Software Review – WordGraph SSuite Office

This is the next in my series of reviews on free Microsoft Word replacement programs. This week, I’m reviewing WordGraph SSuite Office.

According to the WordGraph website:

SSuite WordGraph is a free and very useful alternative to Microsoft’s Word, OpenOffice’s Writer, or anything else out there claiming to be the latest and greatest. You don’t even have a need for .NET or even JAVA to be installed. This will save you a lot of hard drive space and precious computer resources.

Use WordGraph for anything from writing a quick letter to producing an entire book with embedded illustrations, tables of contents, indexes, and bibliographies. WordGraph is a complete and powerful software solution for creating, editing and viewing various types of documents. You can create simple or highly structured documents include graphics, tables, charts, and insert spreadsheets you created with Accel.

Indie Plot Twist Software Review SSWordGraph

A Few Basics

WordGraph SSuite is what is known as a standalone word processor. That means that unlike MS Word, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice, it does not include presentation/slide applications, a database, or some of the other applications that make up full office suites.

What it does come with is a very nice word processing application and a basic spread sheet application.

Consequently it’s very small. About 8mg of space. It took less than a minute to download and less than two minutes to install on my laptop, which runs on Windows 8.

Minimum System Requirements

1024 x 600 Display Size
Microsoft Internet Explorer
Windows NT / 2000 / XP / Vista / 7 / 8 / 10 – 32 Bit and 64 Bit – Mac and Linux

Four Basic Questions

Can You Create Microsoft Compatible Documents? Yes. The program default is a rich text file (rft), which can be opened by almost any word processing software.

Can You Open Documents Created in Microsoft Word? I tried opening one of my ongoing files, my writing journal, which is formatted as a .doc file. The document opened, but there was only a few characters of gibberish in it. The file isn’t that large—just over 24,000 words. I tried a couple of other things and it appears that the only way to use a .doc file in this program is to copy the content into a new SSuite window.

Can You Open Documents Created in SSuite with Microsoft Word? Yes. The default format is Rich Text Format (rft), so it can be opened in Microsoft Word, as well as most other office suites, Notepad, WordPad, and other text editors.

How Easy is it is to Learn and Use SSuite? SSuite is fairly easy to use, but figuring out some of the features does take time. I’d give it 2 stars of 5 in ease of learning.

What I Like About SSuite

The neatest thing I found the first time I used this program was the digital clock on the lower right column. Yes. I know. A simple thing. But I like clocks with displays that are easy to read and this clock is easy to read.

The display is easy to read and the toolbars are well organized. If it matters, the design is also quite visually appealing (at least to this artist.)

I especially like the stats in the bottom toolbar.

What I Don’t Like About SSuite

The default document type for SSuite is rich text format (rft). While that’s a good, basic format that can be read by most types of word processing software, it’s not as convenient as defaulting to a .doc file.

I also had a program failure within the first twenty minutes of using the program and again the last time I used it. I don’t know what caused the failures, but the program restarted again without difficulty. I lost a little bit of work because there is no data recovery with SSuite.

I also found no easy way to change styles throughout a document other than highlighting the entire document and manually making whatever changes I wanted. Maybe I’m getting soft, but I’ve found the style sheets on Word, OpenOffice, and LibreOffice to be so convenient and useful that this is the next thing to a deal breaker for me.

The working window is not WYSIWIG. It’s a thumbnail similar to what happens with Notepad or Wordpad. In other words, if I made the window wider, the lines stretched out. That may be why some of the formatting does not show up. It may also be why the page appears to have less than one-inch margins.

Finally, the default paper setting is A4. That’s a European setting. Measurements are also in metric. That’s not a big deal if you’re comfortable with metric settings, but it was an annoyance to me.

My Recommendation

WordGraph SSuite is a handy little program, but isn’t something that will stay on my computer beyond the test period. It isn’t set up to do enough of the “high-detail” formatting that I do for eBooks, art lessons, and other writing.

Problems with sudden program failures were also a consistent problem.

However, if all you want is a straight-forward word processing program that doesn’t cost anything and will let you write, this may be just the software you’re looking for.

Just proceed with caution.

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4 Ways to Get to Know Your Characters

Let’s face it; you can’t write about someone you don’t know well.

