There's no "Ask Slashdot" topic available for user journals, but I am intrigued by this reader's question, and I thought it was worth a try to tap into the collective wisdom of Slashdot.
you mentioned some time ago in your blog that you did a presentation on writing your book(s) using open source tools. Have you posted these slides (or whatever the medium was) anywhere?
I'm asking as I am about to embark on a writing project that will be north of 80,000 words (assuming I get past the 5,000 word 'pain barrier' that killed me last time) and recent experience with M$ Word has, quite frankly, scared the bejaysus out of me.
Anyways, if you get this it would be great to see you share some of your experiences using OSS to write.
Sadly, I didn't use any slides . . . that's *way* over my level of preparation for anything I do.
My talk pretty much focused on how I used OpenOffice.org to compose and edit my two current books, and what some of the pitfalls were.
I can summarize briefly for you: OO.o is a fantastic word processing suite, and did everything that I needed it to do. I was particularly impressed by the "stylist" in OO.o, which exists, I think, because they use some sort of XML-ish language behind the scenes. The stylist allowed me to assign something similar to "classes" to diffferent areas of my text, and was extremely useful in the design of "Just A Geek."
The only time I ran into an annoying limitation was moving to and from the
.doc format, because OO.o and MSWord don't play nicely in regards to formatting. I worked around this by using .rtf format, when I needed to send my work out to other people (for notes and stuff). There were a few limitations in formatting, but they were purely aesthetic and didn't affect the actual data in any way.
I briefly looked at Abiword and KOffice, and found them both to be well-written and stable, but they were far more limited than OO.o.
In terms of just putting together a manuscript without regard to formatting, you could work very easily with Kwrite, or Kate, the same way that many other writers use BBEdit on the Mac.
When I finally had a finished product that I liked, I used OpenOffice.org to print to a
.ps file, then used the ps2pdf13 command line tool to convert it into a .pdf document, which I sent to my printer. I understand that the newest version of OO.o has a very robust built-in pdf converter which makes that extra step unnecessary. I should also point out that converting files to .pdf on *nix always results in smaller filesizes than if you'd done it on a Mac or Windows platform. Hooray for us.
I'll post this e-mail to my Slashdot journal (CleverNickName) and maybe some of the Slashdotters will have good advice of their own to share with us.
Best of luck with your novel. Just go one scene at a time, and you'll be past 5K words before you know it!
My presentaton was pretty much limited to "I like this, I don't like this, and this thing was cool." I didn't have the time to get into a 1:1 comparison among all the different Open Source word processing suites. Do Slashdotters have any comments or suggestions? I find myself using Kate more and more when I compose weblog entries or shorter columns for magazines and the like. I occasionally use Abiword to compose and format letters and fax covers when time is a factor (Abiword loads much faster than OpenOffice.org.)