Saturday, February 09, 2008

Software Update

A few updates on my free software ...

Sonar 3 was released as a beta a week ago, and so far I've not had any bug reports. It must be broken somewhere, so it might be time for me to announce the beta on

I'm in the middle of converting BookDB3, my home library software, to dotnet. It's running, including using the new xml database format, but the user interface needs a fair bit of work and for some reason drag/drop on my laptop touchpad just stopped working - but only in two programs.

I also turned to yWriter 4 and added a few features. First, project-wide notes so you can stick random bits of information into the program. There's a tab to the right of the scene listing, and when you click Notes the scene list vanishes and you get the note list instead. These features will be in the next release.

Second, yWriter has had a spell checker since version 3, but I keep getting emails asking me to add one. So, I've added a menu entry which downloads the dictionary, unpacks it to the right place, then unhides the spell checker menu items. I don't include the dictionary because it's not mine to distribute.

yMail is another app I've been tweaking. (It's an offline mail reader like Outlook Express, one which I first starting working on in 2003.) I've vastly improved the local file caching, making it a lot quicker, and I've also added a spell checker for mail composition. I've also built a response system which allows you to build canned responses to many questions (e.g. the answer to 'Will you add a spell checker to yWriter?'), and the feature is intelligent enough to scan the incoming question and pick the closest reply. Very handy for customer support, and it's helping with my backlog.

The other app I've been tidying up is yEdit. It's a text editor where you specify a word count (e.g. 500) and then start typing. The status bar shows how many words to go, which is a boon for people trying to write X words in a session.

By the way, I installed Ubuntu on my main desktop PC yesterday. Carved out a 10 gig partition and installed the thing in an hour or so, including all the updates and the essential installer from Then I set up compiz and, quite frankly, was stunned. Holding the middle mouse down and shifting the mouse left and right sticks your current desktop onto a big 3d cube, zooms out, and allows you to rotate to any of your other desktops. (Ubuntu has 4 by default, but I set up 8 for the fun of it.) Then, for amusement, I ran two AVI files in each desktop window and rotated the cube. The movies kept playing, and it was something to see.

Anyway, back to my software (but still on Linux.) I used automatix to install wine, and then installed BookDB, yMail, yWriter and yGen in rapid succession. Every one of them by double-clicking the exe file in Linux, and every one installed and ran perfectly. I got desktop shortcuts, a start menu entry for each, and all the features worked including installing updates over the net. The last time I tried Wine I spent two weeks frigging around with .config and reg files, so this was some eye-opener.

I'll repeat that ... install Ubuntu Linux, install Wine, and my apps all run without a hitch. Neat.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


DarcKnyt said...

Sweet. I can't wait. Losing some of the writing apps -- yours included -- because of switching to Linux has been a major deterrent for me. Knowing it's simple (much simpler than the user described on makes it so much more appealing.

Now, if I can just get the wireless networking thing with my card figured out I'll be set to leave behind Windows.

Maybe. ;)

Kerryn Angell said...

I love that addition to yWriter4! It will be so helpful. Release it soon please. :)

Simon Haynes said...

I've just updated the Linux instructions for my apps:

1. Make sure you have Wine installed
2. Download the full install of yWriter
3. Double-click the downloaded exe file in your regular Linux file browser.

Wine will run the installer, and it will also add entries to your start menu under Spacejock Software.

Could it be any easier? (Note that I installed Wine via the Automatix2 installer. I'm not sure whether they've tweaked it, but it works.

Anonymous said...

Hey Simon, glad to hear your are making progress on you programs!

I was curious if you've ever looked at Scrivener (writing software for OS X). There are a couple neat features there that you may want to cherry pick. I particularly like the fullscreen mode that just basically displays the text at a fixed width on a black background. Easy on the eyes ;)