I used to use PageFour for my writing projects, a very nice piece of software that worked very well, although I did switch to Scrivener subsequently as it had more features that I liked. I have always kept an eye on the creators, Bad Wolf Software , just in case they came up with something interesting. A few weeks ago I noticed that they’d released a new product called SmartEdit.
Writing typically consists of two distinct phases. The first one is the creative part, where the words, scenes, plot and dialog are put together and the second is editing where the rough draft is polished and reworked in to something of a publishable quality. Most writers’ tools focus on the first part of this process; SmartEdit is one of the few that focuses on the second part.
Downloading the demo was quick and installation painless. Once done I ran it against some of my pieces and was amazed to see just how much it highlighted.
You could think of SmartEdit as your usual spelling and grammar checker on steroids and it’s very easy to use. First, import your work, then run the checks. The software highlights potential problems inline and you can edit them directly or use it as a reference for your main writing software (that’s how I work using Scrivener).
The results are outstanding and provide the following lists for you to check for common errors:
- Repeated Phrases
- Repeated Words
- Often Misused Words
- Profanity/Swear Words
- Sentence Length
- Cliché Use
- Dialog Tags
- Proper Nouns
- Sentence starts
- Suspect Punctuation
Plus you can define your own monitored words to look for and also foreign words. This is achieved by entering custom lists of words that can then be included in the normal checks.
Here’s a couple of screenshots of the results from one of my own pieces:
The amount of time that SmartEdit can save is quite remarkable. My own process is now write, paper edit, SmartEdit followed by any other further electronic edits I feel are necessary. Even when I’ve tested the software on works I’ve previously edited thoroughly it’s picked up on things I have missed. I also feel that it allows you to worry less about your writing up front (that pesky internal censor!) and focus more on getting the words down – an added benefit I wouldn’t have anticipated.
At times SmartEdit can seem a little “obsessive”. In this case that’s a good thing; you have to provide the real “smarts” on what you feel is acceptable or not. As the developers say, SmartEdit is a guide, not a full solution. There are times when I disagree with it, but they are infrequent. Ultimately it’s a tool and as with all tools, it can only help you, it can’t do the job for you.
Improvements? The software seems to be updated frequently and a new update was issued just a few weeks ago that vastly improved the “Misused Words” functionality. I would love to see a version that was embedded directly in Scrivener, though that is probably impossible as Scrivener doesn’t have any kind of plug-in support (a limitation of Scrivener and a serious one in my mind). Bad Wolf Software has a tradition of not adding confusing and unnecessary gimmicks to their software and this makes their products a delight to use. I hope they continue with this in future.
All in all SmartEdit is easy to use, extremely useful, saves time and can help strengthen your writing. That’s a pretty good return for $49.95.