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Looking for a freeform text editor
September 4, 2012 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a freeform text editor for PC and/or iPad. It can be browserware. Imagine an infinite canvas that you can arrange text on. Click to type. Drag blocks of text here and there. Does it exist?

I'm currently using SublimeText in fullscreen mode with three columns to write scripts for animation. The voiceover and action obviously doesn't stay in sync because they are currently in different files.

I don't want to use Word or Google Docs, because at this drafting stage layout is not the real issue, it's keeping relevant action with its dialog. And I'm not writing a "script" so software like FinalDraft or Celtx is not necessary.

In my imagination it would work like Illustrator/InkScape, but simplified for pure text. It would also have smart copy and paste, recognising blocks of text and columns.
posted by hifimofo to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't mind the text existing as bullets, then Workflowy would fit your needs. It's a browser based infinite list which can be infinitely nested. Just drag and move the bullets as you need and you can have have different bullets open in different tabs/windows even though they are all in the same document.

It can easily be exported in various formats and includes bells and whistles like tags and comments.
posted by special-k at 5:37 PM on September 4, 2012

I meant to link to this video (shows you what workflowy looks like).
posted by special-k at 5:42 PM on September 4, 2012

You might want to check out Scrivener. It lets you organize your story as shiftable chunks of text, and has "scriptwriting" modes.

Disclaimer: I haven't done more than go through its manual, I'm thinking of using it to write the script of my next comic, but my current comic is written on plain paper and in Illustrator due to me doing some crazy things with the layout.

How are "scripts for animation" not "scripts"? Most of the animation scripts I've seen - that don't really start life as storyboards - look pretty much identical to scripts for live-action.

You might also want to check out storyboard software. The only one I can think of offhand is Toon Boom's Storyboard Pro, which is very not cheap. Although honestly when I want to board something out I'm just as likely to do it on paper, or do it in an animation program so I can start thinking about timing.

If you really want the "chunks of floating text" mode you describe, maybe check out Omnigraffle. I dunno if you'd be able to easily get the text OUT of there though!
posted by egypturnash at 6:35 PM on September 4, 2012

egypturnash: the people I'm writing for use a simplified two column format for the scripts for these animations. Think more infographic and less cartoon.

I'll have a look at Scrivener, but I don't think it will do what I want. Omnigraffle fits into that Illustrator/InkScape model, except it's not free like InkScape!
posted by hifimofo at 6:40 PM on September 4, 2012

I'm not at all familiar with the kind of work you're doing, but this description:
"Imagine an infinite canvas that you can arrange text on. Click to type. Drag blocks of text here and there."
Sounds to me like one of the features of desktop publishing software. I worked with Quark XPress and InDesign for a couple of decades, and that's definitely a big part of what they do. There's an open source desktop publishing program, Scribus that should do all the same things.

Possible limitations: It's not purely text oriented, as it has options for placing images as well, but there's no reason that should pose a problem. I'm also not sure what you mean by "smart cut and paste," so it may not work for you on that front.

But ... infinite canvas? Check. You can make pages as big as you want. Click to type and drag blocks of text around? For sure. Pretty much what desktop publishing software was made to do. Organize into any number of columns? Definitely.

Hope this helps!
posted by ronofthedead at 7:20 PM on September 4, 2012

One word: OneNote.
posted by DandyRandy at 10:07 PM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding OneNote.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 9:40 AM on September 5, 2012

OneNote does appear to have that functionality, but it brings a lot of baggage with it. Might have to give it a try if nothing else shows up.
posted by hifimofo at 5:37 PM on September 5, 2012

Prezi? (Youtube video)
There's a free version.

Maybe some mindmapping software?
posted by at at 8:28 PM on September 5, 2012

Long time in updating, but the new software Scapple from the people who do Scrivener is basically precisely what you asked for. It also exports to Scrivener and other popular formats like OPML, plain text, rtf, PDF. It can be used to do what you want, or to mindmap, or, well, anything really. I've been trialling it and it's pretty awesome. Mac only for now, but they have ported software to Windows before.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:03 AM on April 27, 2013

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