Four-- No, Five-- Tools I Use When Writing Hub Pages

List of Tools I Use

The Hub articles I write are written offline, each residing in its own folder where I keep all related files: the main document, images and text notes related to each image and, occasionally a mindmapping file (more about this later). I think I'm a file hoarder, but I can't help it and it lets me sleep at night.

I use a set of free tools that I thought might be of interest to fellow writers looking for alternatives:

  1. LibreOffice or OpenOffice – a suite of office software (word processor, spreadsheet, etc).

  2. NotePad++ - NotePad on steroids.

  3. IrfanView – an image viewer/editor.

  4. FreeMind - a “mindmapping” tool for brain-storming and organizing thoughts.

  5. Toool – a search tool for LibreOffice or OpenOffice files.


LibreOffice

LibreOffice is an open source productivity suite similar to Microsoft Office, but doesn't cost a pfennig. Microsoft Office (Home version) costs $120. Six applications are included:

  1. Writer – word processor (similar to Word)

  2. Calc – spreadsheet (similar to Excel)

  3. Impress – presentations (similar to PowerPoint)

  4. Draw – business graphics

  5. Base – database management

  6. Math – formula editor

If you know how to use Microsoft Office, you shouldn't have much problem with LibreOffice. I have to admit the only applications I use on a regular basis are Writer and Calc , but they alone are well-worth the price of admission. Both will open Microsoft Office files, but be warned that heavily formatted Word and Excel files probably won't convert exactly. That's never been a problem for me, but it could be a deal-breaker for those who want want to edit fancy business files from work at home. I don't use the other four applications (Impress, Draw, Base and Math), but it's nice to know they are there.

I use Writer extensively (even at work for my personal technical notes) and have rarely been disappointed with its capabilities. I think the main thing I miss compared to Microsoft Word is the ability to split a document view and see two different areas of the document. Otherwise, I'm golden. As a matter of fact, I still waste time trying to figure out Microsoft Office's “ribbon” which replaced the straight-forward toolbars and menus. I can only imagine they decided to revamp the whole user experience so we would feel like we got something for our money.

Hub Tip: I discovered that, when copying text from Writer and pasting into Hub text components, the bold, italics and other formatting is maintained-- including hyperlinks. I assume this holds true for Microsoft Word as well, but I can't be positive.

LibreOffice vs OpenOffice

Many of you may be familiar with OpenOffice. LibreOffice was OpenOffice. Let me explain. OpenOffice was owned by Sun Microsystems, but when Oracle bought Sun, they also got OpenOffice. Many of the key OpenOffice developers were dissatisfied with Oracle's heavy-handedness and decided to take the OpenOffice codebase that was open source and created LibreOffice. You'd be hard-pressed to see much difference between the two and their documents are completely interchangeable since they are based on the same XML standard. I chose LibreOffice because 1) I intensely dislike Oracle and 2) The developers are adding functionality to LibreOffice (Oracle has no desire to improve OpenOffice).

Update 2012: Oracle has released OpenOffice to Apache OpenSource, which addresses both of my objections to OpenOffice. That is, it is no longer controlled by Oracle and it is being actively upgraded once again. At this point, the differences between LibreOffice and OpenOffice are so slight (and document files can be created and read by either one) that it's tough to say one is better or worse than the other. So, use either and enjoy.

Download LibreOffice here.

Download OpenOffice here.

A LibreOffice document (showing this article in progress).
A LibreOffice document (showing this article in progress). | Source

NotePad++

Sometimes you just want to paste some text or write quick notes, etc and you don't want to wait for your word processor to load up. That's why every Windows machine comes with NotePad. So, why would you bother installing yet another notepad-type tool? Trust me, NotePad++ will blow your socks off and it's quick to load and easy to start banging away on. Well, it blew my socks off, anyway. When I write my articles, I always have image files. Each image file needs associated information (caption, source, license information, etc) so I create a text file with the same name and, using NotePad++, paste and type the info. Sure, I could use old NotePad and this usage doesn't even begin to scratch NotePad++'s capabilities but I can have multiple open files and NotePad++ is just as easy to use. All my text-type files are associated with NotePad++. I don't miss NotePad at all-- but don't take my NotePad++ away. Here are some of its capabilities:

  • Open multiple documents

  • Fantastic search capability

    • Search current document

    • Search all open documents

    • Search documents in directories/files

  • Move/copy text in windows side/by side

    • Synchronize scrolling of multiple windows

  • Much, much more.

If you are a technical person, NotePad++ shows hex dumps, color-codes various languages, etc. Plugins are available to extend its capabilities even further.

Download NotePad++ here.

A NotePad++ text document with four opened caption text files.
A NotePad++ text document with four opened caption text files. | Source

IrfanView

IrfanView is my image viewer/editor tool of choice because of its ease of use, capabilities and quality. When I do a screen capture or copy an image for a hub article, I open IrfanView, paste the image, crop it to my liking, adjust the final size and save it with my other hub article files. If I want to create a map image with countries colored, I can do that because I downloaded an IrfanView plugin which allows drawing on the image. I plop the map into IrfanView and color and text away. Another thing I use IrfanView a lot for is to convert from one image format to another. It's a great tool that I've used for years. Here are just some of its capabilities:

  • View

  • Convert

  • Optimize

  • Print

  • Slideshows

Download IrfanView here.

