The best free Word Processing software for keying out that first novel is undoubtedly the Apache OpenOffice.org Writer. A rare exception to the rule that no one ever gives anything away worth having, this fantastic word processor does almost everything its “big cousins” Microsoft Word and WordPerfect can do, again, free for the downloading.
Where to get it
Go to the Apache download web page and download your version (Mac or PC) of the entire application, which also includes accompanying spreadsheet, math, presentation, and drawing programs. Everything installs quickly and seamlessly and when you click on the OpenOffice.org icon the first time, you get a menu of the applications that are ready to use. Click on “Writer” and you will be presented with the daunting “blank page” that novel writes sometimes welcome, but usually dread.
Using Writer to write your first novel
What follows is an explanation of the advanced writing features novelists will appreciate in this well-equipped application. Writers who have just basic word processing skills will probably want to detour to the OpenOffice.org tutorial site and get familiar with the basics first. For those with moderate to advanced word processing skills, the following features in the OpenOffice.org Writer will be helpful for the first-time novel writer:
Writer has all the standard text formatting (bold, italics, underlining, alignment, etc.) features of Word and Word Perfect. It has the full range of font styles and sizes and the nifty “format painter” brush that transfers formats from one location to another.
Like the commercial word processors, Writer has the “find” feature that works completely. Just type in what you’re seeking in the small “find” box in the upper write of the writer window. The “find and replace feature” is in the View menu (or key in control-F), which works precisely the same way MS Word and Word Perfect for global edits. Everything else (copy, cut, paste), including the control C/X/V keyboard commands work exactly the same.
Page headers, numbering, and chapter sections
You’ll need chapter and page numbers for your novel. You’ll also want to break your chapters into separate sections. You might even want to add a table of contents and an index as well. OpenOffice.org Writer has all those features in its Insert menu. You’ll need to consult the Writer Help feature for details.
In the final analysis
On the whole, you can do almost everything you need to do to key in and store your novel using Writer. If you’re new to Word Processing, this absolutely free PC and Mac application will impress you with its versatility and intuitive design. More experienced people will be astonished at how OpenOffice.org Writer does just about everything the costly commercial word processing products do.