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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

By Dmitri Popov on November 28, 2007 (4:00:00 PM)

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Legend has it that a Moleskine notebook and a pen were the tools of choice for Chatwin and Hemingway -- but that's because they didn't have Writer’s Café. Designed specifically for writing professionals, this application suite includes a few clever features that make it a must-have tool, whether you write for a living or for fun. Although the Writer's Café developers state that it's most suited for writing fiction, novels, and short stories, you can easily use it for all kinds of writing activities.

Installing Writer's Café is easy, which is good news for less tech-savvy writers. Download the latest .tar.gz package, unpack it into a temporary directory, and run the installwc script. Follow the on-screen instructions to perform the installation. When that's done, you can take care of a few additional things, such as specifying external applications to open Web links and view PDF documents, and making Writer's Café handle accented characters properly. Check the Linux installation notes for more info on how to deal with these and other issues.

Writer's Café consists of two applications: Writer's Café Desk and StoryLines. The former acts as a dashboard that gives you quick access to Writer's Café modules: Scraps, Journal, Notebook, Cookies, and Bookshelf. Each module has its own tab in the main working area of Writer's Café Desk, so you can easily switch between them.

As the name suggests, the Scraps module is used to store and organize miscellaneous stuff such as text notes, links, and pictures. It may not be the most innovative tool for the purpose, but it comes in handy when you need to keep track of your research material. Moreover, you can add shortcuts here to external applications and documents, so you can easily access them directly from within Writer's Café. You can create an unlimited number of scrapbooks and organize the scraps into folders by setting up so-called Folder Scraps. To keep tabs on multiple scrapbooks, use the left pane of the Desk, which provides a tree overview of the existing scrapbooks and their contents. Adding a scrap to a scrapbook is a cinch: in the left pane, right-click on the scrapbook you want and choose New scrap (or use the commands available in the Scraps menu in the main toolbar). Choose the desired scrap type, give it a name, and fill out the relevant fields. Using the commands available in the right-click menu, you can rearrange scraps when needed. The Search tab in the left pane allows you to quickly find scraps containing specified search criteria.

The Journal and Notes modules are similar in design and function. Both allow you to write down your thoughts, ideas, and pretty much anything else. However, while the Notebook consists of pages, the Journal keeps your entries organized by date.

The Cookies module is Writer's Café's quotation database. Every time you launch Writer's Café and switch to the Cookies tab, it shows a new quotation. You can change the current quotation by pressing the space bar. Finally, there is the Bookshelf module, which provides a convenient way of browsing the online documentation and the bonus book Fiction: The Facts (available upon registration).

While the Writer's Café Desk is good for keeping tabs on research material and miscellaneous notes, the actual planning and writing process takes place in the StoryLines editor. Unlike traditional linear editors, StoryLines allows you to write ideas onto cards and plot them onto storylines. A card can contain anything from a few key words to a detailed description of a particular scene. Each storyline can represent an event, story thread, character, or anything else. You can rearrange the cards on a storyline and move them between different storylines. This unique approach allows you to write the story in a nonlinear manner.

To create a new project, choose File -> New Project. A simple wizard then guides you though the process of configuring the project and adding storylines. If your story has many different characters and locations, you can use Writer's Café to add them to the project to keep better track of them. To do this choose Edit -> Project Information and use the Characters and Locations sections to populate your project. In the Basics section, you can change the basic information about the project, as well as provide a more detailed description of the project (e.g. Format and Genre) under the Details tab.

Once you've set up the project and storylines, you can start adding cards to it. To do this, press the New Card button in the main toolbar, or choose Edit -> New Card. You can then type either a few keywords or a short description, or use the available options to enter as much info as you like. For example, the Content window provides a simple editor with a few text formatting tools, which you can use to write parts of your story. The Setting tab allows you to specify location and time as well as choose location details. To place the card on a particular storyline, switch to the General tab and choose the desired storyline from the drop-down list.

There are, however, situations when you don't want to place the card on a particular storyline just yet. In this case, you can hide the card by right-clicking on it and selecting the Move to Pocket menu item. When you are ready to place the card onto a storyline, right-click where you want to insert the card and select the Insert from Pocket menu item. To view your story in a more conventional linear format, switch to the Report tab, which shows the card as properly formatted text.

Writer's Café also sports an export capability, which can come in handy if you want to edit your project in a word processor or publish it. To export the project, choose Report -> Export and select the format you want. You can choose between the HTML, OpenOffice.org Writer (albeit the older .sxw format), and plain text formats.

