Better writing tools

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft, Pages, Technology, Writing
July 14th, 2003 • 6:18 pm

Our current text editors and word processors still have a long way to go before they can claim to be anywhere near the level where a real writer requiring real writing tools would expect them to be.

Here are a few examples.

When editing a text, I often decide that I want to put a word or phrase between quotation marks. Right now, I have to go to the beginning of the word/phrase, type an opening quotation mark, go to the end, and type a closing quotation mark.

I should be able to just SELECT the word or phrase in question and hit a single keyboard shortcut that does this for me.

Ditto for parentheses, brackets, em dashes, commas, and anything that can legitimately be used to achieve some kind of stylistic/rhetorical effect.

Of course, I could always spend some time writing a macro command in Word X or an AppleScript (or glossary entry) for BBEdit. But the fact of the matter is that I don’t want to spend time designing an application-specific tool when I need something that works system-wide, wherever I am writing. And I also need something that can adapt the behavior to the text’s surrounding environment. If I am in Mail typing a message, for example, I don’t want curly quotation marks (for better compatibility). But I don’t want to have to design another command that inserts straight quotation marks instead of curly ones. I want the same tool to work and use straight quotation marks instead of curly ones in Mail.

Fortunately, Rainmaker Inc.’s Spell Catcher X is a system-wide writing application that is ideally positioned to provide such context-sensitive enhancements. It already does support all kinds of system-wide, yet application-specific punctuation automation processes.

And even better: its developer clearly intends to further improve the product. So I am hoping that such seemingly simple, yet still unavailable writing aids will be incorporated INTO future versions of the product.

If you are a serious writer using Mac OS X and are not using Spell Catcher X, you are doing yourself a great disservice. You ought to purchase a copy of the software at once and spend some time learning how to use it and customize it to your own needs. It will be time and money well spent and will save you countless hours of unnecessarily repetitive and tedious work in the future.

Then if you find yourself in a position similar to mine and have several ideas for further enhancements, head over to the forums section on the Rainmaker Inc. web site and posts your comments and suggestions in the Spell Catcher X section.

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