A while back (on the old blog) I recommended a piece of freeware called QuickPlot, a standalone outline structure planer. Well I hereby rescind my recommendation.
I have been using it for a short while to sort a play without any problems. However Rachael lost an entire outline plot for a feature when QuickPlot saved an empty file instead of the one with all her work.
This is not a unique occurrence, Google found somebody else that had suffered the same thing. Then when Rachael was sat next to me rebuilding the lost structure, it did it again. This bug is unpredictable and catastrophic. You won’t even know it’s happened until next time you open your saved file. If you are using this software please stop forthwith.
To be fair, this piece of software is no longer available for download from the official source. If you wanted it you had to hunt for it. Because it was available from so few sites, and because I believed it to be an extremely useful piece of software, I had already uploaded it to Rapidshare and was going to host it myself. The file has now been deleted.
I still maintain that outline planners are very useful. Not just for structuring a story, but also for getting down your initial ideas and showing you where your story is lacking. Anybody using one of the word processor’s aimed at writers will probably have this functionality built in, and an integrated system is much more useful than a standalone program. However using a ‘normal’ word processor which lacks this function, I found the small standalone program handy to use.
If you’re looking for a standalone program there is an alternative to QuickPlot it’s called TreePad Lite. The two pieces of software are quite similar they works in much the same way and they do much the same thing. QuickPlot came with a couple of templates built in, with TreePad you have to build from scratch, but that doesn’t take too long. The major difference between the two is that TreePad seems to be much more stable (so far).
While I’m here I would also like to recommend another piece of free (if you satisfy the free version usage terms) software called WordWeb. This is a dictionary and thesaurus that sits in your system tray and will work with pretty much any software that you write text in. It won’t replace your spellchecker, but it gives much more information than your spellchecker ever will. All you have to do is highlight a word and open WordWeb it will look the word up in it’s own dictionary, and if you tell it to on Wikipedia, Wiktionary and WordWeb Online. It even has speech built in so that you can hear the words. You can also write whole sentences in and get a Cylon to read them back. It can even be installed on a USB stick and operate from there without installing on the host machine, great for when you are not using your own computer.
Rachael and I have been test-driving a few of available word processor’s written with writers in mind, I will post our thoughts and impressions on how they compare when we’ve had a chance to play with them.