it anywhere, and though some of the other writing software looked interesting I like the familiar and powerful interface Word provides.

On the tablet the situation was different, at the beginning of the month I wasn’t sure what to use. I knew I wanted to keep my novel in the cloud so I always had a back up. Last year I had used Dropbox for that, because one of my laptops ran Linux and there was no OneDrive client for it. This year I chose OneDrive, so I wanted any editor I used on the tablet to work with OneDrive, to simplify managing versions of my novel. I looked at the Office suites I had already installed on my tablet, Google Docs, Polaris Office, and Office Suite Pro 8. All offered something I liked, and for the first part of the month I tried them all, without picking one.

On November 7 Microsoft announce that they were starting a beta program for Office for Android. My first thought was that I had a solution for my dilemma, I could just use Word everywhere. It wasn’t till the 11th that I gained access to the beta and began testing out Word on Android. It worked great, and though I did use it throughout the month I found that it was missing one key feature for NaNoWriMo, it didn’t have word count. Which was great for focusing on writing sprints but not so good when I wanted to see how much I’d written. It also had some issues with syncing documents when the internet connection was lost. Still for beta software it worked great, I’m working on a full review for an upcoming post.

In the end I settled on a mix of Office Suite Pro 8 and Word for Android. Both supported opening documents right from OneDrive which was key for me. The biggest plus for Office Suite Pro for me was that it supported the Samsung Multi-Window system. So I could have both my Novel and my OneNote open on the screen at the same time. Of course software on Android rarely stays the same for long and that I hope to continue writing over the coming months I’m sure I’ll be trying out new programs and refining the system in the months to come.

Conclusion

The biggest surprise for me was how well the tablet preformed. With its relative small and weight when compared to the laptop I found it being my first choice when ever I headed out of the house. Evening during quiet nights at home watching TV on the couch with Melissa, having something that lite and functional was great. I know that people say tablets are consumption devices, but the more I use the Note 10.1 the more I think that’s really up to the individual. Of course if I were to be truly honest, what I think I really want is a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or another high-end Windows Tablet/computer.

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