A couple questions before I start rambling: What tools do you use when you write? Do you pull out different gear for long form and short form, fiction and non-fiction?
I'm more interested in the tools that work rather than which ones don't, but I'd like to hear about the experiences you've had with any writing application or method.
First, I don't think it matters if you use Windows, Linux, Mac, or any other OS. I'm not even sure the tools matter as long as they get the job done and you're comfortable using them. What may matter is the availability of some tools on some operating systems, but even that's up to you. If you're like me, you'll find those story boarding/crafting/outlining tools interesting but ultimately unnecessary.
I have been using Ubuntu for months, not just for work, but as my secondary writing machine. I'm loving the performance--although like all OS's it seems to have slowed down over the months. I've always run Linux (used to run RedHat and then Fedora) on older machines, but this is the first time I'm on a new fast core duo notebook. Ubuntu: it's quick, it's easy, it has a very active community that has provided me with a lot of answers and advice, and it's pretty. It's a good looking, smooth UI, a really comfortable environment.
I have divided my world into Linux and Windows, and there are many tasks I will always have Linux handy to perform. For now, though, writing isn't it--and I think this is because I move between the two worlds. I don't know, but I suspect I would have the same issues if I was trying to write on Windows machines and Macs, moving docs back and forth, converting docs into different formats. Just asking for trouble.
Word Processing and Editing
One solution to this--pushed by my colleague and fellow author Skott Klebe (https://textiplication.com)--is Google Docs, which I admit is a very compelling service. It's entirely online, auto-backed-up, usable from any machine, and with most of the editing/word processing functions needed by writers. Not all, however.
I primarily use Microsoft Word, XP, 2003 and 2007, different version on different machines, but they all work well together.
I know there are plenty of writers who use Open Office--and have used it for years. And there are many reasons to use it exclusively.
I've tried to use Open Office for my documents, and as impressed as I am with the app suite on its own, I'm moving docs between MS Office and Open Office and have encountered all kinds of weirdness, wiped out styles, inserted multiple carriage returns between paragraphs. I'm not going to argue about which app is doing it wrong, MS Office or Open Office. I just need consistency across machines. I need to be able to copy a DOC or an RTF file from my desktop machine to my notebook, edit it, save it, copy it back, and have it appear the same on both machines. I can't seem to do that outside of Windows and Microsoft Office.
One feature I wish Open Office Writer and Google Docs had is the Doc Map, a feature in Microsoft Word I never seemed to need until I started writing 30 chapter books. The Doc Map allows me to one-click-jump to any chapter. You can probably get around this by using chapter length docs and opening them individually, but that's not going be as convenient as the Doc Map.
Ultimately, I don't think the word processing software matters as long as you can type, search within the doc, operate quickly inside five hundred page documents (very important), and print out standard manuscript format. There's at least one of these on every OS.
Story Crafting and Structure Utilities
There are a lot of them out there, but I can't say much because I've only used Writer's DreamKit 4--and that's off and on, and it's been at least a year since I last used it. I have repeatedly tried to get into the Dramatica story structure theory. I find the process fascinating, but it's effectiveness is still up in the air. The two times I dug in really used DreamKit, it forced me to build a summary for the stories, and I later used some of that material for creating synopses.
So, perhaps it does lead writers down the good habit path with summarization exercises, making it easier to see the whole, character development, adding depth, establishing general motivations for their type as well as individual needs that can drive the character.
I've already posted on journaling. Read about how important I think that is.
I love big paper. There's something about a thick stack of 11x17 paper that gives me a creative edge. I want to make big plans, plot farther, develop characters that push the edge. You can mind map, link ideas, draw characters, connections, conclusions easier on big paper. I recommend 11x17 or 13x19 and a good pen anytime you need to spill ideas.
It really works.
So, what do you use and what do you recommend for writing tools and methods?