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I hate to say it, but "Styles"!


#1

I just wrote a brief instruction manual for someone, and while setting up a few headings and numbered lists, I realized it’s going to be very inconvenient not to have at least a handful of rudimentary style definitions. I don’t know if that’s already planned, but I appreciate the minimalist design philosophy a lot, and I certainly don’t want AS to veer off into being just another word processor. Nevertheless, organizing my writing, managing ideas, displaying structural elements, etc., all benefit tremendously from some simple visual styling.

So I’m hoping you are planning for document-level styles in the future of AS. I’d be happy to provide more specifics on what I would consider ideal (minimalistically!) in such a feature set, but I thought I should first find out if styles are even in the cards.

Thanks,

Allen


#2

I second that motion.

As an antique with vision problems my preferred typeface is Times New Roman against a light grey background, an absurdly large font size, and paragraph formatting to pretty well industry standard. no indent, and an extra space between paragraphs.

That’s it for the main text, and other sections are formatted are the same. for easy porting from place to place.

I just want to make this the default for all new documents.

How do I do that?


#3

Allen, I hate to point this out to you, but please go back to the introduction of AS on its website. At one point Darren points out the he wrote the software for himself and his own writing style.

What’s even more important is the passage where he says that AS is a software for fiction writers and clearly points out that AS is NOT meant for anything else.

So, you shouldn’t expect to have Word features in AS. It’s not meant for instruction manuals which cries for MS Word, FrameMaker, or Indesign anyway.

Those who want to to write academic style or technical manuals should reach for the appropriate tools, and not for a software that’s designed for novelists.


#4

Yes, I’m aware of the novel / fiction / narrative focus of this app. And I appreciate that orientation very much, which is why I’m working with it.

But as a fiction writer, I make good use of a small amount of formatting. Supporting a few rudimentary styles isn’t even vaguely comparable to Word or InDesign functionality. Darren has already acknowledged that the novel I’m currently working on is larger than his own current AS projects, and my attempts to use AS in that project has brought to light a few important features that are quite useful – even essential – for long fiction.

Fiction takes many forms, and it’s not unusual to require some structure within a “scene”. I’d be quite happy with 3-4 definable styles, which is not a major departure from the current structure and capability of the program. And it’s a very far cry from the hierarchical style-sheet functionality of a full-blown word processor – I don’t want or need that in AS.

But I do need to be able to quickly and easily italicize paragraphs among normal paragraphs, create a few headings, and allow certain characters to be temporarily set apart from the rest of the text. This is done with formatting, with leading or paragraph spacing, with font changes, etc. And none of that is practical without being able to do it with a very few keystrokes or clicks. Styles are the obvious solution to those needs.

As a writer with decades of experience on dozens of word processing platforms, I’m well aware of many appropriate tools for different kinds of writing. It’s pretty obvious that AS is intended for “straight text”, whether fiction or essays or whatever a writer finds it appropriate for. It’s in an early stage of evolution, and I have already adopted it with delight for my fiction work. As a result, I’ve encountered various suggested features that would make it more useful to that end.

I appreciate your well-meaning attempt to protect Darren from these particular suggestions, but I much prefer to let Darren inform me of the scope of his planning. There’s not much benefit to me, to readers of this forum, or to Darren, in summarily dismissing a fiction-writer’s suggestion as being something I should have known this tool “is NOT meant for”. This particular suggestion came to light while writing non-fiction – mea culpa! My purpose in posting it, however, was to facilitate my own needs for writing novels and long stories.

Thanks,

Allen


#5

@Darren – To get a little more specific about Styles in AS:

There are many other ways to approach this, but what I imagine would be compatible with the look and feel of AS and also extremely useful for me would be a row of buttons on the Word Processor tab, perhaps called S1 through S4 (S6? a few more would be OK). These same commands would appear in the context menu of a Scene or a Note. By Alt-Click or Double-Click (or whatever), one could assign font and paragraph properties to any button, and then apply those settings with a single click, or a single choice from the context menu.

That would fulfill my need for Styles quite elegantly, and barely extends the style management already in use for default Scene and Note settings.

One additional functionality, however, does add some engineering (internally tagging a paragraph with its assigned style) – making these styles global to the document. While bringing existing work into AS, I have spent a lot of time conforming the text to the current default Scene paragraph style settings. Many times I’ve dearly wished for a command to “reset entire Scene to default style.” It’s only an issue while importing and conforming old material into a new AS project, but it can be a lot of work with hundreds of pages of text. And rough draft novels easily run to several hundred pages. This style conversion could be done without having to tag paragraphs internally, but there are some fairly common scenario in my work flow that call for temporary highlighting of numerous discontiguous blocks of text:

Ex. 1 – Highlight all of a character’s “internal thoughts” by italicizing them. Later, perhaps, elect to put “thoughts” inside square brackets, and remove the italics.

Ex. 2 – Dozens of chapters begin with a quotation centered between wide margins in a large font. It’s helpful to see these quotes in context.

Ex. 3 – Throughout hundreds of pages, scores of paragraphs require revision. Highlight them, and then revert to “body style” when revised.

Ex. 4 – Scrolling through long passages, certain blocks of text are connected by continuity factors (place, time, sequence, weather, characters present, etc.). One must repeatedly scroll back and forth through the ms to review continuity in these areas. Making them stand out in some way is extremely helpful.

Ex. 5 – Color coding certain aspects of a character, or certain characters, or locations, or settings, or events, or any number of different aspects of story structure can go a long way to maintaining control of a complex plot. For this reason, a few more Style buttons would be preferable to a few less . . .

These are some of the reasons I use Styles in fiction. There are many others. If a simple set of global (tagged) styles can be implemented, their usefulness extends quite far beyond the usual “word processing” uses. For example, if I’ve assigned a style to a character while reviewing her role in the story, I can then change the style to match Body style, and the highlighting goes away. But I can still find every one of those locations again if the Search function allows me to specify one of the 6-8 Styles. (Whoops! My request crept up to 8.) In fact, thinking long-term, a simple Style / Tag system could be endlessly useful for keeping track of a lot of things in fiction that’s complicated.

If all this overshoots the intended scope of AS, then so be it. These are still needs that I have for managing the development of stories and novels, and I think they’re worth considering for this or some other app.

Thanks,

Allen


#6

Thanks for the suggestions Allen. I was on the fence about styles for some time. Implementing them would not be that difficult, but it was always a question of how far I should be going in that regard. Truth is I still haven’t fully decided. I want Atomic Scribbler to remain a first draft tool, not a manuscript preparation tool — reason being, if it claims to be a full manuscript preparation tool then a raft of little used Word functionality would need to be added and maintained. An order of magnitude of complexity for what I imagine would be a small proportion of users.

I probably will be adding some styles down the road, but it won’t be before the next major release, and I want to see and hear how more users are using the software first.

Your other suggestion regarding applying the default style to a scene is a good one — an interim measure that could be useful for a lot of users I think.


#7

The default paragraph formatting and font size you’re looking for can already be achieved via the latest version changes on the Settings dialog. An option to change the background colour of the word processor is not yet available. Something in this space is on the cards, but I’m not sure how far I’ll go yet with the customisation.


#8

Thanks – being able to “re-default” a scene would be very helpful. I’d find it even more helpful if I could ALSO apply the default (which I might have changed recently) to an ENTIRE project.

One useful (for me) work-around that this would accomplish is that I could start a very rough scene with ad hoc style settings, and then when it’s more polished, “revert” that scene to the default style.

Thanks,

Allen


#9

Hi Darren and ATC. Just posted how much I love Atomic with SmartEdit in another post. In going back to read this post I find that I agree with just about everything ATC is asking for Darren. But I also, as ATC admits, don’t want Atomic to get bloated with features.
I like the idea of several (six or so sounds not too overwhelming) buttons for styling or marking paragraphs or other bits for future editing or following a complex storyline such as a character’s timeline or the unfolding of a mystery through the story, or just especially poorly written bits that you know you’ll have to go back to re-write later they are so bad, and you know it even as you write it. Lots of those sometimes.
But - I have another program that overdoes this to the point of confusion and it can exhaust the writer from too many ways to track too many story features. So I agree also that there is a balance to be achieved here.
If in doubt, less is best.
I am perfectly happy to have Atomic stay as it is, but if the future has simple styling features as ATC describes them, I’d be happy too.
Such a great program! Added SmartEdit 3.31 today.


#10

I’ll add your vote to the styles sheet.

It’s something that might find its way into Atomic, but not in the next couple of releases.


#11

I would also find the use of the styles functionality as described here worthwhile.

But, please somehow keep it simple and easy to use, if you decide to add it later. :grinning:


#12

I also agree with ATC on having the ability to create a style.

I’ve just downloaded the latest version of Atomic Scribbler and the first thing I looked for was Styles. I formatted the paragraphs just fine, but when my characters text each other I have a style created for that. Does this mean that I will have to format this in Word and re-import it back into AS?


#13

You won’t be able to use styles defined in Word in Atomic. After you import, the formatting of the style is maintained, but the style itself won’t exist in Atomic, so you won’t be able to use it later as you work inside Atomic.

There’s no easy way or work-around when it comes to styles in Atomic Scribbler yet.


#14

Styles: a little set (h1… h6+quote+pre) could be really useful.
Mainly as part of the outlining process: it is necessary to highlight Tiltles of different levels when preparing the skeleton of a text.


#15

Yes, just a limited set. But perhaps with one additional wrinkle:

(optionally) Pre-set default selections (from this set) could be assigned for each indent level in the Document Tree.

This would allow for a very visible structure. A level in the tree could even be used as a title or intro for the next section below, reducing the need for special heading styles.

This simple approach to formatting was used in Lotus Manuscript, a brilliant but simple document development tool before Windows. Although it disappeared when WYSIWYG editing appeared, the concept was elegant and amazingly powerful.


#16

This is one of those cases where my own writing style and that of other users conflict – in that I don’t use styles myself. But… it does keep coming back so I’ll probbaly have to look at some form of basic styles soon.


#17

Might I throw an idea into the pot and see if it saves the sauce …A bar of MACRO buttons. Conquers many needs, although it takes setting up.

Stay with me. A row of buttons M1, M2, M3, M4 to whatever seems appropriate. Then Maybe a Record and Clear button, each being a drop-down menu of the M buttons. Record is ALWAYS triggered by a menu click or a keyboard press. The macro record ends a repeat press of the record button, dropping down the m menu … maybe with unfilled emboldened, and the user clicks the choice and you have a SESSION macro (and yeah, once you’ve tumbled down a tile or two of the roof … saving those macros will be the next request).

THIS SOLVES the styles problem to a certain degree. It opens other uses. It’s a half-step towards that middle point betwixt Darren’s sensibilities and the GROWING mass of users. Cries for solutions found elsewhere are ONLY GOING TO EXPAND. At some point, an add-ons interface might very well be inevitable, letting the rabble-rousers resolve their own unique niche needs. But until then, Macros in a visible way SEEMS TO ME TO MAKE SENSE (oh, and only show the buttons atop the text column when it is visible).

And yeah, I have a writing project … a manual for my own systems software at my company, that I started and pulled up on when I realized just how format-intensive it’s going to be. So, I would benefit, like most of the rest, Darren. So this is a selfish idea.

GM


#18

GM - It’s a great idea. I ended up implemementing macros in almost every app I wrote. I found it to be so convenient for feature expansion and management that the macro system itself was a fairly compact extension of an internal interpreter that handled all the repetitive internal tasks.

The two most obvious approaches are (1) keystroke recording, and (2) exposing the internal interpreter (aka jump-table). I have no idea what approach might be fun for Darren, or when it might fit – if ever – into the roadmap.

Although the initial scenario you’re suggesting would handle manual formatting, it wouldn’t be likely to help much with the automatic formatting – if format-by-indent-level were to be done. This is what would really help me with output. But for writing, being able to visually set off parts of the content would be the most useful – and that’s manual, pretty much. (I’d soon need to be able to revert a chunk (scene?) to “scene default”, etc.)

It’s tremendously helpful to be able to highlight rough sections, unfinished sections, certain characters, etc. And all this would be very much in keeping with the SmartEdit tools. Imagine if you could have SmartEdit change the font or color or whatever for all the checked text in a SmartEdit tool result list. Then, as you rewrite and polish, previously found areas of interest would be readily apparent. So “styles” aren’t just a structural tool – they’re a procedural tool as well.

I realize I’m slipping down a famous slope here… But anyway, thanks for your suggestions. It’s worth exploring, even if feature-creep has to be stomped out before it ruins an elegantly simple app!

Allen


#19

Gary, that sound nice in general, but yes… it is a selfish idea. The initial thought of AS is a writing tool for fiction writers. Of course, non-fiction writers can use it as well to some extent. It just depends how far they need to push their project.

However, this is an overkill for us fiction writers. The final manuscript need to be formatted in a special way afterwards anyway. Just think about Amazon Kindle or Smashwords for example. Their formatting has strict rules and settings, that are usually done with Word outside AS. Same goes for the Jutoh book compiler.

So for writing the [fiction] story, there is no need for macros. So much for Indies. Even those who try to pitch their manuscript to an agent have to keep a certain setup of font, font size, and line spacing, in order to be even looked at.

I don’t know whether Darren does it, but a complete macro bar defies the ‘keep it simple’ idea for us fiction writers. If—and only if—a macro bar will be implemented, then there need to be an option to either show or hide the bar.

Hans


#20

I know I don’t care about Macros all that much, or even styles all that much. It would be kind of nice to be able to build, say, a character template, or a world-building template, that I could apply to a new note and then just fill in the blanks. But even that isn’t a BIG deal in my mind.