Jacquelyn Smith

6 Software Apps that Make My Life Easier

My kitty, Gwynn, checking my work.

My kitty, Gwynn, checking my work.

As a writer, I spend a ridiculous amount of time with computers. There are several programs I use on a daily basis that I can’t imaging living without. While I do find them especially useful for writing projects, they are also programs that would be handy for pretty much anyone, so I thought I would share. (Most of them can be downloaded for free, too. ;))



Office Suites can be ridiculously expensive. In this day and age, they are a basic requirement that really should be included when you buy a new computer. (I’m talking full version, not some crappy trial version that only lasts 30 days.)

Ranting aside, OpenOffice is a fantastic software suite that covers all the basics. (Documents, spreadsheets, databases, and presentations.) Best of all, it’s free, and works on both Mac and PC. I’ve actually come to prefer it over Microsoft Office, and I now use it for all my writing and formatting.



God, I love Photoshop. I use it for book covers, map design, graphic design, and general photo manipulation fun. It was a little intimidating at first, but you can find lots of tips and tutorials online. I’m learning new tricks all the time with almost every new project.

I use Photoshop 7, but I’ve also heard great things about GIMP, which is free image manipulation software. Once you start figuring out how much awesome stuff you can create, it’s seriously addictive.



Before I found Dropbox, I backed up all my writing on a flash drive and carried it around as my insurance policy. The problem is (as I discovered firsthand), it’s easy to lose or misplace your backup.

Fortunately, I had encrypted my lost USB key using TrueCrypt (free software), but I wanted a better option.

Dropbox saves a copy of your work in a virtual location you can access from any computer or device with internet access. Whenever you update the file, it updates the virtual backup as well.

Dropbox is awesome for sharing files across multiple computers or devices. All files are private, unless you place them in a public folder that can be shared with others. The first 2GB is free.



Xmarks is a free add-on for Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Chrome. It syncs your bookmarks across multiple devices and browsers. So if you find a site you really like when you’re on your tablet, you can bookmark it, and visit it later on your computer at home, or vice versa.



This one is helpful for anyone who does any kind of writing, whether it’s fiction, or papers for school. Editor searches your document for multiple issues, including grammar problems, sentences that need to be polished or tightened, overused or trite terms, etc. You can even have it compile a list of words that are used multiple times to help gauge whether you’re being repetitive.

Editor is a Windows program, and plays best with Microsoft Word, but you can use it in conjunction with OpenOffice by saving your document in .doc format. There are 2 versions, starting at $55 US.

You may be skeptical about editing software, but I’ve found this program has actually affected the way I write. My writing is a lot tighter than it was before I started using Editor.



Calibre is an ebook management and conversion program. I use it to create the ebooks I sell directly. I feed Calibre my specially-formatted OpenOffice files, and it uses them to generate .mobi and ePub files. (Mobi is the standard Kindle ebook file type, and ePub is used by pretty much every other ereader.)

Calibre is free, and very easy to use.
What about you? What kind of apps do you use?


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