7 open source tools and free resources for writing | Opensource.com

7 open source tools and free resources for writing

Posted 08 May 2014 by 

Jen Wike Huger (Red Hat)
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open source tools for writing
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Most of us encounter parts of our workday where we must write or document something. Whether for building out the plan of a project, for the documentation of a project, or for the creation of the project itself, like an article or blog post, writing is a part of many of our daily lives regardless of industry or field.

Open source tools can be used to get writing done, and freely available resources can be used to supplement and enhance that work. As a content manager here at Opensource.com, there are seven open source tools and resources that I use everyday.

7 open source tools and free resources for writing and documenting


Etherpad

This tool is simplistic in style and features, yet powerful for that very reason. It is incredibly easy to use and allows you to collaborate directly with others. I use it to document projects and team work, build out plans, take and share notes, and more.

Etherpad is free, on GitHub, and distributed under the terms of Apache License 2.0Download 

Drupal

This is the content management system we use to run Opensource.com. I use it daily to write, edit, and publish new articles and stories. Drupal also handles our community accounts and hosts our library of open source resources.

Drupal 8 is coming out soon, and it is distributed under the terms of the GPL licenseDownload 

Notepad++

This tool is simple and clean, yet robust for editing source code. I use it to edit and clean up HTML.

Notepad++ is distributed under the terms of the GPL licenseDownload

LibreOffice Writer or OpenOffice Writer

These two word processors provide a similiar experience to that of using Microsoft Word. I prefer supporting open source projects, so I enjoy using these tools to review and edit articles that are submitted to Opensource.com.

LibreOffice Writer is distributed under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License, version 3.0. Download

Apache OpenOffice Writer is distributed under the terms of Apache License 2.0Download

Creative Commons

This resource delivers two outstanding options for those of us who create content. At Opensource.com, we use Creative Commons licenses to distribute visual and written content, like photographs, graphics, and articles. And, we use others' photographs, graphics, and articles licensed for re-use to enhance our readers' experience.

Read more about Creative Commons licenses, choose which one is right for you, and find content for re-use.

Public Domain Review

This resource serves as a way to find works that are released from copyright into the public domain. I use the Public Domain Review to find items, mainly images, that are available for public use.

Wikipedia

This resource allows me to point readers to a freely accessible body of information when they may need to better understand a topic, event, or project. I simply link to the appropriate Wikipedia page and go.

What open source tools or free resources do you use to write and document?

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36 Comments

charlie
Open Source Evangelist

Great resources, Jen! You may also like Focus Writer: http://gottcode.org/focuswriter/. It is a simple application for a distraction-free writing canvas.

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Thanks Charlie, this looks interesting and I'll try it out.

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wbnevill
Open Source Evangelist

I use gedit for creating content to be pasted into a previously formatted document, and for rough drafts which will be assembled later into a cohesive whole.

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Good to know you like it, thanks!

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holmja
Open Source Sensei

I have to second Charlie's Focus Writer suggestion. It is a really nice program, especially when you get some nice themes set up.

I tend to use LaTeXila for a lot of my writing, but I can understand that most people don't want to bother with LaTeX.

Zotero is what I use to collect and organize research.

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Thanks, Josh. I've heard good things about Zotero -- great addition to this list!

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dgrb

For those who don't want to get their hands dirty with Latex (I sympathise) the lyx is probably the answer: a GUI WYSISYM (What You See Is What You Mean) interface that produces LaTex,

I wrote a textbook for my intro computer science class using it.

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GDH

These days I split my preference between command-line applications and web browser applications / services. However, I still prefer vi/vim as text editor and LaTeX to typeset documents of various kinds.

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Greg P

I'm a little surprised you didn't include Sigil, for making ePubs.

I use Sigil for myself, for putting down information about the steps I take when I upgrade my OS, for when I take some trip, so that I have my flight/hotel/whatever information handy.

But of course, it's also useful for software documentation, and I think one of the essential ways we need to supply information for users.

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Greg, this is great. We'll take a look next time we're creating ePubs around here. Thanks.

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Bruno

Good article. I use Libre Office, Wikipedia nad Creative Commons, and I recommend it too!

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Thanks Bruno. What kind of writing and/or documenting do you do?

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Bruno

General writing, I think: Curriculum Vitae, some fiction I create, and drafts of my blog's articles!

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Awesome! It's great to have these resources freely available. Thanks for sharing.