Final word

Writer's Café is a classic desktop single-user application suite, and as such it lacks some collaborative functionality we take for granted these days. You can't sync your scrapbooks between multiple computers, nor can you share your data with other users. But if you can live with these limitations, Writer's Café can prove a productive tool in your writing arsenal.

Dmitri Popov is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Russian, British, US, German, and Danish computer magazines.

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 99.132.91.172] on November 28, 2007 04:28 PM
Your "Writer's Cafe" link is dead. Overall, a very informative article. Thanks.

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 198.209.199.251] on November 28, 2007 04:45 PM
the link should point to http://www.writerscafe.org/

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Re: Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.166.245.184] on November 29, 2007 03:28 AM
Well, no, because the URL you provided does not seem to be about the non-free software in the article, just a place for writers to share their stories and such.

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Re: Writer's Café: An IDE for writers - actual link

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 207.118.105.192] on December 02, 2007 02:14 PM
It looks like the real working link is;
http://www.writerscafe.co.uk/

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 134.114.148.68] on November 28, 2007 05:24 PM
Looks like it is proprietary software you have to pay money for. The download mentioned is a limited demo. Does this really belong on linux.com?

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Indeed... Writer's Cafe *not* free software

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.231.37.236] on November 28, 2007 08:07 PM
I'm with you... I got excited about the software until I realized it was proprietary.

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.3.70] on November 28, 2007 05:33 PM
link is ok, but be remarked its not a free app, but a good app

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.3.70] on November 28, 2007 05:34 PM
Sorry, not OK, but link can be read out of it....

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Free for Mac. All others must pay.

Posted by: Teilo on November 28, 2007 06:07 PM
I find this really bizarre. Free for Mac, but Linux and Windows users must pay. I have never heard of such a thing before. I'm not complaining, since I'm on a Mac, but still bizarre.

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 62.162.68.216] on November 28, 2007 07:18 PM

Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 128.255.31.121] on November 28, 2007 07:41 PM
AFAIK, Writer's Cafe uses wxwidget as its GUI

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This article is an advertisement for proprietary software

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.192.250.149] on November 28, 2007 08:56 PM

Writer's Cafe is not Free Software, and it should not be getting free publicity on Linux.com.

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Re: This article is an advertisement for proprietary software

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.5.198.30] on November 29, 2007 05:57 AM
I agree. But there is a need and responsibility to review software, even if it is non-free (as in beer) and proprietary. The article should state this up front, pointing out that this is a _review_ of a commercial product.

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Re(1): This article is an advertisement for proprietary software

Posted by: Ronald Trip on November 30, 2007 04:51 PM
Pointing out that it is a proprietary product would be better. FOSS can be commercial, e.g. Firefox and Red Hat.

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Is There a Free Alternative

Posted by: David A. Harding on November 28, 2007 10:11 PM
I'm interested in this type of software; does anyone know of a free software alternative? Thanks in advance.

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Re: Is There a Free Alternative

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.69.101.46] on November 29, 2007 04:54 AM
Sort of: http://www.celtx.com/

@ Dmitri:
Oh look, it happens to be based on firefox too....oh yeah...and it's _OPEN SOURCE_

...closed-source lackey.

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Re: Is There a Free Alternative

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.92.112.217] on November 29, 2007 03:53 PM
I have not used it extensively nor have I tested the app reviewed in this article but yWriter is a free (not open source) writer's IDE.
The current version is 3 but a beta for the 4 has just been released. Link at http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter3.html

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Re(1): Is There a Free Alternative

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.0.70] on November 30, 2007 11:11 AM
Thanks for the mention (I wrote yWriter)

However, yWriter is Windows-only. It's written in Visual Studio 97 (mostly VB, with some C) so there won't be a port.

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Re: Is There a Free Alternative

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 62.64.214.50] on November 30, 2007 03:34 PM

Good Free Alternatives:



<a href='http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page'>FreeMind</a>, great writing tool.


<a href='http://vue.uit.tufts.edu/'>VUE</a>, Visual Understanding Environment by Tufts University.


<a href='http://www.celtx.com/'>Celtx</a>, but someone needs to check out their license)


<a href='http://blog.rajgad.com/work/software-development/2006-06/tuxcards-20-new-release-for-the-notes-taking-software-for-linux.html'>Tuxcards 2.0</a>, outliner


<a href='http://basket.kde.org/'>BasKet Notepads</a>, great little app, does a bit of everything

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Re: Is There a Free Alternative

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 62.64.214.50] on November 30, 2007 03:42 PM

Good Free Alternatives:



<a href='http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page'>FreeMind</a>, great writing tool.


<a href='http://vue.uit.tufts.edu/'>VUE</a>, Visual Understanding Environment by Tufts University.


<a href='http://www.celtx.com/'>Celtx</a>, but someone needs to check out their license.


<a href='http://blog.rajgad.com/work/software-development/2006-06/tuxcards-20-new-release-for-the-notes-taking-software-for-linux.html'>Tuxcards 2.0</a>, good outliner.


<a href='http://basket.kde.org/'>BasKet Notepads</a>, great little app, does a bit of everything.

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Re(1): Is There a Free Alternative

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 78.3.80.185] on December 02, 2007 11:37 AM
Notecase http://notecase.sourceforge.net (free, open source)
Notecase Pro http://virtual-sky.com/ (commercial)

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Re: Is There a Free Alternative

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 127.0.0.1] on December 02, 2007 08:41 PM
<a href="http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Flinguistico.sf.net%2Fwiki%2Fdoku.php%3Fid%3Dsoftware_libero%3Aeducazione%23autolearning&langpair=it%7Cen&hl=it&ie=UTF-8">Here some links</a>

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.227.9.44] on November 29, 2007 08:42 AM
well, even if this is not a free software, it's good to see that there is at least some good tool for writers. Perhaps we should try to write a completely open source lookalike ?

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 208.50.255.30] on November 29, 2007 08:49 AM
Writer's Café is not only written in wxWidgets, but by the original author of wxWidgets. Since wxWidgets is a free/open source toolkit, purchasing Writer's Café directly supports the wxWidgets open source library. It sounds very relevant to open source to me. It's about the same as writing an article on something Trolltech puts out that leads to improvements in the QT library.

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So what if it's not free?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 141.12.217.85] on November 29, 2007 02:57 PM
Could you guys please get your collective heads out of your arses? *So what* if it's not free software? It appears to be an extremely cool piece of software which is available in a Linux version. Hence, it belongs on linux.com. The mission statement I find in "About Linux.com" says nothing about being lomited to free (as in whatever) software.

What Linux needs in order to gain (even more) traction, are good applications. This includes closed-source, non-free, commercial applications. Shouting " but it's not free", "let's create an open-source clone" and some of the other remarks in the forum is not a good way to encourage developers (again - including commercial developers) to embrace Linux.

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Re: So what if it's not free?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.6.88.151] on November 30, 2007 12:05 PM
Amen to that.
OSS is wonderful, I embrace it heartily, every day.
But my average customer doesn't want source code to fiddle with.
They want solid, supported, software that gets the job done.
They are more than willing to pay a fair price for such software.
When Linux has this readily available, they will embrace Linux.
Until then, they will continue to embrace Windows.
ANY quality software that runs well on Linux, is good for Linux.
Period.

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Re(1): So what if it's not free?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.130.19.254] on December 01, 2007 07:27 AM
The most important thing is not having hte source code to fiddle with. Neither is it not paying anything. I would pay for this program if it worked well forme. But the trouble is, it doesn't work at all. Precompiled software is something that might work well on an operating system that hasn't really changed much in ten years and five versions, but it's an approach that doesn't work so well on a system which is modular and flexible, because it makes assumptions about the system which might not be true.

Writer's Cafe won't start on my Gentoo system because I have compiled my system without Xinerama support. I would have to re-compile quite a lot of packages to add Xinerama support to my system, which I don't need since I don't have a second display, just to make Writer's Cafe run - possibly, as I don't know what other erroneous presumptions the authors made about my system.

Linux isn't a one size fits all operating system. That's why getting to compile one's own source code is vastly superior to getting precompiled binaries. I would pay for Writer's Cafe if it worked well for me, but in order to make it work I'd need the source.

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Re(2): So what if it's not free?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.58.192.231] on December 01, 2007 11:52 AM
You wrote: "I would pay for Writer's Cafe if it worked well for me, but in order to make it work I'd need the source."

That's not quite true.

First, if the developer wants you to pay for a copy, it's his job to make a binary that works for you. Tools exists that let him does that. First, there's the LSB. Next, see the <a href="http://autopackage.org/devel-zone.html?">Tools Section at Autopackage</a>, for example. That would let him create binaries that have a minimum of necessary requirements.

