Smatterings: Choosing The Right Formatting Tool

(Computer Bits published my article Choosing the Write Tool in their Nov 2004 edition. To keep current on the information presented in the article bookmark this page.)

Word Processors

Word allows you to save in either Word of RFT format. These formats are the two most requested by publishers who accept submissions via e-mail. Word Perfect is better at formatting because it is made by a company who specialize in graphics when printing a document.

Word Add-ins The Expensive Ones

Wizards for Words This handy program converts whatever your writing into the proper manuscript format for submitting to publisher who still use the US Postal system for submissions and for publishers who ask for Word formatted attachments. Even if you normally use "The Writer's Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats" as a guide to write you queries and masterpieces, this program speeds up the formatting process. Also comes with a grammar style and word usage checker that nicely adds to Word 97's awesome grammar checker.

Beyond Word Processors

For composing e-mail, letters, address books, poems, short stories, and articles most any computer on the market will perform well. For script writing, well if your only ambition is a one act, or a Sunday School program any computer will do that too. So if you are reading my web page your computer is up to any writing task you have in store for it.

Unless you decide to write an e-book or a Kindle version...

Write it in your favorite editor and export it using tools Freeware Webpage Authoring Software Links has the best freeware to covert and edit e-books under the Books Creation PDF Freeware heading.

Unless you decide to write a novel...

For a novel, the computer needs extra memory to remember the formatting on all those pages.

When writing short stories and articles, all you need is whatever word processing software which came with your computer.

Unless you decide that your story has the making of a television show, or a movie...

The formatting required to have a screenplay considered is more complicated than you may be willing to spend time on. To write screenplays or three act stage plays a script writing program is more appropriate for the task.

Comparing Story Format link Look over my Comparing Formats Page to see the difference between the format a short story publishers wants to see on his desk as opposed to what a director for a screen play wants to see on his desk.

Script Writing Programs

Writing software companies make special scriptwriting software for writing screenplays. These programs are too expensive for me to use more than one, so I can not recommend a script writing program.

Below are the two that I liked the best while shopping for script writing software. The main advantage of the expensive ones is that they allow you switch easily between different scriptwriting formats. Freeware selections tend to be dedicated to one format per program.


Final Draft won out as the industry standard used by Hollywood and taught in colleges.

Scriptware This is the script writing package that I chose back in the mid-ninties. This one includes a template for stage scriptwriting. However, the stage template utilizes the newer less used stage play format. I had struggled writing 2 stage plays with Word 2.0 back then.

Reviews on other Scriptwriting Software

The Online Communicator Written in the spirit of Smatterings. A straight forward review of scriptwriting software from someone else who writes according to their experiences.

However if you are a student taking an intro course in writing for film; the freeware option is the best option. Here are the freeware programs I've found so far:

To use any of the files below you need to have an unzipping utility on your computer first if you are using a version of Windows previous to Windows Me/2000/XP. My favorite unzipping utility is located on the top of my Download Aids Freeware page.

Free Script Templates For Existing Word Processors

Choose a Word Template over a script writing program if you're not going to really shoot your own video or film, when writing the script in hopes that someone buys it and makes their own production script storyboard from your story.

Sonnyboo's Free Downloads contains MS Word 97 film screenwriting templates IScript, Swift 97 and Screen Writer, which I'm glad to find that they are still available, now in one zip file packaged with credits templates and WGA contracts.

Sometimes the installation instructions are non-existent, so I wrote up some installation instructions based on a template that no longer exists. These instructions should work for most templates made for MS Word.


Successware is free to use until you sell your script.

The Scriptwriter's Toolkit Stage, Film, and Radio MS Word Templates for MS Word 2 to MS Word 2010. Uses short cut keys exclusively. After the annoying reminders about the terms of use it works fine.

Free Stand Alone Film, TV and Theater Script Writing Programs

Free on-line Screenplay editors

CeltxWiki digital pre-production software from the text version of your novel to the industry standard film version script or the other way around. Scene Details and Character Background forms. Add sound files, pictures and video clips to create a media rich outline. Tag key items like props, and actors and special effects with notes and pictures and even sound files to help give your story shape. Calendar and Reports features to keep your Project organized. Collaboration feature lets you share your entire Project - scripts, breakdown files, budgets, schedules, location forms etc. - with team members.

Plotbot free alternative to CeltWiki that downloads your screenplay as an XML or RTF format which can be easily imported into Final Draft or continue to work on off-line. Allow user control on collaboration settings along with the appropriate copyright statements for both solo and collaborative work.

