Thursday, September 15, 2011

Free software that really helps poets

There's no shortage of software people try to sell writers. Which is good, because that means they haven't written us off as a market yet.

At the same time, as a poet, I can't help feel we're something of a nightmare because our needs are relatively simple: Get a word processor and something that also lets you make and edit pdfs from time to time. Here are some of the essential programs I use regularly as a poet these days. And best of all, they're all free:

I really like the free Nitro PDF program instead of  Adobe Acrobat Reader.  Nitro PDF lets you make pdf files and more importantly mark them up. This is most important when you get an application to an event or fellowship that doesn't have the forms field enabled. With Nitro PDF I've been able to fill it in and look professional. Be warned that it is possible to crash this program from time so definitely save regularly, just in case.

I've tried a number of note taking applications, but so far, Evernote gets my vote over Microsoft's OneNote or Springpad. Evernote is consistently updating, and for the better. Given a poet's modest needs, the features it comes with work very well. I use the Evernote desktop application extensively with notebook folders such as Bios, Addresses and Phone Numbers, Maps, Numbers, possible book or poem projects, etc. You can store jpegs, pdfs, voice memos and a lot of things in Evernote, and it can even show you how to use a geo-tagged note to remember where you parked your car. That's come in very handy. is a great desktop suite alternative to Microsoft Office, and if you don't have Office, you'd use it if you're on a retreat without internet access.

Freemind is a solid mind-mapping tool that can really help you if you're a visual and free-form thinker. There are other pricey professional tools for this available, but considering it's for free? It's a great deal.

The FastStone photo resizer is a great, free tool to quickly and easily resize photos. This allows me to take photos from readings and my travels at a high resolution, and when necessary to send them to the press, a school where I'm speaking, etc. I can scale it up or down to what they need.

And finally, the Mobipocket E-Book Creator creates e-books in a wide range of current and even prior formats. It's relatively painless to learn, and I think a lot of poets in the decade ahead ought to know how to make their own. (Or else you're going to get charged an awful lot by professionals to do something you could do yourself after about a weekend of reading and experimenting with the program.)

An online utility that also bears mention in this is Pocketmod. It's fun and customizable to create notes, and even little give-aways if you put a little time into it.

Again, these are all free. Which programs do you like, and what kind of programs do you wish you had?

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