Second, access to the source code doesn't constitute so-called "free" software which is probably the point of the above comment.

Third, your preference for a certain distribution (and the disadvantages that result from your choice) is no good reason why others shouldn't be informed about a useful software that may work for their distributions -- which is what the zealots here seem to believe.

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.248.89.66] on November 29, 2007 03:08 PM
I'd stick with GNU TeXmacs.

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GPL is a Superior development approach..

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.141.129.92] on November 29, 2007 03:20 PM
The problem with this crap is that you can extend it.
You can't fix it
You can't contribute to it.
That's why Free Software works..and that's why this review is a piece of sh*t.

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Re: GPL is a Superior development approach..

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.7.168.30] on December 01, 2007 02:03 AM
So who needs critical thinking when you can throw together a post based on religion and ... feces apparently?



Nicely done. Chant 'GPL is the Bomb, Long Live RMS' a few million more times for all the good it will do you.

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers who want to shell out money

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 198.134.143.192] on November 29, 2007 06:58 PM
Not open source, is it? So why review it?

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An Open Source Alternative Exhists

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.132.155.137] on November 29, 2007 07:30 PM
Called Basket Note Pad for KDE and though it's a KDE app plus it features the many important aspects of Writers Cafe such as the ability to decide what outside apps are to be used to open the files you link directly to.

The other thing is, there should be a package for most major distros like for easy installation so check first.

Personally, I've found basket to be very useful with large term papers and it really allows me to organize my research the way I want it.

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Re: An Open Source Alternative Exhists

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.7.168.30] on December 01, 2007 01:54 AM
I'm sorry, but having used Basket quite a bit in the past, it is not an open source alternative to Writer's Cafe. Can you write down notes with it? Well yes, you can. Can you associate links and files? Sure, no problem. But after downloading the Writer's Cafe demo earlier today, I can tell you that Basket is a very very very poor alternative to StoryLines, which is part of the Writer's Cafe.



The question that needs to be asked is if this is a tool that you really need. If you are a serious writer, the cost of this tool is not in any way prohibitive, especially considering everything that it comes with. If you are just a general Linux user and don't really do much in the way of writing, it probably doesn't make sense to invest in such a tool.



One impression that I have formed in reviewing the demo is that a lot of work has gone into making a pretty useful software package which looks to be very well documented. If I sprang for the full version there is even a book that comes with. After so much time was obviously invested in this software, I think that the cost of $45 is pretty reasonable.



In closing, I have to admit that my first inclination is to go with free software wherever I can find it, which is why I'll never own Photoshop for instance. But here is a program that doesn't cost much, is very complete, and doesn't have an analog in the world of free software. It has an impressive set of features, and since I have been thinking about getting back into writing, it is not a question of if but rather when I will be purchasing Writer's Cafe.

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Moleskine myth

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 134.252.9.84] on November 30, 2007 01:30 AM
Legend has it that a Moleskine notebook and a pen were the tools of choice for Chatwin and Hemingway

No. The brand was registered in 1996. From WP: "Francesco Franceschi, head of Modo & Modo's marketing department, was quoted as saying, "It's an exaggeration. It's marketing, not science. It's not the absolute truth."

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 59.162.82.17] on November 30, 2007 05:18 AM
I have heard about writer's cafe but haven't downloaded it yet. Is it free to download?

I have come across this interesting article: http://johnpmathew.blogspot.com/2007/11/edge-digital-maoism-hazards-of-new.html Do have a look.

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 122.148.187.219] on December 02, 2007 08:45 PM
I'm a little suspicious of this software, it scans every directory in my home directory on start up, I would not have noticed this, except I've made a WINE applications directory readable by the root user only, and so this application is unable to access the contents of the Directory and displays a message.

Given that this software is not Free Open Source software, I have no way Of knowing what the purpose of this scan is, nor do I have any means of turning it off.

Maybe it's just me being paranoid, but as an applications developer, I have certainly never done anything like this, except in very rare circumstances, where that is the purpose of the software, and I can't for the life of me see why an ordinary desktop application needs to do this.

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.180.186.76] on December 19, 2007 05:38 AM
No RMS, now GNU/Linux fool!

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Writer's Café: An IDE for writers

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.4.178.105] on February 04, 2008 06:50 PM
The link, http://www.writerscafe.co.uk/ is apparently dead, as of February 4, 2008.

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