I recently went out on a mission to find the perfect tool to manage my writing life. But the journey ended up with my frustration at not being able to single out one app that fit my needs – the tool that can:
- store notes and web pages from my research stage for offline view.
- quickly create a to-do list and alarms out of assignments and tasks, and be able to be synchronized to iCal (then to my mobile) so I’ll always get reminders wherever I am.
- access my email easily.
- track and record my writing assignments and submissions.
- post to blogs and also serve as a word processor – both in WYSIWYG and HTML view.
- show the word count for each of my submissions.
The most important thing is the whole features should come free and in one package (as I’m a bit tired switching back and forth between applications).
Then I remembered about Firefox – the browser that can be transformed into almost anything that we want it to be, and wondered whether I can expand it to be THE writing tool I’m looking for.
The Hunt for the Add-ons
Everybody knows that one of the greatest things about Firefox is the wide range of add-ons available. What I did was search for the right writing addons for Firefox with the right features. I found too many options so I have to be super selective.
And the winners are:
- Scrapbook –> This is the first writing addon for Firefox on my list. Scrapbook is like a storage house for all of your research materials. You can easily send any web page to be archived inside Scrapbook, either by dragging and dropping it into the Scrapbook sidebar (Option + K)
or by right clicking on the page and choose “Capture Page”.
Add folders, sub-folders, notes, and organize them to your heart’s content by dragging and dropping. I could go on forever as I really love this tool, but there are still a lot to cover so I’ll just link you to our previous coverage on this nifty tool.
- Scribefire –> Since most of my writing assignments are in the virtual world and need me to be familiar with HTML, I think I’ll just use this powerful blogging add-on to also serve as a WYSIWYG word processor. Scribefire allows its users to easily switch between rich-text and source editing.
To get a clearer picture on what this baby can do, check out the comparison between Scribefire and Deepest Sender.
- Extended Copy Menu and QuoteURLText –> Sometimes you run into texts that need to be handled with more than just standard “Copy” feature.
These two add-ons provide Firefox users with the ability to go beyond that. Extended Copy Menu enables users to copy the selected text as plain text or HTML, while QuoteURLText will include Page Title, Location and copy date to the copied texts to be used as perfect quotes.
- Word Count Plus –> Another common thing about writing assignments besides time limits – a.k.a deadly deadlines – is dimension limit or more popularly known as word count. If you have to count your writing word by word, believe me, whatever reward you’ll get won’t be worth the hassle :). Imagine J.K Rowling counting the words in her books. Scribefire is a writing addon for Firefox that has its own word count tool (right click –> View –> Word Count), but for other content – like website text – there’s Word Count Plus.
To use it, just right click on the selected text and choose count words.
- PageZipper –> How many times have you encountered an article that spans to several pages? Some are so long that it can be turned into a book. Clicking “Next Page” once or twice is still bearable, but if the number goes into more than ten and you have to do it on so many articles, you’d better use PageZipper.
This add-on will combine all the next pages into one and saves you the click. (please note that not all webpages are compatible with this tool) But the usage goes beyond that: if you’ve archived the combined pages using Scrapbook and done a light editing with Scrapbook’s tool – like Highlighter, Annotation and DOM Eraser – you’ll have a tidy document ready to be printed. See here for T.J’s in-depth look at PageZipper.
- Toodledo –> This is the add-on version of the online service with the same name. I chose this one among tons of to-do list tools because this one can easily synchronize with iCal and GCal. It means that there’s no way that I can escape from all of my writing assignments.
Another reason is that adding a new task to Toodledo from Firefox is a snap, just hit Command + Option + A (Mac) or Control + Option + A (Windows/Linux) (or use the “Tools –> Toodledo –> Add task” menu). If you are curious, you can read more about Toodledo.
Evernote –> If there was no 40 MB limitation on the online storage, this extraordinary service would be my choice of the ultimate writing tool. I filled up Evernote’s limit in less than a week, while my Scrapbook size has already passed 100 MB size and still growing. But that doesn’t mean that I would waste all of the great features. Evernote is a great tool to add, edit and share notes (text, voice, pictures) from any devices that you have from wherever you are.
My sudden muses will never go down the toilet again, I just make quick notes with Evernote, and then manage them all at home – make copies to Scrapbook and delete the originals from Evernote.
All in all, these writing addons for Firefox are the nearest thing to a perfect writing suite for me. But each person has his/her own preferences, so my choices could be different from yours.
Share your favorite writing-related add-ons using the comments below. If you know of another tool that could replace these combinations, you are welcome to share.