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Writers in the Cloud

Created on: Nov 14, 2013 5:55 AM by CreateSpaceResources - Last Modified:  Nov 14, 2013 6:02 AM by CreateSpaceResources Friedlander.jpg

Writers in the Cloud

By Joel Friedlander

You could make a pretty good argument that writers, more than almost anyone else, are benefiting from the revolution in mobile computing that's changing work for so many of us. And that's not even counting the revolution that print-on-demand brought to print book publishing, or the move to eBooks over the last couple of years.


No, I'm thinking more of the rudimentary process we go through in the overall flow of content creation:


•      research

•      collecting source documents and their citations

•      organizing research materials

•      sharing processes and elements with teammates and vendors


All along the way, we may need to make these capabilities work with a variety of media, for months at a time, in a way that's convenient and efficient for all involved.


Luckily, the tools to help us manage these steps have evolved along with our needs. And they have also moved off our desktops, the traditional location for software tools.


Alongside the explosive growth of mobile computing, some of today's best software tools are integrally tied to offsite, internet-accessible storage and processing. We usually call these "cloud"-based services, and they are changing the way writers work.


Let's look at some of the leading tools in this category and what they deliver for writers.


1.    Evernote

Evernote is a free service that has revolutionized "note-taking" and made the process of capturing text simple and efficient. You can store your notes in separate notebooks, and tag them with your own metadata terms to make them easy to search. You can keep Evernote running and synchronized on your smartphone, table, laptop and desktop computers, so it acts as a kind of information transfer system.


Evernote only starts with text; it can just as easily create notes to store photos, videos, audio files, web captures, screen clips and just about anything else you can throw at it. If you store a photo of text, like the scan of a book page, Evernote's servers will gradually turn the text into scannable type, which is quite useful.


The Evernote plug-in that's available for many web browsers gives you this ability right in the browser window you're in at the moment, with options to store entire web pages or just the articles or sections you select. It keeps track of everything, including where you clipped that lovely motif you saw on someone's blog, when you clipped it and the url for future reference.


Overall, Evernote is the most-often-used software platform I own, and it has replaced the chaos of piles of paper. The freedom of being able to throw just about anything into Evernote and be sure I can find it when I need it is intoxicating.


2.    Dropbox

The deceptively simple Dropbox is also free at its basic level. Once you sign up, this cloud-based storage service adds a folder to your system called, logically enough, "Dropbox." It looks just like any other folder, but it isn't actually on your computer at all; it's really miles away on one of Amazon's S3 servers, a worldwide storage network with the ability to distribute storage and retrieval tasks among its many physical locations.


Just like any other folder, you can drop files of any kind into your Dropbox, and they are transferred to the cloud storage. Since you can install your Dropbox folders on all of your stationary and mobile devices, you have instant access to all the data and other files you've placed there. This gives you the capacity to, for instance, keep material you're reviewing available no matter where you are, and to transfer files between your devices as easy as copying a file from one folder to another.


Dropbox has built-in sharing functions, so you can create a specific Dropbox folder for each project, for each book you're researching or just for a specific part of your book production process, like the files you'll be sending back and forth with your cover designer.


Dropbox doesn't even have to synchronize, since each of its apps is really just another way to access the same files on the remote servers.


3.    Hightail (formerly YouSendIt)

With all of this smooth file transfer and with email providers increasing the size of the files you can send as attachments, you might wonder if you still need a delivery service for large files.


I use this service frequently, because I don't always know if the person I'm sending mail to can accept a file that's larger than 5 MB, and it's impossible to research the ever-changing requirements of different internet service providers. So when it's time to send webinar files, PDFs of large illustrated books along with the source files or video files of any length, these services are essential.


Hightail offers a free level of service that lets you share files up to 50 MB in size, gives you 2 GB of online storage and allows you to verify delivery of your shipments. The whole thing is simple to use. All you need is the location of the file on your computer and an email address.


One of the features I find most useful is that you can instruct Hightail to keep a copy of the sent file in your own private cloud storage that comes with your Hightail account. This makes it a breeze to resend a file if the download link expires, or to compare revisions of different versions of files you've sent previously on the same project.


For files collaborators or vendors want to send to you, Hightail provides a web address that functions as an "inbox" for your account, so your partners don't have to subscribe to the service in order to send you files. That's pretty neat.


4.    Doit

This last cloud-based service isn't specific to authors, but if you're at all like me, you probably have lots of Post-its, to-do lists written on the backs of envelopes or things people tell you that you want to remember, even if you're in your car or at the mall at the time. Computerized to-do lists have helped people tackle these problems for years, and the good news is they keep getting better.


My favorite cloud-based reminder tracker these days is Doit, a sleek and efficient way to organize reminders and tasks. You can sort your tasks by project, priority, or deadline, tag them with your own metadata tags, set priority flags, set your tasks to repeat at specified intervals or attach notes.


Like other cloud-based applications like Evernote and Dropbox, Doit comes in versions for your smartphone, your tablet and your desktop computer. The beauty of being a cloud-based service is that all these versions are automatically kept synchronized and up to date. So if you're out to dinner and remember something you need to do for your book, just add it to Doit on your phone, and you'll find it on your Doit list when you get back to work.


This means you might never lose track of an important deadline or idea ever again. Even if you run out of Post-it notes.


The future looks to be moving more and more to cloud-based services like Evernote, Dropbox, Hightail and Doit. Whether or not cloud-based software is the wave of the future, writers today can use these capable and reliable services to make research, writing, publishing and marketing even more efficient.


This article was written exclusively for CreateSpace by Joel Friedlander. Joel is a paid contributor and the proprietor of Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California, a publishing services company where he's helped launch many self-published authors. He blogs about book design, writing and self-publishing at Joel is also the founder of, where he provides tools and services for authors who publish their own books.



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