Beyond Word: Word Processors for Dissertation Writers
June 25, 2015
When you write a dissertation, you spend a lot of time staring at text on a computer screen. Writing, and doing dissertation formatting and editing takes a long time. One way to make the process easier is by using writing software or a word processor that is easy to use, that feels good to you, and that helps you be more productive.
Writing Software that Helps With Your Dissertation
Many of us use Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages, since they’re the default word processors that come built into PCs and Macs, respectively. Word and Pages are full of useful features. But there other writing software options out there, many of which have distinctive tools and features that are particularly useful for dissertation writing, dissertation editing, and dissertation formatting.
Scrivener is available for Windows and Mac, and is designed especially for writers who are working on long documents, like dissertations. It’s full of amazing tools that I never knew that I needed until I had them. Scrivener includes a text editor, which you can enlarge to full-screen to minimize distractions from other areas of your computer – a huge help when you’re working on that dissertation! In addition, it has a corkboard feature where you can make and store virtual notecards of ideas, and use them to restructure sections of your dissertation. You can create collections of documents that you can use to store your dissertation research materials. Scrivener also has great outlining tools, and a feature that allows you to take a “snapshot” of a document in case you need to return to an earlier version. It’s a wonderful tool for dissertation writers and dissertation editors.
Focus Writer, for Windows, Mac, and Linux, blocks out distractions. It’s a full screen text editor with no bells and whistles. You can’t do your dissertation formatting on Focus Writer, but you can write in a distraction-free environment, and when you’re trying to work through a tough section of your dissertation, sometimes distraction-free is all that you want. There are a number of other programs that are similar to Focus Writer, including Write Room, Dark Room, and Q10.
Libre Office and Open Office
Libre Office and Open Office, for Windows, Mac, and Linux, are full office suites, like Microsoft Office, but they’re based on open-source code and are available for free. Grad students are often strapped for cash, so having a low-cost or free word processor for writing and formatting your dissertation can be a huge help. Both Libre Office Writer and Open Office Write offer many of the same features as Microsoft Word, and they’re great to use for dissertation formatting. If you’re concerned about compatibility, never fear – you can save documents in open document format, in word document format, in rich text format, or in pdf, so you’ll be able to share documents with your dissertation advisor, dissertation consultant, or dissertation editor no matter what word processor they use.
Google Drive lets you store your dissertation documents online, in the cloud, and has a web-based text editor and other office tools. The Google Drive text editor is fairly basic, but extremely useful if you often find yourself working on your dissertation at different computer stations. By having your dissertation work in the cloud, you know it will be there when you need it. You can also access your files on mobile devices. Of course, Google Drive doesn’t work if you don’t have an internet connection, so plan accordingly. I find it useful to make folders in my Google Drive where I can store all of the dissertation research material related to a dissertation chapter draft. It’s useful to keep everything in one place. Google Drive is also great for sharing documents with your dissertation advisor, dissertation editor, or dissertation consultant, as you can give people access to a file with a simple click.
Evernote is a mobile app that works kind of like a cross between Scrivener and Google Drive. It lets you store things in the cloud, and gather collections of documents and ideas that you can move around and re-structure. Evernote was specifically designed for mobile devices, and stores all of your documents and notes in the cloud. It may not be the best writing software for sitting down and working on your dissertation for a long period of time – you wouldn’t want to write an entire dissertation in Evernote – but it’s great for jotting down quick ideas, doing outlining, or storing and keeping track of your dissertation research materials.
Scapple, for Windows and Mac, is from the same developers as Scrivener. It’s a tool for outlining jotting down ideas, and creating maps that show connections between ideas. Scapple is useful at the beginning stages of a project, like when you’re working on your dissertation proposal and trying to get a sense of what the entire dissertation might look like. It’s also good for outlining and testing out ideas when you get stuck on a section of your dissertation. It’s a fun switch from typical writing software, as it lets you play around with your ideas in a free-form way.
No matter which writing software you choose, you need to make sure that your dissertation formatting is accurate so that it will pass your institution’s standards. Our dissertation formatting experts can help you format your dissertation in APA Style, Chicago/Turabian Style, MLA Style, Harvard Bluebook, or in any other style you need. Our dissertation editors will help you deliver a well-written dissertation that will pass muster. You don’t have to write your dissertation alone – drop us a line today.