Quick Tip: LibreOffice Can Read and Save Word Comments

LibreOffice 4+ (at least) can open .doc and .docx Word files and will preserve comments. It can also save comments to that format. Open source aficionados rejoice! I have confirmed this on Windows 7 at least.

To use it with, fire up LibreOffice 4.x and open a file in Microsoft Word format. Any comments should appear as comments in LibreOffice. Go ahead and add a few comments and save it in Word format (either one, though .doc seemes to be more reliable). The comment(s) you added will be there just fine when you open it up in Word.

And, Word seems to import comments in .odt files successfully as well. I had a problem when going back and forth too many times on my computer. The issue turned out to be that I needed to manually hit “Save” before closing out and opening the file in the other word processor. Once I figured that out, I had no problems at all.

Bonus tip: track changes also works!

In LibreOffice, changes made to the original .docx or .doc file will appear with a strikethrough and a vertical line at the beginning of the line(s) of changed text. Right-click on the changed text and you’ll see accept or reject change as part of the contextual menu. To change how this appears go to Tools -> Options -> LibreOffice Writer -> Changes. You can change what gets underlined or what gets a strikethrough, etc.

It works the other way, too. Turn on “Changes” in LibreOffice from the Edit -> Changes menu (“Record changes”). Now, make an obvious change, and save it as a .doc or .docx. You’ll see it as a normal tracked change in Word.

What’s been your mileage if you’ve gone back and forth between LibreOffice and Word? Anyone go back and forth across platforms (i.e., Linux to Windows and back)?

Quick Tip: Exporting Google Doc Comments

Google Docs (Drive) offers an incredibly powerful collaborative writing program, including comments. These comments are even exportable! I ran a few trials to see how well exporting and importing documents with comments works, and I’m happy to share my results.

What works:
1. Exporting a Google Doc to Microsoft Word (.docx) or Open Document (.odt) formats will preserve the comments.
2. Importing and converting a Word document with .docx extension will preserve comments and the comments will be displayed properly.

What does not work:
1. Importing and converting an Open Document Format (.odt) file. Google will convert it properly into a Google Doc, but the comments will disappear.
2. Google completely refused to convert a .doc file.
3. Note that it’s only unresolved comments! (ht to Pbufs!)

Anyone have any luck with the last two there actually working?

A Twitter Unfollow Experiment

For a very long time, I intended to weed out a number of people I followed on Twitter.  It was nothing personal, but many of the people I followed tweeted exclusively about their books.  Particularly obnoxious in my opinion were people who tweeted lines from their books over and over and over and over without engaging anyone on Twitter.  So I decided two weeks ago it was time.

I used manageflitter.com to deal with it.  There are many different ways to deal with unfollowing people, and Manage Flitter offers several facets for viewing the people that you follow and deciding whether to continue to do so or not.  All told, I unfollowed about 1,000 accounts.

I also decided to keep a log of how many people had unfollowed me since I began the unfollowing.  I wanted to know, even though I had already decided to unfollow, if anyone was apparently using an automated tool to deal with people who unfollowed them.  After two weeks, the number of people following me has dropped a total of 19% (246).  I unfollowed nearly 77% (1000) of the accounts I was following.

Since I can’t say that so-and-so unfollowed me because I unfollowed them, and because it appears that ultimately not that many people unfollowed relative to the number I unfollowed (246 vs. 1000), it’s safe to say that the majority of people out there that I followed are not using any automated method to unfollow back.

Here’s the raw data:

[iframe src=”https://skydrive.live.com/embed?cid=21E0A8040F69DC3A&resid=21E0A8040F69DC3A%2113545&authkey=ADUCl5Fn9xTnCqM&em=2″ width=”1000″ height=”346″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”>[/iframe]

If You’re a Writer, You Need Dropbox

Dropbox is a writer’s best friend. It will backup all of your work, seamlessly, in the background, automagically. Evernote and Simplenote are favorites of mine for many things, but Dropbox can do it all and then some (with a little help). Here are a few ways to make it indispensable for your writing:

Make your default Documents folder (or music or photos or videos) live inside Dropbox.

