By Ashley Wilson
When you think of the most common difficulties facing writers, you probably think of writer’s block, time management, and burnout. Have you ever stopped to wonder how many hours the average writer loses to tech-related issues?
In the modern world, the vast majority of writers use computers with word processing applications for their craft.
Some amongst us indeed still take notes by hand or keep a handwritten journal.
When it comes to sculpting your next novel or working on ad copy for your business client, though, you’re most likely going to fire up Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, or a similar piece of software to get to work.
The matter of fact is, you can only be as productive as your tools allow you to be. Think of your computer as a workspace. If you organize all of your references, resources, and applications, it is like you’re working in a clean, efficient environment with minimal distractions. The state of your computer is just as important as your physical surroundings.
If you’re regularly bothered by technostress, take a page out of our book. Here are four useful tips to get more out of your computer as a writer:
Switch Up Your Writing Software
There are lightweight text editors available on the market as an alternative to Microsoft Word or LibreOffice.. Light applications use fewer system resources, giving your computer a break from bloated graphical applications.
Vim, a text editor commonly used by programmers, is known for being extremely lightweight and ergonomically friendly. Vim is controlled entirely with the user’s keyboard, eliminating the need for a mouse.
As the computer mouse is the leading cause of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) in the right hand, it dramatically benefits writers to replace at least a little bit of their daily mouse usage with keyboard shortcuts. This article was written using Vim!
For writers who use web apps instead of desktop applications, you should consider testing out another browser. Some users have reported performance gains by switching from Chrome to Brave. There are many options available to users. Try out different browsers and see which works best for you!
Some browsers to try include:
- Brave: a privacy-focused browser with many performance enhancements. Because it is based on Chromium, it has an interface nearly indistinguishable from Chrome, so Chrome users should feel right at home.
- Ungoogled Chromium: a version of Chrome browser without the tacky Google branding and telemetry features removed. Because this browser requires some initial setup, it is generally used by the more technically-minded writers out there.
- Mozilla Firefox: depending on what browser plugins you plan to use, Firefox might provide a better experience. Some users report that Firefox is more responsive than Google Chrome, especially users that tend to open many tabs at once.
- Firefox Nightly: try the Nightly edition of Firefox for “nightly” updates from the developers, including the latest experimental changes, performance fixes, and new features.
Organize Your Resources
Do you have a difficult time keeping track of all of your to-do lists, reference materials, useful links, and personal files? You could benefit from the following nuggets of information:
- Organize your folders: most of us could do with a bit of spring cleaning when it comes to the way our files are organized. Put pictures, videos, documents, and downloads in their rightful place. Consider organizing your writing folders by month, week, or day.
- Take better notes: whether you’re using Evernote or a handwritten bullet journal to keep track of your life, you should be taking notes regularly. Check out the concepts behind the Exocortex Theory for extra credit.
- Synchronize: use Syncthing, Dropbox, or Google Drive to synchronize your notes and references between multiple devices.
Save Time With Text Expansion and Auto-Completion
If you find yourself using similar terms and industry lexicon repeatedly, consider the value of an auto-complete function. The auto-complete feature so commonly used on smartphones is also available in many text processing programs, including Vim.
For Vim, you have the following options for auto-completion:
- AutoComplPop – This Vim plugin opens a popup menu for auto-completions whenever you enter characters or move the cursor around in Insert mode.
- YouCompleteMe – This plugin, while similar to AutoComplPop, is generally considered to be more frequently updated and well-maintained.
Auto-complete in Microsoft Word is slightly more cumbersome. You can customize your AutoCorrect options to include frequently-used words. While there is no “predictive texting” in Word, you will get a prompt to complete the word with Tab or Enter keys after four or more characters have been typed.
Another interesting option is using a Text Expander to turn “expand” short phrases. You can program these Text Expander applications any way you like.
As an example, you could create a shortcut so that any time you type the word “jackbio”, the program will drop in a full paragraph of biographical information; this is useful for sections of text that you usually include in your written posts.
You can also use a Text Expander to auto-complete words. You could set the program to expand all instances of “lexi” into “lexicon” if you so desired. The nice thing about Text Expanders is that they are generally “program agnostic” in the sense that you can use them with any word processing software.
There are a wide variety of Windows Text Expansion solutions to save you time and effort.
Optimize and Declutter Your Computer
When was the last time you used that video downloader plugin in Google Chrome? Do you need three different photo manipulation apps for your photography side project? Sit down on a lazy Sunday and dedicate some time to removing unneeded software from your computer.
You can safely remove:
- Old browser plugins: Do you need that Netflix sync plugin that your cousin told you to add to your browser ages ago? Old plugins on browsers not only slow down your machine but they also potentially leave you open to hackers if the developers don’t update the plugins.
- Pre-installed software: All of the software that came pre-installed on your laptop or desktop is a nuisance. If you don’t remember installing it yourself, get rid of it.
- Old programs: Distinct from pre-installed software, what about the applications you installed on your desktop? Do you still play that MMORPG with your buddies? It could be slowing down your PC or taking up much-needed disk space.
You can further optimize your computer by using MSConfig, a tool included with every Windows system. For example, it helps you identify and safely disable unnecessary programs that keep running in the background, hogging valuable resources and slowing down your computer.
You’d be surprised at how much more you can get done when your system isn’t continually hanging.
Technostress is not just a buzzword anymore, but a real concern for everyone whose work depends on their PCs and systems working as smoothly and efficiently as possible. For writers, dealing with maintenance and cumbersome file organization could mean hours of wasted work and lower productivity.
The good news is that, using some of these hacks, you can streamline your writing process and produce a lot of great content in less time than before.
Ashley Wilson is a content creator, writing about business and tech. She has been known to reference movies in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.