An IrfanView image showing a NotePadpp screen-grab.
An IrfanView image showing a NotePadpp screen-grab. | Source

FreeMind

Now for the quirky tool-- quirky in the sense that it helps organize thoughts. FreeMind is a “mind mapping” tool. It helps you brainstorm by graphically letting you enter ideas and associating other thoughts in a hierarchical manner. You can quickly reorganize and regroup your thoughts and expand on them. The key for me was spending a few minutes mastering a few control keys so I could then just type my thoughts in and create the necessary graphic bubbles and links without having to constantly use my mouse. This is a lifesaver with a laptop. This is a Java application and it requires that you have at least Java 1.4+ installed. If you don't, there is an install package that includes Java on the install page or you can just install Java yourself. If you're not familiar with mind mapping software, I'm afraid my brief overview is not very helpful, but I encourage you to investigate-- mindmapping can be very helpful to researchers and writers. Like the other tools, FreeMind has many additional capabilities besides those mentioned.

Download FreeMind here.

A FreeMind session used to start this article.
A FreeMind session used to start this article. | Source

Loook

I just recently (2013) added this search tool to my repertoire after amassing many, many OpenOffice (or LibraOffice) .odt documents. I needed something that would let me search for words and phrases inside word processing files in a folder and its sub-folders. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but is simple to use, fast enough and free. The only caveat is that it is a Python application and so requires Python 2.2 or later installed on your computer. I have Python 2.7 and it was fairly easy to install.

As for installing Toool.py itself, I downloaded it (it's an Apache OpenOffice project, so it's safe), unzipped it and copied the Toool.py file to my desktop.

To search, I just double-click on the icon and the search window appears. You enter or browse for the search path (Loook remembers the last folder you used) and then enter the text to search for. There is also a mode selection allowing AND, OR or PHRASE modes. Click Search and any and all OpenOffice files meeting the search criteria are displayed. You can double-click the document and it will open in OpenOffice. Loook is simple, effective and has ended the frustration of finding “that” document. Hats of to Daniel Naber in Germany for writing this toool.

Download Loook here .

Loook.py searching for churchill.
Loook.py searching for churchill.

Summary

These tools all have one thing in common: they are easy to install and start using, but have many additional layers of capabilities that will amaze you when you start digging into them. Come to think of it, they have something else in common: they are all high quality applications. And I suppose the third thing they have in common is that they are all free to download and use.

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Comments 38 comments

NatalieSack profile image

NatalieSack 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

Never heard of FreeMind. Thanks for the heads up. Good software!


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks for the comment, Natalie. If nothing else, I found it fun to use. If you try it, you may find many uses for it: organizing notes, stream-of-conciousness, logging information, etc.


CrazyGata profile image

CrazyGata 4 years ago from Puerto Rico

Shared!


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks, CrazyGata. We have now solved the "shared" question: we don't see our own "shared" notifications. Well done.


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California

Very helpful. I have all the features covered that you mentiond, except mind mapping. I do that with pencil and paper. I'm bookmarking this hub. Thanks for SHARING.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks very much for the comment, peoplepower73. I'm glad you liked it. I kind of figured that mind mapping would be an outlier that many wouldn't have.


QualityContent profile image

QualityContent 4 years ago

IrfranView is a great simple image editor I use it all the time. Thanks for sharing, voted up.


SMD2012 profile image

SMD2012 4 years ago

Thanks for all these great resources. I'm looking forward to playing around with FreeMind.

Voted Up, Useful, Awesome, Followed! Have a great weekend!


Arlene V. Poma 4 years ago

This is way over my head, but I voted it up, and bookmarked it as useful and interesting. Writing is my strongest skill when it comes to writing Hubs. Everything else, I have to do in baby steps. I didn't have these tools when I began writing in the 70s, and depending on what you decide to do these days, some efforts you make can eat up your writing time. And make you crazy. I just write.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Hi, QualityContent. Yes, isn't IrfanView awesome? Simple and powerful with new capabilities added all the time. I also have been using it for many years. Thanks for the comment.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Wow... thanks for all the vote ups, SMD2012. I think you find FreeMind useful. Good luck!


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Ah, the 70s-- paper and pen or pencil, a typewriter, whiteout, getting copies made. Now, like you said, there's all this stuff taking away writing time-- but I don't miss making mistakes and having to re-type. Not at all. Thanks for your comment, Arlene.


Arlene V. Poma 4 years ago

According to your profile, you do make a living as an engineer, so I can only assume that you are at home with the tech world. I struggle with tech all the time, but I am glad for the "old days." At least I got paid what I was worth as a writer. Now, you put in all this bang for the pennies when it comes to writing online.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Arlene, I struggle in the tech world, too. There's just too much going on and rarely enough time to learn the technologies properly. I will say this, though, many software tools are easy to install. It wasn't that long ago when you almost had to be a software engineer just to install them-- and it still helps. Thanks for the comment.


