A writing tool is software that helps people to write. Such tools are very popular in school teaching. One of the reasons may be that they empower teachers, i.e. allows them to orchestrate scenarios of their own design that engage learners with the computer, as opposed to learning through the computer.
In education, they can be considered as a kind of cognitive tool. See also: professionnal software since some writing tools have been made for and are used by real writers.
There are many kinds of tools.
- Any kind of word processor, e..g Microsoft Word (or a better tool like Adobe Framemaker).
- On-line word processors like Google Docs or Zoho Writer
- Paper of various sorts
- Structured word processors, e.g. XML editors
- Outlining tools
- Concept organisation, see: Concept maps
- On-line collaborative writing tools (such as Wikis or CMS or through-the-web editing/storing/sharing à la Zoho/Google apps)
- Various paper tools and that very popular in classroom teaching (e.g. )
- Any sort of authoring environment, in particular ones that are good for digital storytelling.
Such tools can either be for individual use, for group use (e.g. integrated in a groupware application) or based on social computing, e.g. several social software includes note taking tools.
3 Effects of writing tools on writing processes
3.1 Technological writing tools
Computer supported writing tools provide rich possibilities to enhance written communication.
A review by Ulusoy (2006) outlines some specific effects computer-supported writing environments can have on the writing process.
- pre-writing and planning processes through the use of outlines, concept maps, CSCL, computer-supported collaborative writing
- provide prompts and context-specific help throughout the writing process
- text production may be enhanced by the ability to engage in non-linear note-taking and freeflow text production
- simplification of the revision process through word-processing functions (spell checking, dictionaries, text editing), and prompts.
Haas (1998) found that those writing with a computerized workstation wrote longer, spent less time planning, generated more text, but at a similar rate as writers using pen and paper. They also spent more time revising and attending to the medium than writers using pen and paper
3.2 Planning tools
It is believed that experienced writers are better able to effectively engage in planning their texts and this difference leads to better texts (Bereiter and Scardamalia 1987, Flower & Hayes 1980, Haas 1989), though some studies fail to show a connection between the planning methods and the quality of the text produced (Haas 1989, Isnard & Piolat 1993).
Haas used homogeneously experienced writers whose goal was to produce a quality persuasive text, not to learn about argumentation or about a a particular topic. Paper and pen may particularly favour experienced writers who are topic experts and do not need to search for ideas or engage in any knowledge constituting processes as they can move straight to planning with no need to develop ideas further through the text-generating part of the writing process. The order in which planning, text generation, structuring and revision processes occur during the writing process may vary for writers with different experience and learning styles (see Writing-to-learn. More planning may lead to better texts but not necessarily more learning, assumingif the purpose of the argumentation is to learn rather than simply a writing exercise of skills already developed. If trying to teach argumentation skills through writing then the idea generating activity of freeflow text encouraged by computer-supported argumentation tools is important. Planning can be done at any stage in the writing, catering to many learning styles.
The tool used in planning and writing can, however, influence the occurrence of the different writing processes. Isnard & Piolat (1993) found that types of planning can influence the number of ideas generated and the overal structural quality of a written text. Outlining during idea-organization phases resulted in more new ideas being generated than when ideas were organized using a freeflow form or a graphic organizational mode (e.g.: chart, graph, concept map)
Important notice: The initial author of this page (DSchneider) did not test any of these.
4.1 Collaborative writing systems
There are dozens of systems, but probably not many of them in use on a large scale.
- wikis are becoming quite popular
- For other systems, see collective writing
- Knowledge forum
4.2 Outlining and draft building
- Any outlining mode in word processors
- Draft Builder helps your students develop a strategic approach to planning, organizing and draft-writing.
4.3 Tools for specific genres
See also idea managers (there is quite a lot of overlap)
- Story writing
- WriteThis. The tool generates writing exercises, based on a set of keywords and criteria. It can generate characters, locations, items and special rules, and you - the writer - have a specified number of minutes to combine these things into a story.
- QuickStory 5 (A free version is QuickPlot ) ?
- Writer's Café is a set of tools for fiction writing. The heart of Writer's Café is StoryLines, a story development tool that accelerates the creation and structuring of your novel or screenplay. Also includes other tools such as a notebook, research organiser, etc.
Comprehensive, easy-to-use software for every fiction writer. Try it now!
Built for Windows Built for Mac Built for Linux Everything you need to write fiction
- Resume/CV writing
- e.g. Resume Builder
- Wordprocessing for writers
- RoughDraft has features specifically designed for creative writing: novels, short stories, articles, plays and screenplays.
- yWriter, Story writing software (by Simon Haynes, free)
- Argumentation and dialog
- Scholarly writing
- Collaborative writing and documentation
- Google Docs for educators - online collaborative document creation and sharing
- ThinkFree - online collaborative document creation and sharing
- Storyboarding software for films and games
- See storyboarding
- Digital story telling tools
telling stories with any of a variety of available multimedia tools, including graphics, audio, video animation, and Web publishing. Recent web 2.0 software like webtops may turn out to be repurposed for this.
4.4 Note taking tools
See note taking for conceptual issues and specialized software.
4.5 Concept maps
Sometimes guidelines for writing are also called tools, e.g.:
- Online Technical Writing
- Fifty (50!) Tools which can help you in Writing
- Word and the Writing process (good advice for using MS Word ... also useful for people who prefer - like DSchneider - other software)
4.7 General links
e.g. indexes of writing tools
- Bereiter C., Scardamalia, M. (1987) An Attainable Version of High Literacy: Approaches to Teaching Higher-Order Skills in Reading and Writing. Curriculum Inquiry. Vol. 17. No. 1. pp. 9-30.
- Flower, L. S. and Hayes, J. R. (1980) The cognition of discovery: defining a rhetorical problem. College Composition and Communication, Vol. 31. pp. 21-32.
- Haas, C. (1989) Does the Medium Make a Difference? Two Studies of Writing With Pen and Paper and With Computers. HCI, 1989, Volume 4, pp. 149-169
- Isnard, N., Piolat, A. (1993) The effects of different types of planning on the writing of argumentative text. Centre for Research in Psychology of Cognition, Language and Emotion. University of Provence, Aix en Provence. Accessed June 20, 2005 at pdf
- Mustafa Ulusoy, (2006). The Role of Computers in the Writing Process. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology - TOJET October 2006, Volume 5, Issue 4, Article 8