A Light at the End of the Tunnel

You probably noticed that things have been a bit quiet here at Lightroom Secrets.

For the past few months I have been working on a book project ( Explore Lightroom 4: A Roadmap for Photographers) and am finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The writing is finally completed and we are now at the slash and burn--uh…I mean...editing--phase. So what better way to celebrate that write an article?

This article, however, will be a little off topic for Lightroom Secrets. I'd like to tell you about some of the tools I found indispensable while writing a book. Writing longer pieces, such as magazine articles or a book, is a much different thing than writing articles for a website like this. Most of the articles for Lightroom Secrets begin life in MarsEdit which is an adequate tool for blogging. However, a book is a much different animal.

For a long time I have been a user and fan of Scrivener. Until this adventure I had used it to plan and write magazine articles. But when tackling a project as large as a book Scrivener really shines! Everything you need is there. Outlining, index cards, research, snapshots, and on and on. If you do any writing and are tired of Word or Pages, go and take a look. It's available for both Mac and Windows.

For years I had used Microsoft Word for longer writing tasks. The problem with Word is that you either have to keep multiple files for different sections or put everything into one eventually unwieldy file. While cut and paste can move things around it can be difficult when the source and destination are several pages apart. Any research clips or notes had to reside in their own files. After a while you have a folder of "things" for your article that is a somewhat unorganized mess. Scrivener changes all that.

Scrivener is a unique and powerful writing tool. You can keep everything about your project together in one easy to manage place. Research notes and web clips can reside in your research folder. You can use the built in outliner to organize your article. If you prefer the index card approach, Scrivener has that as well.

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If you do any kind of longer form writing run right out now and grab a copy of this software. (There is a trial available if you're not sure.)

Any book on Lightroom will have plenty of screenshots and mine is no exception. My favorite utility for grabbing and annotating screenshots is Snagit from TechSmith.

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It is available for both Mac and Windows and I have used it on both platforms extensively. I've tried many other applications for screenshots and still come back to Snagit. Because of the way my publisher's graphics department works I had to take a screenshot as a baseline then make a second copy with cropping indicators and any annotations. Snagit was well up to the task!

Have you ever needed to look at something you are writing about? For example, you are writing about choices on a menu but you can't keep the menu open and still access your writing application. You could take a screenshot with Snagit and keep the editor open but that can get to be a problem especially if you are working on a small screen. I found a small utility that solves this problem brilliantly. It's called ScreenFloat and is available in the Mac App Store. (I don't know if there is an equivalent application on the Windows side.)

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ScreenFloat lets you quickly grab a section of your screen and it floats that above all windows. So if you grab a menu while it is open you can have it floating there while you write about it. I can't tell you how much work that saved me. It also organizes all of the floats so you can call them up again later or export them so files to be used as screenshots. But just the ability to float a piece of the screen while writing about it was well worth the price.

Writing a book is quite an adventure! I thought you might enjoy hearing about some of the tools that made my experience easier. I'll let all of you know when I have an official release date. It should be soon if all goes well.

I'll return to topics more directly related to Lightroom next time. Meanwhile, let us know in the comments about any great tools you've discovered that make your electronic life a bit easier!