Adams-ebooks profile image

Adams-ebooks 4 years ago from Worldwide

Good Hub Harold.

I always love coming across new software i never heard of.

I found mind-mapping an invaluable tool in college, but never actually used software for it!

Vote Up sir


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks for the comment and the vote up, Adams. I use it for various tasks, both at work and at home. I just checked your brainstorming article-- sounds like FreeMind might be very useful!


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I did not know about LibreOffice, though I have Office already. But Freemind is potentially useful. Thanks for the headsup. Voting this Up and Interesting.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks for the vote up , alocsin. Glad you liked it.


That Grrl profile image

That Grrl 4 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

I have LibreOffice and I know open source often works with Linux OS. But this is a point you could have mentioned in your post. Mildly aggravates me to read software reviews and not know which OS they work with.

Good Hub post. I like finding useful tools for dealing with information and content online. Most of the software I use works on the web browser I'm using at the time. (I use Chrome and Firefox). I like the add-ons cause the OS isn't relevant for web based software (at least it hasn't been an issue so far).


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks for the comment, That Grrl. Good point about the OS specification. I assume FreeMind would work anywhere Java runs. Not sure about IrfanView or NotePad++ though.


LHwritings profile image

LHwritings 4 years ago from Central Texas

Unnamed, thanks for posting this helpful article — I've voted this Up and Useful. LibreOffice and FreeMind sound interesting, particularly the latter since I don't have anything like it.

I've been using IrfanView and Notepad+ for years and can attest that these programs are extremely useful. IrfanView enables graphic manipulation often when nothing else will do the job.

I've been using Notepad+ mainly for HTML editing, so I decided to check out Notepad++ per your link. Unfortunately, the linked site is extremely confusing. There are at least 5 clickable buttons labeled "Download" (2 of these labeled "Free Download"), but some seem to be associated with programs other than Notepad++. Again, it's a very confused Webpage. I tried one of the buttons that seemed most closely associated with Notepad++ but no download has happened after repeated clicks.

Thought you'd want to know...

Thanks again for the heads-up — I'll check out FreeMind. Also will keep an eye on Notepad++ to see whether the Website gets de-kinked.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks very much for your comment LHWritings. I see now what you mean on their page. I never noticed that before (all those download frames). If you ignore them but look at Download Notepad++ at the top left in the dark gray, you will see a list of green versions. If you click on •Notepad++ v5.9.8 Installer, you can either choose to run it or download and save it and run it locally. Sorry for the confusion.


LHwritings profile image

LHwritings 4 years ago from Central Texas

Unnamed, thanks ... I did see those options at the top left, but couldn't figure out which one to click on. With your advice, I'll give it another go.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

What terrific and helpful information. :) Thanks.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thank you very much, phdast7. You're welcome.


dmop profile image

dmop 4 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

I used to use IrfanView all the time, but it will not run on my Windows 7 machine. I have tried running it in compatibility mode and a few other tweaks but it just will not run, so now I use Gimp. I don't like it as well as IrfanView but it gets the job done. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, and have a great day.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

That's strange, dmop. I run mine on Windows 7 without any problems. Have you downloaded the latest version?


Duchess OBlunt 4 years ago

These sound awesome - do you know if they can be used on a Mac?

I will especially be looking at the IrfanView and FreeMind. Thanks for the tips.

voted up and useful!


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Duchess, I don't know about Irfanview but FreeMind is a Java application, so I wouldn't be surprised if it would work on a Mac. Thanks much for your comment and vote up.


Duchess OBlunt 4 years ago

Thanks UnnamedHarald.


deepateresa profile image

deepateresa 4 years ago from Trivandrum, Kerala,India

Never heard of these tools other than Notepad++;

great information . Thanks


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

You're welcome, deepateresa. Thanks for the comment. There's nothing like a free word processor and spreadsheet app!


CyberShelley profile image

CyberShelley 4 years ago

UnnamedHarald, just found this, while visiting you again, so thanks especially for Freemind, as Mac is my preferred computer. Voted up!


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks for visiting and commenting, CyberShelley. Freemind is awesome and if you master a few of the keystroke controls (instead of having to use the mouse for everything), you'll find your thought processes are interrupted less-- especially if you use a laptop with just a touchpad.


DDE profile image

DDE 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Thanks for the helpful ideas


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks for commenting, DDE.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

There's nothing like free software and you've mentioned some really great ones here. I didn't know about LibreOffice, I've been using OpenOffice. Before I retired I was strictly Microsoft but when I had to start 'buying' it myself, I switched to Open Office. I love Impress for PowerPoint like presentations.

Voted this up, useful, and interesting.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa Author

Thanks for commenting, tillsontitan. Actually, I need to update this article to explain that, recently, OpenOffice has been released from Oracle's clutches and, as far as I'm concerned, is definitely worth considering. Though they are almost indistinguishable from each other, OpenOffice may now have an edge.

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