I like free stuff.
As a guy who’s about to enter the life of the fulltime writer and, as a result, is abandoning a good chunk of steady income, I’m always on the look-out for things that save me money. And free is certainly a way to do that.
When I tell some of my friends about the free stuff available to all of us, their immediate response is, yeah, well, you get what you pay for.
There seems to be this odd little bit of psychology going on out there that nothing of any quality is ever given away for free. There’s either a catch, or the product sucks.
Well, I’m here to tell you that this is not true. I use really great free products every day in my work as a writer.
The standard office suite that everyone and his brother uses is Microsoft Office. If you go to Amazon, you can pick up a brand new copy of Office for only $309.49. And, of course, since we’re writers and all of our editors use Word, we obviously have to plunk down that three hundred bones just to do our jobs.
Or do we?
Not if we use OpenOffice.org, we don’t. OpenOffice.org is a full office suite that is completely compatable with Microsoft Office. I use it every day. Because it’s open source software, it costs a big fat donut.
That’s right. Zero.
Yes, you can read and write Word documents and your editor will never know the difference. But your pocketbook will…
BACKUP AND MORE
When I was working on my second book, I was a day away from deadline when my computer decided to glitch out and I lost 30 pages of work. Doesn’t seem like much, I know, but when you’re in a crunch, it’s devastating. Believe me.
Worse yet, I discovered that this very same glitch had also erased those thirty pages from all of my backups. I could go into a long story about why this happened, but I won’t bore you with it. It was a case of computer glitch and user error (yes, believe it or not, I do make mistakes) — so let’s leave it at that.
Anyway, I was screwed. I had to completely rewrite those thirty pages and I never did feel the rewrite was as good as the original. Oh, well.
My backup routine in those days was a combination of saving to network drives, flash drives, and emailing myself a copy with google mail, where everything remains stored forever.
The problem with this system was that it meant that every time I finished working for the day (and several times during), I’d have to stop and do all my backups. And because I’m a lazy SOB, I found this to be a pain in the ass.
Then I discovered Microsoft Live Sync.
Live sync allows you to save and syncronize documents to a private folder on the web, and between all of your computers. I can go from laptop to desktop to netbook, whether a Mac or PC, and I’ll always have the latest copy of my book waiting for me. And, I’ll also have that latest copy on my hard drive. I no longer have to carry around a data stick everywhere I go.
And guess what? Live Sync is free.
For those of you who don’t like or trust Microsoft for whatever reason, or you want double backup, there’s a similar service called Dropbox that essentially does the same thing. And it’s free, too, up to 2 gigs worth of files. After that you have to get the premium service.
And with Dropbox, you can even access your shared folder with your iPhone.
I could not live without this service. Anything that allows me not to think about backups is, to my mind, a godsend.
In these days of websites and writers stuck doing a lot of our own publicity, many of us just can’t afford to pay the big bucks to special web designers and photoshop experts to dress up our websites and touch up our author photos.
(Come on, now, you know we all touch up those photos…)
Unfortunately, not all of us can afford a product like Photoshop, which is quite a few hundred dollars.
Well, actually, I take that back. We can afford a product like Photoshop, called The Gimp. Yes, I know, unfortunate name, but The Gimp is a Photoshop clone that does just about anything you could want when it comes to graphics and photo manipulation.
And, yes, it’s free.
Want to write a screenplay but don’t want to take another large chunk from your bank account for screenwriting software? Check out Celtx, which is soooo much more than screenwriting software. They actually call their product Integrated Media Pre-Production software and you can use it to plan your next movie as well as write it, and can post your drafts for your crew or collaborators.
The software is free. The posting on their web server involves a monthly charge. My advice? Save your Celtx file to a Windows Live Sync folder and give your collaborator a key to the folder.
Or you could pay five bucks a month and use their service. Seems reasonable to me.
I can’t vouch for this one because I’ve never used it, but yWriter is novel outlining software designed to make those of you inclined to organization to have an easier time of it:
Looks good to me. And, yes, it’s free
You’re killing me, Larry!!!
And this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of free software applications out there and I’m sure some of you here have your favorites.
Anyone want to share?
Actually, all I really want to know is where I can get free beer.