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

New text editor: I'm also trying out Atom, GitHub's new text editor at
https://atom.io/

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Jason Baker
Open Sourcerer

I've been writing in Vim a lot lately; probably split 50/50 between the command line version and gvim. I'm hoping to ease out of gvim, but it's been handy to have the commands listed in the drop-down menu as a way to remind myself what each one does - certainly faster than using :h to remember.

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Jon

I have been playing around with a program called Brackets (released under the MIT License) for the better part of several days now; working with HTML. I have to say that I am very impressed; it is a program worth mentioning.

Another one would be Light Table which is open source (though I am not too sure of the actual license).

An alternative to Focus Write would be PyRoom (GPLv3).

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Thanks Jon, sounds like some interesting options.

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Jon

A new one which I recently came across is Haroopad which is a markdown enabled document processor for creating web-friendly documents. (quote taken directly from the site)

Chris and Matt from the Linux Action Show talk about it more on JupiterBroadcasting.

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dgrb

I always tell my students *never* to use wikipedia as their only reference.

It can be a useful source of links though.

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CBee

If you just need a nice wordprocessor like wordpad, have a look at abiword (http://www.abisource.com/).

Where Libre and Open Office are the opensource variants for msWord, I see abiword (http://www.abisource.com/) as open source for microsofts WordPad.

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Steve

Would Scribus fit in this list? If you need to do desktop publishing it's a good open source choice.

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Steve, yes Scribus is a great addition. I haven't used it but have heard good things.

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Don Hodges

I use Dave Winer's Fargo, a javascript outliner/CMS that runs in modern browsers.
http://fargo.io
My Fargo linkblog - http://donhnoteblog.smallpict.com
a commercial Fargo blog = http://glass.qz.com

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Don, thanks so much for sharing Fargo. I'm enjoying it. You use it to write your blog and just draft up content in general?

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Don Hodges

I keep my personal records like medical visits and meds, plus two blogs, and my wife uses it in her tutoring avocation. I also originate most of my twitter and fb posts in the noteblog so I have a record in Dropbox.

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P Gillespie

Thanks for your post. I've also been checking out Downtown Dame. Pretty cute. Raleigh looks a bit like Burlington, Vermont but much larger. Must be warm down there... by now. Seeing you next to that pool of emerald water reminds me just how cold the water is up here. Anyway...

Reading your post reminded me that I'm looking for some good off-line blogging software -- a "Windows Live Writer" for Linux. If you have some recommends along those lines (I use wordpress.com (Poemshape), I'd enjoy our thoughts. We writers are too frequently overlooked -- not as glamorous or sexy as the photoshop crowd...

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Thanks P Gillespie! I use Wordpress as well. I don't have a great recommendation there, but maybe check out Don's suggestion for fun: Fargo.io

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P Gillespie

Yes, but that's not off-line, or am I missing something? Since writing you, I've been doing a little research however. I use KDE and am exploring Blogilo. Looks like it might be just the thing.

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Yes, it's not offline but I thought you might be interested in it anyway. Let us know what you think about KDE and Blogilo. Also, if you have any interest in sharing a blog post with us on your experience "writing with open source tools" and want to review a few, let me know. Thanks!

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P Gillespie

Thanks for the invitation, Jen. I just may take you up on the offer, though there may be others here with equally broad experience, or more. :)

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Don Hodges

I'm sounding way too evangelistic here, but for the record Fargo is online but keeps your files in your own Dropbox as opml so you have an offline copy.

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Don Hodges

I forgot to mention Fargo has a feature to cross-post to Wordpress blogs (wp-hosted or self-hosted), and scripts to create twitter posts, also a bookmarklet for posting links. You can also set up a free Heroku server. Fargo is a little quirky but I have found it worth the learning curve. You can avoid most of the quirks if you use the vanilla templates.

As for text editing, I find LibreOffice a bit heavy - I have used Abiword on Linux but now usually just textedit on the Mac but its not FOSS.

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P Gillespie

Sounds cool, but being up in Vermont means I don't often have much Internet connectivity. Blogilo seems very promising. I can work on my blog, including layout, without being connected.

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tropoeta
Open Minded

Thanks, Jen! I've had a great experience with most of the tools you mentioned (plus Zotero!) and I'm really proud of them. They are above all valuable achievements of thriving commons-based communities. I'll gladly give a first try to both Etherpad & Public Domain Review. Sharing is what counts but being "dedicated to helping others share their experience with the world", that's even better!

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Jen Wike Huger
Open Sourcerer

Thanks for sharing and caring, Nacho! Appreciate the feedback and am glad you're enjoying new tools.

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