  • On Windows 7, open Explorer and right click on My Documents under the Documents library in the left side bar.
  • Click properties and then then click on the Location tab.
  • Choose the option to Move. You’ll be able to choose a folder (or create a new one) inside Dropbox.
  • When you click Apply, Windows will ask if you want to move your files. Yes!
  • Wait for files to move and Dropbox will start syncing them.
  • For Mac (and presumably Linux), you’ll need to fire up the old Terminal.
  • Then, enter this command: cd Dropbox
  • Then, this command: ln -s ~/Documents /Documents.
  • That will move your Documents files to Dropbox and will create a symbolic link to your Dropbox so that you can still save Documents to the old folder, whilst they magically are actually saved to Dropbox.

Backup Scrivener archives to Dropbox.

Scrivener already includes an automatic backup archive feature. While I don’t necessarily suggest backing up your working file to Dropbox, I do recommend letting Dropbox be the place to which these archives are sent.

Have your research available everywhere.

Notes, PDFs, images, videos, audio clips, whatever – it can all be accessed from any computer or most mobile devices at any time to refer to. Dropbox can display PDFs, DOC files, TXT files, RTF files, play music and audio and video, show your images. It can do it all. Yes, Evernote offers this ability as well, and it works well, but Dropbox is faster in my opinion.

Edit notes on the go with iOS or Android.

SimpleNote (another great application) will also let you do this and backup them up, or sync to Dropbox if you support them by purchasing a premium plan. But the purpose is to argue for a single entity for all your writing needs. So we turn to two applications. For iOS, we have PlainText and for Android we have Epistle. Essentially they both can open and edit text and save that to your Dropbox app on your mobile device, which means you can fire off a quick note to yourself and have it waiting for you on your computer when you get home. And vice-versa.


Yes, there are many things that multiple apps can do. But I maintain that Dropbox can do what all of them can (maybe not as pretty), and more, making it a much more valuable tool and investment. In the day and age of computers, multiple redundancy of vital information is critical, and portability and availability of information is necessary.

If you’re new to Dropbox, you can sign up for 2 gb for free (there are a bunch of ways to get more space) via this link. They also offer plans for 100 gb at $10 per month or $100 per year, and way more than that, too. On July 10, Dropbox upped the amount of space you get for $10 a month, and in my opinion, it has become an excellent deal. 100 gb of storage lets me host my music and photos on Dropbox, and leaves plenty of room for lots of other data, like my research and writing.

iCloud, ergo sometimes I use Google and Dropbox

To cloud or not to cloud? That is the question that preoccupies the modern human.

I choose to cloud (and practice safe cloud). While I don’t think Apple products are always perfect (I jailbreak my iPod Touch, and skip most of the built-in apps in OSX), I’m still a sucker for it. So when I upgraded to Lion, part of that excitement was about iWork in the iCloud with my iDevices and my iMacBook MacBook. My hopes were quickly thrown out the window by the realization that not only would I have to buy iWork (or at least Pages) for Mac and for iPod Touch, but that the sync is only magical on an iOS device. I have to manually upload and download iWork documents on my MacBook. L-A-M-E, you ain’t got no alibee, bologna!

So I stick with DropBox and Google. DropBox actually keeps my docs in sync, or at least lets me view them, on my iDevice. Pages on the iPod Touch would be nice, but it lacks landscape orientation mode, which would make it difficult for me to fulfill my promise as the next Arthur C. Clarke. For pure editing and portability, though, there is nothing like Google Docs (save for maybe Zoho). Documents (the word processor) has gotten so much better over the last few years, to the point where I’m considering switching to it full-time from NeoOffice (OpenOffice) and Pages (I go back and forth depending on how open source I feel). Plus, they’re both free.

In Google Docs, it’s possible to see the paginated view, add page numbers, build a table of contents – to do most things you’d expect from a word processor. You can import and export all the major file types. There are a range of built-in styles you can apply. It still has some quirks, and it’s not nearly as omnipotent bloated fully-featured as Word or OpenOffice are, but it gets the job done for most users. And I suppose, with Google Docs offline in beta status for now (I’m so glad they’re bringing it back – I miss Gears), I can at least look at my documents. Google says you can’t make edits in offline mode. You can, but they aren’t saved until you’re back online. A risky strategy.

