Friday, March 2, 2012

Cool Free Tools for Authors

Please welcome Karen Baney as our guest blogger today.

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’m a bit of a techno geek, so when I learn about new technology tools, I like playing with them.  Here are a few that I like.

Regardless of what type of book you are writing, Evernote is a great tool to help you organize your research and notes for your book.  You can capture images, sound bites, emails, info from websites, or just plain old type a note into Evernote.  They allow you to organize notes in different notebooks and add tags to notes to help you find information easier.

One of my favorite features (other than it’s free!) is that Evernote is accessible by the web, on your computer, or through a smart phone app.  I find this particularly helpful when I’m on a research trip.  If I want to take a picture of a WWII plane in a museum so I can refer back to it when I am writing a WWII novel, all I have to do is open up the app and snap the picture.  I can add more details later from my computer or I can type them in while I’m in the museum.

Dropbox is a great tool for storing all of your documents in one convenient place that can be accessed on the web, on your computer, or even from a smart phone app (though you can’t edit documents on the smart phone app without installing another app).  You can also share folders which is great if you are co-authoring a book.  You and your writing partner can store all of your research materials, notes, and the manuscript in a shared folder that only the two of you can access.

I particularly like Dropbox for a few reasons.  First, I can access my manuscript from any computer.  I have the desktop client (the software to run it on my computer) loaded on both my laptop and desktop computers.  But, even if I wasn’t on one of those computers, I could still access it from the web.

I also like the versioning and auto sync features.  This has saved my bacon a few times when I did something silly like accidentally deleting chapter 20 of my manuscript.  All I had to do to recover it was go into the web version and look at the version history.  It was easy to recover it.  One time, I decided I hated how I revised a chapter and wanted to start over.  I was able to get the previous version from Dropbox and start over without having to find a backed up copy on my computer.

Google Apps offers a free version of their suite of cloud based (that just means it’s online) applications.  Some of the key apps include:  email, calendar, sites, and docs.

I use Google Apps so I can have email accounts using my domain name (i.e.  This helps me maintain a professional and branded image in my email communications.  If you’ve ever used Gmail, it works the same way, but you get to use your domain name.  The free version allows you to set up 10 accounts.

I also like using the calendar feature.  It helps me stay organized with all of my guest appearances, blog posts, promotions, etc.  At a glance, I can see what is going on for my day, week, or month.

They also have great collaboration tools, like Google Docs and Google Sites.  You can share items publicly or you can specify who can see them by typing in that person’s email address.  One example of how I use this, is that I share my personal budget with my husband using a private Google Doc.

I hope you enjoyed this look at a few of my favorite technology tools.  Maybe one or more resonated with you.  If you have a favorite tool that you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.

Karen Baney writes Christian historical and contemporary romance novels.  When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys traveling the state of Arizona with her husband, exploring museums and the picturesque landscapes the state has to offer.  Her faith plays an important role both in her life and in her writing.  Karen and her husband make their home in Gilbert, Arizona, with their two dogs.

You can pick up copy of Karen’s novel, A Life Restored (Prescott Pioneers #3), on Amazon for your Kindle.  This story follows the lives of two young people who have a lot to learn about trusting God.  He takes them through dark and fearful places, eventually drawing them to himself and restoring their lives to ones that honor him.

Visit Karen at her website: or on Facebook or Twitter.  Visit her special blog for authors at

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