Best Windows software for writing a non-fiction book (with callouts!)
January 18, 2013 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I want to write a non-fiction book with basic formatting like bulleted lists, numbered lists, along with some callouts. Think "XYZ for Dummies". I'm on Windows XP / Windows 7. Don't want to upgrade XP on my seconday machine if not absolutely necessary.

I've tried YWriter, but it seems more geared towards fiction.

Tools like DocBook and LateX seem awfully technical. I don't want to write markup. Trying to stay away from MS Word/Open Office, as I know that can be hard to convert cleanly to ePub and other common formats.

Is there something with chapters and a good way to organize the book that also allows callout boxes and basic formatting, and easy conversion to ePub and other common end formats?

posted by 4midori to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Scrivener lets you set up a template and compile your book from a number of "notecard" like snippets. They have a free trial on their website.

I've mostly used it for novel writing, but using it made me wish I'd had it for other essays and writing projects I've done over the years.
posted by bookdragoness at 12:44 PM on January 18, 2013

I really think that it would be worth the investment for you to check out Scrivener for Windows. I'm a happy Mac owner and it's freakin' wonderful.
posted by THAT William Mize at 12:45 PM on January 18, 2013

It may sound ludicrous to say that Scrivener changed my life. Except that it actually did, for the better.

I know a few people whom it leaves cold, but for me - I work better, and produce better text/copy, than by using anything else.
posted by Wordshore at 12:50 PM on January 18, 2013

LaTeX isn't that bad. In an afternoon you can learn everything you'll need to do what you listed above. And it looks beautiful, without any work. I used ScribTeX recently for a couple of documents and it was so easy compared to the crazy install process I had to used on my Ubuntu and Windows machines. No deal with packages and stuff.

I know it isn't for everyone. I avoided it for years, then realized, that, really, it is a fantastic tool, and not nearly as hard to use as it looks.
posted by chiefthe at 1:23 PM on January 18, 2013

Response by poster: Let me add - I'd also like footnote capability.
posted by 4midori at 1:44 PM on January 18, 2013

Best answer: I wrote my nonfiction book in Scrivener. It includes a bunch of sidebars and artwork, which Scrivener helped me manage just beautifully. I didn't use footnotes in this case, but Scrivener does support them just fine; it even supports bibliographic software like Bookends.

The wonderful thing about Scrivener was that the outline for the book basically turned into my foldering and notecard structure -- folders for each of the five main sections, subfolders for each chapter, and individual cards with the actual text inside for the subheading or sidebar within the chapter. This let me rearrange structurally on the fly without worrying about misplacing chunks of text, or leaving off some of the beginning or end of a section, the way I often did back in my MS Word days. (I did not and don't use the notecards/bulletin board functionality since that's not how I work or think; it's not necessary to use it to get a lot out of Scrivener.)

Scrivener also has a blackout writing mode where you can eliminate everything on your screen but the stuff you're working on, a split-screen mode where you can work on two sections at once and thus not duplicate information, fantastic search within your document, AND it has a lengthy free trial. Give it a whirl. Can't hurt, right?
posted by Andrhia at 2:46 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sweet! Looks like Scrivener is the way to go. Thanks all.
posted by 4midori at 2:52 PM on January 18, 2013

Trying to stay away from MS Word/Open Office, as I know that can be hard to convert cleanly to ePub and other common formats.

My co-author and I wrote a book in 2010-2011, which was published by a major house last October. All of the drafting and editing, both on our end and on theirs, occurred in Word.

Now they may have used some other fancy program to format it for e-publication or printing, but we never saw it and don't even know what it might be.
posted by valkyryn at 4:31 PM on January 18, 2013

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