Open Source Musings

writing

Anyone remember the term desktop publishing (DTP for short)? It first came into the wider lexicon in the 1980s, and referred to the ability to use software on desktop computer to layout, typeset, and print, your own material like flyers, newsletters, books, and like.

It's been years since I've heard term desktop publishing uttered by anyone, but still goes on. Nowadays, though, a lot of that publishing is electronic only — publishing non fiction books, novels and short story collections, reports, and such in formats like PDF and EPUB.

Let's take a quick look at four open source tools that you can use to publish your words and ideas, whether for sale or just for sharing.

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While writers have the reputation of being solitary figures, tapping away at keyboards in small rooms, we sometimes have to collaborate with other writers. And sometimes we need to collaborate while an idea or document is hot.

Collaborating in real time can be tricky. You just can't email word processor files around and hope to quickly or efficiently work together.

A number of online tools make real-time collaboration easier and cheaper. I know a number of writers who have embraced those tools for working with other writers and with clients. But not every writer uses those tools, and not every writer wants to.

If you're in a situation like that, then you might want to consider an open source alternative: EtherPad.

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If you've been reading my site The Plain Text Project, you know that I'm a heavy user of Markdown. I do a lot of writing with it. In fact, just about all of my writing is done with a text editor and Markdown. Mainly articles and blog posts, but also book chapters and editions of my weekly letter.

To be honest, I'm not one to use a dedicated Markdown editor. While I use a text editor called Emacs for my writing, I've also tried several dedicated Markdown editors. Most left me feeling cold. A few I found useful and worth taking a second or third look at.

One of those editors is ReText. While it's not the prettiest editor out there, ReText is a solid and capable tool with some useful features.

Let's take a closer look at it.

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(Note: This post was originally published at Opensource.com and appears here via a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.)

For most people (especially non-techies), the act of writing means tapping out words using LibreOffice Writer or another GUI word processing application. But there are many other options available to help anyone communicate their message in writing, especially for the growing number of writers embracing plain text.

There's also room in a GUI writer's world for command line tools that can help them write, check their writing, and more — regardless of whether they're banging out an article, blog post, or story; writing a README; or prepping technical documentation.

Here's a look at some command-line tools that any writer will find useful.

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Over the years, I’ve heard (and I keep hearing) that you can’t do this or you can't do that or you can't do the other thing using Linux or using open source software. And guess what? Most of those things I’ll never do or rarely, if ever, need to do. As I’ve written and said in the past, I really don’t care what other people think or what they use their computers and devices for. None of that has any bearing on what I need and what to do.

And what’s that? Write, of course. Articles. A weekly newsletter. Blog posts. ebooks. And more. Linux, and the open source software that I use with it, are more than up to the job.

Let me introduce you to the software that helps me write and publish.

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