Saturday Links: Educational, Functional and Just Plain Fun!

I got three links on today’s menu for your reading pleasure.

The first one is a educational initiative. Long ago, a while back, I wrote about watching the 1st season of Electric Company. Well, it looks like they want to bring it back. The people behind the Sesame Street Workshop are applying for a $1.5 million project grant from American Express–but they need votes to get their project, ‘Bridging the Literacy Gap for Millions of Kids’, nominated onto the voting round.

The deadline for the first round of voting is September 1, 2008. To vote, go to the Project Voting Page at the American Express website and nominate the ‘Bridging the Literacy Gap for Millions of Kids’ website. You will need to sign up as a Guest Member, but once you do, you’ll be able to vote for the project. Let’s bring the Electric Company back to the airwaves!

The second one has me bouncing on my toes in excitement. A new upgrade has been released for Writer’s Cafe. Far be it from me to promote another cafe here, but Writer’s Cafe is an excellent writer’s program I’ve been using for roughly two years now. It consists of many tools that help you organize your writing: the scrapbook, for instance, keeps track of your research, websites and notes. The Storylines tools is a storyboard where you can pin scenes of your story up and move them around as needed. The program also comes with a journal, a notebook, writing prompts, a timer, and an option to display inspirational quotes and writing tips upon startup of the program.

The new version is vastly improved over the old version: in the past, Storylines and Writer’s Cafe were two separate programs. The upgrade meshes them together in one. It includes a name generator and a pinboard where you can post notes and ideas. It opens on a start page where you can place shortcuts to your works-in-progress, Wikipedia and other pages, shortcuts within the program, etc.

What I like most about Writer’s Cafe program is the technical support. The program was created by Julian and Harriet Smart, the latter being a novelist. They are constantly looking for ways to improve the program and welcome suggestions. While I was beta testing the upgrade, I found myself using the Notebook to freewrite first drafts of stories and wanted to know how many words I’ve written. I suggested this to Julian, and with the next beta release, the word count feature was included in both the Journal and the Notebook! That was pretty nice.

For a download of $45 bucks ($65 if you want a CD-ROM version), it’s well worth the price. If you’re wary, you can download the beta and test it out here. But to me, this is the best writing software out there. Check it out now!

And finally, a YouTube video from CollegeHumor called “Font Conference”, for all you people who work with finding the right font to write in. Enjoy!

It’s not you, RoughDraft. It’s me…

Dear RoughDraft,

I’m sorry, but I’m leaving you.

It’s nothing to do with you. I like you. I really, really like you. You’re a wonderful program. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have been able to start all my short stories and essays. Well, I would have to use Word, that bloated behemoth who always leaves hairs in the sink, and that would’ve depressed me.

I remember when I first met you. You touted yourself as especially “designed for writers”. Remember when I downloaded you, and you opened up the possibilities of my writing career with your side panel for jotting down notes? That impressed me. Really impressed me. But it was your tabbed multiple documents that blew me away. To think that I could have several open documents that don’t clutter up my taskbar the way Word does–you really captured my heart in that. And your clipbook and file viewer, those were extra brownie points. You took my writing to a whole new level, and I deeply appreciated that.

Lately, I’ve been finding that I’ve been wanting more from you. Yes, I love that you have automatic formatting for prose and screenplays, but I want more flexibility about where I choose my tabs and indents. You wouldn’t do that. I wanted bookmarks so I can automatically go to the last paragraph I edited, but that wasn’t in your specs. And I wanted not just word counts–I wanted to see how many pages I written. But the only way to do that with you was to go to print preview.

I know leaving you will mean I will give up the notes panel and the file viewer. That really breaks my heart. But let’s face it: I’ve changed, and sadly, you haven’t. You haven’t been updated since 2005.

So, I’m going to look for a new writing program. One that’s freeware, or at least a decent price. I’ve been checking out Jarte, as of late. It looks real promising. It has some of the features you have, plus a lot of ones you don’t. Granted, they don’t have your note panel, though you can attach a note in their paid version. But they said they’re also working on it a comments feature similar to Word’s, and with that possibility, how can I not be charmed by that?

Don’t take this personally, RoughDraft. I’m not getting rid of you completely. I’m still leaving you on, in case I need to use the file viewer. It’s just that I won’t be using you exclusively for writing anymore. Maybe one day, when you do decide to update your features, you and I can have a working relationship again.

Until then, we’ll always have “prose mode”.