Atomic Scribbler is a month old. Over the past few weeks there’s been a lot of feedback, a lot of downloads, NOT a lot of activity on the forums, and a number of sales. I’ve pushed some minor releases containing bug fixes and small changes and answered a lot of questions, all while I was busy working on the next version.
Version 2 was released today. It contains major additions to Atomic Scribbler, in particular a Research tree where you can store notes, files, images, character information and bookmarks to websites. This release also contains a new Search facility that allows you to find anything in your project.
These are big improvements and go a long way to turning Atomic Scribbler into the professional creative writing application I intend it to be. How was it I was able to deliver version 2 so quickly?
The short answer is I planned it this way. The longer answer involves a little understanding of how software is developed. For most users, the software is what you see in front of you, the screens and controls you click on or type into. More technically aware users will know that what you see on the surface is only a small fraction of the software — that much if not most of the work and heavy lifting happens below the surface, out of sight.
Think of Atomic Scribbler as an iceberg — the user interface is the bit above the surface, while below lurks the meat of the software.
When I released version 1 back in September I knew exactly what would be going into version 2 and had already built the “below the surface” components to handle what was coming. Over the past few weeks, as emails went out to PageFour and SmartEdit users, I was busy bolting on the user interface elements for the new features. The work proceeded quickly as it built on frameworks and functionality already in place. There was nothing new to be worked out, no technical challenges to slow things down.
The result is the new Research tree, the global search facility, as well as a number of smaller additions, improvements and changes.
How does version 2 fit into the roadmap for Atomic Scribbler?
The big additions to version 2 were originally planned for version 1, but by September the clock was ticking on my release date and I choose to go live without them. The Research tree is a core part of Atomic Scribbler. Version 1 is a functional, usable product that many PageFour users would find familiar. Version 2 adds an extra dimension that makes Atomic Scribbler far more than a simple tabbed word processor. It hammers home the concept of a stand-alone “project” in place of a simple document, allowing you to gather together all the bits and pieces of information that you build up while researching and working on a novel: old Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, pdfs, images of characters and locations, links to web pages that might be of use.
It makes it easy to control and work on all aspects of your novel from within a single application. While writing a scene you can jump to the Research tree and open an image from your “Characters” folder, or quickly reference a web page you bookmarked inside a “Locations” folder. Everything is close together, at your fingertips, and tied to the project you’re working on.
The Research tree is the key feature that makes Atomic Scribbler a fully productive environment for first-draft planning, research and writing. Yes, there’s more to do — a lot more, but Version 2 makes Atomic ready for professional use.
Will version 3 be out next month?
While the Research tree is rich in functionality, there are a number of associated elements that need work — polishing and fine tuning you might call it, but important none-the-less. My plan over the next couple of months is to work on smaller improvements rather than large additions.
For example: the section to the right of the word processor that currently contains notes will be expanded, with the ability to display images from the Research tree inside Atomic Scribbler rather than opening them in outside image viewers. This will allow you to work on a scene and have scene notes and an image open in the right section, visible while you work. Also in the right section, meta data about each scene, note, folder, image that is already being gathered will be displayed.
I’m planning to add new functionality around Characters — building up character information, defining primary and secondary characters and such. However, I’m still on the fence as to how best to implement this in the user interface, and would like to see how the Research tree is used by users in the real world before proceeding. When a new project is created a Characters folder is automatically added to the Research tree. A richer Character section in Atomic Scribbler will form the core of Version 3, but how I build this depends on feedback over the next few months — so, please do provide feedback on the new Research tree and on what you would like to be able to do around characters.
Regarding feedback — the forum is the best place to do this as it allows other users to read and comment on your suggestions. You can quickly log into the forum using your Google account, so you don’t need to remember any username or password.