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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Without Word: Free Online Tools For Writers

I'm just starting a new gig for a writing website. (Sneak preview is available here.) While I was checking over my articles, I noticed that some strange characters had appeared in the text. I knew immediately that the error came from Microsoft Word. Word is one of the best of Microsoft's programs, but all its functionality relies on special codes which usually mess up your formatting. (Don't, whatever you do, write and upload HTML pages from Word. Your code will be messy and will break in some browsers.) I've known this for a long time, which is why I usually use Notepad or Wordpad to write my articles. However, both these programs have two major failings: no spell-check and no word count.

Now, wordcount is the most useful tool in Word, IMHO, because writers, editors and publishers always need to know how long a piece of writing is. What I normally do to avoid the problems caused by Word is compose in Notepad or Wordpad, paste into Word to spellcheck and count the words, and paste back into Wordpad or Notepad. As I found out today, that doesn't work quite as well as I thought it did.

Instead of tearing my hair out, I got on the net and found two tools that appear to solve the problem. A free online spellcheck is available from spellcheck.net and a free online word counter can be found at allworldphone.com.

I can't make any grand claims about these two services, as I've used them only once each, but they did what I needed at the time. And I'm sure there won't be any strange characters in my next batch of articles.

And by the way, if you want a program that saves in rich text format automatically (no funny characters), and has a built in spellcheck and word count, you could do worse than Jarte. And it's free, too!

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