Free Desktop Screenplay and Theater Script Editors

Trelby Multi platform screenplay editor able to import from Final Draft, Celtx, Adobe Story, Fountain and FadeIn Pro. Exports to PDF, RTF, HTML, Final Draft and Fountain. Windows and Linux version

Rough Draft the easiest writing tool for writing stage plays. Yes! It is easier to setup the normal stage format that you see in English class, used in most amateur theater scripts and find in the library. Rough Draft automatically generates a title page.

Chap Books, Novels, Newsletters and Other Publications

Desktop Publishing

If you are writing newsletters then you need to look for publishing software. WordPerfect then might be your choice. You could possibly use MS Publisher. Give a choice between using MS Word or MS Publisher, Back in the mid-90's until well into the 20-teens, MS Publisher was the right tool any time a document had more than one column, so long as it was not a long document like a script. For many years before Create Space, and before Scribus became stable, Northside Writers used Publisher to make editions of Over Coffee. Once the booklet was laid out it was taken to Kinko's for copying and stabling.

PagePlus SE by Free SerifSoftware is a freeware Windows desktop publishing program comparable to MS Publisher. Packed with a host of preset document layouts, automated templates, color schemes and artistic effects. The best free tool for creating banners, flyers, or advertisements. Lacked a booklet template.

Scribus Open Source desktop publishing for Windows, Mac, and Linux and Unix. Must install Ghostscript before installing Scribus. (Scroll down Smatterings Smatterings Graphics page for Ghostscript.) Will aid in magazine layout, chap books, business cards, presentations, and Avery labels. Crashed when my booklet exceeded 8 pages, but useful for designing information sheets for selling books. Need to use a graphic editor called Gimp to edit pictures. Gimp and all the components of Gimp are posted on my Graphics page.

MS Publisher Templates Freeware

Powered Templates offers a free package of brochure templates for MS Publisher, Word, Corell, and Adobe formats

MS Word Newsletters, Book Writers and Poetry Templates Freeware

Editorium Authors tools is a MS Word/Mac style macro for poets and book writers.

General Business Templates Newsletters, self mailers, news releases, flyers and stuff for MS Word, and Power point from OKIŽ printer. Just choose download, copy, paste, and save as a Word template.

Ink Byte Novel, and short story template for submissions to editors.

The Organized Writer by Annie Neugebauer offers helpful charts, templates, and worksheets to keep any writer organized from creation through publication. Includes agent, short story, novel scenes and poet submission charts, and writer resumes and bio templates.

LibreOffice Templates

MS Office templates generally work fine in word processor able to read doc files and visa-versa.

LibreOffice Templates Official Site includes a screen writing, music, thesis, and A-5 booklet template.

LibreOffice templates Offers 92 templates including letterhead and password tracker templates.

6 useful LibreOffice extensions by Italo Vignoli. Tried them and found all 6 recommended plug-ins useful.

Vertex42 Has useful business templates like invoices.

Open Office Templates

Word Label Templates Open Office Templates for labels, VHS, cd and dvd jackets

Microsoft Template Gallery has a good selection of templates for MS Office but you must have a version of MS Office to browse their directory. Browse around to see if they have anything useful to you. For theater minded people they have a ticket, and a program template for MS Word, and a telephone list that can easily be converted to a cast list for MS Excel. They also offer a screenplay template.

Full length Novels and Non-fiction Books Self Publishing Settings

Self Publishing Your Novel Company has a nice comparison chart listing software package available for book layout.

MS Publisher saved the day when SmatterigsBooks published an 8"x5.5", 36 page history of the United Alden Methodist Church for their 125th birthday as it did when my mom and I volunteered as editors for Northside Writers' Over Coffee 2006 issue. While working on the 2006 issue, we learned for staple-bound publications the size of the local copy shop's stapler determines the length of the book. Exceeding this limit suddenly we found ourselves debating on editing out an excellent work or exceeding our budget with higher cost binding. For a thick 8"x5.5" book MS publisher and the local copy shop is no longer the answer. One needs to convert their word document to a print ready file in PDF format for a POD (print on demand) printer.

Create Space Templates to format your black-and-white interior file using some of our most popular trim sizes for print ready book documents prior to the file being saved as a pdf file.

MS Word Photo Ready Book Layout

When I set out to format my cookbook using Word Perfect Office 11, I found the same info from the articles listed below applies the same as if you use MS Word.

