Linux Software?

I’ve begun reluctantly contemplating switching to Linux. I haven’t decided yet, but I’ve set up an Ubuntu system here on a spare Mac Mini, just to experiment and learn my way around it.

I love Mac OS X, but let’s say I don’t love having to ship my iMac 120 miles away for simple repairs – which then turn out to take much longer and cost more than I would have imagined. (The lack of an affordable mini-tower type computer from Apple is also irksome.)

Ubuntu seems to have software for most of my purposes, but I’m puzzled over what could possibly take the place of Scrivener. Can anybody offer suggestions?

I’ve always favored simple programs. . . I used TextEdit until not long ago, and Scrivener was pretty scary at first. I had to work through the tutorial several times, and there’s still a lot of features that I’d probably never use just because I can’t keep them all in my head. However, I do like the basic way it organizes things and “compiles” a draft.

I believe the best answer is, as often is the case with Linux and much of UNIX in general: a combination of tools. There is the economic jDarkRoom (or PyRoom), which will give you a nice full screen writing environment with very little overhead; make sure you have Java installed if it isn’t already in Ubuntu. Celtx works there too, if you are using Scrivener for scripts. As for things that “compile” that is going to be a little more difficult. You could give Leo a shot, but frankly that’s probably overkill. It will certainly do the whole “make this outline consisting of lots of bits of my story into a single document”, but it’s designed more for programmers, and making huge source code files less unwieldy. In other words: it isn’t a very creative environment, it would be like trying to write a novel at a daycare. But some can do that. Is Writer’s Cafe still around? That’s not quite like Scrivener, but is definitely an application made for specifically for authors.

If you don’t mind writing in a semantic environment, LyX is pretty nice. It forces you to focus on writing because it isn’t a formatter. It won’t even let you type in five spaces in a row, it comes with the benefit of being a front-end to LaTeX, which means its output PDFs look very nice. The way it works, it kind of marries the concept of first draft and final product. The whole formatting aspect in between doesn’t really need to be addressed. If you do not specialised formatting, Scribus is more in the InDesign camp, but also with just a hint of FrameMaker.

Speaking of LyX, there is the LyX-Outline project which was written by someone who liked Scrivener, but wanted to use LyX as the backbone, so wrote some outline and corkboard style enhancements for LyX.

You might also want to check Mindola’s SuperNoteCard. I’m not sure if they support Linux, but their application is Java, and they distribute a jar file. I’ve run it successfully in the past. In some ways, that is probably the most like Scrivener in terms of “index cards getting turned into a manuscript”.

It’s the “just use Parallels” lazy answer, but do remember there is Wine. This opens up the door to a number of Windows applications, such as Liquid Story Binder. Just remember to always download a trial version first and make sure it runs fine in Wine before buying anything. I wish there was something like that for Mac applications. GnuStep (open source implementation of the toolkit Mac applications are written in) is the closest thing, and it’s a ways off.

I have no idea if it is any good, but “Writer’s World Maker” describes itself in a somewhat Scrivener fashion.

For notes you could try BasKet, which is a bit like OneNote.

But if you are looking for something a bit less fancy and more focused on the text, cream is a nice text editor which takes Vim and makes it a bit less intimidating to use.

Some further reading material.

You can check out yWriter here: