Writer's Cafe is slick, cross-platform software for all writers

Writer's Cafe is slick, cross-platform software for all writers

Summary: I stumbled across a link to Writer's Cafe yesterday and just finished installing it on my laptop (64-bit Kubuntu). I installed it on an XP box, too, for comparison.


I stumbled across a link to Writer's Cafe yesterday and just finished installing it on my laptop (64-bit Kubuntu). I installed it on an XP box, too, for comparison. It looks basically identical on both platforms and also has Mac and PocketPC ports. This cross-platform application brings together several tools for writers to develop, organize, brainstorm, and otherwise compose their work. While it is primarily directed at creative writing pursuits, especially lengthier stories, a bit of exploration made it very clear that this would be a great classroom tool for research papers, essays, journaling, etc. Toss it on those Eee's and Classmates floating about and you have a very useful tool.

According to the Writer's Cafe website,

Writer's Café is a software toolkit for all fiction writers, whether experienced or just starting out. The heart of Writer's Café is StoryLines, a powerful but simple to use story development tool that dramatically accelerates the creation and structuring of your novel or screenplay.

Designed by published novelist Harriet Smart, it also includes a notebook, journal, research organiser, inspirational quotations, writing exercises, and a 60-page e-book, "Fiction: The Facts", distilling 20 years of writing experience.

Writer's Café is designed to be a playground for the imagination, making writing fiction fun and fulfilling.

The software organizes your writing materials into "scrapbooks", "notebooks," and a journal, as well as a very user-friendly storyline creation tool. The latter allows the author to create virtual notecards and drag and drop them around sequentially and between up to three separate storylines. Since the content of the notecards is very flexible, it's easy to see how these could be applied to a research paper just as easily as it could to the next great American novel. Even the standard five-paragraph essay could be organized according to main ideas and supporting details. Once ideas and content are organized on the timelines, they can be exported to HTML, OpenOffice, or text files, creating a single document with the contents of the notecards organized according to the timelines.

Similarly, the scrapbooks can contain text, web links, and images, and can be organized into folders. The journal is chronological and allows daily thoughts, freewriting, or whatever students, teachers, or writers might want. Finally, multiple notebooks can be opened in a separate tab for less organized note-taking or even basic word processing. Writer's Cafe certainly doesn't attempt to be a desktop publishing tool. However, it provides a number of tools that help students and writers organize their thoughts, notes, ideas, brainstorms, and plans as they assemble whatever document they ultimately want to create. Writer's Cafe is a graphic organizer on steroids with a healthy dose of sticky notes, all in a well-organized GUI.

English teachers (and anyone else who might be assigning lengthy written work), download it and give it a shot. It's free and it's now my repository of choice for all of my writing ideas.

Topics: Laptops, CXO, Mobility, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • How fast is it?

    When I see the words "cross-platform software" I immediately think "slower than snot Java". But I'm noticing it's not Java, but wxWidgets. So how fast is it on the platforms you've tried, and how buggy is the software? I ask about bugginess because the one or two wxGTK programs I've tried would crash at random times, but that could have been a programmer's issue and not a toolset issue.
    Michael Kelly
    • Plenty quick and no crashes at all

      I haven't used it extensively yet in Windows, although I just installed it on our terminal servers and pointed our English department to it.

      Under Linux, it's been quick and painless - very responsive. The only problem I encountered had to do with root access/permissions. I'm sure there's a more elegant solution, but for now, I'm just launching it as root (sudo) and all is well. No such issues on the Windows side and it seems to handle multiple users on the Terminal servers well, too. Haven't really stress tested it on the servers, though.

      Anyone out there tried it on a Mac?

  • RE: Writer's Cafe is slick, cross-platform software for all writers

    Thanks, Chris. This sounds like a really good, well-conceived idea. I'm going to check it out right now.
  • Good For Mindmapping & Marketing, Too!

    Thanks Chris for bringing this to our attention. I'm a private tutor and internet mrketing consultant and I believe Writer's Cafe can be used for more than just Fiction writing.

    I see it as being helpful when writing ANY article or series of articles, an ebook, or when developing a website. It may even be useful when brainstorming new ideas for a client, or lesson plans for an online or offline class or tutoring session.

    Perhaps other mindmapping software tools are more comprehensive, but they can be a couple hundred dollars. This could serve as a good starter kit.

    I can be reached for further discussion at: http://www.CaliforniaJerry.com/zdnet
  • RE: Writer's Cafe is slick, cross-platform software for all writers

    I have reason not to trust WritersCafe.

    I tested the Linux version recently. I noticed that every time I started the application it would display an error message to the effect that it was unable to access a certain directory. That directory is a directory to which it has no right attempting to access, and which as it happens I had made unreadable and unviewable, which is why when it attempts to view the contents of the directory it generates an error.

    The point is it seems that WriteresCafe scans your entire home directory (at least on Linux, what it does on Windows is any one's guess). And I can see no good reason for a desktop application to scan my home directory.
    tracy anne
    • Clarification


      As I explained in our private correspondence, when Writer's Cafe starts up it searches for MIME types that map file types to applications. This helps it to launch applications such as a PDF reader when the user wishes to edit or view a document. Writer's Cafe searches the places that the desktop software (KDE or Gnome) would search, and not the entire home directory. The particular directory W.C. had trouble reading (due to insufficient permissions) was a directory containing .desktop files which W.C. looks at for MIME types.

      I hope that clears up the matter - W.C. is definitely not scanning arbitrary directories! I'm sorry the warning message made it look that way.


      Julian Smart
      Anthemion Software
  • Not free

    This is not free - 45$us or 34 $us for student download.
    • It is free for the Mac version

      Until the 2.x version is released.

      Slick package and multi-platform is a big plus. Well worth the purchase for anyone doing any type of writing. I have been trying to find something that lets me organise and file my writing projects and this package seems to fit the bill perfectly.

      Thanks for the find of the year (for me, anyway).
  • Reminds me

    of using Flow (on the Amiga) for similar purposes back in the day.....

    Of course, outline software is probably not QUITE so comprehensive (!) but the basic ideas have always been an excellent way to organize and enhance writing, or even to track projects! I even wrote a few programs that way - finally expanding it into actual code just before assembly.... :)

    Sounds like a winner...

    Oh - and your permissions problem can probably be fixed by assigning its own directory to yourself, instead of root....
  • RE: Writer's Cafe is slick, cross-platform software for all writers

    From: M. Goodold 12/17/07
    About: Writer's Cafe

    I have been using the free download version, and I still have not figured out how the two pieces of Writer's Cafe, and Storylines work together.
    One reason I have not purchased the full version yet is that the MS OS saves the work wherever it chooses, and not all in one neat place like the Macintosh would.
    You have a great product. If I get my Macintosh for Christmas I'll buy that version of your wonderful, feature filled product.
    Thank you for allowing me to get acquainted with Writer's Cafe.
    Happy Holidays ...

    Sincerely, Mike Goodold
    < goodsimac@post.com > USA