Books, Typography and Microsoft Word Typesetting in MS Word by Aalan Shepard.

Print Rulers

These helped me to adjust my margins in page setup to match the way text looks like in my choice of books published by an established publisher when I laid out Knife of Truth, A Matter of Honor in 2007.

Screen Ruler Measure anything on your screen in millimeters, centimeters or pixels.

Five Awesome On-screen Rulers reviews other rulers for windows and other platforms like mac.

Advanced Figuring with Excel

Printing companies like Book Surge who later became Create Space provided calculators for sizing your book cover. For the first time since 1996, I needed MS Excel installed on my computer in 2008. Although Excel is still a foreign and strange program to me their software worked like a charm as I typed in the page numbers and book size. It determined the cover size needed for Adobe Print Shop, which I could rent computer time at our local copying shop.

Gnumeric If you only have a word processor installed and suddenly need to run an Excel file, this is definite choice to consider.

Academia Publishing

LaTeX when writing Science and Math.

Science and math community has been using LaTeX for typesetting papers for scientific conferences, workshops, books and manuals since the late 1980's, but the user needs to know much about computer programming and macros for us non-technical people to use it. Because one knows eats and drinks calculus never infers that this same person is an expert in computer programming. Eventually, a free graphical user interfaces became available for it.

Smatterings Researching Religious History page reviews 2 great tools for doing references compatible with Latex toward the bottom of the page under the Scholars: You'll want to publish your work. The freeware listed below will help create a bibliography heading.

LyX The Document Processor Free Open Source software that lets you create complex technical and scientific articles with mathematics, cross-references, bibliographies, and indices. Useful for dissertations and theses, lecture notes, seminar notebooks, conference proceedings, software documentation, books, articles in refereed scientific journals, scripts for plays and movies, business proposals, presentations... Best to install LateX first and then install LyX. If you use Windows make sure you follow the instructions on the Tweaking LyX on Windows. Follow the tutorial because this program works differently from standard word processors.

A note about scripts for plays and movies: This is mind strenuous effort unless you already use LaTeX for other things. The Unix world is more user code intensive than the Mac and Windows world. Any Word clone will allow you to easily write a letter or an article unless it is scientific or mathematical in nature. This is the right tool if you write non-fiction containing headings, sub-sections, and bulleted lists.

ProTeX Windows LateX version called MiTeX that I downloaded on my mom's DSN Internet connection to make LyX work when the initial version of LateX was corrupt because it was too big of a download for my dialup modem. A cable connection would work too. Although time consuming, it's the way to go with using LyX; it adds an MiTeX updater to keep your program current and functioning at its prime.

LyX Quick Start 2002 article from Linux Productivity Magazine by Steve Litt has instructions to set up Lyx for making a book. This is but one of a series of articles from Litt's LyX Library.

Open Source Self-Publishing Tools: Designing a Book with LyX By Corinne McKay, ATA-certified French to English translator based in Boulder, Colorado, United States and Daniel J. Urist explains how LyX is a tool to create a really professional looking book that is indistinguishable from a book produced by a mainstream publishing house.

Typographic Classes for LyX

What in MS Word and WordPerfect call a Style Sheet, the Linux world sets up its document types with different sub-programs called classes. The default Book class that comes with LyX lacks paragraph environments for the standard beginning pages in a book, things like acknowledgments, publisher info, and dedications so the two classes plus a few others not listed below are installed automatically with ProTeX.

Memoir class for typesetting poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and mathematical works. Memoir class Manual written by the Memoir class's developer Peter Wilson, contains a thorough introduction to typography after you install ProTex it can be found on your computer at C:\Program Files\MiKTeX 2.7\memoir. Class is worth downloading just to read his book even if you never install LaTex. Memoir lacks headers and footers so if you are doing an install without ProTeX, you'll need to add in a fancyhdr package which provides an easy way to place text on the top and/or bottom of every page.

KOMA-Script is a set of replacement classes for the standard LaTeX classes, provides the scrbook class offering a better set of paragraph environments. Uppertitleback and Lowertitleback environments allows you to format the upper and lower sections of text that appear on the back side of the book's title page, which are normally the copyright, the book's ISBN number, Library of Congress cataloging info, disclaimers, publisher contact info.

Converting documents so they can be imported by LyX

AbiWord after you download and install the plugins, allows you to save your Word or WordPerfect file to LaTex. Next, open LyX and import the file.

Return to Smatterings: Word Processing How-To Page for a list of freeware word processors.

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