Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Review of The PageFour Notebook

As promised, here are my thoughts on The PageFour Notebook.

Designed by a software designer for writers, PageFour Notebook is a welcome addition to my collection of writing/planning programmes. What I like best about it, is its simplicity. The layout is clean, with the option to have only the word processor on the screen or a list of notebooks and the current notebook on the left. You can have as many files open as you want - they're tabbed, making switching back and forth really easy.

Information is stored in Notebooks, to which you add Folders and Pages, or just Pages if you prefer. The toolbar icons make this fast, but you can also use keyboard shortcuts as well. All basic formatting is available on the toolbar or through keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-u for underline etc.) and files are saved in rich text format. You can take Snapshots of your work at any time, a permanent record of the page you're working on, without having to worry about fancy file names if, as in the example from the Help file, you want to save an older version of a novel chapter before doing rewrites.

The ability to export notebooks is another function I found particularly useful - they're saved as .rtf files with the notebooks' structure intact, which is really cool. And if you have work you want to pull into PageFour, it's a snap as you can import MS Word, .rtf and .txt files. I tried this and it worked just fine. Notebooks and pages can also be password protected and locked, a bonus if you have to share your computer and want to keep things private.

The programme's Archive feature is quite unique and I'll leave it to the developer, via the Help file to explain it:

Archiving allows a full history of your PageFour Notebook to be held for over a year, and handles complete or partial roll backs with ease. Restore your notebooks to the state they were in last Tuesday, before your five year old nephew got click happy and started deleting things, or search for a page with a really neat paragraph you know you wrote six months ago but have mistakenly overwritten.

You can also drag and drop pages from notebook to notebook, and it gives you the option to either Move or Copy them - another neat little feature I quite like. This is particularly useful for Research notes that fall under more than one category.

Printing is easy, with advanced features such as Selected Text, Selected Pages, or Selected Folders. Plus you can create Printing Templates for specialized jobs. I've already asked the developer if he might be able to do a Galley one for novelists, and he replied (within a few hours) that he'll take the suggestion into consideration.

Do I have any beefs? Well, as always, there are little quirks. Often when creating new pages I end up with them in the wrong notebook or in the main window - not a big deal as they can be moved easily, but still, not ideal. Similarly when I import documents, the same thing seems to happen. Of course it's entirely possible I just haven't figured out the right way to do this, but it's still annoying. Also, as of this version, tables still aren't included. Again, not a deal breaker, but it would be nice to be able to create a basic table or to import a simple table-based form.

So, what will I use PageFour Notebook for? Research notes and planning work. Though it could also quite successfully be used to write and print a full novel, I have to admit I'm still a dedicated WWP user and won't likely stray from it. BUT, PFN, is a perfect companion, giving me a little more flexibility than WWP's scratchpad and the .rtf export/import means I can move info back and forth between the programmes with ease. I've already created a Notebook for FDin30D templates as well as a Story Bible notebook for my two French Revolution mss (they share some characters and run along the same timeline).

As of this morning, I'm now a fully licensed user. At $29.95 US, this programme is exceptionally well priced and easy to buy via secure server, though other arrangements can also be made if online buying isn't your thing.

Want to know more PFN? Read about its features, and see screenshots. And did you note what I said about the developer (one Darren Devitt) getting back to me so quickly after I made a suggestion via email? I'm pretty certain Bill Gates doesn't do this *g*. You can also read Darren's blog, on which he talks from time to time about PFN.

And now, I'd best get on with the rest of my day. My ms is calling - I'm doing character work and still trying to figure out how much of my characters' life timeline I really need to work through. It will give me so much more depth, but is also very time consuming. Still, if I do it now, it saves me from doing it in the future. Hmmmmm. Anyone have any thoughts on this?


Currently Reading: Books for Research/Review
Link of the Day: Isolde Martyn's Research Tips

No comments: