Scrivener - $40
Scapple - $15
Aeon Timeline - $40
If you do a lot of writing, whether creatively, for a blog, for work, or for school, may I recommend purchasing the three programs listed above, all of which have free trial periods. I get no benefit from my recommendation. I do get the satisfaction that I may save you hundreds, no thousands, of hours in your life. They are that good. And totally worth the money.
Scrivener is produced by a company called Literature and Latte. The reason I say that anyone can use this is it has different modes for different types of writing - even academic. You have to use Chicago Style for your paper? It's in there. MLA? Yes. Novel format, Non-fiction, Blogging? All in there.
It takes a little while to learn all that the program can do, but there are You Tube videos that help with the learning curve.
I discovered just this morning another program that Literature and Latte produces. I was searching for a mind mapping program to help with my complex plot. Scapple is the name and mapping is it's game. It allows you to put all kinds of notes, color coded if you want, onto one big page that you can then move and draw lines between and otherwise have your way with them. It's very helpful for making sure your story lines intersect correctly and you don't have great big holes in the plot.
I can see this being useful for students who are trying to come up with ideas for a paper, writers mapping out plot and time lines, and event planners who need to have certain components come together at the right times.
As an example, here is this morning's play time with it so far:
There are notes and colors and moving them around is as simple as dragging them to where they are supposed to be. This was about 15 minutes worth of work and as you can see, quite easy to figure out. If I can do it, YOU can do it.
The third program is Aeon Timeline, a nifty way to put anything on a timeline - such as letters written from 1921 to 1951, so that you can track when they were written, by whom, and what other world events or personal events were going on at the time. This one is probably most helpful for writers who have time boundaries that their story follows. I would have loved using it for my school work many years ago.
I get excited when I find something that makes life easier, like the robot who sweeps my floors so I don't have to. Indirect help, but nonetheless useful. I also get excited when others share a tool, a technique, or a product that helps me in my word production. The above list is meant as that, an attempt to share something useful for those of us who write, or for anyone who puts words on a page for any reason. Check 'em out.