I’ve been playing around with the new Ubuntu release and so far I’m pretty impressed with it. Unity, the new desktop is way more stable and usable than it was last time around. There are still user experience issues that need work, but all that will get worked out in future releases. The one thing I’ve learned about using free software is that over time, it just keeps getting better.
The Unity desktop is the first example of Linux starting to flex its experimental UI muscles. Unity is not the Mac desktop and it’s not the Windows desktop. Its an original take on what a UI should be. Is it better than the other two? It could be, but right now, it’s mostly just different. I like that Ubuntu is being different. Free markets are all about offering choice and in the process innovating new products and ways of doing things.
I will be purchasing a new laptop some time in the next few months. The choices I have basically boil down to a Macbook Air or a ultrabook running Ubuntu. The only reason the Macbook is even making this a bit hard, aside from their stunning hardware, is a program called Scrivener. Scrivener is like crack for writers who like to fiddle. It is all kinds of awesome and a bag a chips. The problem is that it only really works on the Mac. The Windows port is several iterations behind and has to use Wine to run on Linux. While Scrivener is fantastic on a Mac, it pretty much sucks on any other platform.
So I have to decide whether I want to use Scrivener or use Linux. Because I can’t really have both. Unless there is a GTK programmer reading this who is bored and wants to make something similar to Scrivener that runs native on Linux. Yeah, I didn’t think anyone like that exists. Actually, if I were suddenly stinking rich, the first thing I would do is hire a team to make something even better than Scrivener for Linux only. Yes, that is possible. But relax that’s not happening any time soon.
Anyway, if I don’t go Mac/Scrivener what would I use to write my next novel on? Well, I wrote my last novel in LibreOffice on Linux, so I have no problem doing that again. Except that I can’t see the point in writing linearly again now that I’ve messed with Scrivener. So in all likelihood, I will go all Cory Doctorow and use Gedit, the text editor that comes with Ubuntu. Me and Cory, busting out the word count on our Linux laptops, thumbing our noses at the establishment.
I would use a folder structure to hold all my notes, images and drafts together and keep it in Dropbox. Not sure how I will back things up, but I know Cory has a system I could use that involves a source control program. Each chapter will be a flat text file and the editor has tabs, so I can view notes on a chapter as I write it. The outline will probably go into LibreOffice as a spreadsheet. I will still have to have two programs open to write and consult the outline.
Having the chapters in individual files has driven me nuts in the past, but I think I could get over that mental hurdle. When I’m done, a simple python script will sew them together and then I can import them to Write. Save as .doc and send it off to my editor. The final edit will be in a third program – Sigil, that I use to create my ebooks. It’s not a perfect system, but it can be done.
This kind of geeky, some might say clunky way of doing things is most definitely not for everyone. But I’ve done things for myself on computers for so long now it seems normal.