When The Rolling Stones came up with “Mother’s Little Helper” in 1966, one of their better singles of the era, the controversy arose about what kind of a helper were they had in mind. Some radio stations even refused to play the song. Maybe the song hit the exact spot it wanted to hit.
As far as the writers and writing are concerned the helpers these days go beyond a set of well kept and annotated notebooks, scrapbooks, piles of dictionaries and books marked with the research needed.
With all the software aids available these days, things might seem simpler. But only just. First, you’ve got that Mac, Windows, Linux, Android compatibility thing, and some aids being not compatible between platforms. Here though, I get the impression that Mac users are in a bit of an advantage since almost all writers tools are compatible with the user's Macs, iPads, and iPhones. Certainly, as a Mac user, I might be biased and/or unknowledgeable, but I’ll stick to what I know.
The second restriction comes with the fact that, no matter how nice and useful certain writing, note-taking or info gathering application is, it never can fulfill exactly what you need in a manner you need it. All that means one thing - you need a few of these and often you need to use them simultaneously.
The research and info gathering applications are certainly easier to talk about since they are usually cross-platform oriented and can be used on most systems, including Android phones. That particularly concerns Evernote and Pocket.
Evernote is more widespread and certainly efficient. You can save practically any information you need with it. Text, image, video, whatever. But a few down points - it can be slow, in the application form it eats memory like crazy, and can be hard to navigate sometimes. It also has the strange need to always ask you whether you want to leave Evernote when you press a web link.
Pocket does more or less the same thing as Evernote but is quicker, much easier to navigate and has full integration with some known information aggregator sites.
The choice of specialist writing tools beyond standard text processors is much wider and start with the almost industry standard Scrivener, which has almost anything you need - form all the standard formatting elements to having all your chapters, excerpts, stories, whatever, immediately available as they are saved directly in the app itself. Of course, the more input you make, the longer it takes for the application to open, the more memory it will eat even before the electronic breakfast starts.
Two smaller apps are following in the Scrivener’s footsteps on the Mac, and that is Bear and Ulysses. Both save all your work in the app, but are neither as large as Scrivener, meaning they are much faster in their operation. Bear’s problem is that it just piles the parts, and sections one after another, while Ulysses has a nice sorting and arranging capabilities. While Bear has no instructions, whatsoever, and is sometimes hard to integrate with a personal blog, for example, Ulysses has a direct integration with pdf creating applications sites like Medium and it does have instructions. But those instructions are a bit confusing, maybe having to do with the fact that the pre-formatting itself is not easy itself.
As far as just the pure notetaking on Mac is concerned the simply named Notebook program is noteworthy. It sorts all your notes in different notebooks and those notebooks in separate pages, all reachable directly from the application itself and can also perform most of the functions Evernote and Pocket do, but can also be a memory eater.
Of course, that is just a brief overview with a Mac accent, and if anything is still missing, you can always play that Stones song.
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