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.