Using Innovative Software to Enhance the Writing Process

Any real writer can work with paper and pencil, if he has to, or scrawl words on the wall with the end of a shoelace dipped in soot. But everyone uses computers now. So if you ever wonder, “What software should I use for writing? Graphics? Publishing?” the short answer is that you can’t go too far wrong with Microsoft Word.

One of the best things about Word is that everyone else has it. With more than 500 million users around the world, Word is the industry standard for creating documents. You can use Word for outlining, writing, footnoting, checking readability, collecting comments, tracking revisions, creating graphics, styling text, and doing the final formatting of a white paper.

Even though Word provides a versatile set of tools, it can’t do everything. What else is there? Consider three other types of software that could help you with a white paper project.

Brainstorming software

Brainstorming or creativity software has never really caught on with the mainstream. Because so few use it, it could be your secret weapon. One intriguing product is ThoughtOffice.

ThoughtOffice is a database of nearly 20 million word associations. Using this software, you can enter a seed word and see dozens of related terms, metaphors, and idioms. For example, if you type the word “baseball,” you instantly see 100 associations, from “Babe Ruth” to “utility player.” Click again, and you see another 100, and so on. The program can also serve up quotes, lyrics, rhymes, and synonyms.

You can use ThoughtOffice to find a master metaphor to tie your white paper together, explore ideas for graphics, or develop a more compelling title. And you can use it for anything, not only white papers. If you work with words and ideas for a living, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Voice recognition software

Wouldn’t it be fabulous to dictate your next white paper while pacing your office, riding your exercycle, or even walking the dog? Well, this idea isn’t science fiction. It’s here now, effective, and fast. You can save hours with voice recognition software, because you can talk faster than you type. You can dictate into a handheld recorder or smartphone while you’re out for a walk and then plug that file into your computer to be processed. You talk; the computer types. Sweet.

In the past 15 years, the improvements in voice recognition have been stunning, to the point that this software now works extremely well right out of the box, with no training. The industry standard products are Dragon Naturally Speaking on the PC and Dragon Dictate on the Mac, both from Nuance. When they claim up to 99 percent accuracy, it’s true. You may find that dictating can help you turn out a much faster and better first draft.

Rudimentary voice recognition is included with both Windows and Mac OS. They give you a small taste of what’s possible, but they’re slower and less accurate than the Nuance software. So you probably won’t find these powerful enough to produce a white paper.

For a longer discussion of using voice recognition software to write white papers, see thatwhitepaperguy.com.

Graphics software

Most writers aren’t artists. So how can you get a decent graphic for a white paper when you have no money in the budget or time in the schedule for professional artwork? This is where SmartDraw comes to the rescue. Anyone who can use Word can use this software to create business-quality graphics that are certainly good enough to include in a white paper.

SmartDraw is bundled with hundreds of pre-drawn graphics to get you started. You can run through 70 different categories of graphics for ideas, find a sample close to what you need, and tweak it for your own purposes. Need to enter your own text? Go ahead. Need to delete some elements and add others? Click, click. Need to change the color scheme to match the company branding? Click.

For a one-time cost that’s about the same as hiring an artist to create a couple of custom diagrams, you can buy this software and use it on an ongoing basis. And it’s equally handy for making graphics for slide decks, documentation, or any other purposes. You can download a trial version to check it out.

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