Writer’s Blocks 3: The Secret Weapon of Professional Writers now Offers an Impressive Toolset for Business Users

Writer's Blocks 3 is a powerful visual outlining and writing tool that can help you to capture ideas and organize large writing projects more effectively than you ever dreamed possible. Read the review to find out how this recently-upgraded program can help you to bring greater order and structure to long documents and reports.

If your job involves a lot of research and writing, then you owe it to yourself to take a look at the new Writer’s Blocks version 3 from Ashley Software. This unique program is ideally suited for gathering information, organizing it, distilling it and writing high-quality business reports, articles, technical papers, novels or screenplays.

For years, screenwriters and professional writers have loved how Writer’s Blocks enables them to capture and organize their ideas, plot lines, characters, conflicts and other story elements, and then to rearrange and refine them during the writing process. Writer’s Blocks has a well-deserved reputation for helping writers to bring order and structure to many different types of lengthy documents.

The new version 3 of Writer’s Blocks continues to build on these proven strengths, making it even more appealing to its core audiences. But this new version also includes many new features and enhancements that make the program a great choice for business users, too.

Fundamental building blocks

The fundamental building block of Writer’s Blocks 3 is the “block” — a small, rectangular container into which you can type words, phrases, paragraphs and even entire documents. Blocks work best, however, when you use them to input simple words and phrases, one idea per block. The program sequentially numbers blocks as you create them — very useful for creating novels, screenplays and other longer documents in which order and sequence are important, and in which story elements are frequently rearranged during the writing process.

Once you have recorded your ideas in a series of blocks, you can drag and drop them into new arrangements. This flexibility can help to spur additional ideas. Blocks can be arranged in columns, which can be named to represent the different sections of your report, chapters in a novel, scenes in a movie or other logical, organizational divisions of your content. Blocks can also be linked to each other, just like in a mind map. Blocks can be named, and can be styled with background colors to help you visually categorize them.

New in version 3 is rich text formatting; previously, text in a block could only have one style. Now, individual words and characters can be formatted at will.

New: Integrated word processor

Previous versions of Writer’s Blocks did an outstanding job of helping you to organize your ideas in an easy-to-use, visually-oriented outline format. But to continue the writing process, you had to export your block outline to a word processor. Once you performed this export and began editing your ideas in another application (like Microsoft Word), your manuscript would become out of sync with your outline. For novelists and screenwriters, who continually juggle multiple characters, scenes, plot lines and elements of dialogue throughout the writing process, this was a shortcoming.

To overcome this limitation, Ashley Software has incorporated a full-fledged word processor into Writer’s Blocks 3 that is fully compatible with Microsoft Word. At any time, you can convert your block outline into a manuscript, and then work with both of them in a vertically split screen. This enables you to complete your writing project while keeping all of your notes easily available, a real plus!

You can also import many different types of text-based documents (including Word documents, HTML Web pages and more) into the manuscript panel of Writer’s Blocks. From there, you can convert your imported manuscript into a block outline. This feature enables you to import existing manuscripts, reports and other lengthy documents into Writer’s Blocks, where you can use the program’s split blocks/manuscript view to improve their structure and organization.

According to the program’s developer, the addition of an integral word processor transforms Writer’s Blocks from a text outliner into a true, end-to-end writing solution.

Powerful “blockmarks” simplify document organization, navigation

When you convert your block outline into a manuscript, Writer’s Blocks 3 converts each block title to a heading and the contents of each block into body text. These elements can remain linked to each another using specialized links called “blockmarks.” Here’s how they work: When you move a block from one place to another within your outline, its blockmark moves the corresponding text in the manuscript to the equivalent location within the manuscript.

Blockmarks also have several other interesting properties:

  • With Split Panels (a side-by-side display of the block outline and manuscript panel) and AutoScroll turned on, if you click on a block, your manuscript will scroll to the corresponding text.
  • If you click on a blockmark (block title) in a manuscript, the block panel display will move so the corresponding block is in the center of the display.
  • If you are working in the manuscript panel and double-click on a blockmark (a block heading), a block viewer window will pop up, which displays the contents of the corresponding block.

As you can see, blockmarks are powerful tools. You can literally use them to simultaneously view the forest AND the trees at the same time, a real plus from a productivity standpoint!

Hunting and gathering with the Power Panel

Many knowledge workers today have jobs that require them to conduct research — searching for specific knowledge or resources on the Web, gathering information from e-mails, documents, enterprise databases and other sources. These workers need the capability to “grab” text-based content from these sources, distill it, summarize it and share it with co-workers. Writers have similar needs. For example, writers of fictional novels often pepper their manuscripts with real-world details – locations, historical events, and so on.

To help users with these common research tasks, Writer’s Blocks 3 includes a new feature called the Power Panel. Normally, it appears as a small horizontal window, located just below the block outline view. You can use it to create new blocks, enter text into them and modify their properties, but its capabilities go far beyond that. You can configure the Power Panel so it appears by itself on screen, without the Writer’s Blocks program visible, “floating” on top of other windows on your PC’s desktop. This enables you to use the Power Panel as a convenient “container,” into which you can drag and drop text from any other Windows applications — a powerful and easy-to-use tool for capturing snippets of information!

Other productivity features

Other notable features of Writer’s Blocks 3 include:

  • Search and select: In addition to a search and replace function, Writer’s Blocks 3 includes a “search and select” feature, which helps you to easily find and visually “tag” related blocks — for example, give them a common background color, or establish links between them.
  • Auto-complete on steroids: Unlike word processing programs, which require you to set up a list of auto-complete words and phrases, Writer’s Blocks 3 can be set up to utilize the full text of your current manuscript, block outline or an external document that you designate as the source for auto-complete words and phrases – very powerful!
  • Quick view: In order to see the maximum number of your ideas on screen at one time in the block outline panel, the text of each block often becomes too small to see on screen. A new “quick view” capability utilizes the mouse cursor as if it was a magnifying glass. As you hover over a block, quick view displays its entire text contents, eliminating the need to scroll down within a block to read this content.

Conclusion

With this latest upgrade to version 3, Writer’s Blocks has matured into a virtuoso outlining and writing tool that can help you to increase your productivity, no matter what kind of long documents you produce. Writer’s Blocks provides you with a rich toolset that enables you to quickly capture ideas, notes, facts and other written materials, quickly and easily – and gain the full benefits of the power of association from the information you have gathered on-screen.

Writer’s Blocks 3 is one of those rare software programs that you begin using out of the box, with a minimum of training. Yet it also provides a lot of “power user” features that you can utilize as you become more familiar with it.

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