Most Used Applications in a Writing Business: Details

by Meryl Evans | Category: Blogging, Business, Links, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech, Writing 5 comments

The previous post has a quick and dirty list of the applications I use most often in my writing business. Some apps may perplex you or you’d like to know more about how I use them. This provides the magnifying glass edition so you can decide if you’d like to look into them.


I used to rely on just Firefox with the occasional use of Internet Explorer because some applications didn’t work right in Firefox. Now I use Google Chrome almost as much as Firefox. Sometimes I open Opera — I love its look, feel and speed. Firefox hangs and slows down often, but it has the best and most useful plug-ins. Jump to Firefox add-ons to see my faves.

Bookkeeping and Invoicing

QuickBooks: Had I started my business within the last couple of years, I might not be using QuickBooks. It’s the only software that almost beat me in the battle of gal vs. app; eventually I got the hang of it. It may be a good thing because I’ve used a popular web-based invoicing application from the client point of view. It would not let me pay the 50 percent payment due at the start of a project. Sure, the vendor could’ve sent me two invoices: one for the first payment and one for the final payment, but it didn’t make sense to do that as it’s all one project.

I appreciate keeping my finances and invoices on my computer rather than in the cloud (web-based). I can’t access the app if I’m away from my home. However, when I’m away — I don’t do invoicing. If I traveled frequently or for longer periods, then a web-based app makes sense.


Microsoft Office: No matter how you feel about Microsoft, Word has everything writers need. I’ve tried web-based apps, which made me feel constrained. Favorite features: Counts (word, character, etc.), Review (tracking), Comments and Thesaurus. Excel keeps track of data or create a spreadsheet of information for a project or client.

Notetab: Cleans content and frees it from the invisible and bloated code that apps like Word add to it. If you copy and paste Word content into a blog post, it often brings a lot of useless and wasteful code with it. Notetab sheds it all.


Gmail: Thanks to Gmail, I stopped micromanaging my inbox.

Thunderbird: Friendly, easy, smooth and simple. My Fave Thunderbird add-ons.

Google Talk: Instant messenger apps used to be a regular part of my toolbox, but then some people abused it to talk to me about nothing and it disrupted my work. However, I needed a way to stay in touch with family and Google Talk allows me to be invisible yet able to connect with my spouse. We also use it on our BlackBerrys instead of SMS. No offense if you’re one of the people I’ve chatted with IM. No one can see what I am doing, so no one is at fault.

Marketing and Connecting

Blogging: I have both WordPress and MovableType installed. All of uses WordPress except for Bionic Ear, which uses MovableType. Writers don’t all need to have a blog. If you interact regularly on social networks and visit other people’s blogs while leaving meaningful comments, you’ll be fine without your own blog. It’s still important to have your own web site rather than relying on social network profile to be your web page. Visiting other people’s blogs takes precedence over writing in my own as I want to hear what they have to say and respond to that.

Social networks: This includes blogs, Twitter, Twitter Search, Facebook, LinkedIn and FriendFeed. I’ve set up my accounts to feed into each other so they stay fresh without requiring my visiting each site daily. You don’t have to do cold calling to make it as a full-time writer. I do zero cold calling and instead take the Quiet Marketing approach. Few Twitter notification apps have proven to remain consistent about sending you an email letting you know when someone mentions your name or brand. Twitter Search is the best option for accurate results.

Tweetchat: This one is my app of choice for joining Twitter chats. Video on how to use Tweetchat.

Tweetdeck: Organize and manage my Twitter accounts and groups. Has some non-intuitive features that I handle on instead.

Personal Information Manager aka Calendar, Contacts, Tasks and Memos

In the past, I needed to have my personal information manager (PIM) data with me and carried my Palm device everywhere along with my cell phone. When I upgraded to a BlackBerry, a superior phone to my previous, I decided it was time to let go of the Palm. Besides, I interact more with the PIM on my computer than I do on a handheld.

So the ability to update the PIM on a computer outweighed the need to update it on a device. That said, I needed to sync my data with the BlackBerry. I don’t like the BlackBerry’s PIM apps because they take too many steps and have too many features. It took me seconds to add a new item on the Palm yet minutes on the BlackBerry.

I still use Palm Desktop. It loads fast. It has just the right features without overkill — although it could stand a few more features. Originally, I synced the Palm with Outlook and let Outlook update the BlackBerry.

Now I’ve taken Outlook out of the equation thanks to CompanionLink‘s Google Sync. It syncs all four Palm Desktop apps with Google. While its process for transferring memos isn’t elegant — it offers the best option. Google Sync then updates the BlackBerry. I update Calendar and Contacts in both apps and the rest in Palm Desktop. You can find more sync options.


Team work: Some clients and assignments involve working with a team. Each has its own web-based app for communicating. No one stands out or dominates. All apps have strong and weak areas.

Filezilla: Managing files on my web site’s server. Shorten URLs.

Dropbox: If I work on an article on both computers, I save it on Dropbox so I can access the file from anywhere. Once finished, I archive it on my PC as MyDropbox should be like an inbox — hold as little content as possible.

Online backup: I have an external hard drive for saving my work, but — G-d forbid, if something happens to my house, I’ve got my data online.

SnagIt: It’s amazing how often I use this screen capture software. It helps explain things or problems with few words. It loads faster than my photo editing software, so I use SnagIt to crop and tweak.

Adobe Acrobat Professional for saving work, invoices and other documents in its original format.

Firefox Add-ons

Links to all of these are in my Firefox Collection.

AI Roboform: Because Google Chrome doesn’t have add-ons, I turn to Firefox more often. For one, I prefer Roboform to Last Pass for managing my passwords. I tried Last Pass because of its compatibility with Google Chrome, but it requires extra steps. Roboform sometimes annoys me with its pop up box when I don’t need it.

Better Gmail 2: Gmail stays open in my browser all the time and receives equal — maybe more — attention as Thunderbird. Yes, the app can be worrisome as it goes down form time to time. But I can access email from anywhere, any computer. Better Gmail 2 enhances Gmail’s features by adding “sub-labels” (Gmail doesn’t have folders).

Download Status Bar: Instead of a pop up box, downloads appear in the status bar at the bottom of Firefox out of your way. Right click downloads to open, rename, delete or clear them. What could be easier?

Print/Print Preview: Don’t you hate it when you think you’re printing a short page only to see the first print out is blank and the contents show up a page or two later? Print/Print Preview puts the printer icon in your toolbar and lets you select Print Preview so you can control what you print without overdoing the tree killing.

Read it Later: Another reason I choose Firefox over Google Chrome. Click the checkmark in the URL box to save an article for later. I have yet to let my reading pile up. I tried a bookmarklet app in Google Chrome, but Read it Later works better.

Word Count Plus: As a writer, word count is important data. It can count anything you select.

Xmarks: Sync bookmarks across computers. I use a laptop often so I can work outside of my home office. I don’t have to do a thing to keep both computer’s browsers set up the same way.

What are your favorite apps? Why?

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