Or maybe a better way to say it is this:

You can’t write well and with authority about someone you don’t know well.

So how do you get to know your characters?

4 Ways to Get to Know Your Characters

Four Popular Methods

Formal Interview. Interview characters as though they were job applicants. Basic question categories are: Their growing up years; education; profession; family life. I wrote about this process in a series that begins with Well-Rounded Characters-3 Tips for Getting Acquainted.

Informal Interview. If the formal interview is like interviewing a job applicant, the informal interview is more like taking a new acquaintance to lunch.

It’s more of a conversation than an interview. You ask questions, but you also free write and let the character tell you whatever he or she wants to tell you.

Just Start Writing. Sometimes the best way to get to know your characters is to put them in a situation and let them get out of it. As with most free writing exercises, don’t edit yourself, even to correct spelling. Let whatever comes to mind end up on paper. (You can—and probably should—edit later.)

Hearing Voices. Once in a while, a character comes to me through dialogue. After weeks spent planning a story, your lead shows up one day and begins telling his or her story, revealing back story, fears and ambitions one scene at a time.

What Method Do I Use?

The short answer is all of them (and then some). I have a long list of questions that can be used in a formal interview. When I use this, it’s like filling out a dossier on a character. It works for some but not for others. A chatty character, for example, will gladly part with information.

It’s less likely to do well with a more reserved character.

It’s for that reason that I no longer rely on the formal interview as much as I used to.

I do like to ‘meet with a character’ in a place where he or she is comfortable. I ask questions, but also let them do more leading than comes with a formal interview. Locations have included one character’s back deck, another’s favorite restaurant, and another’s hometown.

But the method I’m using most right now is a combination of character journaling through free writing and putting characters into situations and learning about how they think and respond by seeing how they get out of those situations.

You may already have guessed that there’s no right way to learn more about your characters. All of the methods described here work, but you may have a totally different way of getting to know your characters. Great!

If you haven’t found the method that works best for you, give each of these a try. Mix them up and see what happens.

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Working Through Fear in 4 Steps

Every writer faces hurdles. They are a fact of life. Many factors play into the writing life.

Imagination.

Creativity.

The ability to say what you mean in interesting and understandable ways.

But there is one thing that surpasses all of the skill and talent in the world. A friend of mine calls it stick-to-it-ivity. Without it, you’re just a well-intentioned and talented wannabe.

There’s definitely a lot of stick-to-it-ivity involved in writing but there’s more to most writing problems than not being able to stick with something.

In a word…

Fear

Working Through Fear in 4 Steps

Fear comes in many forms. Some of them are obvious.

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of backlash
  • Fear of rejection or negative feedback
  • Fear of not being up to the task
  • Fear of looking stupid, silly, (insert your own)

Other fears are more subtle. So subtle we may not recognize them for what they really are.

  • Fear of success
  • Fear of having to write the next novel if the first does well
  • Fear of living without the safety net of a “real job”

Each of these fears are just as legitimate and potentially debilitating as the fears in the previous list. If you suffer from the fear of being successful or of writing a successful novel and having to write a second successful novel, you’re just as likely to give up on writing as you would be if you were afraid of failure or ridicule or anything else on the first list.

What’s a Writer to Do?

Approaching the Hurdle

Face your fear. Go right up to it and look it in the eye.

The first step is recognizing and acknowledging your personal terror. Look it in the eye and face it down.

It won’t be easy. Quite likely, it may take some time to overcome. You will probably have to call on the support of your writing friends, but that’s all right because they’ve probably already been there.

Or maybe they’re facing their own fearsome hurdle at the moment and you can help each other.

Hurdle Beginning Jump

Take the first step toward overcoming your fear. Be prepared to work with fear for a while.

Next, take the first step in overcoming your hurdle. What is that? Just getting started.

Don’t wait for the fear to go away because it probably won’t. You may need to resign yourself to working in fear for a while. The true mark of courage isn’t a total lack of fear; it’s acknowledging the fear and moving forward anyway.

Hurdle Landing

Once you’ve started, keep going. Do the next hard thing. Write the next word. Or the next book.

After that, it’s a matter of putting one foot ahead of the other. Writing the next word or page or chapter. Doing the next hard thing. Following through.

