What word processor will be most intuitive for experimental writing?
February 5, 2007 6:05 PM   Subscribe

What word processing program will allow most easily allow me to do unusual things with form--with the way text appears on the page?

I write experimental fiction, and find MS Word almost terminally unintuitive when it comes to being creative with visual form. I'd like a program that will easily allow me to do any (preferably all) of the following: place text on the margins of the page, insert pictures, overlay text upon other text, type backward, type upside down, type in colors, type in unusually-shaped text boxes. It would be nice if it had even more functionality that will allow me to perform operations on text that I haven't even considered yet.

I grew up with MS Word, and I know that I can do most of these things with that application--but it is not designed for experimental writing, and I've found it requires a frustrating amount of fanagling to get the pieces looking the way that I want them to. I'm in the market for something new--what word processor should I switch to?
posted by scarylarry to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You're looking for a desktop publishing program. What you're wanting to do is, by definition, outside the realm of "word processing."

Try Pagemaker 7.0, should be pretty cheap on eBay since it's now abandonware ... excellent program, pretty easy to learn, gives you 100% control of where you place everything on the page.
posted by jbickers at 6:14 PM on February 5, 2007

What you want is a publishing type program rather than a word processor. Something like adobe indesign would work, but might be more work than it's worth.
posted by cschneid at 6:14 PM on February 5, 2007

If you have a mac, get iWork. It consists of 2 programs, a word-processing layout program and a beautiful powerpoint alternative. If you use both of them together you can do almost anything with text and images. Another option is Adobe Illustrator, which certainly may be a lot more than what you need, but has some very nice text tools.
posted by LizardOfDoom at 6:17 PM on February 5, 2007

inkscape is a free adobe illustrator-alike.
posted by paradroid at 6:49 PM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Scribus is a desktop publishing tool available in flavors for win, mac, or linux.

I've never used it, but it ships with Ubuntu and I've heard okay things
posted by chrisamiller at 7:27 PM on February 5, 2007

try word 2007. it does exactly what you want
posted by |n$eCur3 at 11:38 PM on February 5, 2007

LaTeX (good tutorial materials here). It's a language for document layout, kind of like HTML except designed specifically for typesetting. It has a steep learning curve, but learning it will give you a good basis for all kinds of experimentation with the structure and layout of your text.
posted by aparrish at 11:57 PM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just putting in another vote for inkscape.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:52 AM on February 6, 2007

This rather depends on your workflow. If you write the entire text first, then munt it up, a page-layout app such as QuarkXpress or InDesign will be fine. Otherwise, you'll have big problems with text reflow and redraw.

Actually, it occurs to me: what do your publishers want? If they can't take the files you produce and print em, it's all a bit pointless. If they insist on Word, you've no option. If they take LaTeX you have a bit more hope, but be aware that to do very advanced things like those you mention requires something very similar to computer programming.
posted by bonaldi at 5:36 AM on February 6, 2007

Another vote for Adobe InDesign -- but only if you're talking about something that will be longer than a couple of pages.

As others have mentioned, it may be overkill -- it's expensive and it will take a little while to learn -- but it will definitely do what you're asking for and more. And it will allow you to print to .pdf, so it should be pretty universally publishable.
posted by ourobouros at 7:28 AM on February 6, 2007

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