Latest entrants: The Guide, FocusWriter, and WizMouse

The most recent additions to my Favourites list are The Guide, FocusWriter, and WizMouse (all FREE).

The Guide is a lightweight, fast, and easy-to-use dual-pane notes organiser and outliner. I needed such a software for the specific job of storing text fragments that I edit out of my draft but I want to keep in an organised manner. I tried to use Scrivener for this but it was too big and slow for that. The Guide starts up quickly and it can be minimised to the system tray. It is also easy to add icons to the outline items (to check them off or to identify important ones for revisiting). Finally, it can also do rich text editing and export. It is very simple and that is exactly why I like it.

FocusWriter is a distraction-free writing environment. I’ve tried a few in this category and none of them worked for me for one reason or another. But FocusWriter really hit the spot. For one, it can truly hide everything, so it’s just the words and the default grey background (which suits me fine). Also, the toolbar (which hides) is highly customisable. Finally, it is very easy to modify the default theme and create new ones. And if you want something fancier, you can download one of these beautiful themes (though they may become a distraction – which is why I’m sticking with the default grey). As for the typewriter sound though, I will stick with ClicKey because there seems to be a lag with FocusWriter’s own sound.

WizMouse is a utility. It allows you to scroll windows under the mouse with the mouse wheel without having to click on them first. That’s it. But first you will need to unlearn the habit of wanting to click on the other window before scrolling. It’s amazing how ingrained some of these habits become.

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Welcome to Dr Andus’s toolbox

Hi. I’m Dr Andus (i.e. doctorandus, Latin for ‘he who should become a doctor’), a social science PhD student based in the UK and engaged in qualitative research. I’m interested in software and hardware tools that can help with researching, outlining, and writing, as well as improving personal productivity. I also contribute under this name at the Outliner Software forum, which is an excellent source of information on such tools.

The impetus for starting this blog actually came from another member at Outliner Software, who asked me to provide some tutorials about how I use ConnectedText (CT) – a personal wiki software – for qualitative data analysis (effectively as a CAQDAS). I thought that rather than inundating forum members with long posts on CT, I would set up a dedicated blog for this purpose. Although my initial posts here are likely to focus on CT, I intend this blog to become a place for commentary on a wide range of software and hardware that I use for researching, outlining and writing but also for managing personal information (PIM).  I have also set up a page that will contain a periodically updated list of my favourite software and hardware tools (my toolbox). I use Windows PCs (a couple of desktops and a netbook, running XP and Win7), an Apple iPod Touch and an iPad, therefore I will focus primarily on those platforms.

I welcome questions, comments or suggestions related to tools for qualitative research, outlining, writing and personal information management.