Here at ProfHacker, we know how much of your time is spent writing, and we are always on the lookout for tools that will help you (and us) in that important aspect of our work. Writer’s Cafe, a downloadable writing program, is one of those tools that helps us partion longer writing projects into manageable pieces, or it allows us to collect data that will be repeated across texts.
[The caveats: Occasionally, I read software reviews of Mac-only programs and those program seem just awesome. I wish I could trade in my PC equipment just so I could use the awesome program. One such software/program was Scrivener, which Ryan reviewed for ProfHacker back in March. Writer's Cafe is the (unofficial) PC version of Scrivener, but it does have a Mac version. Additionally, I am a new user of the Writer's Cafe.]
Writer’s Cafe is intended as a fiction writing tool, but you can also use it for other types of writing. Indeed, the naming convention used throughout the program refers to storytelling: storylines, screenplay formatting, character development, and there’s even a “name generator” for characters. If you can move past these conventions, Writer’s Cafe becomes useful for project-based writing.The writing we do in higher education covers many genres. We write the longer journal articles, book chapters or books, but we also write shorter documents: grants forms, IRB protocols, or reports. Writer’s Cafe is useful with longer or shorter writing tasks by helping you organize your data in meaningful ways.
As Ryan noted in his review of Scrivener, you don’t create “documents” in Scrivener or in Writer’s Cafe; you create sections or areas of information. In Writer’s Cafe, those sections might be a notebook (Scrivener’s “binder.”) Below is a screen shot from the notebook feature. (The desktop featured below is part of the program, it is not the computer’s desktop.) The notebook is a place, though, that you could write snippets and fragments of text that you could use later.
Many writers–myself included–use notecards to store fragments of information for later use. Writer’s Cafe gives you a couple of methods to use notecards in its system, the “storyline” and the “pinboard.” You can create virtual notecards and place them on the storyline (or timeline), working out the order of your project. Additionally, you can also use these virtual notecards on a “pinboard,” mixing and matching ideas as you need.
As you create your notecards and timelines, you do have an eye toward the final project. This project becomes simple to create in the programs “report” feature. In the sample below, I have created IRB protocols in Writer’s Cafe. When I’ve completed the narrative portions of the form, I can either print the document, or I can cut and paste the information from Writer’s Cafe into a word processing program or onto the IRB supplied form. The ease of this programs allows me to reuse the “notecards” for future IRB forms.
Other helpful benefits to this program:
- Each screen contains a count up or count down timer, if you needed to work on your 750words a day writing strategy.
- The program contains helpful writing prompts and exercises.
- The scrapbook allows you to collect fragments of ideas, inspiration, quotations, addresses, weblinks that will help you develop a full project.
- The pinboard encourages you to storyboard your ideas.
- The storyline shows you the graphically scope your entire project with “drag and drop” index cards.
A (limited) downloadable version of Writer’s Cafe is available for no cost, and a registered full version costs $45 ($34 for educational discount).
How about you? If you have used this program for aid in your writing, please leave comments and suggestions below.
[Screen shots by the author and by Writer's Cafe.]