The upside is that if I’m forced to work away from my MacBook, I can access, edit, and update the most recent versions of my files.

Currently, I write in my computer based word processor of choice (currently is Pages). Every so often, I export an RTF version of the document to dropbox. And even less often, I upload that into Google Docs.

In a perfect world, where everyone and every nook and kindle cranny is permeated by WiFi, the cloud makes a lot of sense. For me, I like convenience, portability (that is, non-proprietary file formats – ironically, I do use Pages), and then power. Word offers power and portability, since every document editor ever has to open Word docs. Pages offers convenience (integrating with the wonderful three-finger double tap on OSX Lion and other gems) and beauty.

But when push comes to shove, Google Docs wins for me.  It’s clean and simple (a plus), has enough features to get me started, available anywhere the interwebz is, and it lets me share docs instantly with my wife editor for her to comment on, comments which I can then see and act on.

I’m still formulating my workflow (gee, ya think, Martin?), but I believe that the aforementioned StoryMill or Scrivener plus Google Docs will become my go-to for novel writing (and for writing novels).  I’m currently in the process of moving most of my material into Google Docs, and then downloading versions into my Dropbox folder for a local backup.

NaNoWriMo and Dirt Software Help

National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org/) begins in just a few days, and I’m getting myself all gussied up for it. For NaNoWriMo, I downloaded the trial versions of Scrivener ($45, http://www.literatureandlatte.com/index.php) and StoryMill ($49.95, http://www.marinersoftware.com/products/storymill/) to try out for NaNoWriMo so I can write in what I lovingly call the dirt.

If you haven’t heard of NaNo before, basically the goal is to write 50,000 words in one month, hopefully all of it in some way relevant to a general story idea. In other words, your goal is to write a 50,000 word novel. In one month.

You win if you get to the word goal, which you validate but uploading your masterpiece in an encrypted format (handled by their website), where it is computer counted, and deleted. No copyright worries there. Last year, all the winners received a discount on the purchase price of Scrivener. This year, StoryMill is offering a 40% discount on the cost of their software, but only if you get it before Oct. 30. The code for checkout is SMNR11.

Decisions, decisions.

I’m going to stick with the free trials for now – they seem fully functional, other than expiring after so long. Scrivener, it should be noted, offers two workarounds (one that you didn’t hear from me). They are testing versions for Windows and Linux. If you download either of these versions, the trial expires when a new beta version is released and you just have to re-download it. Maybe I’ll make a virtual machine on my computer and try out the Linux version when my Scrivener trail expires.

The other workaround for Scrivener (far less work, and far less sneaky) is to only open the application once in a while. You get 30 days free in the trial, but days only count if you actually use it. So if you can prep yourself with your material and backstory and whatnot on Sundays only, you would get 30 weeks of access to Scrivener for free. By then you’ll be selling a million copies a day of the Kindle version of your book, so you can afford it, right?

After doodling around in them for a bit, I think I’ll be using StoryMill initially. It offers a more streamlined interface, and some nice features such as Timeline and Storyline modes, to help you keep track of events, and to filter your scenes to insure that your storylines are consistent. Scrivener, on the other hand, sacrifices a bit in terms of interface for omnipotence. It’s clear that feature-wise, Scrivener is the winner, including the ability to compile (export) your text into ePub and Mobi format directly. They both offer export into standard formats (RTF, Doc(x), HTML, etc.).

Scrivener runs on MacOSX 10.4 and up, and is fully compatible with Lion. It can also sync with iOS apps like Simplenote or apps that utilize DropBox. Windows and Linux versions available here as well.  StoryMill only runs on OSX 10.6 and up, and has no Windows or Linux version.

What other programs are out there for the Mac? How about Windows and Linux? I’m always on the verge of migrating to Linux, but never quite do, because I find some awesome program on Mac.