OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
This is a guest post from Kevin Cullis, author of How to Start a Business: Mac Version , his first book completely done in iWork Pages. [Note: I moved to a Mac last year and love it so I was really interested to read of new tools I haven't discovered yet!]
So you want to be a writer or a published author? You’ve used a Windows computer most of your life and you wonder in a mostly Windows environment if can you use a Mac?
While most people use Windows to write, Macs are just as capable to write books as their Windows counterparts, so let’s get to the meat of the Mac’s cool tools.
While most Windows users are well aware of WordPad, the Mac’s version is TextEdit (if you enlarge the TextEdit icon, read what J. Appleseed wrote to Kate 🙂 ). Beyond this simple tool, here’s a short list: iWork Pages for writing and page layout (the author’s book was completely done in Pages); MS Word for Mac for larger or collaborative works; the cross platform OpenOffice for a free MS Office-like office suite; Scrivener to research, organize, and write your content; StoryMill to write your novel; MacJournal to journal about your life; Nisus Writer Pro for a different approach to writing; Mellel for long documents, Google Docs for online collaboration, and lastly for scholars there is the powerful document processors LaTeX and Lyx which can manage complex articles with mathematics, cross-references, bibliographies, listings, etc.
The real question for any writer is: What will be your final output? A book, magazine, workbook for a seminar, or even a PDF to potential editors or readers? Will you use your local ink or laser printer or a professional printer for your output?
One of the simplest parts using any Mac software is exporting the document as an RTF or .doc file, or as a final PDF output. For neat professional output of books there is Createspace.com and Lightningsource.com for final output for independently published books. This author used Createspace.com for his book as the overall best for POD (Print On Demand) company in quantities of one or more. If you need better quality and larger volumes in the one to two thousand or more copies and lower price per unit costs, offset printing is the next level for authors.
By far the most compelling part of a published author using a Mac is its marketing tools with the applications that come in Apple’s iLife. It includes iPhoto to track and manage all of your marketing, book cover, or interior file photos, iMovie to make the book trailer you’ve been thinking about or post a YouTube interview video, Garageband to create an audio podcast or a self published audio version of your book, iDVD to send a DVD of additional or bonus material about your products, and iWeb to create a web presence about your book and content. Using GarageBand and Apple’s MobileMe account you can record IM (instant messages), audio, and videos using iChat’s built in recording software and then using GarageBand’s and iMovie’s editing capabilities to help market your book.
Don’t forget marketing your indie book through indiebound.org for small book stores and bookblogs.ning.com for getting your name among other book aficionados.
The iPad can be used for light content creation for writers, it is much better at hard content consumption and the Mac is still the best content creator tool.
Do not forget about the Mac’s built in software: Text to speech, Summarize, Dictionary, Grab, Text, and QuickTime Pro. For text to speech, just highlight the text and right click and select the menu Speech > Start Speaking and the Mac will give you a close approximation of what you text sounds like being read aloud. Great for a quick proofread of your content. For summarize, just highlight the text and select the Application (Pages, Word) menu > Services > Summarize and it allows one to take pages of text and reduce the word count so that with some minor editing you’ve got a quick summary instead of rewriting your piece from scratch.
Dictionary not only gives you a dictionary and a thesaurus, but connects with Wikipedia for more writing information. Grab is the print screen utility that’s great for capturing screen shots of your Mac, four different ways. Regarding Text, go to System Preferences > Language & Text > Text and let your Mac change frequently used text, such as the copyright symbol, transpose “teh” to “the,” or setting up an em dash using “(em)” instead of finding the right character keys.
Lastly, with Snow Leopard QuickTime Pro will capture a movie of actions on your Mac’s screen so you can edit in iMovie. Great for HOWTO movies for showing others a step-by-step process.
For additional scholarly writing tools, see Endnote for MS Word and iWork Pages that helps with bibliography or Bookends which helps with reference management and entails the collection, annotation, and citation of published information.
When it comes to cleaning up text there are the powerful software TextWrangler or TextSoap that can quickly clean your text or recover a corrupted files. Much better than retyping your whole document again. To save some keystrokes and time there’s Dictate speech to text software that uses the Dragon Naturally Speaking software engine for those times when your thoughts can’t stop flowing and your fingers can’t keep up.
For Windows switchers, there’s the online service of Zamzar.com which can convert Windows files to a Mac, some simply, others might require a few more steps to get them completely converted.
How about TextExpander for those frequent pieces of text to reduce keystrokes or try TypeIt4Me that is similar. Evernote.com is used for just keeping track of all of your various notes just about anywhere between your Mac and elsewhere. Not Mac specific, there’s Onelook.com for finding that one word that escapes you, to find the roots of a word there etymonline.com, and for fun Wordle.net that creates fun “word clouds” of your text.
There you have it. These are just some of the Macs cool tools that will help you as an author to write your story and to get published. Good writing and keep on typing.
Kevin Cullis is a former a USAF veteran, a business geek and now an entrepreneur and owner of MacStartup.com (formerly MacGetIT.com). He has his Masters Degree in Administration as well as 12 years of face-to-face experience selling both Macs and PCs to businesses. He loves helping entrepreneurs and small business owners integrate, utilize, and optimize the use of their Mac in their marketing, sales, and business management processes. This combination of both a business and computer perspectives makes him unique in saving and making businesses money using a Mac. How to Start a Business: Mac Version is his first book completely done in iWork Pages.
Images: Mac mouse by Rsms, apple by kyz, nano and macbook by FHKE