I can tell you from personal experience that this isn’t a once-done-and-over battle. You will get better at facing down whatever fear keeps you from writing, but there will also be times when it’s a daily battle. Sometimes hourly.

Hurdle Success

You may never leave fear behind, but imagine the thrill of victory each time you overcome it!

And even if you do overcome whatever fear is standing in your path right now, there will be another.

I guarantee it.

That’s. Just. Life.

But successfully dealing with whatever fear lies in your path is a great motivator to keep going. To try again, whether it’s a new battle or the same old foe.

The best tool–the only tool–I have for facing down personal fears is to turn it over to God. I can’t overcome fear on my own. No matter how determined I am, sooner or later, the fear comes creeping in like smoke under a door and before I know it, I’m breathing its deadly fumes again. Turning it over to a power greater than I frees me to write or do whatever task needs to be done.

Most of the time, the knowledge that it’s no longer up to me to battle fear and  do whatever I need to do is all that’s needed to get me started.

Keeping me from getting started seems to be fear’s most secure stronghold, so that’s the moment when fear is best defeated.

Maybe it’s the same for you.

Don’t let the fear win.

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Is There a Right Way to Write?

Is there a right way to write? Should you write your first draft, then edit or edit as you write?

That’s a debate that’s been going on almost as long as there have been more than two writers living at the same time. I don’t expect to resolve the issue here. Indeed, I don’t expect to resolve it at all. Those who have settled into their routines swear by them and will probably never change them.

This post is for the writer who may still be new enough to the business to be looking for their best routine. I’ll describe the three major categories, then share a primary advantage and a primary disadvantage to each.

The rest will be up to you!

By the way, this is not a discussion on the virtues of pre-planning or writing by the seat of your pants. All three of these methods work for Planners, Pantsers, and Tweeners.

Is There a Right Way to WriteWrite and Edit Each Day

You write and edit in the same process. After writing each scene or chapter, you go back over it, making it the best it can be before moving on to the next. You may write in the morning and review in the afternoon or write one day and review the next, but it is likely you’ll give the writing time to “cool off” before you go back and edit.

Primary Advantage

The first draft written this way is generally more polished—not to say well-polished—than a first draft written any other way.

Primary Disadvantages

It takes longer to write a first draft.

It’s easy to get hung up on a chapter or to obsess so much that forward progress is slowed or lost altogether.

Write the First Draft, Then Edit

You write the entire first draft first and give no thought at all to editing. This is the creative phase and is not to be interrupted. You probably don’t even reread the previous day’s work before launching into fresh writing.

Write fast and, if possible, with no thought beyond getting words on paper.

Primary Advantage

The first draft is generally finished more quickly than if you edit as you write. It’s possible to write a complete first draft in 30 to 90 days. There’s nothing like the rush of enthusiasm—or relief—that comes with reaching this milestone. Those who have successfully completed NaNoWriMo know exactly what I mean.

Primary Disadvantage

The finished first draft can be a mare’s nest of plotting and character development problems—as many who have successfully completed NaNoWriMo also know! Writing the first draft is faster, but editing is slower and may involve a lot of rewriting.

Somewhere in the Middle

You salt your writing with a little editing. Perhaps you begin the writing day by reading the previous day’s work.

The difference between this method and the first method is that you’re not doing heavy editing. For example, when I begin writing each day, I review what I wrote the previous day to warm up my writing muscles and to get back into the story. If I find misspelled words, I correct them. If there’s a better word choice, I’ll change that, too.

But I don’t make major editing changes. This is just a warm up exercise, like stretching before a run.

Primary Advantage

This method is a great way to overcome the obstacle of writing the first word every day. By the time you get to new writing, you’ve already written a word or two!

Primary Disadvantage

Reviewing the previous day’s work may derail any fresh ideas for the day.

Conclusion

These are not the only three options. They are, in fact, only three points on a continuum that begins at one end, with writing and editing at the same time, and runs all the way to the other end, keeping writing and editing separate. You may find your best writing routine to be somewhere between two of these points.

Or you may find yourself using different methods at different stages of the writing process or for different stories!

However you write, finishing first drafts is all a matter of focusing on the task at hand without completely ignoring the other half of the equation.

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