Sunday, June 8, 2014

Storyist as a Personal Wiki

Don't ask me why, but I downloaded the trial version of Storyist for the Mac, a word processors "designed for writers of fiction" that does many of the same things Scrivener does. "Storyist provides the word processing tools you expect from a top-notch creative writing application, including spell checking; smart quotes processing; annotations; and support for headers, footers, and style sheets. And Storyist comes with manuscript and screenplay templates so you can focus on the writing, not the formatting." Yes, you probably can, and "the story development tools in Storyist let you sketch out a story using index cards and photographs and then refine it with customizable plot, character, and setting sheets. If you prefer a more traditional approach, Storyist provides an outliner for working with your story elements in outline form."

It just so happens that I do not write stories or novels. I am much more concerned with non-fiction, or perhaps better, academic writing. I need to be able to do footnotes, for instance. There is a way to emulate footnotes by assigning a bookmark to a paragraph and dragging the bookmark into the pace where you want the footnote reference. It works, but it's a pain (and does not allow automatic numbering). Nor does any of this export very well. There are other things that should discourage anyone from using it for what it was not designed for, namely writing non-fiction.

There is, however one way for which it clearly was not designed that works quite well. Storyist supports wiki-style links, ore better: free links. Enclosing a word or phrase in double brackets links, like [[so]] will create a link to that page. More precisely:
To create a Wiki link,
1. Place the insertion point at the location where you want to create a link.
2. Type two open brackets: "[["
3. Type the title of the element you want to create a link to.
4. Type two close brackets: "]]"
If the story element already exists, Storyist creates a link to it. If the element does not exist, Storyist assumes that you want to create a new notebook entry and takes care of that for you.

If you change the title of the story element elsewhere, Storyist updates your Wiki link title.
You can also specify a different title for the link by adding "|" before the desired title within the wiki link title.

Actually, the wiki link will create a note with the the title you have chosen. The notebook in Storyist is a free-form text editor. You cannot link different parts of the manuscript. Nor can you link to the manuscript (unless I am very mistaken). The great thing is that you can interlink different notes this way as well.

So Storyist could be used as a simple wiki. Perhaps you could also say that it is a not-so-simple wiki because you can view the wiki entries in outline view and as note cards. It also is a WYSIWYG wiki, as there wre no different views for editing and viewing. You can also add comments to the notes to add a further layer of complication.

I think this is an interesting, if perhaps somewhat perverse way, to use what is meant to be a word processor as a wiki-like note-taker. Will I pay the $59.00 for the OSX application to use it.[1] I am afraid not, as I already have the kind of personal wiki with which I am fully satisfied. But, if you are in the market for a word processor for writers, the wiki-capability may well be an added bonus.[2]

1. There is an iOS application which by all accounts integrates well with the desktop application.
2. Please do not consider this as a thorough review of all the features of Storyist. I have really only played with it to see whether it might be useful for my writing "projects."

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