Updated: Sep 20
[NOTE: This post was originally written in October 2016. Some features or functionalities of the reviewed program may have changed since then.]
Welcome to Part 3 of my “Free Writing Software Review” series. (This series is a complement to my earlier post, “Free Scrivener Alternatives“.)
Without further ado…
The topic of today’s review is…Manuskript!
Let me start by saying that Manuskript was not the easiest program to install. It came as a zip file download, and I ran into some glitches with unzipping it and getting it to actually open. After messing around with it, I was eventually able to open the program, but then it would not let me create a new project (the program kept closing on me).
But, Manuskript does provide a pre-made sample file for use as a tutorial-of-sorts, so under the assumption that maybe the trouble creating a new project was due to my own error in how I unzipped and installed the program, I went ahead and opened the existing sample project – one about the Book of Acts – to test out the program’s functionalities.
Here’s what I found:
Manuskript has a good set of basic features. Left navigation lets you toggle between a general overview of your story, summaries, character descriptions, plot lines, world details, and outline view. It also includes a “Redaction” tab, which allows you to view either in index card format, outline format, or text.
To start, you must choose what type of writing you’re doing, first whether Fiction or Non-Fiction, and then selecting a sub-type within one of those categories. This is the first step to creating a project (and also the point where the program kept shutting down on me!).
Once a project is created (the images below are from their sample project), you have the ability to fill in “General” information about your project, including Title, Subtitle, Series, Volume, Genre, License info, and Author information. You can leave some areas blank if they don’t apply.
The left navigation menu basically functions as a step-by-step guide through creating your project, though you could do them in any order. I went from top to bottom, so the next on the list was “Summary,” which is a section that allows you to choose a summary length and to type your summary straight into the text field.
Next is the “Characters” tab, which walks you through planning out each character’s motivation, goal, conflict, epiphany, and so on. There are also tabs for summary, notes, etc.
Next on the list is “Plots.” This is actually a pretty neat section, as it allows you to differentiate between “Main,” “Secondary,” and “Minor” plots, and to tag which characters take place in each individual plot thread, as well as to rate that plot’s level of importance in your story. There is also a “Resolution steps” tab where you can add further information about how your plot line resolves.
Up next is “World,” which allows you to input Places, Cultures, and means of Travel (in this case, they input Road and Sea). You can write a description of the place in the text box, and under the “More” tab, you are given text boxes for “Source of passion” and “Source of Conflict.”
Under that is the “Outline” tab, which allows you to see all your chapters in linear order, and to visually check which sections are complete, and how the word counts for each section compare to your goals (complete with progress bars).
The “Redaction” tab allows you to choose whether to view “Text,” “Index Cards,” or “Outline.” If you select “Index Cards,” it shows a memo board. You can create notecards for chapter summaries, or input other thoughts or ideas if you wish.
On the right hand, there are tabs that open up “Cheat Sheet” (which allows you to search for parts of your notes and have them in the sidebar), “Search” (which allows you to search for specific words, POV, labels, etc., throughout your project), tabs that let you toggle on/off your “Navigation” and “Project Tree,” a “Metadata” tab that lets you tag a section’s POV, Status, or Label as well as input notes and see the date/time of previous revisions, and lastly, a “Storyline” tab, which lets you visually track the different plot lines within your project.
All your text can be written directly into the program, and you can see the chapters in their individual sections, or altogether in Redaction by selecting the “Text” button at the bottom.
I didn’t grab an image of this, but there is also a “Frequency Analyzer” under the Tools menu, which allows you to check the frequency of certain words or phrases within your project. It’s basically a fancy version of Microsoft Word’s “Find” feature, but still a useful thing to have, especially if you tend to repeat certain words or phrases. There is also a built-in dictionary and a spellcheck feature.
When your project is done, you can Compile as either HTML, Arborescence, or Open Document files. It says an ePub option is coming soon, but it’s not yet active.
Overall, I like the ability within Manuskript to immediately visualize how the characters tie into different sections, and to view plot lines and subplots easily. I also like that it shows a target word count for each section, along with a completion bar showing how many words are completed in comparison to the goal. I also like the ability to set the “importance” of a particular scene or character.
Manuskript is FREE! As long as the trouble I had creating a new project is an isolated glitch limited to just some user error on my part, I would say this could be a pretty useful program.
You can access Manuskript here: http://www.theologeek.ch/manuskript/.